Forget bench press – add chest muscle with this 3-move bodyweight workout

Barbells and dumbbells aren't necessary to build a bigger chest, you can do it straight from home

Man performing push ups in his living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it’s chest day, most gym bros will make a bee-line for the bench press, which often means you could be waiting at least an hour (if not longer) to get on it. But you don’t actually need the bench press, or gym in fact, to pump up your pec muscles. This three-move workout will help build chest muscle straight at home and there isn’t a pair of dumbbells or barbell in sight. 

Are bodyweight chest workouts as effective as using weights though? Well, a study in the Journal of Exercise Science found that the push-ups and bench press performed at a similar intensity (40% one rep max) can produce similar hypertrophy and strength gains. Eighteen males were assigned to either perform bench press, or push-ups, to failure twice a week over an 8-week period. The results showed a significant increase in muscle thickness in the chest muscles in both groups (and triceps).  

The workout

This workout comes from Cody Lwin, a Certified Strength and Condition Coach and Sports Therapist at Calcot Spa’s Grain Store. Cody suggests completing four to five rounds of each exercise below and to aim for anywhere between five to 30 reps. “It's  about how many reps you have left in the tank,” he explains. “A beginner may only be able to manage six reps and with a gun to their head, maybe eight, which is good. But if they can manage 25 and with a gun to their head 28 that's also really good, so aim for a number where you've got two or three reps left in the tank."

Here's your workout:

Decline push ups

Man performing decline push up with feet on soda

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The decline push-up targets the upper chest (the clavicle head) more than the traditional push-up, as the angle forces your upper body to bare more weight. To perform, just elevate your feet on the edge of your sofa, a chair, or coffee table.

Chest dips

muscular and lean person doing triceps dips on parallel bars outside

(Image credit: iStock)

The best place to perform chest dips in your home is in your kitchen with your hands placed either side of the corner of your counter top. "If you're too upright it's all going to be tricep elbow hinge, but if you lean forward you get the stretch through the pec," says Cody.

Archer push ups

(Image credit: Getty Images)

This is actually where you perform a push-up from side to side "so it overloads one side of the pec with more bodyweight", Cody says. You'll want to have a wider-than-usual hand grip and think about lowering your chest to touch your thumb. It is a tough exercise, so drop down to your knees if it's too difficult on your feet.

Bryony Firth-Bernard
Staff Writer, Active

Bryony’s T3’s official ‘gym-bunny’ and Active Staff Writer, covering all things fitness. In her spare time, you will find her in her natural habitat - the gym - where her style of training is a hybrid of bodybuilding and powerlifting. Bryony loves writing about accessible workouts, nutrition and testing innovative fitness products that help you reach your fitness goals and take your training to the next level.