When it comes to chest development... Most people are under the impression that they can’t pack on much chest size with just bodyweight chest exercises at home. Or, with an at home chest workout. And that heavy pressing movements in the gym are instead essential to doing so. You know, like the bench press. Admittedly, these pressing movements in the gym are extremely effective and convenient to use to build your chest.
But you still most definitely can build an impressive-looking chest with just bodyweight training. I mean gymnasts are a perfect example of this.
It’s just that it takes a little more creativity. Because now, we don’t have the convenience of being able to simply add more plates to the bar as we get stronger. Or, adjust the incline of our bench to target different areas of our chest. And this is where most chest workouts at home fail. This is also why most people fail to see results with them.
Both of which lead to suboptimal chest development. In this at home chest workout though, I’ll show you how to achieve both of those. And this will help you build your chest most effectively even if you don’t have access to the gym.
But of course, if you’re not just looking to develop your chest, then you’d benefit from one of our programs. These go through, step-by-step, how you can develop a well-rounded physique (no matter if you're training at home or in the gym). If you’re interested:
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Replaces: Bench Press
The first exercise we’ll be using will target the whole chest. And it's none other than the close-grip push-up. Now, you can perform this by just using a narrow grip or a diamond set up like so, depending on what’s most comfortable for you.
We’ll be using this orientation. Since, contrary to popular belief, a wider push-up grip has been shown in multiple EMG analyses to elicit significantly:
Accordingly, it wouldn’t be the best option for chest development.
To progress these, I’d suggest starting these out on your knees. Research has shown that doing so reduces the amount of your bodyweight you’re actually lifting to only about 53%. Then, progress to the standard version where the load increases to about 66% of your body weight. And then, you can even progress this further by shifting your hands backward very slightly. Doing so increases the load you’re lifting to now be about 73% of your body weight.
From here, you can continue adding external load by:
Replaces: Incline Bench Press
Next, we’re going to incorporate more shoulder flexion into the previous push-up. This now shifts more emphasis to the upper chest. You can do this by simply elevating your feet onto a platform. And can, again, progress this by adding more external resistance with a bag or with a band. If you find these too difficult though, you can perform it on your knees instead with just a slight elevation by using cushions, for example.
An alternative to this is the wide reverse grip push-up. Where you instead use a wide underhand grip to hold onto an elevated platform and then perform your push-up against that. This is a viable option as well.
Research has shown that at least for the bench press, using a wide reverse grip boosts upper chest activation by about 30% when compared to a standard grip. Which likely carries over into push-ups. Why? Well, that's because you’re now incorporating more shoulder flexion into the movement and better aligning the tension with the upper chest fibres. And you'll feel this difference right away when you perform it.
To progress these, you can again use a bag and/or gradually decrease the height of the platform you’re holding onto.
Replaces: Chest-Focused Dips
Next, we’re going to move onto dip push-ups. This exercise now targets the lower chest. We want to include some form of dip movement into this routine since they’ve been shown in EMG analyses to best activate the lower chest.
And to do so at home, we’ll be simulating a straight-bar dip. You can do so by:
The internal rotation and shoulder extension involved in dip push-ups best helps target that lower chest region.
To start, I’d recommend doing them with no elevation if needed. And then, progress to elevating your hands, and then continuing to elevate your hands even more over time by using two chairs, for example. This will increase the load you’ll be lifting and will simulate the straight bar dip even better.
And if you have a band handy, I’d also suggest wrapping it around your neck and hands to provide an added resistance. The resistance will progressively get more difficult as you press up during each rep. And, as a result, better stress the lower chest.
Replaces: Pec Deck / Chest Fly Machine
Next, it’s time to incorporate a movement that will enable us to emphasize the inner chest a little more in this workout. Which is difficult to do with standard push-ups. That's because we can’t actually get our arms across our bodies to fully contract the chest through horizontal adduction.
But we can do so with this exercise by getting into the standard push-up position and then elevating one of your hands onto a platform. Then, perform the push-up. But as you press up, rotate your body towards that elevated arm. This will now enable our arm to move across our bodies to a greater degree. And, as a result, better activate the chest and its inner fibers.
If needed, you can start by doing these on your knees, and then progress them by wearing a weighted bag and/or using a band for added resistance.
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Replaces: Cable/Dumbbell Flies
And lastly, we’re going to work the whole chest here. We'll use this last exercise as a sort of burnout. Think of it as cable flies in the gym, for example.
What you want to do is:
Now this is admittedly quite a difficult movement. But there are ways to regress it.
You can start by just performing the eccentric portion of the movement. You can do so by controlling your upper body downwards until you reach the floor. And then simply pushing your self up back to the start position and repeating this.
Then, once you master that, you can move onto a push-up fly. Here, you perform the fly with just one of your arms. The other one bends and extends with you to help push your body back-up.
And then from there, you can perform the full fly but with your hands positioned closer to your knees to decrease the load. Over time, you can lengthen the lever and increase the load placed on the chest by performing the movement with your hands further out forward from your knees.
An alternative is bedsheet flies, where we use the setup I presented in my full body home workout article. Just to recap, it's done by tying two knots together and throwing them over a door.
For these, wrap the bedsheets around your hands. And then you can perform the same fly movement I presented by:
Start with your feet further from the door and then progress them by bringing your feet closer to the door over time
So to sum the video up, here’s what your home chest workout could look like:
Close Grip Push-Ups: 3-4 sets
Decline Close Grip Push-Ups OR Wide Reverse Grip Push-Ups: 3-4 sets
Dip Push-Ups: 3-4 sets
Inner Chest Push-Ups: 2-3 sets
Sliding Chest Flies OR Bed Sheet Flies: 2-3 sets
Now this workout can be performed all in one as a chest workout. But I’d recommend instead splitting the exercises up into at least 2 days throughout the week using an upper/lower split, for example. This just allows you to better manage the training volume and frequency.
As for the ideal rep range, the ideal rep range will vary for everyone based on your strength level. This is exactly as I've emphasized in my past full body home workout article. So instead, simply focus on pushing every single set either to failure or within a rep or two short of failure. As this is crucial in order to maximize growth if you don’t have access to heavy weights.
If you can perform more than roughly 30 reps per set, it’s an indication that it’s now become too easy. And you need to progress to a harder variation that I presented. Doing so allows you to continue maximizing growth overtime.
But all in all, by using this routine and gradually progressing each exercise as you get stronger, you’ll be able to effectively build your chest in the comfort of your own home without the need for heavy weights and equipment.
Just keep in mind though guys that for the best results, you need to pair your workout routine with the right nutrition plan. As THAT really is the key and is FAR more important than your training when it comes to drastically transforming your body and packing on size. And to be honest now is a better time than ever to start prioritizing your nutrition and learning how and what you need to be fueling your body with to maximize growth.
And for a step-by-step science-based program that shows you both how to workout AND what to eat week after week in order to build muscle as efficiently as possible with science:
Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:
I hope you finally know how to get a bigger chest at home, with just bodyweight chest exercises! Don’t forget to give me a follow and connect with me on Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube as well, in order to stay up to date with my content.