The Best Total Gym Chest Workout At Home

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The Total Gym is an exercise machine that seems to have been around forever. I’ve been working out for 40+ years and it was the first machine I bought. The fact that it is still around, and still relevant, says a whole lot about the effectiveness, quality and integrity behind the Total Gym brand. 

The Total Gym works every muscle in your body. But it does an especially good job of training the pectoral, or chest, muscles. The combination of bodyweight resistance and cables allows you to work the chest from a range of angles to move the muscle fibers through their full range of motion and through a number of planes. 

In this article, I will lay out my favorite Total Gym chest workout you can do at home. I’ll firstly present each exercise as a step-by-step guide, along with my training tips. Then I’ll put it together into a complete workout you can do twice per week. Read on for one of the best chest workouts you can do at home. 

What’s So Good About the Total Gym?

As a personal trainer, I have worked with a lot of men and women in their homes. When people have asked me what gym machine they should buy, I have invariably pointed them to the Total Gym. Here’s why:

  • It recruits stabilizer muscles to keep the body balanced
  • It allows for unilateral training (each side of the body individually)
  • It allows you to change the angle of movement.
  • It is safe and user friendly
  • It allows for progression
  • It is easily modifiable 
  • It is ideal for injury recovery
  • It allows you to do more than 80 exercises to work your entire body

Not sure which Total Gym to buy? Check out this analysis of the best Total Gym models on the market. 

Total Gym Chest Workout at Home

The best total gym chest workout at home involves doing five exercises.  How you put them together, though, can make a big difference in the effect on your body.

The beauty of the Total Gym is that it allows you to move very rapidly from one exercise to the next. That makes exercises on the Total Gym ideal for circuit training, where you go from one exercise to the next without any rest. 

If your goal is to develop a stronger, more streamlined and athletic upper body, I recommend doing the exercises in circuit manner.  Those who are after maximum muscle mass should do the workout in straight sets fashion, using maximum resistance and resting for 60 seconds between sets. I will lay out both training programs after describing the exercises. 

To increase the resistance on the Total Fitness, you adjust the angle level of the glide board. If you are training primarily for mass and strength gains, set the level at an angle that will allow you to do 10 reps on the first set. For toning and athletic training, set the glide board at a level that will allow you to 20 reps on the first set. 

Check out these extra tips on how to build a bigger chest.

Chest Press

Muscles Worked:

  • Pectorals
  • Front Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Core

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set the glide board at the appropriate level.
  2. Sit on the glide board with your butt at the top, knees slightly bent and feet resting on the bench. 
  3. Grab the cable handles with a palms down grip and hold them at shoulder level with  elbows bent at 90 degrees and forearms parallel to the floor.
  4. Bring the elbows back slightly to feel the pre-stretch in your pecs.
  5. Press the handles forward and in to meet in line with your sternum.
  6. Reverse under control and repeat.

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • Keep your elbows and forearms parallel to the floor through the movement.
  • Depress your shoulders to de-emphasize the front delts.
  • Squeeze the pecs tightly in the contracted position.
  • Control the cables on the return. 

Single Arm Wide Grip Chest Press

Muscles Worked:

  • Pectorals
  • Front Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Core

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set the glide board at the appropriate level.
  2. Sit on the glide board with your butt at the top, knees slightly bent and feet resting on the bench. 
  3. Grab the cable handles with a palms down grip and hold them at shoulder level with  elbows bent at 90 degrees and forearms parallel to the floor.
  4. Press the right hand cable out and up to full extension.
  5. Return under control.
  6. Repeat with the left hand cable.

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • Focus on getting a full extension and contraction on each side of the pecs as you press the cables out. 
  • Keep your core engaged throughout the exercise. 

Chest Fly

Muscles Worked:

  • Pectorals
  • Front Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Core

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set the glide board at the appropriate level.
  2. Sit on the glide board with your butt at the top, knees slightly bent and feet resting on the bench. 
  3. Grab the cable handles with a palms facing grip and hold them at shoulder level with  elbows just slightly bent. You should feel a stretch through the pectorals in this position.
  4. Keeping your elbows locked in the slight bend position, pivot from the shoulder joint to bring the cable in together. They should meet in line with your sternum. Tightly squeeze your pecs in this position.
  5. Reverse under control to return to the start position.

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • Make sure that the only movement is through the shoulder joint.
  • Keep your core engaged; this will help to eliminate momentum.

Decline Chest Fly

Muscles Worked:

  • Pectorals
  • Front Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Core

Step-by-Step Guide:

  1. Set the glide board at the appropriate level.
  2. Sit on the glide board with your butt at the top, knees slightly bent and feet resting on the bench. 
  3. Grab the cable handles with a palms facing grip and hold them at shoulder level with  elbows just slightly bent. Angle your elbows at a 45-degree angle so that your hands are facing diagonally downward.
  4. Keeping your elbows locked in the slight bend position, pivot from the shoulder joint to bring the cable in together. They should meet in line with your belly button. Tightly squeeze your pecs in this position.
  5. Reverse under control to return to the start position.

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • This version of the Total Gym fly targets the lower muscle fibers. To do this you need to emphasize the downward flying motion.

Decline Push Up

The decline push up on the Total Gym is my favorite chest finishing exercise. It allows you to eke out the last bit of strength and muscle contraction from your chest fibers so that they are totally exhausted. 

Muscles Worked:

  • Pectorals
  • Front Deltoids
  • Triceps
  • Core

Step-by-Step Guide:

  • Get on the glide board in a face down position so that your feet at the top of the board and your hands are grabbing the hand grips at the base. Maintain a straight line from your ankles to the ase of your neck and position your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
  • From a starting position with your arms extended, bend the elbows to bring your chest toward the floor. Go all the way until your chest makes contact.
  • Explode back up, pushing through your pectorals and triceps. 

Personal Trainer Tips:

  • Perform each rep with a full range of motion, bringing your chest all the way to the floor. When you can no longer do that, rep out with partials until you literally collapse into the floor!

Don’t have access to a Total Gym? Check out 10 of the best non Total Gym exercises for the chest. 

Putting It All Together

Let’s now put our five chest exercises together into a super effective Total Gym chest workout at home. Here are two workouts, each designed for a different outcome: muscle and strength gain and toning/athleticism.

Make sure to warm up and stretch your upper body before these workouts.

Muscle & Strength Workout

When training for muscle gains, you should maintain a range of between 6-10 reps. You should also give yourself sufficient rest between sets so that you can give full effort to the next set. One each set, the last rep should be very hard to complete. This may mean that you have to increase the glide board level.

  • Chest Press: 4 x 10/8/6/6 reps
  • Single Arm Wide Grip Chest Press: 3 x 10/8/6 reps
  • Chest Fly: 3 x 12 reps
  • Decline Chest Fly: 3 x 12 reps
  • Decline Push Up: 2 x as many reps as possible

Toning & Athleticism Workout

To develop a toned and athletic chest, you should train in the 10-20 rep range. You should also move through the exercises at quite a rapid pace. This workout is in the form of a circuit, so that you move from one exercise to the next with no rest. For the first two weeks, do two rounds of the circuit, resting two minutes between rounds. Add extra rounds as you feel capable. 

  • Chest Press: 20 reps
  • Single Arm Wide Grip Chest Press: 15 reps
  • Chest Fly: 15 reps
  • Decline Chest Fly: 12 reps
  • Decline Push Up: as many reps as possible

Summary

You don’t need barbells and heavy weight machines to get a super effective chest workout.  The Total Gym chest workout at home that has been laid out in this article will maximally stimulate every fiber in your pectorals, allowing total pec development.  Do this workout twice per week, allowing yourself 48 hours rest between sessions. 

Check out what other gear, apart from the Total Gym, that you should have in your home gym.

Hi, my name’s Steve Theunissen. I joined my first gym at age 15 and, five years later, I was managing my own studio. In 1987, I became the first personal fitness trainer in New Zealand. Over the past decade, I have built a freelance fitness writing career to share my fitness passion with the world.