Everyone want a massive chest that will fill out their t-shirt nicely. A broad and muscular chest is essential for a strong and aesthetically appealing physique. It’s no surprise that the chest is one of the most popular muscle groups to workout. Nobody ever skips chest day. Why would you, anyway? A good chest workout at home is all you need to building those sweet pecs. Luckily, there are plenty of chest building exercises at home to pick from.
The chest is one of the largest muscle groups in the upper body. I hate to go into the anatomy with too much detail, because you can find lots – and I mean LOTS – of good resources online that explore the anatomy of the chest muscles, written by people that are much more knowledgeable than me on that subject. The least you should know for now are the very basics. So here goes.
The chest is made up of two muscles, of which the bigger one does most of the work. The chest is involved in pressing movements, i.e. moving things away from your chest using the arms. Think: bench press and push-ups. The function of the pectoral (= fancy word for chest) muscles is to bring the upper arm closer to the chest. Imagine a push-up and think about the movement your upper arm makes. That is the chest working.
I do highly recommend to learn more about the function of the chest and other muscles in your body, though. Overall, it will give you more insight into how to effectively challenge your muscles when working out at home. I am a firm believer of the added benefit of understanding muscle anatomy. It’s a good investment. Do it. Later though, because we need to get into what you came for: the best chest exercises at home.
How to get a bigger chest at home
Building a bigger chest at home follows the same set of rules we discussed in an earlier post.
- Stick to compound exercises. These are the exercises that involve multiple joints and therefore, multiple muscle groups.
- Keep volume high. Progressive overload is absolutely necessary to gain mass.
Rule number I figured out for you in the list of exercises below. In addition to being the mass builders, compound exercises work out multiple muscle groups simultaneously. All exercises in this post work the triceps and shoulders as well. The exercises below are mostly a variation on the king of home exercises – the push-up. So in that fashion, all exercises in this article are compound exercises designed to build chest muscle at home.
The second rule means you need to stick to a low rep range. The number one mistake people make when trying to build muscle at home is that they perform 20, 30, 40 reps per set. These kinds of rep ranges are way too high and are more aimed at increasing endurance than at building muscle. For mass gain you need to stick to a low rep range. Six to twelve reps per set is all that is necessary.
“So what if my muscles are not fatigued yet at 12 reps?”
Simple, increase resistance. Increase difficulty of the exercises by increasing weight or by doing variations. There are two ways of doing this.
Add weight to chest exercises at home: the creative way
Unless you have some 20 lbs plates lying around at home, increasing weight to your home exercises can be a real challenge at times. If you are set on building muscle at home, you have to change your mindset and think out of the box. As you progress and get bigger and stronger, it can become harder and harder to stay within the 6 to 12 rep range. But not impossible at all. DO NOT disregard the following ideas immediately. Sure, they sound silly, but believe me, they are mighty effective.
If you want to make these home exercises for chest and arms harder, try:
- Strapping some heavy books to your back
- Letting your baby brother or sister sit on your back
- Letting your girlfriend’s feet rest on your back
You get the idea. That’s why this is called the creative way. Moving on to the practical way of adding resistance to your home chest exercises.
Add weight to chest exercises at home: the practical way
Personally, I find the practical way the best and I am sure you will too. The easiest way of adding weight to chest exercises at home is by making a small investment: a weighted vest.
A weighted vest is ideal for all sorts of exercises at home. No loose stuff hanging around, but 60 lbs (or less) of extra weight neatly wrapped around your upper body.
There are more than enough to pick from at Amazon and go op to even 100 lbs, which is way more than you are going to need as a beginner. My favorite is the best-selling RunFast model. I have one of these at home as well and it works wonders. This vest comes in a one-size-fits-all size and the weights can be arranged in the 12 to 140(!) lbs range, which gives you plenty of room to progress. Weights are off course included and the best of all: this vest will be of great assistance in all you home workout programs. A lifelong alternative to the gym at a one time cost of around a hundred dollars. This is an investment worth making. This will especially come in handy when you are advanced enough to do calisthenics.
Click on the image below to check the specs.
Not only does a weighted vest provide an easy way of increasing exercises resistance, it also gives you a goal to work to. Imagine what kind of a beast you must be the day you hit 12 reps diamond push-ups carrying 140 lbs of extra weight. Trust me, it is very much worth the investment.
Chest exercises to do at home
We nailed down the function of the chest muscles and how you can progress with these exercises at home without weights. Now without further ado, below are listed 6 chest building exercises at home to include in your chest routine.
1. Regular Push-Up
This is the golden exercise of every chest workout at home. The push-up is an excellent exercise and can help you go a long way in building a big chest and arms. Make sure to not narrow the grip too much, but instead place your hands at about shoulder width, but ideally a little wider than that. That will ensure to target your chest and triceps roughly equally relative to their size. It will also make sure you do not use too much chest or, the other way around, overload your triceps. Overloading triceps is for another exercise.
When performing a push-up take the following into account:
- Your hand palms should be a little more than shoulder width apart and in line with your chest. This will result in a 45 degree angle between your rib cage and upper arm. Check your angle.
- Always keep a straight back and neck. Don’t let your hips or head hang.
- Extend your arms at the top and touch the floor with your nose at the bottom. Exploiting the full range of motion is going to help you build that sweet muscle.
2. Incline Push-Up
To get a bigger chest at home you are going to be doing a lot of varied push-ups. One of my favorite lower chest exercises at home is the incline push-up. With a regular push-up your hands and feet are level. With the incline variant you are introducing a slope by placing your hands on a platform that is higher than the platform your feet are resting on. So for instance: you are keeping your feet on the ground, but your hand palms will be placed on the first step of a staircase. By doing this the push-up motion changes direction and your lower chest is working a lot more than the upper chest. Hence, this is a lower chest exercise. This variant may require some getting used to. Be sure to pay attention to the following:
- Make use of the full range of motion – this means extending your arms at the top and going as low as possible at the bottom – while your body is still straight as an arrow. Nothing has changed from the regular push-up regarding this matter. Stretch and bend those arms and no hanging hips and head.
- A common mistake when performing the incline push-up is people tend to compensate for the elevation by pushing not perpendicular to the ground but at an angle, essentially making it a regular push-up. The angle is canceling out the slope you just introduced. Make sure to push straight down, your arms pointing directly at the floor. This angle is what makes your lower chest work.
3. Decline Push-Up
Of course we also have upper chest exercises at home. The decline push-up is another variant on the regular one. This exercise is the exact opposite of the incline push-up. Instead of elevating the hands, we elevate the feet. This results in an opposite slope making the upper chest work more instead. For the elevation you can use the same trick just place your feet on a higher platform, such as the first step of a staircase. Again, keep in mind form and range of motion.
4. Diamond Push-Up
The diamond push-up lends its name from the shape you make with your hands when performing this push up variant. This variant is one of the top chest exercises at home that really targets the triceps as well.
To perform the diamond push-up you:
- Place your hands flat on the ground in close proximity with your fingers point straight forward.
- Extend your thumbs and make them touch one another.
- Tilt your fingers inwards – hands should still be flat on the ground – until the index fingers touch and you make a triangle/diamond shape with your hands. This is your set up.
- Get into a push-up position. Start from the top position with extended arms and lower yourself as much as possible.
- Push yourself up again to complete one rep.
This exercise will be a lot harder to perform than other push-up variants. This is mainly due to your chest working less compared to the other variants and your arms (read: triceps) working overtime. This has everything to do with the setup of your hands. The closer they are to each other, the less chest and the more triceps you’re using. That’s why this exercise is much harder to perform: the triceps are obviously smaller and weaker than the big muscles of the chest.
This concept applies the other way around as well: the wider the stance, the more chest and the less triceps involved. Which brings us to the next exercise.
5. Wide Push-Up
We began this article talking about how much we all want a broad chest. The wide push-up is the way to accomplish this goal. In contrary to the close grip variant, the wide push-up targets a lot of chest muscle. If you are looking for chest building exercises at home, this one’s a no-brainer.
With a regular push-up you aim for a little wider than shoulder-width stance. The wide push-up – as the name suggests – requires a wider stance. Don’t overdo it. Just a little wider than you would usually go for is enough.
There is not much else to this exercises. Remember to straighten your back and neck, keep your form tight and touch the floor with your nose. And don’t forget to enjoy that sweet burn near your armpits.
Dips are another one of my favorite triceps and lower chest mass builder exercises. It really helps build strong arms and work your lower chest.
With the dip you need some kind of rack where you can place your hands on and ‘float’. Your creativity must be on the next level to pull this one off at home without the use of some kind of equipment. But because I find this exercises an absolute winner I had to include it in this list. Luckily, there is an easy fix.
There are different kind of dips you can perform. The easiest way to do dips at home is by using a bench/table/whatever to place your hands on. The height of a coffee table is perfect. Do the following:
- Take a seat on the ground with your back facing the coffee table.
- Reach back and place both your hands on the edge of the table with your fingers pointed forwards.
- Now lift yourself up using your arms only.
- Stretch out your legs in front of you. This is your starting position.
- Now “dip” by bending your arms and lift up by extending them.
Check out this video to make it more visual.
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With these 6 essential chest exercises you are going to build a massive chest at home. I will soon release complete workout programs, including for the chest. Keep an eye on my blog!