Looking for a way to build chest muscle and define your pecs? Of course you are! Well-defined chest muscles are high on the list of any man’s workout goals. Yet, despite hours of heavy lifting at the gym, sometimes it can seem like you’re not making much progress at all.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Below, you’ll find some excellent upper and lower pec workouts that will help you build a strong, powerful chest. And, best of all, you don’t even have to make a trip to the gym to do them.
That’s right – each of them can easily be done in the comfort of your own home. This means no more awkward queuing for the weight racks or making the mad race against your fellow gym-goers as soon as they become free. You can also say goodbye to picking up sweaty, slippery dumbbells that haven’t been cleaned after they’ve been used!
We’ve broken these home workouts down into two sections. Some can be done using just your body weight, and some can be done using dumbbells.
The bodyweight moves are perfect for somebody just starting out on their fitness journey. They’re also ideal if you simply prefer to use your own body weight as your resistance, instead of incorporating dumbbells into your workout routine.
Or, if you are a fan of lifting heavy weights, the dumbbell exercises we’ve listed below are some of the most effective you’ll find for building and defining your chest muscles.
We’ve also included workouts for both the upper and lower pecs. This means you’ll be able to get great definition and mass across the entire muscle, which a lot of well-known exercises don’t achieve.
So, keep reading and pretty soon you’ll have some awesome, pec-defining exercises in your workout arsenal that you can do at home.
Anatomy of the Chest
Before you begin working out your pecs, it’s important to look at the anatomy of the chest. By doing this, you’ll be able to focus on certain muscles and, most importantly, you’ll know what part of the chest each exercise will be most effective for.
There are two main muscles in your chest; the ‘pectoralis major’ and the ‘pectoralis minor’. And, as you may have guessed, this is where the generic terms ‘pecs’ comes from. Below, we’ll take a closer look at each of them and explain what they are responsible for.
This is a thick, fan-shaped muscle that is attached to the sternum (breastbone) and the clavicle (collarbone). It’s also quite a large muscle that spans the entire top part of your chest.
The pectoralis major allows you to carry out the following actions:
- Flexing your arm at the shoulder joint
- Extending your arm at the shoulder joint
- Rotating your arm at the shoulder joint
- Adducting your arm at the shoulder joint
As you can see, there are lots of actions that the pectoralis major is responsible for which you might have expected the shoulder muscles to be solely responsible for.
So, by working out the pectoralis major, you won’t only be strengthening and defining your chest, but you’ll be increasing your overall upper body strength.
The pectoralis minor lies just below the pectoralis major and runs from the third to fifth ribs to the scapula’s coracoid process (the hook-like structure on your shoulder blade).
Working with several other muscles, the pectoralis minor contributes to movements that require depression, protraction, downward rotation, stabilization, abduction, and the upward tilt of your shoulder blade.
The strength that the pectoralis minor contributes to these actions is one of the reasons it’s important to incorporate exercises into your workout that focus on it. You’ll also be adding some extra definition to your pecs, so it’s a win-win situation!
3 Workout Mistakes to Avoid if You Want a Big Chest
Ok, we know you’re eager to find out which chest exercises you should do to help you get bigger, more defined pecs. But, before we get into those, let’s take a moment to look at what you shouldn’t do.
By avoiding the 3 workout mistakes listed below, you’ll be increasing your chances of building and defining your pecs in a quicker amount of time. You’ll also be reducing the chances of injuring yourself, having to take a break, and slowing down your progress.
Mistake 1 - Avoid Complex Moves
It seems like a new exercise is discovered every week, and each one is more complicated than the last.
And, while each new exercise may be accompanied by testimonials from online influencers, the real truth is that you really only need to do some basic chest exercises if you want to build chest strength, mass, and definition.
In fact, a lot of the time these complex moves will be focused more on strengthening the assisting muscles that surround the chest rather than the pecs themselves. This may be one of the reasons you’ve not noticed much growth or definition in your chest in the past.
The exercises we’ve included below are basic, but in a good way. That’s to say that they are focused on the pecs with little emphasis on the surrounding muscles.
Thee exercises and weight set are also ideal for beginners as they’ll show you how to work out your chest muscles in the most efficient way while minimizing the risk of injury.
They are also just as effective for those who have been training for a while but want to make more progress with chest growth and definition.
Mistake 2 - Exhausting Your Deltoids & Triceps
As we’ve mentioned above, certain exercises can put too much of an emphasis on secondary muscles rather than focusing solely on the chest. This can cause them to become exhausted and, as a result, your pecs are going to get a sufficient workout.
Of course, you’re not able to isolate your chest muscles without engaging a few secondary muscles, and the triceps are a prime example of this.
However, if you do a set that hits your triceps harder than your pecs, your triceps are going to give up long before your chest muscles do. Which, put simply, means that your chest muscles aren’t getting the same workout as your triceps.
Your triceps and deltoids will also become exhausted before your chest muscles if you’re exercise positions your arms more towards your head. This is especially true for people with longer arms.
Luckily, there is an easy fix to this. All you need to do is slightly change the angle and you’ll be focusing more on the chest muscles and taking the stress away from your triceps.
It’s also important to note that, even if an exercise claims to be a great chest workout, the pecs may not be the primary target.
One excellent example of this is the Close-Grip Bench Press. Many people believe this is a good move for the chest, but you’re actually putting more emphasis on your triceps. This is because the closer your arms are tucked into the bench, the more effort your triceps need to push the bar upwards.
So, while you will still need to engage some secondary muscles (such as the deltoids and triceps), you need to make sure that the majority of stress is being placed on the chest. By doing this, you’ll be able to focus more on building your pecs, and your secondary muscles will still have enough strength to get you through multiple sets.
Each of the exercises we’ve listed below is designed to focus on the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor first, with the secondary muscles taking, well, second place! Your triceps, deltoids, back, and core will still get a workout, but your chest will take the majority of the strain.
Mistake 3 - Neglecting Basic Chest Exercises
As you make progress, you’ll want to start trying out some advanced chest exercises to switch things up a bit and, essentially, keep your workout interesting.
While this is absolutely fine, you still need to make sure you’re not neglecting basic chest exercises. Advanced doesn’t always mean better.
By sticking with the basics and incorporating just a couple of advanced chest exercises into your workout routine each week, you can continue to make progress as well as keeping things interesting.
The old adage of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” applies here. Basic chest exercises are time-honored, proven to work, and, most importantly, are safer to execute.
If you’re using weights and you’re finding your workout isn’t hitting in the same way it used to, increase the weight, don’t change your entire routine.
Types of Chest Exercises
Another common misconception surrounding chest exercises is that you need to be lifting a huge amount of weight if you want to define and build mass on your pecs. But, this isn’t necessarily true.
In fact, there are three types of chest exercises that you can do at home. Some need equipment, and some don’t.
Finding the right type of chest exercise is really about what you’re most comfortable with, what you’ll find challenging enough to engage the muscles without causing injury, and what you’re capable of doing within the confines of your own home.
Bodyweight Chest Exercises
The first type of chest exercise we’ll look at is bodyweight chest exercises. These don’t require any equipment. Your own body weight acts as the resistance.
This is one of the reasons why bodyweight chest exercises are a great way to work out your pecs at home. There’s no need to invest in expensive weightlifting equipment.
All you need is yourself! You can also do bodyweight exercises when you’re on vacation, or if you’re on a work trip without any access to a gym.
Bodyweight chest exercises are also the best option for a beginner. They’ll allow you to get your form correct and you’ll be able to build a good foundation of strength in your chest before moving onto a different type of chest exercise.
Weighted Chest Exercises
If you’re already pretty fit and you’re looking for a way to add some more resistance to your chest workout, go for weighted chest exercises. You can do these using dumbbells, barbells, or kettlebells.
We’ll take a look at some great weighted chest exercises a little later on, but one thing you’ll need to remember is that you have to purchase the equipment if you want to work out at home.
However, if you’re on a budget and you still want to do weighted chest exercises, you still have some options. You can create your own weights by using water bottles filled with sand or water.
You can also fill a backpack with heavy items as a makeshift way of increasing resistance without breaking the bank.
Resistance Band Chest Exercises
If you’re short on space but you still want to increase your resistance, resistance band chest exercises are a great alternative to traditional weights. Think of them as a hybrid of bodyweight chest exercises and weighted chest exercises.
Resistance bands are also fairly inexpensive, which makes them a great choice for anybody looking to work out at home on a budget. And, when you’re done training, they can be compactly stored away until you need them again, unlike traditional weights that take up a lot of room.
Bodyweight Chest Exercises
Do you feel as though bodyweight chest exercises are the right choice for you? An excellent choice if you’re new to exercise, or you’re simply looking for a way to work out your chest without the need for any equipment.
Below, you’ll find 8 fantastic bodyweight chest exercises that can be done at home, or anywhere else you feel like smashing a chest workout.
One of the most famous exercises, push-ups focus on your pecs while engaging your secondary muscles without exhausting them.
There are a few variations of push up, a couple of which we’ll look at in more detail later. But, for now, let’s look at how to execute a basic push-up safely and effectively.
- Lay on the floor, supporting yourself with your hands and knees
- Extend your legs behind you until you are balancing on your toes
- Keeping your arms straight, place your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart
- Slowly lower your body until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle, keeping your legs out straight and your torso engaged throughout
- Push yourself back into the starting position, then repeat until you’ve completed your set
It’s important to make sure you keep your elbows tucked close to your body when you’re doing push-ups, as flaring them out too much can create stress on them. It can affect your shoulders, too. Keeping your hands parallel to your body and making sure they aren’t pointed inwards is a good way of preventing this from happening.
If you’re brand new to exercise and you’re finding a full push up a little too challenging, try one of these variations below:
- Kneeling Push Up: Keep your body balanced on your knees rather than your toes, but follow the same steps as a full push-up. This allows you to work on your pecs without putting too much pressure on your core.
- Push-Down: If you’re finding it difficult to push yourself back up again, just focus on the push-down part of the exercise for the time being. Once your elbows have reached the 90-degree angle, continue lowering your body until you’re lying flat on the floor. You can then raise yourself up in the way you find most comfortable before returning to the starting position. Continue this until you feel you have enough strength to start pushing back upwards from the 90-degree elbow angle.
Wide Grip Push-Ups
This variation of push-up is the most effective for working out your chest muscles, as it takes a lot of pressure away from the triceps and redirects it towards the pecs.
You’ll notice that your range of motion is reduced, but you’ll have more variation in your workout so it’s ideal if you’ve already conquered standard push-ups.
- Start by placing yourself in the plank position
- Keep your feet together, and place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart
- Point your fingers outwards with a small space in between each
- Slowly start lowering your torso towards the ground, bending your elbows outwards as you do
- As soon as your chest is just below the height of your elbows, pause your movement
- Hold for a second, then push yourself back into the starting position
When you’re doing wide grip push-ups, you need to make sure that you’re keeping your core engaged and that your back isn’t bending when you’re in the high plank position. You also need to keep your neck neutral and make sure that you’re not lifting your head or tucking your chin towards your chest.
If you’re looking to take things to the next level, decline push-ups are a great way to increase your resistance while still using your body weight.
Decline push-ups are great for targeting the pectoralis major, but they also engage your shoulders, arms, and back without exhausting them.
They can also be done at home very easily without the need for extra equipment. For instance, you can use a stair or a couch to elevate your legs.
- Start on your hands and knees, as if you were doing a standard push-up
- Place your hands shoulder-width apart, then move your feet onto your elevated object one at a time
- Fix your posture to make sure that your body is in a straight line. If your legs are higher than your shoulders, find a shorter object to elevate them
- Begin slowly lowering your body towards the ground by bending your elbows
- Keep lowering your body until your chest is just above the ground
- Push yourself back up to your starting position
Take care to make sure that you don’t lock your elbows when you’re in the starting position and make sure your hands are placed too wide as this will restrict your range of motion.
You should also keep your eyes focused directly in front of you while you’re lowering your body and pushing back up. Don’t arch your back, otherwise, you may strain your back muscles.
Narrow Grip Push-Ups
If you’re looking for a great upper-body workout with a particular emphasis on your pecs, narrow grip push-ups are an essential addition to your workout routine. The narrower your grip is, the more engaged your inner-chest muscles will be.
- As with all push-up, you need to start on your hands and knees
- Extend your legs behind you so that you’re balancing on your toes. Your legs should be only slightly wider than hip-width apart
- Keep your elbows tucked right into the sides of your torso
- Lower your body until your chest is about 1-inch off the floor
- Push yourself back upwards and return to the starting position
While you need to keep your elbows tucked into your body, make sure they aren’t tucked in too far as this can create stress on the elbow.
The ideal placement would be an inch or two away from your ribs. You also need to make sure that your back isn’t curving inwards or bending outwards, as this can put a strain on your back muscles.
This type of bodyweight chest exercise puts more emphasis on the outer chest muscles, as well as working out the triceps.
This doesn’t only offer your growth and definition in the pecs, but strengthens them, giving your more control over push-up variations.
All you need for a dip is a stable, level surface. Chairs can work, but really any strong surface that is the same height would be fine. Normally, like in the above picture, this would be a dip bar but it could just as easily be a ring dip.
It’s worth noting, however, that chest dips might best be avoided if you’re currently suffering from a shoulder injury, as it does put a lot of stress on the shoulders.
- Position each chair on either side of your body
- Place one hand on each chair, then lean forward slightly
- Keep your elbow a little more than shoulder-width apart and bend your knees at a 9-degree angle so that your feet are lifted off the ground
- Lower your body until your shoulders and elbows are parallel
- Lift yourself back up into the starting position
Make sure your elbows don’t lock at the top of the move and avoid letting your shoulder move forward while you’re lowering your body.
You should also take extra care not to bounce or swing as you lower and push yourself back up, as this could cause you to fall.
Also known as ‘side-to-side push-ups’, archer push-ups are your starting point for being able to execute a single-arm push-up.
However, more than that, they are great for exercising the chest muscles without exhausting your secondary muscles.
- Start on the floor in the traditional push-up position
- Position one arm forward with a hand underneath the shoulder on the same side and the fingers pointed outwards
- Extend your other arm out to the side, resting it on the floor
- Using the hand you’ve placed underneath your shoulder, push yourself up
- Once you’ve reached the top of your lift, lower your body back down using the same arm you raised yourself up with
This is a difficult exercise to master at first. But to make things easier you can bring the outstretched hand closer to your body to help you stabilize yourself until you’re feeling strong enough to fully extend it to the side.
This bodyweight exercise puts a lot of pressure on both the chest muscles and the triceps.
With this in mind, it’s a good idea to place it at the very end of your chest workout so that your triceps don’t become exhausted before your pecs do.
- Start on the floor on your hands and knees
- Put your hands together directly below your chest
- Extend your fingers so that your index fingers and thumbs are touching and have created a diamond shape
- Keep your elbows tucked into the side of your body and lower your torso towards the floor, keeping the diamond shape intact throughout
- Once your chest is a couple of inches off the floor, raise yourself back up into the starting position
This is also quite a difficult exercise to master at first and it’s really important to make sure your form is correct. If you’re having trouble with it, try starting from your knees before moving into full push-ups.
Isometric Chest Press
This is one of the easier bodyweight chest exercises you’ll come across. Don’t be fooled by its simplicity, though.
Isometric chest presses are great for focusing on your pecs as well as engaging your biceps.
- Starting in either a sitting or standing position, place your elbows directly out in front of you at a 90-degree angle
- Place both hands together and push them against one another
- Slowly increase the level of tension you’re pushing your hands together with
- Hold for 10 seconds, then slowly release the tension
You can do as many reps as you’re comfortable with, increasing the number over time. This is a great exercise for the middle of a set when you may feel like taking a little break between other, more intensive bodyweight chest exercises.
Weighted Chest Exercises
If you’ve been training for a while now and you feel as though bodyweight exercises are going to be a little too easy for you, add some weights into your workout routine to increase the resistance.
Adjustable dumbbells are a good option for working out at home, as you’ll be able to reduce and increase the weight without having to purchase a whole set of weights. This also helps to save money. You can also use homemade weights if you’re on a tight budget.
Below, we’ll take a look at some of the best weighted chest exercises. These focus on both the upper and lower pecs, giving you an all-around chest workout that will stimulate growth, increase strength, and enhance definition.
Weighted Chest Push-Ups
This is an elevated version of a standard push-up. You’ll follow the same technique, you’re simply adding resistance by incorporating weights.
Now, you might be wondering how you’re going to hold the weights while you’re doing your push-ups. The answer lies with a backpack! Grab a backpack, place your weight inside, zip it up, and place it on your back.
Once you’ve done that, follow these steps to make sure you’re getting your form and technique correct:
- Assume the standard push-up position with your legs straight out and your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart
- Lower your body downwards until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle
- Once your chest is a couple of inches above the floor, push yourself back up into the starting position
You need to make sure that the weighted backpack is secured tightly to your body, as it could cause an injury if it were to accidentally slide to one side of your body. Make sure you’re keeping your core engaged at all times, and look slightly ahead of you to keep your body in a straight line.
Dumbbell Chest Floor Press Without a Bench
The only piece of equipment you need to do this chest exercise is a set of dumbbells. Your range of motion will be limited since you’re not using a bench, and this means that the weights won’t go to chest level.
However, this isn’t a bad thing. In fact, your pecs will have to work in a different way than they are used to as you push the weights back upwards. This can strengthen them quickly, as they’ll be working from a different angle.
- Lay with your back on the floor
- Holding a dumbbell in each hand, place your hands next to your shoulders
- Bend your knees until they are at a 90-degree angle facing the ceiling
- When you’re ready to start, push the dumbbells slowly towards the ceiling
- Hold the position for a second, then lower the dumbbells back down into the starting position
This is a fairly straightforward exercise, but it’s a great one for working out your pecs without exhausting your secondary muscles.
Dumbbell Chest Press With a Bench
This works in the same way as the chest exercise above, only instead of lying on the floor, you’re lying on a bench. This means that your elbows are able to sink lower than your chest and, as such, your range of motion is increased.
Dumbbell chest presses with a bench are an excellent way to stretch your pecs more effectively, get deeper into the muscle fibers, and really start making those gains. Here’s how to do them:
- Lie with your back on the bench so that you’re facing the ceiling
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand, and rest your hands on your thighs
- Next, pull the dumbbells to the sides of your chest so that you’re elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle
- Push the dumbbells up towards the ceiling using your chest muscles
- Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower the dumbbells back to the starting position
It can be tempting to drop the dumbbells at your side when you’ve finished your set, especially if you’re lifting heavy weight. But, this can put you at risk of injuring yourself.
There is a variation of this exercise that you can use to switch things up a bit if you’d like. Instead of starting with your hands facing the ceiling, have them facing each other at the start of the lift (still placed at the slides of your chest).
Then, as you begin raising the dumbbells upwards, twist your wrists so that they are facing forward at the top of the lift.
Incline Dumbbell Press Without a Bench
While a flat bench is ideal for a dumbbell chest press, an incline bench allows you to target your upper pectorals better.
If you have an adjustable bench, you should be able to switch between flat and incline quite easily. If you only have a flat bench, you can use a medicine ball to elevate your body to the right angle.
If you don’t have a bench at all, you can do this chest exercise on the floor. However, this does restrict your range of motion as you won’t be able to lower the dumbbells to chest level.
- Sit on the inclined bench (or ball) with your feet on the floor
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand
- If you’re using a ball, slowly walk your feet forward, keeping your back straight, to lower your hips into the correct position. Once your lower back is against the ball and your hips and knees are at the same height, stop walking forward.
- Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle
- Push the dumbbells upwards and bring them together until they are almost touching
- Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower the weights back into the starting position
This can be a tricky exercise to get right if you’re using a ball, but it’s worth persevering if you want a great chest exercise. One thing you need to make sure of is that you don’t move your torso above a 45-degree angle. This will take away the resistance pressure from your chest and focus it more on your deltoids.
Decline Dumbbell Press
If you’re looking for a way to work out your upper pecs, the decline dumbbell press is a move you absolutely need to incorporate into your workout routine.
It’s also good for engaging your upper arms but allows you to focus on your chest without exhausting them.
- Lie down on a decline bench
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand using an overhand grip
- Keep your hands shoulder-width apart
- To begin your set, push your arms directly above you then lower the weights down to your chest
- Once the dumbbells are about an inch away from your chest, push them back into the starting position
This is one of the easiest and most effective chest exercises you can do. However, you do need an adjustable or decline bench to do it.
Dumbbell Chest Flys
If you don’t have a bench, dumbbell chest flys are the perfect at-home weighted chest exercise.
They can be performed without a bench and, while you can still use a bench to increase your range of motion, you’ll still be able to stretch and strengthen your muscles if you’re lying on the floor.
- Start by lying on the floor so that you’re facing the ceiling
- Grab a dumbbell in each hand and hold them so that your palms are facing in
- Lift the dumbbell directly over your chest
- Slowly push them upwards until they are above the center of your chest
- Lower both arms to your sides and pull the dumbbells back together over your chest
- Repeat in quick succession until you’ve finished your set
When you’re lying on the floor, take care that your lower back is flat against the ground and that it isn’t arched. You also need to make sure that you’re engaging your core as you lower the dumbbells.
Resistance Band Chest Workouts
Resistance bands are cheap, easy to use, and perfect for intensifying your home workout.
They are also available in a variety of resistances, which makes them ideal for different fitness levels. Some will even allow you to adjust the amount of resistance by giving less slack to the band.
Another great thing about resistance bands is that they give you the ability to add more variety to your workout. So, if you’re finding certain chest exercises are becoming quite easy, you can increase the intensity by adding resistance. In turn, your muscles will start to adapt and you can keep challenging them for a more effective workout.
Finally, resistance bands can provide assistance during exercises that you’re finding particularly difficult. This is ideal if you have limited mobility or if you’re starting at the very beginning of your fitness journey.
For instance, you can use a resistance band to support your weight until you’ve got enough strength to perform the exercise unaided.
If you feel as though resistance bands would be the right choice for your chest workouts, take a look at some of the exercises below:
Chest Press with Resistance Bands
This exercise puts emphasis on your chest but also engages your arms and your shoulders.
It’s also a good exercise for teaching you how to engage your core and improve stabilization.
- Place your right foot in the center of the resistance band
- Grab either the handles or the ends of the resistance band and pull them towards your shoulders
- Keep your palms facing forward and your elbows slightly bent behind your body
- When you’re ready, press your arms out in front of you
- Hold for a second or two, then slowly pull your elbows back
Incline Chest Press with Resistance Bands
For this exercise, you require no more equipment than a resistance band and a door handle.
We’ll explain this in more detail below, but what you should know is that this is a great one for targeting your upper pectoralis muscles.
- Begin by attaching your resistance band to a door handle, ensuring that the door is closed and that it won’t be unexpectedly opened
- Stand with your feet placed about six inches in front of each other
- Hold one end of the resistance band in each hand, and lean slightly forward
- Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle
- Next, push both arms forward until they are in a straight line, but they are elevated to 40-degrees
- Slowly pull your elbows back to return to the starting position
If you want to make this exercise a little more challenging, you can increase the distance between your feet. Conversely, if you wanted to make it a little easier, move close to the door handle. This will reduce the resistance.
Chest Fly Crossover with Resistance Bands
You’ll also need to anchor your resistance band to a door handle when doing this exercise.
It’s a great one for isolating your chest muscles as it allows you to work against a designated resistance point.
- Attach your resistance band to a closed door
- Place yourself around 3ft away from the door, facing away from it and holding one end of the resistance band in each hand
- Keep your head, back, and chest in a straight line
- Slowly pull the resistance band out in front of you, crossing your torso with each hand once your arms are fully extended
- Return to the starting position and repeat until you’ve finished your set, alternating which hand goes on top of the other when crossing over
While your arms need to be fully extended before you cross them over, you need to maintain a slight bend in your elbows at all times. Doing this allows for a more fluid movement.
Decline Push-Ups with Resistance Bands
This is a great one if you’re looking to add some more resistance to a standard push-up. To begin with, your legs are elevated which increases the amount of weight on your chest and upper body.
Add a resistance band around your back and it is even more difficult to raise yourself off the ground!
- Begin by lying on the floor in the standard push-up position
- Carefully raise each leg, one at a time, onto the seat of a chair
- Next, place your resistance band across the middle of your back
- Grab each end of the band so that it is taught across your back
- Push yourself up, keeping the resistance band in your hands, until your arms are straight
- Once at the top of the lift, return to the starting position and repeat until you’ve completed your set
Make sure you’re using a chair or another surface that allows you to keep your body in a straight line when you’ve reached the top of the lift. You also need to keep your core and buttocks tight as you push upwards.
Things to Look Out for When Choosing Resistance Bands
If you’re tempted by the idea of working out your pecs using resistance bands, there are a few things to bear in mind before you rush out and purchase some.
Resistance bands come with or without handles and, depending on the style you’ve gone for, you’ll need to make sure you’re using them correctly to get the best results out of them.
If your resistance bands have handles, make sure that you’re firmly gripping one handle in each hand.
If they don’t have handles, it’s a good idea to wrap each end of the band fully around your hand. This will give you a secure grip while you’re working out, so there’s less of a chance that they’ll ping out of your grasp and potentially cause an injury.
Resistance bands are designed to increase the amount of tension the further they are stretched. With this in mind, you’ll also need to think about how long your chosen resistance band should be.
Most people find a resistance band with a total length of around 5ft to give them the best results. This allows you to create a good amount of tension. A 5ft resistance band is also a good choice for home workouts as you’ll most likely be working out in a smaller space.
Total Chest Workout Plan
If you’re keen to get started with your chest exercises but you’re not sure how to structure a plan, we’re here to help! Below, you’ll find two total chest workout plans that you can use to help get you started.
The exercises in each of these plans are targeted at both the upper and lower pecs, so you’ll be hitting both of them within one session. One is also based solely on bodyweight chest exercises, while the other allows you to incorporate weights into your chest workout.
You also don’t have to stick to just one of the plans, which means you’ll be able to keep your workouts interesting. Do either plan 2-3 times a week and you’ll see progress in chest growth and definition in no time.
Bodyweight Chest Workout Plan
This is the best plan for beginners, or for anybody looking to work out their pecs without needing any equipment.
- Push-Ups – 10 reps
- Wide Grip Push-Ups – 10 reps
- Chest Dips – 10 reps
- Isometric Chest Press – 10 reps
The limited number of exercises in this plan allows you to start slowly and practice your form. Once you’re confident that you’ve got your posture and technique correct, you can incorporate the following chest exercises into the plan:
- Diamond Push-Ups – 10 reps
- Archer Push-Ups – 10 reps
- Decline Push-Ups – 10 reps
- Narrow Grip Push-Ups – 10 reps
This means you’ll be doing 8 different chest exercises that are aimed at both the upper and lower pecs. As you begin gaining strength, increase the number of reps you do for each exercise, or do the entire workout plan a couple of times.
For example, you can either do 20 reps of each exercise and complete the plan once. Or, if you prefer, you can do 10 reps of each exercise and complete the plan twice in one session. Either way, you’ll be doing the same number of reps.
Depending on how your strength and technique are developing, you can look to increase the number of repetitions every 15-30 days. Don’t double it straight away, though. Start by doing a couple more reps on each exercise. Increments of two are usually the best way forward, and will allow you to strengthen your pecs without risking any injuries.
Weighted Chest Workout Plan
If you prefer to use weights when working out your chest, this weighted chest workout plan is a great tool for helping you target both your upper and lower pecs. It’s also really good for training at home and, as we’ve mentioned earlier, you can even use improvised weights (such as water bottles) in place of traditional dumbbells.
The amount of weight you lift will really depend on your current strength, but since this plan works around numerous repetitions, we would recommend starting with 10lbs – 15lbs initially.
- Dumbbell Chest Press No Bench – 12 reps
- Dumbbell Chest Flys – 12 reps
- Weighted Push-Ups – 12 reps
For the weighted push-ups, we’d recommend loading your weight into a backpack and strapping it to your back. As with the bodyweight workout plan, you’ll start with a limited number of exercises. This allows you to work on your form and technique. After 15 days, you can add the following exercises to your workout plan:
- Incline Dumbbell Presses No Bench – 12 reps
- Decline Dumbbell Presses – 12 reps
After another 15 days, you can look to increase the number of reps and the amount of weight you’re using. As a general rule, it’s best to add no more than 5lbs of weight and three repetitions to each exercise.
Once you’ve followed your workout plan with increased reps and weight for an additional 30 days, you can increase the weight and number of reps again.
Repetition Range & Flexibility
Although the plans we’ve provided above have a certain number of repetitions for each exercise, you don’t have to be 100% strict about them. It’s often a good idea to switch things up from time to time, adding more repetitions to one exercise and lowering the number in another.
For example, you might choose to lower the number of repetitions on a diamond push-up from 20 to 12, and carrying the extra 8 over to chest dips.
Doing this stops your muscles from becoming too comfortable, and shocks them into stimulating growth. This is because your body doesn’t understand how many repetitions you’re doing. It understands time under tension.
And, the more time a certain exercise is carried out, the more tension the muscle is under.
You might think that working out your chest every day is a sure-fire way to grow your pecs and add that definition that you’re working so hard to achieve. However, as with all exercise, rest is just as important as working out.
When you rest, you’re allowing your chest muscles to heal. And, as they heal, they grow and become stronger. It’s a simple enough concept, but it’s something that so many people forget.
A period of 48-72 hours of rest should be allowed when following either of the workout plans we’ve listed above. To put that into perspective, if you train your pecs on a Monday, you shouldn’t do any other chest exercises until Thursday.
You can, of course, use this time to work out other parts of your body or take a cardio day. And, as a rule, you should aim for total rest with no workouts one or two days a week.
Tips for Intensifying Your Workout
After a few months, even increasing the number of reps and the amount of weight you’re using won’t quite leave you feeling as pumped as you did when you first started working out your pecs.
At this point, it’s a good idea to look into ways you can intensify your workout. By doing this, you’ll keep your chest muscles engaged and you’ll be able to grow, strengthen, and define them without hitting the dreaded plateau.
Below, you’ll find a collection of tips for intensifying your workout. Follow these and you’ll start feeling the burn again!
- Change Your Angle: You can challenge your body by slightly changing your angle while you’re working out. For example, elevate your legs even higher when doing decline push-ups. This makes the exercise harder and, in turn, your muscles have to work harder to get you to the top position.
- Change Your Tempo: Instead of pushing straight back up again when you’ve reached the bottom of a push-up, pause for a couple of seconds first. This increases your time under tension and makes the muscles work harder.
- Increase Your Range of Motion: You can build more muscle strength by pushing them to their full range of motion. This will also help with flexibility over time, so you’ll find it easier to do certain exercises.
- Destabilize Your Moves: Making your body slightly less stable while you’re working out is a great way to add extra tension to your chest muscles. For example, you could raise one leg up toward the ceiling when you’re performing a push-up. This will put more weight on your arms and your pecs will have to work harder to get your back to the top of the move.
- Incorporate Plyometrics: When you’re doing a push-up, clap your hands together at the top of the move, catching before you go straight into your next repetition. This is known as plyometrics, and there has been some research that shows it improves strength. It’s also pretty impressive, so you’ll get a certain feeling of accomplishment too!
5 Tips for a Good Chest Workout
When you’re working out your chest at home, you don’t have the watchful eye of a personal trainer to come and help you with your form or offer you training advice.
So, to help make your home workout as effective as possible, we’ve put together 5 top tips for a good chest workout.
- Warm-Up: Don’t dive straight into your chest workout without taking the time to warm your muscles up first. Otherwise, you could cause yourself injury and delay your progress. Do a couple of minutes of light cardio, and use a lighter weight to practice each exercise before you go fully into the workout.
- Stretch After You’ve Warmed Up: Once you’ve worked up a light sweat and your heart rate has started to climb, take a moment to stretch your chest muscles before you start your full workout. Hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds at a time.
- Start With Lighter Weights: It doesn’t matter if you’re new to working out or if you’ve been training for a while, you should always start with lighter weights. This allows you to get your form and technique correct, and it’s especially important if you’re attempting a new exercise for the first time. Once you’re certain you’ve got it perfect, you can move onto a heavier weight.
- Isolate Your Muscles: As you begin gaining strength in your pecs, you may notice that one side of your chest is stronger than the other. In this instance, you can isolate each side of your body while you train. This allows you to put more tension on certain muscles and, ultimately, achieve an equal amount of strength across your entire chest.
- Cool Down: Once you’ve finished your chest workout, you need to cool your muscles down. This helps them recover quicker and reduces the chances of developing DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). Do the same stretches you did when you were warming up, holding each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
What Equipment Do I Need for At-Home Chest Workouts?
While it’s absolutely possible to get a great chest workout using just your own body weight, you may eventually want to add resistance and challenge yourself a little more.
Below, we’ve put together a list of recommended equipment that can help you do this.
If you want to supercharge your home chest workout, you might want to think about investing in a weight bench.
While most chest exercises that are done on a bench can also be done simply by lying on the floor, you’ll be able to increase your range of motion and get deeper into the muscle fibers as your elbows will fall below your chest.
Weight benches can also be used to perform loads of other exercises, too. So, even when you’re resting your chest muscles, you’ll be able to work out your legs, abs, and more using your bench. This gives you extra value for money and helps make your home workout more efficient.
No bench? No problem! You can do home chest workouts without a bench.
If you’re experiencing strain on your wrists when doing push-ups, then a pair of push-up grips can be a very useful piece of workout equipment. This is because they take a lot of tension away from the wrist joints and focus it more on the upper arms.
Push-up grips can also add some intensity to your push-ups, as well as offer you an increased range of motion. This makes them a great choice if you want to make push-ups a little more challenging.
As you gain strength in your pecs, you may want to start increasing the amount of weight you lift.
A set of adjustable dumbbells is the ideal tool for this, as, rather than having to have a specific pair of dumbbells for each weight, you can simply add or remove plates. They take up less space too, which is ideal when you’re training at home.
They also allow you to increase the weight in smaller increments and create something that you’re comfortable with.
For instance, you might want to increase the weight by just a couple of pounds, A set of adjustable dumbbells will allow you to do that, instead of having to move onto the next size up which you may not be confident in lifting yet.
How Often Should You Workout Your Chest?
As we’ve mentioned above, there is a common misconception that the more regularly you work out your pecs, the quicker your results will be. But, there are a few reasons why this isn’t true.
To begin with, working out your chest muscles too regularly can lead to muscle fatigue. Your muscles need time to recover after a workout. If they don’t have this time, they won’t be able to perform as efficiently next time. You also risk injuring them, which means you’ll have to wait even longer until you can work out again.
The perfect amount of rest time following a chest workout is 48-72 hours. This gives your chest muscles time to recover and grow stronger as the damaged muscle fibers knit together.
When you factor in the rest time that your muscles need, you can expect to train your chest 2-3 times a week. On the days you aren’t doing any chest exercises, you can work out other parts of your body. You can also take a cardio day which, although not as appealing, is an essential part of keeping fit.
Feed Your Pecs to Grow Them!
Working out is only one-half of getting bigger, stronger, more defined pecs. You also need to make sure that your diet is on point. Remember that phrase “You are what you eat?” Well, this is especially true for strength training and muscle building.
It’s not too much of a difficult thing to figure out, either. Put simply, you need to be eating a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and good fats.
Let’s look at protein, first of all. Your protein intake should account for 10-35% of your total daily calorie intake. You might be tempted to eat a ton of chicken following a workout, in the belief that it will help your pecs grow bigger and stronger. But research shows that there isn’t really much benefit to exceeding more than 10-35% of your daily intake.
Carbohydrates have gotten bad press over recent years and have been associated with fat gain. But, they are actually a nutrient that is partially converted into glycogen and this fuels your muscles during a workout. Your muscles also store glycogen, which makes it available to call on in future workouts.
However, this only happens when you’re eating the right kind of carbohydrates. Go for whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Avoid anything processed or ‘white’, such as white bread, pasta, and rice.
The right kind of carbohydrates should account for 45-64% of your daily calorie intake. This doesn’t only provide your muscles with an extra store of glycogen, but it also helps to aid in muscle growth and repair.
Finally, you need to make sure you’re getting enough good fats in your diet. Around 25-30% of your daily calories should come from fats, either Omega-3 or monounsaturated.
Omega-3 fats include foods such as fish, eggs, flaxseed, and walnuts. Monounsaturated fats include foods such as olives, avocados, peanut butter, and nuts.
So, there you have it. The guide above has everything you need when it comes to working out your pecs at home, including chest exercises that can be done with or without weights.
If there is one thing that you need to remember, it’s that you should always start small when you start any of these exercises, especially if you’ve never done them before.
Check your form and technique before you start your sets and, if you’ve opted for weighted chest exercises, start with a smaller weight.
Over time, you’ll be able to increase the weight and the number of repetitions in each set. And, given enough time and effort, you’ll start to see a real change in the shape and size of your pecs.