Chest workouts push-ups

woman-doing-push-ups-on-beach

This pure push-up workout strengthens your chest more than bench presses.

The bench press is excellent.

Cable deadlifts are great.

And dumbbells are a guaranteed chest pump.

But even if you do not have any of this equipment available, you can aggressively train your chest to build strength and stimulate growth.

And why? Because you can still do push-ups. And the classic push-up is still one of the best ways to train your chest. You are engaging your chest from an angle very similar to that of the regular bench press, and although you are working with a lighter load than the bench press, you are still creating tremendous full-body tension. Plus, you can focus on getting a good chest contraction (more on that later).

The push-up can also be even more challenging if you introduce a handful of variations, and these variations can quickly become the backbone of a vicious chest workout. By changing the angle of your torso with your upper arms or shifting the focus of the push-up to negative contractions, pauses, or holds, you change the way the movement stimulates your chest.

By combining several of these approaches into a single workout, you’ll challenge your pecs in a variety of ways. You’ll also explore and perfect your overall push-up mechanics, which will lead to a better workout later on. And most importantly, you may have a little fun in the process.

Pro tip:

When you are just starting, pay attention to proper form and feel which muscles you should be using with each movement, rather than focusing on how much weight you are lifting, advises Fagan.

The perfect push-up

The key to success in push-up training is maximizing the push-up. This means you should utilize the full range of motion and not overdo yourself on any repetition. There are a few things you should keep in mind. Focus on these three.

  • The perfect push-up

The key to success in push-up training is maximizing the push-up. This means you should utilize the full range of motion and not overdo yourself on any repetition. There are a few things you should keep in mind. Focus on these three.

  • Perfect Plank:

The push-up begins with a perfect Plank position, which you must maintain throughout the set. Tighten your abs, and do not let your core sag.

  • Elbow pits forward:

Rotate the elbow pits forward to promote the shoulders’ external rotation and activate your lats.

Up, all the way down:

Lower your chest to within an inch of the floor, squeezing your shoulder blades together as you approach the floor. Then press up. Do not get into the habit of doing half reps and skipping the last bit of chest contraction.

The challenge of the push-up workout


The biggest challenge in push-up training is finding ways to increase the load. The downside of the classic push-up is that while it is challenging at first, it stops challenging you once you have done enough reps. You are only lifting a portion of your body weight at a time.

This is one point where the bench press can challenge you more than a push-up: you can eventually load more than your body weight onto the bar. You can not do that with a push-up. But you can find other ways to challenge your chest.

Unilateral load:

These push-ups become valuable weapons in your chest workout because they put more stress on a single pectoral muscle and challenge your core and glutes. However, with a handful of push-up variations, you can force one of your pecs to shoulder almost all of the bodyweight you are moving. Archer push-ups and one-arm push-ups do this, as does the post-push-up, a favorite of fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.

Can you keep your hips and shoulders square during a post-push-up, which is only half a step away from a single-arm push-up? This puts a lot of stress on your chest and your entire body.

Time under tension and take breaks:

You can also improve movements by incorporating time under tension and pauses. Pauses cancel out the momentum and “elastic energy” that allows you to “jump out” of repetitions. In the bench press, you sometimes need this support. By eliminating it in push-ups, you make the movement more challenging.

More repetitions:

Of course, you can do more reps. But first, you can challenge yourself with push-up variations, which you’ll do in this workout.

How to do push-ups correctly:

Top 10 chest workouts for more strength

Push-ups

One of the most common chest exercises is the push-up. The push-up is a great way to train the chest without equipment. It is also popular because it is a compound movement that uses multiple muscles and joints. This means that the chest is trained and the arms, shoulders, core, and legs.

To work the pecs as well as the arms and core, there’s nothing better than a good old-fashioned push-up. This traditional version is a great way to train the upper body without equipment.

Get on your hands and knees and place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.

Pull your knees up to rest on your hands and toes. Keep the abdominal muscles tense and make sure your body is in a straight line from your head to your heels.

Bend your elbows and lower into a push-up until your elbows form an angle of about 90 degrees.

Press back to the beginning and repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions.

couple-doing-push-ups

Modified push-ups

This modified version of the push-up on your knees gives extra support to your back and upper body. If you are a beginner or do not have much upper body strength yet, this is an excellent exercise to start.

Start on all fours with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders.

Walk your knees back a little to support your weight on your hands and flatten your back from your head to the back of your knees.

Tighten your abs, keep your back straight, bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor until your elbows form a 90-degree angle.

Press back up and repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions.

knee push ups

Push-ups on an exercise ball

An exercise ball can add a different element to traditional push-ups, making them easier or more difficult depending on where you position them. For example, you can rest your feet on the ball, an advanced push-up.

If you need a variation, you can make this movement easier by moving the ball up (so that your shins or thighs rest on the ball).

Kneel on the floor with the ball in front of you and roll forward on the ball. As you do this, walk your hands out far enough to support your body comfortably, with your abdominal muscles tense, shoulders pulled in, and your body in a straight line.

Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and check to ensure you are not sagging in the middle. If this is the case, roll back a little for more support.

Bend your elbows and lower them until your elbows form an angle of about 90 degrees.

Press back to the beginning and repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions.

man doing exercises with fitness ball

Push-up with a medicine ball

The beauty of push-ups is that there are so many variations that you can always find a version that works for you. This exercise is excellent for the upper body and the core.

Raising one hand on a medicine ball adds a new challenge, and rolling the ball from one hand to the other works the abdominal muscles and adds a dynamic element that you do not often experience with traditional push-ups.

Get into a push-up position on your knees (easier) or toes (more difficult). Make sure your body forms a straight line, your abs are tight, and your back is straight.

Place one hand on a medicine ball and keep the other on the floor. Maintain your balance, and then lower yourself into a push-up.

Push yourself back up, roll the ball across the floor to your other hand, and lower yourself into a push-up.

Roll the ball back and forth for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions for each push-up.

medicine ball push ups

Barbell Bench Press

The bench press is another great standard exercise for the large muscles of the chest. For a change of pace, try it on an incline bench that targets the upper part of the chest. The shoulders and triceps are also involved in this exercise, making it a compound movement.

Lie on a bench, step, or the floor. Start with the barbell just above your chest and bend your elbows. Place your hands on the bar slightly wider than your shoulders.

Tighten your chest and press the weight straight up across your chest until your arms are fully extended, and your elbows are closed.

Bend your elbows and lower the weight down until the barbell touches your chest. Typically, this means your elbows are just below chest level.

Repeat the exercise for 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

bench_press

Standing chest press with resistance bands.

Using a resistance band is a great way to exercise the chest in a different way and provide variety when the usual exercises get a little boring. The band can make this exercise feel harder, but you always have control over the level of tension by standing closer or further away from the center of the band.

Wrap the band around something sturdy behind you and hold the handles in both hands so that the bands run along the insides of your arms.

Stand far enough away so that the bands are under tension.

Begin the movement with your arms bent, palms facing down.

Tighten your chest muscles and push your arms straight forward, keeping the band stable.

Repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

chest-press-resistance-band

Chest Fly with dumbbells

 Using a resistance band is a great way to exercise the chest in a different way and provide variety when the usual exercises get a little boring. The band can make this exercise feel harder, but you always have control over the level of tension by standing closer or further away from the center of the band.

Wrap the band around something sturdy behind you and hold the handles in both hands so that the bands run along the insides of your arms.

Stand far enough away so that the bands are under tension.

Begin the movement with your arms bent, palms facing down.

Tighten your chest muscles and push your arms straight forward, keeping the band stable.

Repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

chest-flys-exercises

Chest press with a medicine ball

The chest press is a subtle movement and an isometric exercise that works the chest and shoulder muscles. This is not the most intense exercise, but it is an excellent way to warm up the chest before other activities.

Sit upright on an exercise ball or chair, with your back straight and your abdominal muscles tense.

Hold a medicine ball at chest level and bend your arms at a 90-degree angle, squeezing the ball to tighten your chest.

As you continue to squeeze the ball, slowly extend your arms and push the ball in front of you until your arms are straight.

Keep constant pressure on the ball throughout the movement.

Bring the ball back to your chest and repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 10 to 16 repetitions.

Dumbbell Chest Press

Performing the chest press with dumbbells instead of a barbell allows you to add another element to your chest exercises, as both arms now have to work independently. This is ideal for training both sides of the body, and the dumbbell chest press is an excellent complement to the barbell exercise.

Lie on a bench or step and start with the weights in each hand straight up across your chest. Hold the dumbbells as if they were one barbell (in a straight line perpendicular to your body). Or use a neutral grip with the palms facing each other.

Bend the elbows and lower the arms down until the elbows are just below the chest (the arms should look like goal posts).

Press the weights back up, fully extending the arms, and bring the weights closer together.

Repeat for 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions.

Dumbbell Chest Press​

Chest press with dumbbells (alternating)

This variation of the traditional chest press with dumbbells is more challenging than it seems, mainly if you perform it on an exercise ball. By alternating your arms, you add a new dynamic to the exercise requiring your core to keep your body stable.

For this version, you should take the weights a little lighter. You may also want to try the exercise on a bench or the floor before switching to the exercise ball.

Lie on a bench, step, ball, or the floor. Start with the weights in each hand straight up over your chest, with the dumbbells perpendicular to your body.

Keep your left arm in place as you bend your right elbow and lower the arm until it is at or just below your chest (the arm should look like a goal post).

Push the arm back up until it is fully extended. Then immediately repeat the movement with the left arm while keeping the right arm in place.

Continue alternating sides, tightening the abdominal muscles so as not to move the upper body.

Repeat 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 16 repetitions for each arm.

Advanced Push -ups

Clap push-up

Do not be afraid to start on your knees or on an incline to get the timing right. Make sure you land with soft elbows after clapping! And as always, reasonable core control is crucial to performing this push-up variation correctly.

This variation requires some shoulder mobility and flexibility. Make sure you warm up your shoulders properly before trying this exercise. A good warm-up exercise would be the Plank to Down Dog 6. Superman push-up.

Try to get your biceps to your ears as you extend your arms. And do not forget to bring your hands back down.

Stagger plyometric push-up

Change the position of your hands after each push-up if this movement is too explosive or complex for you. Just switch hands without the “jump” until you can work your way up.

X-tap push-up

Remember, you need to get some air in this push-up variation! Let us say this is the next step up from the clap push-up!

4th Double Knee Tap Push-Up

Do not forget to tighten your lower abs and lift your butt while pulling your knees in.

Archer push-up

Position your arms wider than shoulder-width apart in this push-up variation. Make sure that only one arm is bent during the exercise. The other arm should slightly bend at the elbow but be pretty straight.

One-arm push-up

Notice that the feet are set very wide. This really helps stabilize the entire body when you do this chest workout.

Do these exercises look a little too challenging? Try your best! Start with the classic push-up and really master the form. Once you have done that, you’ll be able to perform more difficult push-up variations in no time!

one arm push ups

The Workout

In this workout, which consists entirely of chest push-ups, you’ll perform three exercises, each challenging your chest in a slightly different way. Perform this workout up to three times per week and take at least one day off between workouts (yes, you may be that sore). On the days you do not do this workout, train your back with pull-ups and rowing – essential exercises to keep your shoulders healthy when challenging your chest.

Post-Push-Up Drop set

Perform four sets per side of this push-up drop set, which combines a standard post-push-up with classic push-ups to put a heavy workload on your chest.

Half Typewriter Push-Up

Next, do a half typewriter push-up, again loading your chest unilaterally and then adding a period of tension by half-tapping your torso before pushing back up. Do three sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.

3-Step Push-Up Series

Finish your chest workout with three sets of this 3-stage push-up series, which offers a little more unilateral loading and also involves your triceps.

Bonus Exercise: Pushup Countup Game with Position Change

Want to give your triceps a little workout while you are at it? Yes, it’s been stressed in the first three exercises, but it will get extra training if you include one to two sets of this additional exercise, a “game” that encourages you to be explosive and pile on a few extra reps.