Train Chest and Back Like Five-Time Classic Physique Olympia Champ Chris Bumstead

Professional bodybuilders are on an ongoing quest to master the art and science of building muscle size, symmetry, and balance. Emulating their training methods can refine technique, accelerate progress, and garner motivation to push yourself harder in the gym. 

On Feb. 27, 2024, the five-time and reigning Classic Physique Olympia champion Chris Bumstead published a video on his YouTube channel sharing his high-volume chest and back hypertrophy workout prioritizing strength. Check it out below:

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Chris Bumstead’s Chest & Back Workout

Here is a summary of Bumstead’s training session:

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press & Pull-Ups

Bumstead warmed up his rotator cuffs via external and internal rotations on the cable machine.  The Canadian used 80-pound dumbbells for his incline bench press warm-up set.

Bumstead held the dumbbells in the neutral position (palms facing each other) at the bottom and externally rotated his wrists during concentrics to achieve a deeper muscle contraction at the top of his range of motion (ROM). 

Bumstead used slow eccentrics and paused at the top to increase the target muscles’ time under tension (TUT). Slower, controlled resistance exercises (six seconds up, six seconds down) can lead to a greater increase in muscle protein synthesis rates than faster repetitions (one second up, one second down). (1)

Bumstead opined that most bench press injuries happen when lifters try to go deeper than what their mobility permits.

When I’m warming up, I do pause reps in the fully stretched position so that part of my muscle [which is more susceptible to injury] is warmed up.

For working sets, Bumstead transitioned to the conventional dumbbell bench press technique (holding the dumbbells using a pronated grip throughout the ROM). He performed eight reps with 90-pound dumbbells on the first working set.

Bumstead progressed to 120-pound dumbbells for the second set and 140-pounds for the third. The final two sets were with 130-pounders.

Bumstead used antagonistic supersets, which involve alternating exercises targeting opposing muscles to maintain higher training intensity. This technique also saves time as one muscle group recovers while the other works. He superset incline bench presses with pull-ups to bias the lats.

I’m focusing on really controlled reps, so I’m building proper strength throughout the whole range of motion.

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Machine T-Bar Row

Bumstead’s primary objective during his off-season is to build strength by lifting relatively heavy weights. However, he does so with a controlled form to load the target muscles optimally and limit injury risk. 

Bumstead aligned his upper chest with the top edge of the T-Bar row machine’s chest pad, grabbed the handles with a wide overhand grip, and flared his elbows on concentrics to bias the mid back. He drove his elbows behind his midline at the top and paused in the fully shortened position.

Incline Machine Chest Press

The 29-year-old favors isolateral machines and dumbbells to fix muscle and strength imbalances. He employed rest-pause reps to muscle failure at eight reps. He rested for 10 seconds before an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set. 

Machine High Row & Push-Ups

The high row machine’s unique line of pull allows a deeper stretch and contraction of the upper back, including the lats, traps, rear delts, rhomboids, and teres major and minor. Bumstead superset high rows with bodyweight push-ups to achieve a better chest pump.

Incline Bench Press Isometric Holds

Bumstead concluded his workout with isometric holds on the incline bench, holding 50-pound dumbbells in the fully stretched position. Isometrics at longer muscle lengths led to greater hypertrophy than shorter muscle length training. High-intensity contractions and intent to move the load (even though it’s stationary) improve strength and neural adaptations. (2)

Bumstead will compete next at the 2024 Olympia, scheduled for Oct. 10-13 in Las Vegas, where he will aim to win his sixth consecutive Classic Physique Olympia. 


  1. Burd NA, Andrews RJ, West DW, et al. Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men. J Physiol. 2012;590(2):351-362. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
  2. Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric training and long-term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 29(4), 484–503.

Featured image: @cbum on Instagram

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