Big Back, Big Chest, Real Fast

by Chad Waterbury

Six days each week, do 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups. Sounds simple and maybe a little crazy, but it works. Get the full plan here.

I get bored easily.

That’s why I’ve spent the last few years augmenting my training toolbox. There’s only so much I can say about training for bigger muscles before I unleash a barrage of Hulk Hogan-style leg drops on my keyboard. I know what your muscles need to grow. But I can’t guarantee that you’ll have the time and energy to get the job done. So the ball’s in my court to make the process as user-friendly as possible.

Now that I can do more to help clients, I’ve taken on more esoteric cases. In the last few months I’ve had three interesting clients come to me for help.

First was Tracy. She was born with spina bifida, a nasty neural defect that mandated four major spinal surgeries by the age of 24.

She had lost the mind-muscle link to most of her core, hip, and lower body muscles, and this made her so weak that she couldn’t stand up from a Barca lounger unless she used her upper body strength to hoist herself up as if she was escaping a swimming pool after mistaking little Billy’s half-eaten Snickers bar for something far more ominous.

So I designed a program to strengthen and reprogram her atrophied muscles.

Second was Heidi Montag, the star of MTV’s hit reality show, The Hills. She definitely wasn’t born with any physical disadvantage, except that her butt was too flat for the Playboy centerfold shoot that’s currently on the newsstands.

Not only did she want a curvier caboose, but she also wanted to look like an athlete – not an emaciated starlet with breast implants. Her goal for the shoot was to expose powerful curves, and she needed them fast. So I designed a workout to give her, and any other female, a sexy, bikini body.

Then there was Alex. He’s the only one of the three that you can probably relate to. He had no physical limitations, and he didn’t give a rat’s ass about making his ass look better. He just wanted bigger pecs and lats so he’d look better without a shirt while he scoped out chicks along the beach.

These seem like three specific cases that all require a unique training strategy. Interestingly enough, I used the same training approach for all three clients. Whether I needed to rehabilitate injured muscles or sculpt a bikini body or add muscle to a guy’s upper body, the most important component I had to get right was their training frequency. Put simply: the more they train a movement, the faster they’ll get results.

You know that saying, “If something is worth doing, do it every day?” Well, I can tell you that this mantra does carry over to hypertrophy training. Indeed, the reason why trainers say that you need months to gain appreciable amounts of muscle is not because your body can only manufacture a few pounds of muscle each month – it’s because it takes months’ worth of workouts to see results.

So what if you could cram two or three months worth of training into three weeks? Provided you can recover from each workout, I think you’ll agree that you’ll gain muscle faster than ever before.

This is exactly what I did with Alex. He wanted a bigger chest and upper back, and he wanted it, like, yesterday. I designed a simple plan to do it. And it worked! It wasn’t easy, but it was certainly simple. He gained over two inches of chest girth in less than a month.

So I’m here to share the chest and back HFT plan that I gave him.

The Exercises

For three weeks you’ll focus on the push-up and wide-grip pull-up for the majority of your upper body work. These two exercises will take the place of all your upper body pushing and pulling requirements. If you add in exercises like the bench press or seated row, you’ll burn out in no time. You can add 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps for the lateral raise, biceps curl, face pull, and triceps extensions for three workouts each week, but it’s not necessary.

The great thing about the two primary exercises is that they require very little equipment. You’re born with everything you need for the push-up. The pull-up, on the other hand, isn’t quite as simple since you probably don’t have a pull-up bar hanging in your doorway, but the solution to that dilemma is simple: get one.

The Equipment

These days, there are a plethora of pull-up bars that can be hinged to your doorway. I won’t list all of the companies here, but I’ll just say that I have the Total Upper Body Workout Bar by Iron Gym in my place.

It only takes a few minutes to assemble and it doesn’t require any drilling. Just position one end of the apparatus over the molding around the top of a doorway in your house, and you’re good to go. (Note: if you happen to have a home that doesn’t have wood trim molding around your doorways, you’ll need to buy the version that screws into the sides of the doorway.)

The Training Parameters

Six days each week you’ll do 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups. Why the seemingly unbalanced parameters? Because a push-up only engages about half your body weight; the pull-up uses all of your body weight. So that’s why you need twice as many push-ups to keep the strength in balance around your shoulder joints.

Again, each day, for six days a week, you’ll do 100 push-ups and 50 pull-ups. I don’t care how many sets it takes to complete either, just get them done. For example, you could do five pull-ups every hour for 10 hours. Or you could do 10 pull-ups five times per day. Or you could do 13, 8, 7, 6, 6, 5 and 5 reps over the course of three hours. In the end, it doesn’t matter.

The same is true with push-ups. 100 reps are required each day and it doesn’t matter how, or when, you get those reps.

Granted, this whole thing sounds ridiculously simple (conceptually, not in the execution), but it works. What have you go to lose?

Technique Tips

  1. Your chest must touch the floor with each push-up, and you should push your shoulder blades apart at the top of each rep to engage the woefully disrespected serratus anterior. (Doing your push-ups this way will improve your shoulder health.)
  2. The pull-ups are to be performed with a wider-than-shoulder width hand position with your palms facing away from you. Every rep must start from a full hang and you should touch your chest to the bar with each pull.
  3. Perform each rep of each exercise as fast as possible. Don’t go to failure on any set – always keep at least one rep in the hole. This will allow you to maintain your strength throughout the day.
  4. If you can do more than 30 push-ups in one set, perform each set with your feet elevated on a flat bench, chair, stool, or a stack of encyclopedias (I prefer the Encyclopedia Britannica 11th edition).

More To Know

During the first week your chest, lats, and serratus anterior muscles will be screaming in agony. No worries. By week 2 the soreness will be virtually gone since your localized muscle recovery will skyrocket to meet the demand.

Do this program for six days each week for three weeks straight. Then, refrain from any upper body pushing or pulling movements for five full days. This will allow for any supercompensation that might be lagging behind. In other words, many people get bigger during the five days off.

What can you expect? At least two inches of new girth added to your chest measurement. You’ll have trouble finding a training system that will build muscle faster!