5 Bodyweight Exercises to Target Your Chest

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on January 25, 2016Written by Jesica Salyer
Targeting Chest

Your chest area is made up of two prime muscles. They are the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.

The pectoralis major is a large muscle in the upper chest, fanning across the chest from the shoulder to the breastbone. The pectoralis minor lies beneath the pectoralis major.

The pectorals are mainly used to control movements in the arm. They also are important for taking deep inhalations and for support of your shoulder muscles.

All of the following chest-based exercises are beneficial for your entire upper body.

Training Approach

Resistance training is the best approach to take in order to target, tone, and strengthen your chest.

There are two main categories of resistance training that you can look to in order to work out your chest. The first is bodyweight training. This involves exercises that provide resistance only through use of your own body weight. Examples include pushups and plank holds.

You should also include weight training. Using weights to accompany your body weight and provide resistance can provide an extra challenge.

Weight training can be done using:

  • dumbbells
  • kettlebells
  • barbells
  • sandbags
  • weighted chains
  • resistance bands

You can also include daily household items like water bottles and milk jugs.

Chest Training for Women?

Don’t believe the myths that lifting weights will make a woman’s physique bulky. Excessive calorie intake is to blame for women putting on bulky weight. Weight training actually helps women sculpt, tone, and shape their overall physique. This is especially true when it comes to working out the chest muscles.

Boosting the muscle tissue beneath the breasts is an added benefit of training the chest. This increase in muscle tissue mass will give you a fuller look and a firmer foundation beneath your breasts.

Don’t stress and fret over the prospect of losing your breast fullness. As long as you’re feeding yourself a nutrient-rich diet, your top half will morph into an even stronger part of your body.

Exercise Routine

1. Pushups

Equipment needed: None. Yoga mat is optional.

  1. Start in a plank position with your weight in your toes and palms. Hold your body up so that you’re horizontal to the ground. If this move is too difficult for you, drop down to your knees so that your knees and palms are supporting your body weight.

  2. In a controlled motion, bend your arms and lower your body down so that your chest briefly touches the ground.

  3. Drive your weight through your palms to bring your body back up to the starting position.

  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

2. Bench Press

Equipment needed: Dumbbells, kettlebells, or barbell. Bench is optional.

  1. You can start on a bench or on the flat ground.

  2. Lie on your back with a weight in each hand, or grasping your barbell with both hands.

  3. Start with your arms bent at a 90-degree angle (your elbow should be in line with your shoulders) and the weights should be level with your chest. Then push them upward by driving your elbows and extending your arms.

  4. Bring the weights back down in one controlled motion, keeping them even with your chest. Make sure to engage your core to help stabilize your abs while the weight travels up and down.

  5. Complete 4 sets of 15 reps.

3. Dumbbell Flyes

Equipment needed: Set of dumbbells or kettlebells. Bench is optional.

  1. You can start on a bench or on flat ground to perform dumbbell flyes. This move is similar to performing a bench press.

  2. Lie on your back with a weight in each hand.

  3. Start with the weights even with your chest, arms in line with and not back past your shoulders, but keep your arms extended outward to each side, palms up.

  4. Clench your pectoral muscles to bring both weights together toward your midline.

  5. Bring the weights back down in one controlled motion, keeping them even with your chest.

  6. Use your ab muscles to stabilize you as the weight moves toward and away from your midline.

  7. Complete 4 sets of 15 reps.

4. Wall or Couch Pushups

Equipment needed: Access to a wall or piece of furniture that’s at waist level.

  1. Plant your feet roughly 3 feet away from the wall that you are going to use. Make it about 4 feet for a lower piece of furniture.

  2. Let yourself fall into the wall or onto the edge of the furniture, with your hands catching and bracing you. Keep your arms extended to start.

  3. Slowly guide yourself down so that your chest grazes the piece of furniture. If you’re using a wall, your forehead will touch first.

  4. Drive your weight through your hands and push yourself back up into your starting position. Be conscious of your form. Aim to keep your feet, glutes, and shoulders in a line.

  5. Perform 3 sets of 20 repetitions.

5. Plank Pushup Hold

The goal of this move is to exhaust your chest muscles and shoulders.

Equipment required: None. Yoga mat is optional.

  1. Start in the same beginning position you would when performing a plank hold. Keep your body in a straight line, holding your body weight up with your hands and your toes.

  2. Keep your posture strong by clenching your glutes, engaging your core, and keeping your hips in line with your toes and shoulders.

  3. Perform 3 sets of 30-second holds.

Stretch/Cool Down

These exercises will target your chest muscles in an intense manner, so it’s important to stretch them daily, especially before and after exercise. Here’s a simple cool down stretch to target each side of your chest.

  1. Find a doorframe.

  2. Grab onto the door frame and walk through the threshold so that your arm is extended back. You should feel the stretch throughout your chest on the side that your arm is extended.

  3. To intensify the stretch, walk farther out through the doorframe.

The Takeaway

Resistance training is the best approach to take in order to target, tone, and strengthen your chest. These moves are versatile. They can be done with almost no equipment, with very little space required. Perform them a few days a week for best results.

Jessica Salyer
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