HOW TO WORK YOUR CHEST AT HOME
Building your upper, mid and lower chest from home with NO equipment may seem impossible.
But, I’m here to show you it’s definitely not!
Once you’ve got an understanding of the biomechanics of the chest muscles, you can adapt gym chest exercises to the home environment, and I’ll show you exactly how to do it.
Want to target your upper pecs but don’t have access to an incline bench?
Need to work on a saggy lower chest but can’t get to a gym to do your dips?
Don’t worry. I’ve got you covered!
You might think bodyweight chest exercises aren’t as effective as their gym chest workout counterparts.
But after you try the chest workout routine I’m showing you here, you’ll be absolutely convinced that you can hit every angle of your chest from home!
CHEST MUSCLE BIOMECHANICS
There are two important factors you need to understand to be able to translate chest exercises with weights to bodyweight versions.
First, let’s look at the direction of the fibers from the different areas of the pectoral muscles.
UPPER CHEST CLAVICULAR FIBERS
MIDDLE CHEST STERNAL FIBERS
LOWER CHEST ABDOMINAL HEAD FIBERS
The second important thing to understand is what’s happening with the upper arm in relation to the rest of your torso in your chest exercises. We need to be able to translate the angle of the arm position in each gym chest exercise into our home exercise choices so we can hit the upper, middle and lower chest without weights.
You’ll see that even though the body weight exercise option may look completely different from its gym counterpart, the position of the arms in both is the same.
Let’s take a look at the most common gym exercise with weights for each area of the chest, and how we can convert it to an effective home chest option by replicating the arm position.
BEST BODYWEIGHT HOME UPPER CHEST EXERCISE
If you look at the classic incline bench press, you will see that your upper arms are aligned not directly in front of your torso but at a 120 degree angle upwards from that position.
This gives focus to the clavicular fibers of the upper pecs.
If we want to translate that 120 degree angle to a bodyweight movement, we can do that with a Decline Pushup.
When I position myself upside down with my feet on the wall you can see that even though my body is facing down (as opposed to face up in an incline bench press), the arm positions of both exercises are the same.
Decline Push-ups are the ideal way to target the upper chest if you don’t have access to equipment.
BEST BODYWEIGHT MIDDLE CHEST EXERCISE
The flat bench press is an exercise that targets the sternal fibers of your middle chest by placing your arms at a 90 degree angle to the chest.
You can see what I mean here.
This one is easy to convert to a bodyweight option!
The Classic Pushup is going to put the arms in that same 90 degree position to the chest as a flat bench press would.
There is no better bodyweight exercise to target the middle area of your chest than good old fashioned classic push-ups!
BEST BODYWEIGHT LOWER CHEST EXERCISE
The decline bench press hits the lower pecs by placing the arms below the chest at about a 45 degree angle.
You can see that angle below.
How do we translate this to bodyweight?
We’ve got to flip it over one more time!
The Incline Pushup angles your body upward, but angles your arms downward into that 45 degree angle to allow you to target your lower chest fibers.
The line of push is down and across in the decline bench press, and the same thing happens in the incline push-up. This is because the body placement is a little bit ahead of our arms, which positions our arms down and across the torso as we lower.
HOW CAN YOU WORK YOUR CHEST WITH NO EQUIPMENT?
When we put these 3 effective chest exercises together we can create the ultimate bodyweight chest workout that hits all three areas of the upper, middle and lower chest.
To do this, set up a bench or other piece of furniture about 5 – 6 feet from a wall depending on your height.
Starting position is with your feet on the wall, hands shoulder width apart on the floor to perform the Decline Pushup for three reps. Make sure to keep your core tight throughout the movement.
Then you walk your hands forward and your feet down the wall until they are are flat on the ground in a plank position. Do three reps of the Classic Pushup with proper form keeping the core tight.
Then immediately walk yourself over into an Incline Pushup. Starting position is with your hands on the bench and feet on the floor. Do 3 reps here and then go back to the standard push-up.
Keep going back and forth from Decline Pushup to Classic Pushup to Incline Pushup, back to Classic Pushup and back to Decline Pushup, following this sequence with correct form until you fatigue.
Building chest strength and muscle growth is going to require that you push yourself to the point of failure on this bodyweight chest routine.
If you’re training at home and you have a weight vest that you can use, you’ll be able to create that overload even faster.
Regardless of which area of your chest you’re working on or which chest exercises you decide to do, you have to be sure that you load them heavy enough to create change and growth.
That doesn’t have to come in the form of heavy weight!
You can increase the load you feel in your chest muscles by simply slowing down the exercise, making sure to keep the contraction of the chest going with every rep, and working until you hit failure.
As you can see, it’s totally possible to work the upper, middle and lower chest from home using no equipment and body weight exercises. It’s just important that you understand the orientation of the chest muscle fibers and how arm placement influences which portion of the pecs you’re working. Once you’ve got those concepts down, it’s easy to translate your classic barbell or dumbbell chest exercises into their bodyweight alternatives!
If you’re looking for a complete workout program that helps you build muscle from home with minimal to no equipment, we’ve got you covered! Check out our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which is the best fit for your goals and fitness level.
- Some people think that bodyweight chest exercises aren’t as effective as barbell and dumbbell chest exercises, but that doesn’t have to be the case.
- To be able to translate chest exercises with weights over to bodyweight variations it’s important to understand the orientation of chest fibers in the upper, middle and lower chest, as well as how arm position relative to the chest helps us hit them.
- We can best hit the upper chest with exercises that put the arms at a 120 degree angle to the chest. The Decline Pushup performed upside down with feet against the wall is the best bodyweight exercise to accomplish this.
- For the middle chest, you want the arms to be oriented at a 90 degree angle to the chest, and the Classic Pushup is the perfect bodyweight exercise for this.
- For the lower chest, the arms should be at about a 45 degree angle to the chest, and the Incline Pushup places them in this position.
- To overload the chest muscles using these bodyweight exercises it’s important to slow down the movements in your chest training, emphasize the contraction of the chest and do the exercise sequence until failure.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.