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Bench presses and push ups are some of the most recognized chest exercise seen in most strength, power, and fitness programs. Building a bigger, stronger, more defined chest is often at the top of most lifters goals, which often means lifting weights is in the program. There are times however, when a lifter may not have access to a barbell, dumbbells, and chest training machines, yet still is looking to continue to progress their chest development without weights.
Therefore, in this article we set out to offer coaches and athletes some exercise suggestions and workout ideas on how to train the chest without weights, specifically:
- The Best Chest Exercises to Do Without Weights
- 3 Sample Chest Workouts to Do Without Weights
Note, that to build strength and muscle mass, bodyweight training may fall deficit for most advanced and serious goals. That said, a combination of resistance training and bodyweight exercise is suggested for optimal chest development.
Best Chest Exercises to Do Without Weights
Below are five (5) of the best chest exercises you can do without weights. While most of the exercise below are push up variations, it is important to understand the unique benefits and distinct differences between each push up variation and how they can be used within the same workouts to maximize muscle growth.
The push up is one of the most universal body weight exercise for chest training. It can be regressed and progressed easily, and has numerous variations that can be suitable for nearly every lifter/athlete.
Close Grip Push Ups
The close grip push up, like the close grip bench press, places higher amounts of demands on the triceps and inner chest muscles, and often can be done to minimize shoulder strain as well.
Plyometric Push Ups
The plyometric push up is an advanced push up variation that requires muscle explosiveness and eccentric strength. By including this exercise within a push up program, you can target stubborn muscle fibers that may not be fully utilized due to slower contractile speeds often seen in non-ballistic repetitions.
Kneeling Push Ups
The kneeling push up is a regressed version of the standard push up, making it suitable for beginners, individuals who lack upper body strength and muscle mass, and/or individuals who are exhibiting high amounts of muscle fatigue. By kneeling, you decrease the amount of loading placed upon the chest and triceps, making it easier for more repetitions to be completed (which can be helpful for maximizing muscle damage and metabolic fatigue).
The dip, which can be done on rings, parallel bars, a bench, an believe it or not… a corner of a counter (assuming you can fit in the space). As long as you have a stable surface, you can perform dips to hit the chest and triceps at slightly different angles than the push up.
3 Sample Chest Workouts Without Weights
Below are three (3) chest workouts that can be done without weights and equipment. The key with most of these exercises is (1) increased overall training volumes/repetitions, (2) minimizing rest periods to maximize metabolic build-up and muscular fatigue, and (3) increase exercise variations to fully exhaust muscle groups.
100-Rep Chest Pump
This one is pretty straight-forward, and escalates very quickly. I really enjoy this one because it takes less than 5-10 minutes and leaves you with an amazing chest and triceps pump. Not to mention it is something that can be repeated and measured over and over again.
- Perform a total of 100 strict push ups, for time.
- Every time you stop to rest, subtract the total amount of repetitions you have completed up to that point from 100 total reps, which will give you the amount of rest (seconds) you can take before starting again
- For example, let’s say you open up with a set of 20 push ups, therefore you should rest 80 seconds before starting again (100 total reps – 20 reps). On your second set you squeeze out another 18 repetitions, therefore leaving you with 62 seconds of rest (100 total reps – 20 reps – 18 reps). As you can see, rest periods get cut shorter and shorter as you approach 100 total reps, often leaving you to perform singles, doubles, and/or triples under high amounts of fatigue with less than 5-10 seconds of rest, or less.
4-Way Push Up Workout
This push up ladder starts with the most complex and demanding push up variations and moves backwards along the regression spectrum. As you can see, the repetitions increase as the push up variation becomes (less complex/less demanding/”easier”). While this may seem pretty easy at first, the sheer amount of volume (150-200 total repetitions) of push ups will sneak up on you. Additionally, the 4-way push up workout challenges the fast-twitch and explosive muscle fibers (plyometric push up), the inner pectorals and triceps (close grip and standard push up), and the more fatigue resistant fibers (due to the final 20 repetitions per every set).
- 5 Plyometric Push Ups
- 10 Close Grip Push Ups
- 15 Push Ups
- 20 Kneeling Push Ups
- Rest 60-90 seconds
- Repeat for 3-4 total sets
Chest + Triceps Workout
This non-weighted chest workout can be done to increase chest hypertrophy and muscular endurance, with the added benefit of hitting the triceps as well. The goal here is to hit various regions of the pectorals (upper chest, lower chest, etc) while also working the supporting muscles (triceps, rhomboids and scapular stabilizers, and the shoulders) to offer a well-rounded chest pressing workout. The workout includes tempo work and supersets to increase time under tension and maximize muscle fatigue and metabolic build-up.
- Scapular Push Up – 3 sets of 20 repetitions
- Handstand Hold – 3 sets of 30 seconds
- Tempo (2020) Push Ups – 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions
- Close Grip Push Ups – 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or to failure)
- Tempo (2020) Dips – 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions
- Plyometric Push Ups 4 sets of 10-15 repetitions (or to failure)
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