Having a strong, defined chest with chiseled pecs not only looks fantastic but helps you feel confident in your body and allows you to dominate your lifts like the bench press.
However, if you can’t make it to the gym for chest workouts and you don’t own dumbbells, you will need to do at-home bodyweight chest workouts without equipment to help strengthen and build your chest.
But, what are the best bodyweight chest exercises to perform when you need a no-equipment chest workout for at-home chest workouts? How do you program a bodyweight chest workout for building size and strength?
In this article, we will discuss how to structure a bodyweight chest workout or gains in strength and mass and provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best bodyweight chest exercises for chest workouts without equipment:
- Decline Push-Ups
- Push-Up Holds
- Clapping Push-Ups
- Medicine Ball Push-Ups
- Chest Fly
- Floor Chest Fly
- Resistance Band Push-Ups
- Negative Push-Ups
Let’s get going!
How to Structure Bodyweight Chest Workouts for Size and Strength
When doing bodyweight chest workouts to increase mass and size, try to complete your sets to failure since you will not have external resistance to work with.
This will help maximize the stimulus to your muscles.
If possible, supplement bodyweight chest workouts with workouts in the gym if you’re looking to build muscle and increase strength.
The Best Bodyweight Chest Workout
Here are some of the best bodyweight chest exercises for no-equipment chest workouts at home.
Start with two sets per exercise and work up to 3-4 sets.
A great warm-up for bodyweight chest workouts is the push-up walkout. This is a great dynamic mobility exercise that gets all of your major joints moving, stretches your posterior chain muscles, and most importantly warms up your shoulders, arms, and pecs.
Here are the steps:
- Stand upright with your arms straight up overhead.
- Hinge at your hips and bring your fingertips down to the floor.
- Keeping your knees straight, walk your hands out, dropping your body into a push-up position.
- Perform one full push-up.
- Hike your hips back up into the air as you walk your fingertips back toward your feet. Press through your heels until you are standing all the way upright.
- Bring your hands straight up overhead to help mobilize your shoulders, and then begin your next rep.
- Complete 10 to 15 reps.
Standard or incline push-ups (against a wall or with your hands on a chair) are a great chest exercise for bodyweight chest workouts.Your feet should be flat on the floor with your toes curled under, contacting the ground behind you. Keep your elbows lined up directly underneath your shoulders.
#3: Decline Push-Ups
Most no-equipment chest workouts focus predominantly on push-ups because the push-up is a great way to strengthen the chest when you do not have exercise equipment.
Decline push-ups increase the difficulty of a standard push-up because more gravity is acting on your body.
All you need to do is place your feet up on a chair, couch, or elevated box and then perform push-ups.
#4: Push-Up Holds
The push-up hold is an isometric exercise that improves muscular endurance and increases time under tension for your chest muscles to maximize your gains.
Perform a regular push-up but when you get to the lowered position, pause and hold before pressing back up.
Begin with five seconds and increase to 30 seconds over time, and start with 3 to 5 reps per set and work up to 10 or more.
#5: Clapping Push-Ups
The clapping push-up is a plyometric exercise that involves explosively generating power to propel both hands off the ground simultaneously when you clap.
Then you will have to use your chest muscles and arms to absorb the impact, as with plyometric jumps.
#6: Medicine Ball Push-Ups
One of the best bodyweight chest exercises is the medicine ball push-up. Of course, if you are doing at-home chest workouts without equipment and you don’t have a medicine ball, you can perform the exact same exercise with most types of sports balls.
In other words, you are not actually using the weight of the medicine ball but rather just the round nature of the medicine ball.
You can substitute in a soccer ball, basketball, softball, or any type of small to medium-sized ball that you can press most of your body weight into without collapsing the ball.
The reason that this bodyweight chest exercise is so effective for no-equipment chest workouts is that the medicine ball helps stagger the hand positioning so that you are essentially isolating one arm and side of your pecs at a time.
This increases the workload on your pecs to help maximize your gains without needing to use weights or external resistance.
If you are not yet strong enough to do a one-arm push-up, the medicine ball push-up is a good builder exercise to offer some of the same unilateral benefits while not being nearly as difficult.
Here are the steps for performing this exercise in your bodyweight chest workouts:
- Get down on the floor in a standard push-up position but place one hand on top of a medicine ball or sturdy sports ball and one hand down on the ground like normal.
- Bend both elbows to bring your chest towards the ground, keeping your hips and shoulders square to the floor despite the differences in the height of your hands.
- Pausing the lowered position for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Press through your hands to return to the starting position, focusing most of the workload on the hand that is placed on the floor while still making sure to keep your hips and shoulders square.
- Complete as many reps as possible, and then roll the ball under the other hand and complete as many reps as possible on that side.
After you have done the other bodyweight chest exercises in this equipment-free chest workout and you come back to this move for your second set, begin the first round with the ball under the opposite hand that you started with for your first set.
This will help ensure that you are not favoring one side over the other if the number of reps you are able to do is not equal because your chest or triceps get tired.
As you get stronger and stronger, rely less on assisting the push-up using the hand on the ball so that you can start building your way towards doing single-arm push-ups.
Dips are one of the best bodyweight chest exercises.
If you are doing your bodyweight chest workout in a location where you have access to parallel dip bars, such as at a gym or a park that has calisthenics equipment, perform regular bodyweight dips from the bar.
However, for at-home bodyweight chest workouts where you do not have dip bars, you can perform dips from a chair with your legs straight out in front of you (or knees bent if you are a beginner).
However, the relative percentage of your body weight and the angle of dips from a chair reduces the difficulty of the exercise as well as the chest-strengthening benefits of bodyweight dips.
Therefore, if you are an advanced athlete trying to do bodyweight chest workouts to maintain or increase your strength and mass, it is best to try to replicate parallel dip bars for bodyweight dips at home.
This may be possible by using the top backs of high chairs (with weights in the chairs to keep the stable), a high countertop with some other parallel surface, etc.
#8: Chest Fly
It is not easy to perform a chest fly in a bodyweight chest workout if you do not have access to resistance bands, dumbbells, or any sort of resistance.
However, you can perform this exercise with TRX suspension straps.
If you do not own suspension straps, you can try to replicate your own using a sturdy sheet anchored with a hefty knot at the top of a door behind the door. However, if it seems like the sheet might rip, this is not a good idea.
Here is how to perform this bodyweight chest exercise using suspension straps:
- Get down in a push-up position with your feet on the floor and your hands inside the handles of the TRX suspension straps. Beginners can stand more upright so that their feet are closer to the anchor point and their hands or around chest level rather than closer to the ground.
- Keep your arms straight and turn your hands so that your palms are facing one another. Make sure that your body is in a straight line from your head to your feet in a solid plank position.
- Slowly sweep your arms out to the sides as you lower your body towards the floor, maintaining that plank position. Allow for a slight bend in your elbows as you move through the arc.
- Once your hands are nearly all the way out to the sides and your chest has dipped below the level of your hands, pause for 2 to 3 seconds.
- Then, squeeze your pecs to push your hands back together and raise your body back up to the starting position.
#9: Floor Chest Fly
Another option for at-home bodyweight chest workouts, when you do not have suspension straps but want to replicate the chest fly exercise, is to perform the exercise on a tile or hardwood floor with socks on your hands.
This is a very difficult progression because you will have almost all of your body weight to contend with.
A beginner-friendly option is to perform the exercise from your knees as if doing kneeling push-ups.
The actual motion will be the exact same as what you did with the TRX suspension straps, but you will be down on the floor in a low-friction situation so that your arms can slide apart and then back together.
#10: Resistance Band Push-Ups
One of the best bodyweight chest exercises is the resistance band push-up.
In this push-up variation, you will place a small resistance loop band around your wrists and then perform regular push-ups.
Your hands should be spaced far enough apart, and you should use a resistance band with enough tension so that you have to actively resist the tension in the band throughout the range of motion.
This builds muscular strength and endurance in your rhomboids and serratus anterior. You will be increasing not only your contractile and dynamic strength but also your isometric strength and stability.
Here are the steps to perform this bodyweight chest exercise:
- Place a small loop resistance band around your wrist and get into the normal push-up position.
- Make sure that there is a good amount of tension on the resistance band in the starting position. If your resistance band is too stretched out, you will need to use a newer band or space your hands further apart.
- Perform standard push-ups, keeping your hands planted in place so that you are actively pushing against the inside of the band with your wrists and engaging your serratus anterior throughout the duration of the set.
#11: Negative Push-Ups
To maximize your time under tension, you can do deep push-ups to increase the eccentric portion of the exercise.
Because your hands are elevated, you can go lower than you can when your hands are on the floor and get a better range of motion.
Perform regular push-ups, but stack your hands up on a few thick books. Sink deeper so that your chest goes below the level of your hands.
If you are looking for shoulder workouts to supplement your bodyweight chest exercises, check out our shoulder guide here.