As this is being written, COVID-19 is still prevailing over much of the world and while many gyms are open, there currently is not a vaccine nor substantial enough decrease in cases for lifting at a gym to be worth it for some people.
Regardless of wether or not the world is in the throes of a pandemic, at home chest exercises are still great to know for vacations, when moving to a new town, if you don’t attend a gym, or if for any reason you prefer to workout in the convenience your own home. All muscles can be hit at home if you use good form and know the right exercises. To effectively workout your back in addition to chest, here is a walkthrough for that as well.
All the following exercises are able to be done with minimal equipment and in almost any setting.
Narrow Grip Push-ups
The first at home chest exercise that everyone thinks of is push-ups. While push-ups are a good exercise, narrow grip push-ups isolate the chest more effectively.
Narrow grip push-ups only require floor space and good form to build the chest well. Variations of the narrow grip, or close grip, push-up are incline narrow grip push-ups and decline narrow grip push-ups. All of these variations can be done at home without needing equipment.
The reason for narrow grip push-ups as opposed to conventional push-ups is that narrow grip push-ups are better for chest development. This is because narrow grip push-ups activate the entire chest while push-ups with a wider grip only are able to hit upper chest.
To scale this exercise by adding resistance, bands can be used as well as weighted vests and backpacks. Your hand position can also be altered to increase difficulty by bringing your hands in toward your body, isolating chest more and recruiting more muscle.
To decrease the difficulty of the narrow grip push-up, elevate the surface you’re doing them on. The higher the elevation of the surface your hands are on, the easier the push-up will be.
A second valuable at home chest exercise is another version of the push-up but with added movement.
These are called typewriter push-ups and are done by placing your hands far apart on the floor in line with your shoulders and with your fingertips pointed forward. Once in this position, lower your chest until it’s around an inch above the floor and move your upper body toward your right arm while extending the left arm until it’s straight. Then move your chest, while maintaining the same distance from the floor, toward your left arm until it is supporting your weight, extending your right arm as you move.
If this description of the movement doesn’t make sense, this video depicts it visually.
Typewriter push-ups are great for building the chest because they demand a higher time under tension than most other at home chest exercises. Greater amounts of time under tension increases the stress that muscles are under, adding volume and ultimately better results from training.
Typewriter push-ups are a good exercise for the chest because they stimulate both the inner and outer chest since it is a dynamic exercise and different muscle fibers are being used as your shift your weight from side to side.
More advantages of typewriter push-ups are that they strengthen mind-muscle connection by forcing coordination and they are more time efficient. Since 1 rep of typewriter push-ups requires more output from the chest muscle than 1 rep of a standard push-up, less total reps need to be done to hit the same amount of volume.
Single Hand Incline Push-ups
A third easy and effective at home chest exercise is the single hand incline push-up. Like narrow grip push-ups and typewriter push-ups, single hand incline push-ups are a variation of the conventional and frequently implemented standard push-up.
The benefits of single hand incline push-ups over standard push-ups are that this variation activates more of the inner chest and develops both pectoralis major muscles equally. When performing a standard push-up, one pectoral major muscle may take more of the workload, over time leading to asymmetry and an uneven distribution of strength in the upper body. Single hand push-ups ensure that both muscles of the chest receive an equal amount of work, revealing any imbalances that may exist and correcting them.
Single hand incline push-ups are executed by finding an elevated surface, such as a piece of furniture, placing one hand behind your back, and doing a push-up while fully contracting the chest muscle by squeezing at the top.
If these are too hard to do, find a higher elevation, or simply use a wall. As with all decline push-ups, the higher the elevation is, the easier the movement is since the angle the exercise is being done at is shortened.
The final chest exercise for making gains at home is the horizontal fly. This exercise is the only movement which requires additional items to be performed but weights to use for this exercise can be found without large difficulty.
Horizontal fly’s are similar to dumbbell fly’s however can be done using any horizontal surface and do not require dumbbells. This exercise does require some sort of resistance however which can be created through multiple ways. An easy way to create resistance is to use items laying around the house such as bags of rice or flour, milk jugs, water jugs, or books. Resistance can also be created from resistance bands and dumbbells but this equipment is not needed.
To do horizontal fly’s, lay on the floor with your back to the ground. Using whichever method of resistance you have accessible, bring your arms from on the ground to touching each other in the air, contracting the chest muscles and squeezing at the top of the movement. After bringing your arms together, lower them back down to the ground at your sides with a controlled speed, completing the eccentric portion of the exercise. Repeat this for 8-12 reps, 3-5 times.
Horizontal fly’s activate the outer chest very well and, combined with narrow grip push-ups and single hand incline push-ups, will create a proportional and well built chest.
If all the exercises that have been listed are done with good form and consistently, all the areas of the pectoralis major muscles will be hit effectively.
Adding to these, other exercises that can be done at home for working out the chest are decline push-ups (push-ups done with your feet elevated), chest presses with resistance, and front raises with resistance. Decline push-ups target the upper chest, chest presses target the upper and middle chest, and front raises target the inner and upper chest. These exercises can be used for variance in routine or to improve upon weak areas.
For more on training, like forearms isolation exercises and 5 best types of cardio for weightlifters, click here.