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4 Effective Bodyweight Chest Exercises That Build Muscle

A big chest make you look muscular and strong. But what if you want bigger pecs but don’t want to go to the gym and don’t have any equipment at home? Here’s what you can do.

To train your pecs without equipment, there are many push-up variations which can be used to strengthen and grow your chest muscles. With some DIY equipment almost everyone has access to, it’s also possible to do floor presses and floor flies.

Find out below which specific exercises are best to train your chest, how to perform those exercises.

No Equipment Chest Exercise #1: Push ups

It’s the obvious choice and the right one for home chest exercises. The basic push up is a great chest and tricep builder for the pec major which is the largest muscle in the chest. 

You start with a plank which means you rest on your toes and palms of the hands. Then bend the elbows and lower your body down until your chest almost touches the floor. Then push back up. Don’t flare your elbows out sideways. Your arms should bend away about 45 degrees from the body. 

The pushup targets both the chest and triceps. To focus a little more on the chest put your hands further apart. If you want to focus more on your triceps, putting your hands closer together works. 

In many cases, beginners have a hard time doing push ups the ‘normal’ way. It’s better to make it easier and get the full range of motion from the exercise than to just do half pushups. The best way to make pushups easier is to simply rest on your knees instead of feet. In case that is still too heavy, doing standing pushups against the kitchen countertop is a good way to get started. 

The standard pushup is great and the basis of any home chest workout, however, there are some variations that are worth looking at as well since they do something slightly different. 

No Equipment Chest Exercise #2: Decline push up

To target the pec minor or upper chest a little better, the decline push up is a great exercises. Normal flat pushups mostly target the pec major but the pec minor is often a little lagging and is weaker to begin with. That’s why separately targeting the pec minor is a good plan. 

The decline push up is quite similar to the normal push up except you put your feet on something elevated while the hands are in the same place on the floor. Of course because the pec major is weaker, this exercise can be quite challenging for many people. The higher you put your feet, the more difficult it’s going to be but the more you target the pec minor and less of the pec major. 

So starting with a small elevation for the feet is a good idea if you’re not sure what you are capable of. Of course just like with the flat push up, putting your hands further apart tends to focus more on the chest and less on the triceps. 

Suggested: How many sets and reps for chest?

These are just some of the push up variations possible. There is a long laundry list of variations but most of them are derived from the two I listed here. Once you’re comfortable with them and want to change things up, take a look at this list of 82 push up variations. 

No Equipment Chest Exercise #3: Floor press

OK, time for something else than a push up variation. While push ups are great and the most practical at home because you can do them anywhere without any equipment, there are other options. Although you’ll have to find some kind of weight for this exercise. 

A backpack which can be filled with weight can be a good option for a weight that everyone can easily make at home. Big bottles of water are a good alternative although usually quite light. Bottles with handles built in work best since they are usually bigger while also being easy to hold.

To do a floor press, you simply lay down on the floor with some weights in your hands. Keep the elbows on the floor, about 45 degrees away from the body. The hands are directly above the elbows. Now press up until the elbows are extended. Then return to the starting position. 

No Equipment Chest Exercise #4: Floor flies

If you don’t have a lot of weight available and want a more challenging exercise that’s not a push up, the floor fly is a good option. For this exercise you don’t need a lot of resistance and some 2 liter bottles are going to be enough weight for many people. 

Simply lay on the floor on your back. Hold a bottle (or dumbbell if available) in both hands and extend your arms to the side so you form a kind of crucifix shape with your body and arms. Now keep your arms straight and bring your hands together above your body. Then slowly move back to the starting position. 

You don’t need a lot of weight to feel a good contraction in your pec muscles. It will also probably burn out your pec muscles all the way so this is a good finishing exercise for your chest. 

You might know this exercise but on a bench instead. This is also an effective exercise but you have to be a bit careful. The floor fly is a better exercise in my opinion but some people don’t like to be on the floor. On a bench, your elbows can go to far backwards than is good for them and it’s not too difficult to injure your shoulder this way. On the floor your hands/elbows can not go further down than your shoulders so there is a safety built in.

Which Chest Muscles Should You Train?

To be able to train and grow your chest muscles, we have to figure out where they are, how many there are and what they do. 

There are two muscles in the chest:

  • Pec major: The biggest muscle in the chest. It’s a fan shaped muscle that fans out from the upper arm (just below the shoulder and attaches to the sternum. It moves the arms in from the sides towards the front of the body. 
  • Pec minor: Smaller than the pec major and is located largely under it. It attaches to the shoulder and the ribs. It’s responsible for pushing the shoulders forward. 

Those two make up the bulk of the musculature in the chest. There are a few smaller muscles around the chest that are important but don’t contribute much to the size. We’re here to grow the pecs after all. 

All we have to do is apply resistance in the opposite direction of what the muscles do to train them. For muscle growth it’s best to perform 15-20 working sets per muscle per week. Working sets means it’s a challenging weight and doesn’t take warm up sets into account. For chest growth, sets of 8-15 repetitions is a good range. You want to end most sets with a few repetitions left in the tank. 

Image of a woman doing chest exercises.