Is there anything better than a bodyweight chest workout?
Many of the movements in bodyweight training date back to the very beginning of bodybuilding.
Before there were dumbbells, barbells and kettlebells people only trained with the body they had.
Basic exercises like pushups and dips were a staple exercise in everyone's routine.
Modern bodybuilding has taken over, times have changed, and many people now prefer to use traditional weightlifting devices to train their body – but there will always be a place for bodyweight exercises.
In this article, we are going to break down all the fundamental concepts of how to train your chest through bodyweight workouts.
We will break down the anatomy, training style and even provide a great workout you can do at home – with no equipment.
Let’s get into it.
What is Bodyweight Training?
The first and most important question we should address is what bodyweight training is.
On a fundamental level, bodyweight training is the action of completing exercises using only your body as resistance.
This means you are generally not using dumbbells or barbells to isolate specific muscles – instead you are using bodyweight movements to integrate muscles into a particular exercise.
Although that might sound complicated, bodyweight training is one of the more simple concepts in exercise physiology.
The exercises are relatively simple, and your body will adapt to the movements with relative ease – making it one of the best styles of training for beginners but also advanced athletes where deloading is necessary.
Before we get into bodyweight chest workouts, let’s take a moment to refresh your understanding of the chest anatomy and structure.
Brief Anatomy Refresher
The chest is more complicated than most people may think.
At first glance, many people may think that the chest is a series of muscles that only work to help with pushing movements, but this is a very narrow-minded approach.
In reality, the chest will work to pull on the humerus to create lateral, vertical, or rotational motion.
This means that nearly every movement you complete at the arm – pushing overhead, throwing a ball, pushing in front, they are all controlled in some capacity by the pectoralis major and minor.
Chest Muscles: Pectoralis Major and Minor
The big guys in the chest region. Commonly known as the “pecs” these two muscles work to pull on the humerus to create lateral, vertical, or rotational motion.
Anterior Shoulder Muscles: Anterior Deltoids
Not necessarily a chest muscle, but the anterior deltoids will be synergistic with almost all the movements you’d use to train the chest.
Anytime you press in front or overhead you will get assistance from the anterior deltoids.
The anterior deltoid is a relatively small muscle (compared to the pectoralis major) and works to flex the humerus at the shoulder.
Training the deltoid is as simple as overloading in an overhead press or front raise – two motions where the pecs will also assist your movement.
Both of these muscles will be very important in your overall development.
To have a complete bodyweight chest workout, you should be targeting these muscles (along with the triceps) to ensure you are getting stronger, building muscle and achieving the physique you have always dreamt of.
Bodyweight Chest Exercises for Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding is the act of training your body for the sole purpose of developing an aesthetic physique.
Generally, the priority is not strength or functional translation but instead developing the muscle to look good and perform well with strength progressions.
When bodybuilding with a bodyweight chest workout it is very important to hit both the upper and lower chest.
It is not just as simple as pumping out a few dozen pushups every day and hoping for the best.
Bodybuilding requires a consistent dedication to your practice and workout.
Here's how you can target both the upper and lower chest through bodyweight chest exercises.
Building The Upper Chest vs. Lower Chest
We know that the primary muscles in the chest are the pectoralis major and minor, but when it comes to training the chest through its two portions, it is essential to focus on the pectoralis major.
This muscle originates (attaches) to the sternum. This means that it is quite a wide muscle in the middle chest, but also attaches to the humerus.
Training the upper and lower chest means we need to use angles and difference inclines to focus on a particular area.
Training the Upper Chest
Targetting the upper chest will require you to complete exercises where you are pushing overhead or on a decline (for pushups).
Both of these exercises are intermediate to advanced versions of the pushup so be sure to keep your volume (total repetitions) low for the first couple weeks of training.
Focus on the contraction of the upper chest throughout the range of motion. Imagine the muscle growing and working on each rep.
Training the Lower chest
This is where it gets a little complicated – especially in bodyweight training.
To target the lower chest, you should try to complete exercises where you place most of the stress in the middle of your chest.
This is completed through narrow grip exercises or exercises where you are doing a fly, instead of a push.
Both of these exercises are a beginner to intermediate level and can be completed with 8-12 reps per set for a maximum of 4 sets.
Above everything – the most important aspect of training the chest for physique is to ensure you have variability in your training. Since you are not stuck on increasing weight or reps, there is no need for you to focus on one exercise and perfect it.
Rather, you can train with a series of exercises that ensure you are hitting the chest from a wide variety of angles and inclines. Using the exercises listed above will help you beat this goal.
Building Mass With Bodyweight Chest Exercises
The biggest challenge that many people face when they get into bodyweight training.
The reality is, just like any sport or activity, the right training protocols will always prevail.
It is 100% possible to achieve mass and strength with bodyweight only – but we do need to get a little creative with the way we approach our workouts.
Here are some of the best ways you can build mass and strength with bodyweight chest exercises.
1. Tempo Training
Tempo training is the act of counting out the time you place a muscle under tension through a particular exercise.
It is as simple as counting the time you spend contracting the muscle.
A longer tempo means you are placing the muscle under more tension – without actually increase the resistance (weight) being put onto the muscle.
When training for chest mass and strength, your tempo should always revolve around the 6-8 seconds per rep range.
Example: Completing a traditional pushup with a 4120 tempo means you are lowing your body for 4 seconds, holding at the bottom for 1 second and pressing off the ground for one second.
Check out this video for more information on Tempo Training.
The total amount of reps you complete in a particular workout.
Many weightlifters rely on a low rep count but a high resistance. In bodyweight training, we generally do not add more resistance than our own body.
To stimulate hypertrophy (the increase in cell size), it can be a handy trick to increase the total volume in your workout.
One of the more popular ways to do this is to complete ten sets for each exercise.
Example: Completing six reps of diamond pushups for ten sets – for a total volume of 60 reps per workout.
3. Using Added Resistance
The last and most obvious method to improve strength and size is to use added resistance.
This can be as simple as putting on a weight vest or using a dumbbell on your back during a pushup.
In classic bodybuilding, this is the easiest way to stimulate the muscle for growth.
Recovery and Strength: Building the Chest
Before we get into an example workout program, I want to discuss recovery and how it relates to strength.
The chest system is a complex set of muscles and movements.
Since the muscle attaches into the shoulder, we are always dealing with a wide variety of movements and exercises to accomplish a complete bodyweight chest workout.
All of these motions will stress not only the muscle but also the joint. The shoulder joint is already a joint that is prone to injury.
If you are not careful, overuse injuries can creep up on you and lead to injury.
Here are two ways you can help to limit injury and ensure you are growing stronger each day.
1. Train a Maximum of 4x a Week
Especially if you are a beginner – there is no need to train at a high volume each week.
Hitting difficult and progressive workouts 3-4 times a week will be more than enough to help you grow stronger over time.
2. Use Modalities
Ice, rolling, stretching – all of these recovery tools are essential to your success as an athlete.
Do not become so fixated on a workout that you forget to take care of the muscle after your training session.
Bodyweight Chest Workout
Now that you have an understanding for the anatomy of the muscle, how to target both the upper and lower chest, and the methods for developing mass and strength it’s time we show you how to structure a bodyweight chest workout.
|BODYWEIGHT CHEST WORKOUT 1||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Decline Diamond Push Ups||12||3||4120||3m|
|Archer Push Ups (can be done on knees)||6||5||1010||2m|
|Push Back Push Ups||12||3||2121||2m|
*RBS: Rest Between Sets – this is the amount of time you will be resting between each set. When you complete your designated reps you will move into your RBS. When that time expires (either in minutes or seconds) you will move into the next set to complete the exercise.
NOTE: This bodyweight chest workout will provide you with the basic structure and strength to progress into more complex training volumes or more difficult exercises. After completing this workout 2-3 times a week for a month, you can make it more difficult by increasing the volume, adding resistance (weight) or making the tempo more difficult.
Below, in BODYWEIGHT CHEST WORKOUT 2 we show you how you can continue to advance your training through simple bodybuilding programming.
|BODYWEIGHT CHEST WORKOUT 2||REPS||SETS||TEMPO||RBS|
|Decline Diamond Push Ups||6||10||2121||2m|
|Archer Push Ups (can be done on knees)||4||10||2121||2m|
|Push Back Push Ups||6||10||3131||2m|
Bodyweight Chest Mastery
Training the body using only its own resistance is difficult, yet a gratifying way to workout.
Bodyweight chest workouts are a great way to build strength, size and they can be done virtually anywhere with ease.
In this guide, we broke down the best methods to target different areas of the chest and provided a workout template that will help you to build a balance of strength in the shoulder and chest.
Can Pushups Build a Bigger Chest?
100%. Any exercise, when performed with the correct form and training progressions will lead to strength. Pushups are a great way to build muscle in the chest, anterior shoulder and triceps.
Keep your training volume in the chest and be sure to implement a slower tempo scheme to place the chest under more stress during a workout.
Are Isometrics Good for Chest Size?
Isometrics are a great way to boost size and strength in any muscle.
When it comes to chest size, the name of the game will always come down to volume and intensity.
If you are training with bodyweight only, you will increase the intensity by reducing the tempo time.
To integrate isometrics into your bodyweight chest workouts be sure to use slower tempo times like 4121 – this way you are pausing at every range of motion.
Let us know what you think of these workouts in the comment section below.
If you have any questions about how to make your exercises more difficult or how to perfect your movements in specific exercises be sure to contact us – we’d be happy to help you build a perfect bodyweight chest workout.