Exercising your chest muscles are important even though they get overlooked sometimes. There are a lot of great exercises to target chest muscles but bodyweight exercises are great since you need little to no equipment. Here is some information on chest muscles and a few bodyweight chest exercises that will help you develop strong chest muscles.
The chest is composed of a complex group of muscles that work together. The chest muscles are used all day for things that involve pushing and pulling--opening doors, getting up or sitting down, or even pushing a shopping cart. A few of them are used more than others, especially the pectorals.
The pectoralis major is the most commonly used chest muscle and the largest chest muscle. It is a large, fan-shaped muscle that extends from the collarbone out to the armpits and down to the lower chest area. It spans all the way across the chest.
This is a smaller muscle that aids the pectoralis major in the moving/rotating of the joint between the arm and the shoulder. It is located in both sides of the body, just under the armpit. It fans out and attaches to the upper ribs.
This muscle is located near the eighth and ninth ribs on both sides of the body. It helps with moving the shoulder blade up and forward. Known as the boxer's muscle it helps people with throwing punches.
Whether throwing punches or shaking hands, having strong chest muscles is important. It is recommended that you work out your chest muscles aroundone to three times a week.
For people using heavy weights and pushing boundaries, you may want to keep it at twice a week with a few days of rest between each.
Always remember safety first. Many people get injured while exercising because they aren't using the correct form.
A lot of people think that bodyweight exercises are less effective at building muscles than bench press or other exercises with weights. But bodyweight exercises are hard and will help you build muscles very quickly.
Switching things up with some bodyweight exercises is a great way to break through a plateau if you've been stuck in a routine of the same dumbbell and barbell exercises.
The next section introduces great bodyweight chest exercises plus videos that demonstrate the correct form.
This section includes some great body weight exercises that will really pop out those pec muscles. Though they primarily target the chest muscles, some of your other muscles such as your abs, deltoids, triceps, and more will also get a good workout.
Pushups get a large section dedicated to them because of the benefits as well as the different variations of the exercise. Pushups build a strong foundation from which you can do other exercises. This is because you work out so many other important muscles while you do pushups.
For example, you work out your rotator cuffs, your back muscles, and your abdominal muscles (if you keep the correct form). Pushups are so effective that they continue to be used as one of the testing areas in a military physical training test. Make no mistake--they are hard to do unless you already have a fair amount of body strength but the results will be worth the struggle.
To do pushups correctly, start with the right form. A pushup is essentially a plank that you hold while moving your body up and down. Lay in the plank position with hands shoulder width apart and palms face-down on the ground.
Using your toes as anchors, push yourself off the ground with your hands until your arms are stretched all the way out. Keep your back straight! The number one mistake that people make is curving their back inward. Doing this will cause you to not get the maximum benefit from push ups and can make them harder to do. This can also lead to injury.
Lower yourself back down in a controlled manner, making sure your elbows are bent into a 45 degree angle, but don't let your body touch the ground. Having a good pair of workout gloves can help to improve your grip and stability for push-ups.
Here is a video from Calisthenic Movement that shows you the perfect form for a push up:
Pushups can be varied to make them more interesting, more difficult (or easy), or to help you target other muscles. Some of the variations are listed below:
Instead of placing your palms on the floor, you place them on a bench or some other equipment to elevate yourself. You still will push up just the same, keeping your body straight, but you will be inclined off the floor.
For beginners or people who feel that traditional push ups are too hard, doing incline push ups would be better since it takes some of the pressure off of the shoulders and joints. The higher the incline, the easier the push up becomes.
Also, incline pushups will also target your lower chest muscles. It may not seem like it, but the angle that you do incline pushups at is the same as a decline bench press with a dumbbell or barbell. Focus on working the lower chest muscles as you're doing this exercise to maximize your effort.
Marc Lobliner from Tiger Fitness has a great demonstration of the incline push up in this video:
Well this should be easy, right? Decline is the opposite of incline and in this case, that is exactly what it is. Instead of placing your palms on a bench or other item, you place your palms on the floor and your feet on the incline, just like in this video.
Decline push ups are harder than traditional push ups so make sure that you have built up a solid foundation in terms of your chest muscles and stabilizer muscles before you try decline pushups.
As you may have guessed, decline pushups will target your upper chest muscles a bit more. It also can target a bit of your shoulders because the angle of your body is the same as when you do an incline bench press.
Here's Scott Herman from Muscular Strength showing the best way to do a decline push-up:
This push up gets its name from the diamond shape, not from the jewellry store. These push ups are considerably harder to do than regular push ups, so make sure that you have worked your way up to these using other exercises. These are going to really help work your triceps.
Instead of placing your hands should width apart, place your hands together, still with palms facing down. You'll want to put your hands together with your thumbs and index fingers touching so that the space between them make a diamond shape.
As with regular push-ups, make sure that you keep your body straight. Think about a straight line going from your shoulders to your feet. Your butt can be slightly raised and clenched. Make sure to keep your back straight. Keep it straight during the exercise too. Don't let your hips sag while you're pushing up and down.
For hand positioning, you should put your hands directly below your face. So when you do the exercise, you're basically having your face go into your hands. Maybe your chin will hit your knuckles.
Also, as you're doing this exercise, make sure that you keep your elbows in, not flared out. This will help activate your triceps, which is one of the huge benefits of this exercise.
Check out this video of Brett Azar and his video from Howcast explaining more about the exercise to see diamond push ups in action:
As shown in this video, this pushup is the ultimate show of strength--if you can pull it off. This is a great exercise to target your outer chest muscles, which are often hard to activate. In this push up, your arms are out to either side of you and your elbow is bend at a 90 degree angle.
Many people mistake this push up for regular push ups. They intend to do a regular push up, but because they place their arms too far apart, they are actually doing a wide grip push up.
Wide grip push ups are harder to do because your body is in a position where your arm and chest muscles can't produce as much force as they would in the other push up positions. If you can pull this push up off, you can do any of them.
In this video you can see Max Tapper show you how to have the correct form for a wide grip push-up:
Chest dips are an intense exercise that heavily works your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles when the exercise is done right. This is one exercise where form is essential--any mistake in form could easily have you doing a different type of dip, and your pecs won't be getting the workout that you intended.
Stand between two bars that are at a height between your waist and shoulders (if the bars are shorter, you will have to keep your legs bent at a 90 degree angle so they don't touch the floor). Grip the bars and push yourself up off of the ground using just your arms. You should essentially be dangling.
As you lift yourself up and down, your arms should be placed to the side of you rather than to the front or back of you. Your elbows should be pointing slightly outward so that you can bring yourself straight down rather than leaning forward. Leaning forward too much can put extra stress on your shoulders and may possibly lead to injury.
The guys from Buff Dudes have a great video showing how to do chest dips, and the difference between chest dips and tricep dips:
The plank exercise is a great exercise to work many of your different muscle groups. Endurance is the goal and doing a plank is will definitely challenge even the strongest person.
A star plank is a modified version of the plank. In the regular plank exercise, you are basically in a push up position, but holding in the up position rather than moving.
With a star plank, you begin in the push up position but with your arms and legs spread a little wide. Your buttocks should be up in the air. Make sure to keep your back straight--you don't want a dip in your back or hip area. Begin walking forward slowly with your hands.
As you walk forward, you will feel the tension in your body as you are fighting to hold the position you are in. Walk until you are fully stretched out without being on the ground and hold as long as possible.
Look at the proper way to do a star plank in this video with Strong from Strong and Flex TV:
The muscle up is one of the most advanced bodyweight exercises ever created. It is sort of like combining two or three different exercises in one. This exercise works out many of your major muscle groups from your arms, back, abs, chest, and more.
A muscle up begins with an explosive pull up then transitions into a dip. It is important to keep momentum with this exercise because lack of momentum can cause you to get stuck in the transition phase.
Begin by grabbing the bar as if you are going to do a pull up. Swing forward and as you prepare to pull yourself up, jerk your knees up for momentum. As you swing back use the momentum from the jerk to pull yourself up until your chest is level with the bar and for beginners, immediately (just for a split second) rest your chest on the bar. This prepares you for the momentum needed to thrust yourself up into the muscle up position.
Thrust yourself up, hold for a second, then perform a dip, lowering yourself down continue down out of the dip until you are hanging from the bar again. As you come down from the dip, you should swing forward and prepare yourself to do another repetition of the muscle up.
Here is a great video from Daniel with FitnessFAQs that demonstrates how to do a muscle up.
Falling flat on your face for any reason is never attractive, but risking it to do a suspended chest fly is definitely worth the embarrassment. This exercise will definitely build your pectoral muscles.
For this exercise, suspension straps will be needed. You will essentially be lowering your entire body using your chest muscles and pulling your body back up using your chest muscles.
The further forward you start (meaning the more horizontal you start), the more difficult it will be to lift yourself back up. Hang your suspension system. You can use a wall for your feet anchor or you can use a bench.
Grip a suspender with each hand. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Make sure your feet stay planted as an anchor. Begin to lean forward by stretching your arms. Your body should be going towards a horizontal position.
Use your chest muscles to control your movements. Then once your arms are spread parallel with the ground, use your chest muscles to press on the suspenders and lift yourself back up.
Shawn Finnegan from Core Energy Fitness demonstrates the suspended chest fly in this video:
Bodyweight exercises are awesome for building the chest muscles. Most of these exercises that were listed above can be done anywhere since they don't require equipment.
As you go through your muscle-building journey, remember to practice safety first, use correct form, and don't give up. Your pectorals will thank you.
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