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A muscle-sparing chest and tricep workout for cutting

A muscle-sparing chest and tricep workout for cutting

If you’re on the hunt for an effective chest and tricep workout for cutting and getting lean, then this is the routine for you. The program contains a mix of heavy compound lifts and muscle-sculpting isolation exercises so that you can maintain your strength and size while you’re dieting down.

I’ll also discuss whether your chest and tricep workout should change when you’re cutting vs when you’re bulking.

Related Chest and Triceps Workouts:

The best chest and tricep workout for cutting and getting lean

This cutting chest and triceps workout will help you to stay big and strong while you’re removing body fat from your physique by working your chest and tris from multiple angles and with a variety of rep ranges.

This heavy and intense routine will recruit the broadest possible range of muscle fibers so that you don’t lose mass while you’re cutting down.

So that you can maintain and even gain strength, rest 3-5 minutes between sets of compound presses. I know that you might feel bored just sitting there, but you’ll be grateful that you took the extra rest when you’re able to lift more weight.

For isolation exercises, rest 1-3 minutes between sets or until you feel properly recovered.

Try and leave one rep in the tank on each set; you don’t want to risk pushing your muscles beyond their recovery capacities when you’re in a calorie deficit.

Exercise 1: Barbell decline press — 4-6 sets of 6-8 reps

A man doing a barbell decline press

I’ve started this chest and triceps workout for cutting with decline presses because they enable you to lift more weight than flat presses, which is likely advantageous for maintaining your muscle mass and strength while your body is in an energy deficit.

Of course, if your gym doesn’t have a good decline bench or if you’re more familiar with the flat press, then you can definitely do the traditional flat barbell bench press instead.

The decline press really hits the muscle fibers in the lower chest to create that distinct separation between your pecs and upper abs, something that will become more apparent as your body fat gets lower.

There are loads of fast-twitch muscle fibers in your chest and tris, so you definitely want to stay within the 6-8 rep range and lift heavy on this exercise.

Exercise 2: Incline dumbbell press — 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps

A man performing an incline dumbbell press

Now that we’ve trained the lower and mid-chest, it’s time to work the all-important upper chest with incline presses. We’re using dumbbells so that you can build pecs that are proportional as well as big and muscular.

Although many lifters use a 45-degree bench angle for incline presses, I’m ‘inclined’ to recommend 30 degrees so that a) your anterior deltoids don’t take over and b) so that you can lift more weight and thus overload your chest with more muscle-preserving tension.

Of course, if you feel massive amounts of upper chest activation with a higher bench angle, then trust your body and keep the back pad at 45 degrees. The mind-muscle connection is very important when it comes to training the upper chest, so definitely use the setup that enables you to get the best upper chest pump, stretch, and contraction.

Exercise 3: Machine fly — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

A man doing a machine chest fly

There’s a reason why I’ve picked machine flys over cable flys and dumbbell flys.

Machine flys require less core strength and enable you to more easily focus on stretching and squeezing your pecs.

To be sure, dumbbell flys don’t demolish your core strength. It’s just that when you’re cutting, you don’t want to tire your core muscles out because they’re used in pretty much every workout, especially when you perform compound and/or free weight exercises.

So if your gym has a chest fly station, then I definitely recommend using it to hone in on your pecs and give your core muscles a well-deserved break.

Exercise 4: Lying tricep extension — 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps

A man doing a lying tricep extension with dumbbells

The lying tricep extension makes an excellent addition to any chest and tris workout for cutting because it trains the biggest head of the triceps brachii—the long head—and thus helps you to maintain your upper arms size.

Note that even if you maintain all of your muscle mass, your upper arms will likely still decrease in size when you’re cutting because you’ll be losing body fat (and water weight) from around your biceps and triceps.

As for the lying tricep extension, it’s a great exercise for sculpting both muscular and symmetrical triceps, and it doesn’t overly tax your core. Just make sure to bring the weights behind your head rather than to your forehead so that you can really stretch the long head of your triceps.

Exercise 5: Tricep pushdown — 3-5 sets of 15-20 reps

A man doing a standing cable tricep pushdown exercise with a rope attachment during his workout

You’ve given your triceps the heavy tension with bench presses, and trained the long head with lying extensions, so now it’s time to give them a final pump with high-rep pushdowns.

The bar attachment will enable you to lift the most amount of weight, which is obviously beneficial for maintaining your strength and muscle while cutting.

However, since you’ve already given your triceps plenty of heavy, fiber-tearing tension, I recommend using the rope so that you can split the ends of the rope to really contract your triceps.

Should your chest and tricep workouts change when you’re cutting?

A weight lifter doing a chest and tricep workout for cutting

Your bulking and cutting chest and tricep workouts should closely resemble each other. There are no special exercises that will magically reveal your abs, so don’t think that you need to make massive changes when you’re dieting down.

The primary goal of a cutting chest and tricep workout is strength and muscle maintenance.

Common secondary goals are increasing your calorie burn and core activation, which you can do by performing your exercises in standing positions.

Of course, if you were to do a standing overhead extension rather than a lying tricep extension in order to burn more calories, then you’d need to put more effort into stabilizing your core, which could detract from your tricep stimulation.

And anyway, it’s not like standing up on a few sets burns tons more calories than lying down. That’s why I recommend maintaining your chest and tricep workout for the most part and letting the diet do its job.

Conclusion: How to make your own chest and tris workout for cutting

A man performing a cutting chest and tricep workout

While I definitely think that my routine will help you to maintain your muscle mass and strength while you’re getting lean, you can definitely modify the program and make your own chest and tricep workout for cutting based on your individual needs and preferences.

For example, I like to start with decline presses because they’re the best exercise for lifting heavy. However, if your upper chest is really lagging, then there’s no reason why you can’t start the session with incline presses instead.


  1. Elliott, E. (2022, February 21). How to burn fat: 15 scientifically-proven tips. GoodtoKnow.
  2. Koch, G. (2021, December 20). How To Cut For Bodybuilding | Cutting Diet Plan & Top Tips | MYPROTEINTM. MYPROTEIN.