Chest Workout at Home for Strength and Mass

After the arms, the chest is probably the most popular muscle group to exercise. Whether male or female, a great chest workout can create that beach body look and provide upper body strength.

Although building a massive torso is possible with this workout, it is not a requirement. It is designed to enable you to choose your goal—defined and toned, or muscular and powerful.

This workout can be completed at home—there is no need to go to the gym. While some exercises do include weights, I have mentioned ways you can make your own.

The Chest Muscles

The chest only contains two muscles, the pectorals. Commonly referred to as simply the ‘pecs’, they consist of:

Pectoralis Major

The largest chest muscle which reaches from the breastbone up to the collarbone in a ‘fan’ shape.

Pectoralis Minor

Much smaller than the pectoralis major, it connects the shoulder blade to the third, fourth and fifth ribs.

Working out these muscles can quickly develop into a toned chest. However, if you are female, let me dispel a myth. Exercising the chest does not reduce breast size. In fact, it enhances it. The pectoral muscles are located behind the breast tissue. Improving their tone and size leads to the breasts being raised and appearing more prominent.

How to do chest exercises?

You can build toned muscle with your own bodyweight at home. In fact, this workout includes two really powerful exercises that do exactly that.

But, to increase intensity, dumbbells or some homemade weights may be needed. If making your own, you need something that will fit comfortably in the hand. I always suggest plastic water bottles filled with either water or sand, or a couple of bags of rice.

People’s strength, and the weights they have available, differ. This means providing a suggested repetition count for each exercise is difficult. Instead, for all the exercises which require weight resistance, do the following:

  • Complete your first set of each exercise with your chosen weight (dumbbells, rice etc.).
  • Keep going until you reach fatigue level and cannot carry on anymore.
  • This is your repetition number.

If you are looking for just tone and definition, use lighter weights (less than 13 pounds). However, if bulk and mass is your aim, use heavier.

This is a complete chest workout. If you would prefer to do a full body program, choose one exercise from here (I would pick the standard push-up). Then, select exercises mentioned elsewhere on this site for the other muscle groups.

Chest workout at home

This chest workout will take about 60 minutes including rest periods. Try to complete twice a week, but do not perform on consecutive days.

In each new session, attempt to increase your rep count by one extra per set if possible.

Standard Push-Up

The push-up is not only the most well known of all the exercises—it is also one of the most powerful. I always recommend that if you only have time to do one exercise a day, this should be it. It’s a tremendous exercise for both the pectoral muscles, while also working the deltoids, triceps and biceps.

  1. Lie on the floor, facing down. Palms should be flat and directly beneath your shoulders.
  2. Raise your upper body off the ground and support yourself on locked arms.
  3. Legs should be tight together.
  4. Your back, legs and buttocks should be in one continuous straight line.
  5. Toes and hands should be your only points of contact with the floor.
  6. Look at the ground at all times during this exercise.
  7. This is your starting position.
  8. Inhale. In a controlled fashion, slowly lower yourself towards the ground by bending your arms at the elbows.
  9. Once your arms are at 90 degrees, stop.
  10. Hold for one second.
  11. Breath out and return to the starting position—pushing your body upwards again by powering through your pectoral muscles.
  12. That completes one repetition.
  13. Do three sets of 15 repetitions, with a three minute break after each set.

It may be that 15 repetitions are too many. If it has been a while since you have done push-ups, I always recommend first finding your limit. 

Do the above exercise until fatigue prevents any more push-ups. This is your repetition number. Use this as your benchmark, and try to hit it again in the following two sets. If it is too easy, difficulty can be increased by wearing a weighted backpack.

Single Arm Push-Up

The power of the standard push-up should not be underestimated, but it can be stretched to the absolute limit by using just one arm.

You are really giving the maximum amount of bodyweight resistance possible to your pecs during this exercise. But, the results will be worth it.

  1. Lay flat on the floor, face down.
  2. Your legs should be in a Y position.
  3. Place palms flat on the floor, about 4–5 inches to the side of your shoulders.
  4. Raise your body off the ground until both arms are locked.
  5. Legs, buttocks and back should be in one straight line.
  6. Place your left hand on the back of your left thigh.
  7. You are now supported on your toes and your right arm.
  8. Look forwards. This is your starting position.
  9. Inhale and lower yourself down to the floor—bending the right arm at the elbow.
  10. Once your arm is at 90 degrees, breathe out and push back into the starting position again.
  11. That completes one repetition.
  12. Do eight repetitions, then break for three minutes.
  13. Complete two more sets with a three minute rest period in between.

This is an exercise which relies on technique and power. If it is your first time doing it, have your legs as wide apart as possible. This increases balance and reduces stress on the pectorals (although they will still find it intense).

You can move the legs closer as strength and technique improves. If you did the ‘limit test’ for the standard push-up mentioned earlier, usually the single arm fatigue point is around 66 percent of that.

Bench Press - Floor

To be absolutely correct, this is actually a floor press. However, it has now become so commonly referred to as a ‘bench press on the floor’, that they are now virtually interchangeable. 

The main difference of the floor press is—apart from being completed on the floor instead of an exercise bench—that it restricts movement. This has the effect of reducing the stress on the back and shoulders, while still working the pectoral muscles hard.

  1. Lay with your back on the floor, arms by your sides, with a dumbbell (or home made alternative weight) in each hand.
  2. Raise up your knees by bringing your feet up towards your buttocks—about 36 inches away. Feet should be flat on the floor and a little wider than your hips.
  3. Keeping your upper arms by your sides, raise your forearms to a 90-degree angle to elevate the dumbbells. Palms should be facing away from you.
  4. This is the starting position.
  5. Exhale and push both the dumbbells up into the air until your arms are straight.
  6. Hold for one second.
  7. Inhale and lower the weights slowly to the starting position. This should take twice as long as it took to raise them.
  8. That completes one repetition.
  9. Do three sets of reps (as discussed earlier) with a three minute break in between each one.

Take your time when lowering the weights. Not only does this work the pectorals more, it also can prevent damage to shoulders and elbows by ‘crashing’ to the floor.

Lying Fly

I like to complete the lying fly with a bench or exercise ball. This is because the increased lateral movement works the outer pectoral muscles harder. For this exercise I will describe using an exercise ball—however, it can equally be completed on the floor with great results.

If doing the latter, use the floor/leg position as described in the previous bench press exercise.

  1. Place the middle of back up to the shoulders on the exercise ball as per the image.
  2. Your legs should be bent at around 90 degrees, with feet flat on the floor, shoulder width apart.
  3. Stretch out arms to the sides. They should be bent at a little more than 90 degrees, but not straight, and upper arms parallel to the floor.
  4. This is your starting position.
  5. Get a friend to place dumbbells in your hands. Palms should be face up.
  6. If you do not have anyone to assist you, start from a sitting position on the exercise ball, holding dumbbells hanging by your sides. Then slowly ‘roll’ down the ball to the position above.
  7. Breathe out and simultaneously raise both dumbbells upwards and across your chest. Keep arms slightly bent at all times.
  8. Stop when the dumbbells almost meet.
  9. Hold for one second.
  10. Exhale and slowly lower back to the starting position again.
  11. Complete one set of repetitions. Rest for three minutes.
  12. Do two more sets with a three minute break in between.

If using an exercise ball, this does require some balance. You may find one arm is stronger than the other after a few repetitions, which can tip you off the ball. Always work repetition numbers to the weakest arm.

Kneeling Fly

By combining the kneeling fly with the lying fly above, all areas of the pectoral muscles are worked. The same effect can be achieved by completing this exercise standing up with legs apart. Particularly useful if you have problems with your knees (or no exercise mat or carpet).

However, I like to do this from a kneeling position as it also works the stabilizer muscles in the back. Obviously, if you have back issues, stand up.

  1. Start by kneeling on the floor, knees further than hip-width apart for stability.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, hanging by your sides, palms facing towards your body.
  3. Look forwards and ensure the back is kept straight at all times.
  4. This is your starting position.
  5. Breathe out and slowly raise dumbbells until they are parallel with your shoulders.
  6. Hold for one second.
  7. Breathe in and lower the weights back to the starting position again.
  8. That completes one repetition.
  9. Do one full set then rest for three minutes.
  10. Complete two more sets with a three minute break in between.

The difficulty of this exercise can be increased by standing and leaning forwards from the hips at nearly 90 degrees. However, this does place a fair amount of stress on the back. So do not complete if you have back problems.

I would advise exercising the back using the workout program on this site first. Once your back muscles are more developed, then consider the above alternative.

Punching

My favorite way of completing a chest workout is through lightweight punching. It gives the pectorals and shoulders a good workout, while adding some cardio as a bonus. This fills the muscles with blood and can reduce post-exercise soreness.

  1. Start from a standing position, feet slightly apart.
  2. Raise dumbbells up to either side of your chin, palms facing outwards.
  3. This is your starting position.
  4. Extend your right arm out in a ‘punching’ action until your arm is locked.
  5. Retract the dumbbell back to your chin.
  6. Now complete for the other arm.
  7. That completes one repetition.
  8. Do three sets of 12 repetitions with a three minute break in between.

Keep the weights light in this exercise, maybe just 6–8 pounds. That is the reason I have detailed repetition numbers. Unless of course you are aiming for serious muscle gain, in which case heavier weights are required.

Concluding the Workout

It can be tempting after an intense workout to stop after the final exercise and hit the shower.

I know showering is undoubtedly essential. But having a brief cool-down will reduce chance of soreness or tightness in the chest in the following 48 hours.

To cool down the chest, my favorite exercise is the simple arm swing. One arm at a time, keeping your arm locked, swing forwards until it is parallel with the floor. Then swing backwards as far as it will go. Complete on both arms for thirty seconds.

Final Thoughts

The chest only has two muscles, but giving them an intense workout provides impressive results. These muscles are also known for building faster than most of the other groups—so you will start to see returns in a short period. 

Start steadily, and find your limits, especially when using the weights. Remember, lighter weights for tone, heavier for bulk.

Follow this workout, and you will be soon keen to get on the beach and show off that chest.

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