The 21 Best Bodyweight Chest Exercises [At-Home Workout]

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In this post, we are going to cover the best of the best bodyweight chest exercises.

Specifically will go over 21 different exercises, each one targeting a specific part of the chest muscle.

The best part is, you could do all of these calisthenics chest exercises from the comfort of your own home.

Alright, let’s get started.

bodyweight-chest-exercises

Disclaimer:

Although we are doctors and personal trainers, we are not your doctors. This information is for informational purposes only and should not substitute the advice from your healthcare professional. Please read my full Disclaimer for more information. Also, this post may contain affiliate links: meaning I may receive a commission if you use them.

Chest Anatomy You Should Know

First, let’s quickly go over the muscles of the chest.

It’ll be quick, I promise.

The chest is composed of two muscles – the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.

The Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is the much larger muscle that goes from your sternum all the way to your anterior shoulder.

As such, this muscle is often divided into two separate areas.

  • The sternal head (closer to the breast bone)
  • The clavicular head (closer to your clavicle)

The function of the pectoralis muscle flexes your shoulder joint (raises your arm) and adducts your arms (bring it closer to your midline).

The Pectoralis Minor

The pectoralis minor is a much smaller muscle that sits underneath the pec major. It connects your anterior shoulder to your ribs.

Healthline has a cool 3D graphic depicting it.

It functions to move your scapula down and forward.


Knowing this, our goal is to focus on compound exercises that train these movement patterns.

Specifically, you need to perform exercises that flex and adduct your shoulders while recruiting scapular mobility.

They will be broken down into three separate vatiations

  • Push-up Variations,
  • Dip Variations, and
  • Fly Variations

Now let’s get to the exercises.

Beginner Bodyweight Chest Exercises

Push-Up Variations

The most fundamental calisthenic chest exercise is the push-up.

In fact, most of the exercises in this post will center around it. There are literally dozens of push-up variations you can do to target different areas of the chest.

In this post, I focused on the ones that I think will give you the best value.

Let’s get start.

Incline Push-ups:

The first beginner calisthenic chest exercise is the incline push-up. This variation is great for people who struggle with regular push-ups.

You will need a chair, a ledge, a table, or anything to lean against.

The shorter the incline, the more difficult the movement.

Keep working your way down until you can do push-ups from the floor.

Here’s Brittany demonstrating.

  • Position your hands on the ledge, at a shoulder-width distance.
  • Extend your elbows, brace your core, and squeeze your glutes.
  • Keeping your back flat, begin bending at your elbows and keep them tucked to a 45-degree angle to your body.
  • At the bottom, retract your scapular and let your chest touch the ledge.
  • Continue using a shorter and shorter ledge to get you closer to the floor.

Traditional Push-Ups:

The next exercise is the good ole fashioned push-up.

It is important that you can do at least 10-15 push-ups before trying any other variation.

Here’s what it should look like.

  • Get into a push-up position with your hands directly underneath your elbows, and your elbows directly underneath your hands.
  • At the starting position, brace your core, and squeeze your glutes.
  • Begin bending at the elbows and keep them tucked to a 45-degree angle to your body.
  • At the bottom, retract your scapular and let your chest touch the floor.

Wide Grip Push-Ups:

Next is the wide grip push-up. This exercise will stretch and target the outer part of your chest.

This exercise can put some stress on your shoulder girdle, so use caution.

If you have shoulder discomfort, then don’t do this exercise.

  • Assume a push-up position and set your hands wider than shoulder-width. Experiment with a distance that feels comfortable to you.
  • The remainder of the exercise is the same except your elbows will flare out to about 60-75 degrees rather than 45.
  • Retract your scapula at the bottom of the exercise and keep your core and glutes engaged.
  • You can also play around with turning your fingers out a bit.

Close Grip Push-Ups:

Next up is the close grip push-up. The hand width that you use will help target the inner chest muscle more.

Here’s how it looks.

  • Assume a push-up position and set your hands closer than shoulder-width. Experiment with a distance that feels comfortable to you.
  • While you are descending, tuck your elbows to about a 30-degree angle from your body.
  • Retract your scapula at the bottom of the exercise and keep your core and glutes engaged.
  • Over time, work your way up to a diamond push-up – where your hands are touching.

Decline Push-Ups:

The last beginner calisthenic chest exercise is the decline push-up.

In this variation, you will place your feet up on a bench/chair to change the pressing angle.

As a result, you will target the upper chest or the clavicular head of the pectoralis.

  • Place your feet up on a chair and assume a push-up position.
  • Place your hands at a distance roughly equal to shoulder-width.
  • The remainder of the exercise is the same as the traditional push-up.
  • Tuck your elbows to 45 degrees.
  • Keep your core tight and your glutes engaged.

Dip Variations

The next bodyweight chest exercise is the dip. The dip is generally a much harder exercise than the push-up, but this home variation will help you strengthen this pattern.

It’s called the supported chair dip.

Supported Chair Dips:

To do the supported chair dip, you will need two sturdy chairs.

You will use the actual seats as the handles, to allow yourself the ability to use your feet as assistance.

This exercise will target the outer chest muscle.

Here’s what it looks like.

  • Position two chairs parallel to each other with approximately 18 inches apart.
  • Then place a mat or a cushion on the floor between the chairs.
  • Next, position yourself between the chairs and place your palms flat on the seats with your elbows locked out.
  • Place all of your weight on your hands and bend your knees to take them off the ground.
  • If this is too challenging, keep your feet on the floor to offset some of your weight.
  • Keep your chest proud and retract your scapulae.
  • Begin bending at the elbows to lower yourself as low as you can comfortably go.
  • Use your feet to help you get back up as needed.

Fly Variations

The last type of calisthenic chest exercise is the fly.

These exercises focus on both the inner and outer chest muscles. They are also great for stretching the chest, which is often tight in most people.

The easiest bodyweight chest fly exercise is done from the knees.

Knee Supported Chest Flys:

The knee supported chest fly is a simple exercise that isolates the chest musculature through a full range of motion.

In order to do it, you will need two small towels and a sleek floor that provides no friction to the towels.

The video to this exercise will be uploaded soon.

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Place the two towels underneath your hands.
  • Next, place your knees on the ground.
  • From here, begin sliding your hands apart without bending the elbows.
  • When starting out, don’t go too wide.
  • Once you reach the end range, slide your hands back together and squeeze your chest at the top.
  • Overtime, begin going wider and wider.

Alright, so that covers the beginner calisthenic chest movements.

I want you to feel comfortable with all of these before moving on to the intermediate exercises.

Intermediate Bodyweight Chest Exercises

Okay, now that you feel comfortable with the beginner bodyweight chest exercises, it’s time to bump up the intensity.

To get the most out of these exercises, I will recommend a few pieces of equipment – specifically parallettes and gymnastic rings.

I go over my favorite calisthenics equipment in more detail in:

Let’s get started.

Push-Up Variations

Now that you are comfortable with doing push-ups from different angles, one way to make them more challenging is to increase the range of motion.

It starts with…

Parallette Push-ups:

The first exercise is the parallette push-up. The purpose of this exercise is to elevate your hands so that you can work through a larger range of motion.

You don’t have to have parrallettes, but if you’re serious about your chest pushing strength – I highly recommend them.

These are the parallettes I have from Amazon

They are built really well and are of great quality.

Here’s how the exercise looks.

  • Position the parrallettes (or books, or whatever you have to elevate your hands) slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Grab the handles, and assume a push-up position with your hands directly underneath your elbows.
  • Begin bending at the elbow (making sure to tuck them at a 45-degree angle from your body).
  • The rest of the exercise is the same as before.
  • Because you will go much deeper than a traditional push-up, it is important that you maintain your scapula retracted and your shoulders back.
  • Only go as deep as you feel comfortable.

Uneven Push-Up:

Next is the uneven push-up. This exercise is similar to the parallette push-up, but instead, only one hand will be elevated.

In the video below, I demonstrate using books instead of the parallette.

  • Place two textbooks on the floor where you will do your push-ups.
  • Make sure the books are big enough to support your entire hand.
  • All of the same push-up mechanics apply.
  • The hand that is on the floor is performing more work.
  • Make sure to train both sides equally.

The taller the books, the more difficult the exercise.


Hindu Push-ups:

The Hindu push-up is another great chest builder that also strengthens the shoulders and triceps.

It’s a combination of a pike-pushup and a cobra push-up.

Here’s what it looks like.

  • Place your hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Walk your feet towards your hands until you are in a V shape.
  • Begin bending at the elbows to bring your head towards the floor.
  • From here, begin pushing your head forward through your hands.
  • This will shift your upper body forward, and your legs closer to the ground.
  • Next, begin pressing back up as you elevate your chest up and arch your upper back hard.
  • In the end position, your quads should be parallel to the floor with your elbows locked out.

Suspension Push-ups:

The last push-up variation is the suspension push-up. Do not underestimate this exercise.

It will challenge your ability to stabilize your body while it is in motion. This will truly pump up your chest.

You can either use a suspension trainer or gymnastic rings.

I definitely recommend rings, as you will need them to do a lot of the other exercises in this post.

I have these rings which are best sellers on Amazon.

I also have wooden rings which are better quality but a bit more expensive. Either one works.

  • Set up your rings so that they are approximately 6 inches off the ground and slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Grab the rings and assume a push-up position.
  • Next, make sure to stabilize your entire body. Keep your core tight, glutes engaged, and shoulders locked in place.
  • The remainder of the exercise is the same.
  • Feel free to go deeper by setting the rings a little higher.

Dip Variations

Next up is the dip. Here we have two intermediate dip variations you can do.

Forward Leaning Dips:

Remember those two chairs from earlier? This time, we will perform the full dip with them.

Instead of using the seat as the handle, you will use the backrest.

Here’s how it looks:

  • Position the two chairs approximately 1.5 feet apart with the backrests facing each other.
  • Place your hands on the backrests and slowly begin supporting your entire weight just on your hands.
  • MAKE SURE THE CHAIRS ARE STABLE AND CAN SUPPORT YOUR BODYWEIGHT.
  • At the top, keep your chest proud and your scapulae back.
  • Begin bending at the elbows, and lean your upper body forward while maintaining a retracted scapular position.
  • Only go as low as you can keep your shoulders in a stable position.

Ring Dip Support:

The next exercise is the ring dip support. It’s actually just a preparatory exercise to the ring dip, but it activates the chest if done correctly.

Here’s what to do:

  • Set up your rings so that they are at about the height of your hips.
  • Grab the rings, and jump up into a fully supported straight arm position with your feet off the floor.
  • You will be really shaky at first as your body has to learn to stabilize all of your bodyweight.
  • Keep the rings close to your body and activate all of the muscles of your core and upper body.
  • Do not bend your elbows at all. Keep them locked out.
  • Keep your scapulae depressed – i.e DO NOT shrug.
  • Just holding this position may be enough for you.
  • To take it to the next level, start rotating your hands outward so that your palms are facing forward.
  • Hold this position for at least 20 seconds.

Fly Variations

Last but not least is the fly variation. Again, we have to get creative to train the chest in an abduction/adduction movement pattern.

The typewriter push-up does exactly that.

Typewriter Push-Ups:

The typewriter push-up is an awesome exercise that keeps your chest muscles in constant tension.

It is harder than it looks so make sure that you are warmed up.

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands as wide as you can comfortably place them.
  • Turn your fingers directly out to the side.
  • Next, go down to the bottom of a push-up and immediately shift all your weight towards your right arm.
  • At the end position, your right elbow will be bent and your left arm will be completely extended.
  • Without pushing back up, you will then shift all your weight to your left hand.
  • Continue slowly alternating back and forth without ever extending both elbows.

So that takes care of the best intermediate exercises.

You know what to do.

Advanced – The Hardest Bodyweight Chest Exercises

Next up are some of the most advanced calisthenic chest exercises you can do.

Don’t try these unless you feel comfortable with all the intermediate variations.

Push-Up Variations

The following push-up exercises are simply harder variations to the exercises you have done above.

Let’s dive right in.

Archer Push-Ups:

First up is the Archer push-up. This exercise is similar to the typewriter push-up, but instead, you will extend your elbow on each repetition.

Here’s what it looks like.

  • Assume a push-up position with your hands as wide as you can comfortably place them.
  • Turn your fingers directly out to the side.
  • Now, begin bending at your right elbow and shift all of your body weight to your right side.
  • At the same time, leave your left elbow completely straight.
  • Once you reach the bottom, push back up to the starting position.
  • You can choose to do all the repetitions on one side first, or you can alternate between sides.
  • As always keep your core tight and your glutes engaged.

Explosive Push-Ups:

Next is the explosive push-up. There are many different variations of this exercise that you can do.

Clapping push-ups, Behind the back clap push-ups, superman push-ups etc.

Below is one of the simpler variations, the clap push-up.

  • This exercise is performed exactly the same as a traditional push-up. The only difference is that you need to press up as fast as you can so that your hands leave the floor for a moment.
  • The most important part of the exercise is the landing. Make sure to land in a controlled manner, so that you don’t cause damage to your joints.
  • That’s why this is an advanced exercise.

Tempo Suspension Push-Ups:

Up next is the tempo push-up. I have included it as an advanced exercise because it requires a lot of balance and stability.

I want you to perform as slow a push-up as you can possibly muster.

Aim for 20-30 seconds on the descent, and 20-30 seconds on the ascent.

1 repetition per set will be plenty.


Suspension Archer Push-Ups:

Alright, you asked for it. One of the most difficult push-up variation is the suspension archer push-up.

It trains your stability, core strength, pressing strength, and chest adduction.

Here’s how it looks.

  • Set up your rings so that they are approximately 6 inches off the ground and slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  • Grab the rings and assume a push-up position.
  • From here, you will begin bending your right elbow and shift all of your body weight to your right side.
  • At the same time, leave your left elbow completely straight.
  • Press back up to the starting position.
  • This exercise requires a high degree of balance, stability, and strength. Don’t try it unless you are ready.

Dip Variations

Now let’s move on to the advanced dip variations.

You will need to get your rings ready again for these.

Ring Dips:

The ring dip looks easy at first, but you’ll quickly see that this exercise requires a lot of focus and coordination.

Even with a lower than normal rep count, your chest will be on fire after doing these.

Here’s what it looks like.

  • Set up your rings high enough so that your feet are elevated off the ground when you are supporting yourself.
  • Grab the rings, and jump up to the ring dip support position.
  • You may notice that you will be really shaky at first.
  • Keep the rings close to your body and keep all of the muscles in your core and upper body engaged.
  • Begin the exercise by bending at the elbows until your shoulders make contact with the rings.
  • Press back up to the starting position.

Bulgarian Ring Dips:

The Bulgarian ring dip is similar to the traditional ring dip with one exception.

You do not keep your elbows tucked close to your body on the descent. Instead, you let your elbows flare out to 90 degrees.

Here’s how it looks.

Don’t be shocked if you can only do a handful of repetitions per set.


Fly Variations

Last but not least is one of the hardest bodyweight exercises. The suspension fly.

Suspension Chest Flys:

Serious injury can occur if you are not careful with this exercise!

Make sure that you are properly warmed up, and can demonstrate sufficient strength in all of the above exercises.

  • You can control how difficult this exercise is by changing your feet position.
  • The farther back your feet are from the rings, the harder the movement.
  • Always start easy, and work your way up.


A 4 Day/Week Calisthenic Chest Workout For Busy People

So here’s an example of how to take these exercises to create a home chest workout.

Workout 1

ExerciseSetsReps
Push-up Variation48-15
Dip Variation38-12
Row Exercise312
Posterior Shoulder Exercise312
  1. For the push-up variation, feel free to select any exercise that is appropriate to your skill level. If you can easily do more than 15 repetitions for all sets, move on to a harder progression.
  2. The same goes for the dip variation. If you can easily do more than 12 repetitions for all sets, move on to a harder progression.
  3. With any chest focused exercise – it is important that you balance your training with back exercises and posterior shoulder exercises. You can find them at The Best Bodyweight Back Exercises.

Workout 2

ExerciseSetsReps
Shoulder Exercise48-15
Fly Variation38-12
Scapular Exercise312
Isometric Exercise312
  1. No chest workout is complete without a shoulder exercise as well. Start the second workout with an exercise found in The Best Bodyweight Shoulder Exercises.
  2. Next, I want you to perform a chest fly variation. Go with a variation where you can safely do at least 8 repetitions.
  3. Third, I want you to do something to strengthen your scapulae. You can find them in the bodyweight back exercise post that I mentioned above.
  4. Last but not least, choose an isometric exercise. This can include biceps, triceps, or better yet, some ab exercises.

Free Calisthenics Workout Template:

If you liked this workout, check out our full-body calisthenics workout.

We are all about efficiency. These workouts should also take you no more than 30 minutes to complete.

Enter your email below and I’ll send you a “fill in the blank” workout template for both upper and lower body calisthenics workouts.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I build my chest with just bodyweight?

Yes, it is possible to build your chest muscles without weights. You can accomplish this by doing several different push-up, dip, and fly variations, and progressively overloading them as you get stronger.

Can you build your chest with just pushups?

Yes, push-ups alone are a great exercise to build your chest. However, it is important to use several push-up variations to target different areas of the chest muscle.

That is why we included push-up, dip, and chest fly variations.

Do dips work The chest?

Dips work the chest if you perform them with a slight forward lean. If you perform them from a more vertical position, it becomes a shoulder and tricep dominant exercise.

Can I do a chest workout every day?

It is not a good idea to train your chest every day. This can create muscular imbalances which often results in poor posture, pain, and injury.

Make sure to balance your workouts by including just as many back exercises as you do chest exercises.

We show you a few ways to structure your workout in our Upper/Lower split workout routine, and Full Body split workout.

21-bodyweight-chest-exercises

Final Words On Calisthenic Chest Exercises

So that’s our top list of bodyweight chest exercises so that you can build your chest muscles at home.

What did you think?

Would you add any to this list?

What’s the hardest variation you can perform?

Comment below and let me know.

Related Bodyweight Exercise Posts:

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Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT

Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM CPTs, health & fitness experts, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a site dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals. Their advice has been featured on KevinMD, The Doctor Weighs In, My Fitness Pal, Reader's Digest, Livestrong, and The Active Times. Learn more about them here.

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