You use your chest muscles in practically every move you make, even something as simple as getting up of the floor. They need to stay strong to maximize your capabilities as you age.
Understand Your Chest
The main chest muscles are the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor, which sits under the major.
The pectoralis major actually consists of two parts:
- Clavicular head is the name for the top part of the muscle.
- Sternal Head is the lower part of the pectoralis major.
These muscles work together to allow a range of everyday movements. For example, the pectoralis major is responsible for moving your arms up, down, and side to side. It also allows and assists with flexion and rotation movements of the arms and shoulders.
The chest muscles work with the shoulder muscles to provide an impressive range of movement.
If you start doing a bodyweight chest workout then you’re going to be working the entire chest, which is a good thing.
However, it is worth noting that different exercises target the chest muscles in different ways.
For example, you can target the upper chest muscles with an incline chest press, while the standard chest press will work the lower muscles more.
Exercises for a Bodyweight Chest Workout
Let’s check out some great bodyweight chest workout exercises you can do. The beauty of using bodyweight rather than dumbbells, kettlebells, or a machine, is that you can do them anywhere and they won’t cost you a cent.
It is important to note that you should give your chest muscles at least 48 hours rest between workouts, this reduces the chances of injury.
But, resting your muscles also gives them time to heal and grow stronger. If you work them again too soon you’ll find that they may only have time to heal and not enough time to get stronger.
Dedication is great but you need to work out smart.
The humble pushup is your new best friend. Your first task is to perform a pushup properly. If you can’t do this then you need to keep practicing until you can.
It’s essential to get the form right for your basic pushup before you try one of the many variants. The trick regarding which variants you should use is to try all of them and continue with the one that makes your muscles burn.
The aim is to complete 3 sets of between 12-16 reps.
Your standard push up is feet together, toes and hands on the floor with your hands below your shoulders. Slowly lower your body down, bending your arms and keeping your back and legs straight. Your chest should nearly touch the ground before you return to the starting position.
Push-ups will work all your chest muscles, deltoids, triceps and abdominals.
Once you’ve mastered the basic form you can increase the effects by trying one of these alternatives:
Push-Ups With Elevated Feet
By elevating your feet you’ll put more focus on the upper chest muscles. Put your feet on a step or a chair but don’t raise them too high as you’ll place extra strain on the shoulder muscles.
Push-Ups With Elevated Hands
Swap positions and raise your hands, you can get push-up handles for this. By elevating your hands you’ll be able to go closer to the ground and place more emphasis on the lower chest muscles.
Wide Grip Push-Ups
Moving your hands out will make you feel the burn on the outside edge of your chest muscles.
This is great for the outer chest muscles although you may struggle to complete your sets on your first attempt.
Narrow Grip Push-Ups
Bringing your hands closer together, so that they are under your chest will give your inner pectoralis a better workout. Again, you may struggle with completing all the sets of this version, but, with perseverance, you’ll be doing them quicker than you think.
This version of the push-up is the same as the standard except that when you push upwards you do it with enough force to lift both hands off the floor and clap them together.
Clapping push-ups are guaranteed to boost your power and explosiveness
If you’re doing this for the first time it’s a good idea to put a cushion on the floor, under your face. It will hurt less if you don’t get your hands back on the floor in time!
Side to Side Push-Ups
Try improving your core strength and balance by shifting your bodyweight as you go down, placing most, or all of it, over one of your hands.
You can then push back up and lower back down over the other hand. This is a great way to work up to the one-handed push-up.
One-Handed One Push-Ups
This is really the focus of all your other push-ups. Doing all of them will help you to achieve the one-handed push-up, an impressive feat of strength and balance.
You’ll need to adopt a wide leg stance and, to start with, use the fingertips of one hand to maintain balance. You’ll gradually be able to lift the fingertips off the floor and put this arm behind your back. But be patient, this takes time.
Every push-up variant works your chest muscles, the stronger you get the easier it will be to do the advanced versions. The real bonus is that there are no weights in sight!
While the push-up is the most dominant bodyweight chest workout, it is not the only bodyweight chest exercise.
The chest dip needs two bars that you can hold onto to support your eight. If you don’t have bars you can use the counter-top, or two chairs, as long as they’re not going to fall over on you.
If you do this exercise right you’ll find that it is more beneficial than doing bench presses in the gym!
The reason is simple, if you’re using the bench press there’s a good chance you’re not feeling the benefit in your chest, your front shoulders are likely to get tired before the chest sees any real gains.
In addition, chest dips require you to support your entire bodyweight, working more muscles and improving your balance. You’ll note that chest dips work the outer chest muscles, giving you a larger and wider chest.
Start by gripping each surface tightly and bending your legs at the knees. Your calves should be parallel to the floor and your body leaning slightly forward. The forward angle puts more focus on your chest, that’s a good thing.
Focusing on contracting the abs as you push your body upwards until your arms are straight. Hold this for a moment before slowly lowering yourself back down.
You must keep your shoulders in the same place as you do this exercise and you need to use slow, steady movements.
If it’s too challenging at first then reduce the range of motion and improve a little each time.
To make this more difficult you should slow down the speed at which you do your reps. You can also hold the lowest point of your dip for 5 seconds or add a heavy backpack to increase your bodyweight.
You’ve probably already come across the plank exercises, which works your abdominals, chest, shoulders, legs, and even your biceps and triceps!
Improving your core strength will make it easier for you to complete the chest dips and wide variants of push ups.
There are many different types of plank, including the standard, which is effectively the same as the standard push up starting position.
You can also try one-handed planks and even the plank walk.
It’s even possible to move from a plank into a push-up, combining your new bodyweight chest work out exercises!
TRX Spiderman Push-Up
Ready for a Bodyweight Chest Workout Challenge?
If you’re ready to start your bodyweight chest workout then try the following routine. The aim is to do 12-16 reps of each, let us know at the Fit Father Project, what you can do!
- Standard push-ups
- Wide incline push-ups
- Narrow push-ups
- Chest Dips
- Plank – your choice of variation
- Standard push-ups
- Clapping push-ups
If you can complete all of them take a 2-minute break and start on the second set. IF you can do 3 sets straight away then you’re going to need to increase the difficulty level.
Chest a Thought…
Working on your chest can help you to lose weight, improve your physique and look better. It’s more than just a confidence boost, it can actually help you to improve your fitness and ward off many age-related diseases.
Trying the bodyweight chest workout exercises gives you the freedom of being able to workout at any time and any place. That means there is no longer an excuse to skip your workout.
If you’re wondering how you’ll know these exercises are working then have a go at this muscle building workout today. Do the bodyweight chest workout exercises for a month and check out our free muscle building workout.
Once you've done that, join the Old School Muscle Program and tell everyone what you’ve achieved.
Your new friend & health coach,
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project
Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.