When it comes to trying to build our bodies and hit our goals, almost all of us are constantly looking for new ways to take our training to the next level. Whether it a be a different diet, switching up our routine, or trying a new piece of kit, we will do almost anything to see a slight boost in our results.
Sometimes though, the best way to shake things up is to look to techniques and equipment that have been proven to work in the past, which have been forgotten about due to the ever growing list of modern equipment that is being produced. One such example of this is the Total Gym.
A bit of kit that has been doing the rounds for more than 40 years, it has been championed by many celebrities and fitness icons at one point or another. Able to produce results in a totally unique way, its fall from grace has been purely due to oversaturation of the market, rather than ineffectiveness.
The nature of the item also means it is a particularly effective piece of equipment for those looking to train their chest from home, but one many people won’t know how to use. With that in mind, I now want to take you through the ultimate Total Gym chest workout, to enable you to do just that.
What Is Total Gym?
Total Gym is a piece of home fitness equipment first developed in San Diego, California in 1974 by Tom Campanaro. Rather than trying to get the product in stores at a higher cost, he and his partners infamously went down the route of using tv sales and infomercials to promote and sell the product.
By using the principle of calisthenics, it allows you to use your own body weight as the resistance, eliminating the need for the large weight stacks that usually have to accompany similar pieces of equipment. This not only made it effective but also allowed the machine to be easily moved.
By 1988, Total Gym had also become a popular piece of kit for physical therapy, as it allowed rehab exercises to be performed with the ideal level of resistance and very little risk. This also led to action superstar Chuck Norris discovering and joining the brand, as he was rehabbing an injury himself.
With more stars like Christine Brinkley coming on board to promote the product, its reputation and reach has continued to grow.
Almost 50 years later and it is still commonly found in over 85 countries in places like fitness studios, home gyms, health clubs, hospitals, physical therapy clinics, and sports team training facilities.
The Ultimate Total Gym Chest Workout Routine
We now move on to the ultimate Total Gym chest workout routine itself. This will include exercises to work each section of the chest across all planes of movement, ensuring the most comprehensive development of the region possible.
You want to be performing somewhere between 3 to 6 sets of each exercise. Those who are less experienced, rehabbing an injury, or who are simply looking to tone up should stick to the lower end of this range, while those hoping to develop size or strength should aim for the upper end.
This will ensure that each region of the pectorals is getting enough attention, without risking overtraining, which can at best waste your time and at worst actually be counter productive and prevent you from growing.
In terms of reps, those training for strength should work with 5 to 7, anyone wanting to build size should go for 7 to 9, those just wanting to tone up should aim for 10 to 12, and people rehabbing an injury are best suited with 13 to 15.
People aiming for size or strength will also routinely want to be aiming to train to failure, while it is beneficial for those trying to tone up to regularly do so as well. Those rehabbing injuries, on the other hand, are best off avoiding working to failure, as this could potentially make the injury worse.
Begin by sitting on the glideboard with your head at the top and knees bent and place your feet firmly on the seat. Hold the handles with your hands on each side of your chest, with your palms facing down, elbows bent, and upper arms relatively close to your sides.
Push the handles straight forward to drive the glideboard and your bodyweight up until your elbows are almost completely extended, keeping your forearms parallel with the floor at all times. Really squeeze the pectorals for a second then slowly relax and allow yourself to slide back down.
Wide-Grip Chest Press
Sit on the glideboard with your knees bent, your feet on the seat, and your head at the top. Take a handle in each hand and hold them on either side of your chest with your palms facing down, elbows bent, and hands outside of shoulder width.
Drive the glideboard up by pushing the handles straight out in front of you, arcing them slightly away from each other as you do so, while always keeping your forearms parallel with the floor. Pause for a second and contract the pecs as hard as you can, then slowly let yourself slide back down.
Incline Chest Fly
Start by sitting on the glideboard with your knees bent, feet on the seat, and head at the highest point. Take a handle in each hand and hold them on either side of your chest with your palms facing forward and elbows almost straight with just a slight bend.
Keeping a small bend in your elbows constant throughout, pull your palms and the handles together in front of your chest to slide the glide board up. Making sure your arms remain parallel to the floor, squeeze the pecs hard while your hands are together, then slowly let allow yourself slide back down.
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Decline Chest Fly
Sit on the glideboard with your knees bent and feet on the seat and hold the handles with your hands on each side of your chest. Your arms should be extended out to your sides and parallel with the floor, with only a slight bend in your elbows.
Your hands should be at a 45 degree angle, facing roughly halfway between straight forward and the floor. Keeping your elbows locked in position, slide the glideboard up by pulling the handles towards each other and your waist, until they meet in front of your abdomen.
Squeeze the pecs as hard as you can for a second, then slowly relax to lower yourself back down.
Pullover With Squat
Lay on your back on the glideboard with your knees bent and feet flat against the squat stand. Grip a handle in each hand and extend your arms up in line with your body. Try to keep your arms straight and as close together as possible throughout.
Now slide the glideboard up by driving the handles down towards your abs and simultaneously extending your legs. When the handles are roughly over your abdomen, contract the pecs as hard as you can for a second, then slowly begin to raise them back up and lower yourself back down.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQS)
We will now look at some of the most frequently asked questions people have about both working your chest and the Total Gym itself. This should ensure everyone has all the information they require to select the right equipment and train in a way that enables them to achieve the results they seek.
Why Train The Chest?
Chest is one of the largest muscle groups in the upper body and, as a result, it is incredibly important to sufficiently train it.
For starters, it will make the activities you perform in your daily life easier to complete. Almost any large movements that involve holding, lifting, pushing, or squeezing require the use of the pecs, so the stronger they are, the easier these actions will be to complete.
Chest development can also benefit your posture, as strong chest muscles help to stabilise the shoulder joint. That said, it is important to train your back at the same time, otherwise overdevelopment of the chest could lead to the opposite and cause your shoulders to roll forward.
Building up your chest even helps to improve your breathing. Strengthening and lengthening the muscles of the chest enables you to take deeper breaths, as the pecs are attached to your ribs, which expand along with the diaphragm with every breath.
As an added bonus, women can even gain breast support with sufficient chest growth. By building muscle around the breast tissue, it helps to give extra lift and support, which will make you more comfortable and negate the pains some women, especially those with large breasts, experience.
What Are The Most Popular Chest Exercises?
The most popular chest exercises are versions of the bench press. Using a barbell lets you move a big amount of weight, giving you the best possible chance to build size and strength. If you make sure to perform flat, incline, and decline variations, it will ensure you train the whole muscle sufficiently.
Many lifters also like to do all 3 variations with dumbbells as well. This allows for greater freedom and a deeper range of motion, which is great for size, symmetry, and correcting imbalances.
Flyes are another popular option, especially for those seeking definition. You can again perform flat, incline, and decline varieties, to carve out and sculpt the entire chest.
All of the exercises I have mentioned above also have machine variations you can try as well.
From cable flyes and pec dec machine flyes to a chest press, hammer strength, or smith machine, these allow you to safely move a good amount of weight, so are great if you don’t have a spotter. They are, however, much more restrictive in terms of their range of motion.
Dips are a less common but still extremely effective option that heavily works the triceps as well. With both wide and narrow grip options available, they are a great way to use calisthenics and your body weight to develop your chest, especially the lower pecs.
Similarly, traditional push ups are another effective calisthenic option that allows you plenty of options when it comes to freedom, versatility, and customisation.
Finally, close grip pullovers are an often overlooked option to develop the upper part of the chest, as well as build the intercostals and expand the rib cage, to create an all-around larger appearance.
Can Total Gym Be Used For Bench Presses?
If needed, a Total Gym can be used to do bench presses. To do so, begin by sitting on its bench with the bar at the top and the cables beneath the bar on the machine disconnected. Lie back, extend your arms all the way up, and place your feet on the bench in a stable position to give you support.
However, while you can do bench presses on the Total Gym, this isn’t the primary function of the machine. Before you perform the exercise, make sure you aren’t planning to use a weight that goes beyond the weight limit of the machine.
If you plan to do bench presses on a regular basis, it is still probably a wiser option to purchase yourself a traditional weight bench to go with your Total Gym, as both will last longer that way.
Can You Build Muscle With Total Gym?
The main goal of the Total Gym is to help you build and tone muscle by working against a resistance created by your own body weight. By ensuring you use the proper form, Total Gym allows you to complete sufficiently challenging calisthenic movements in a slow, smooth, controlled manner.
Whether you are training abs, back, biceps, chest, legs, shoulders, traps, or triceps, this means the Total Gym can help you build bigger, better, stronger, more toned muscles.
Is Total Gym An Effective Workout?
The Total Gym is able to offer an extremely challenging workout that is enough to develop almost any person and part of the body. However, where it really excels is in its ability to force your muscles to stabilise your joints as they exert power.
If one arm pushes or pulls more than the other, the design of the machine means you will see it right away. This is ideal to develop symmetry and help you eliminate any imbalances. It is also able to do this as safely as possible, as you don’t have to worry about dropping any weights on yourself.
Does Chuck Norris Still Work Out On The Total Gym?
Chuck Norris may be the most famous user of the Total Gym and has also been an ardent supporter and ambassador of it for more than 40 years. After first starting to use it to help him recover after tearing his rotator cuff, he continued to use it once he was healed as he found it extremely effective.
Known to still use it to this day to keep in shape and stay healthy, he credits the Total Gym as one of the main reasons for his incredible longevity and considers it to be one of the most effective pieces of exercise equipment he has ever seen or used.
The Total Gym is a great piece of fitness equipment, and its longevity is a testament to how far ahead of its time it was. No matter whether you want to build strength, develop mass, tone up, or simply rehab an injury, the Total Gym can be used to fulfil your purpose.
It is particularly helpful for training your chest from home, as it makes the most of calisthenics and body weight training to eliminate the need for the heavy weights normally required. Now that you know a little more about it, there should be nothing left stopping you giving it a go for yourself.
Whether you want it to be your sole form of exercise or combine it with a number of other chest workouts, if you use it correctly, it is all but guaranteed to produce incredible results and have you heading towards your goal in no time.