Great Chest Exercises - Build Pec Muscles Without Weights

What Can You Do With A Pushup? 
You Can Build More Awesome Pec Exercises Around That Simple Move Than You Think!

Great chest exercises, particularly in the boot camp fitness world, usually consist of some variation of pushups – and there are plenty.  When you think of pec exercises, you may automatically think of bench presses and flies.  Since we're thinking outside the gym here, we won’t be focusing on them too much. 

Here at the Boot Camp Fitness Guide, we like to be able to do our workouts anywhere we want with little to no equipment needed.

With that in mind I’m going to show you a lot of different ways to work your chest (or pectoral) muscles that just require your bodyweight and maybe a raised surface or platform. 

In most cases, you will get the added benefit of strengthening your triceps, shoulders, back, and core at the same time.  No extra charge.  There are even leg muscles involved.

There are only a few concepts at the core of all of the variations to these chest exercises.  The two main variables are body position and hand position.  There are other movements, but those are the main things you will notice.

When adjusting your body position, you can increase the resistance your bodyweight provides by raising the feet above the hands. 

To decrease the resistance, raise the hands above the feet.  These modifications are also good for hitting the pectoral muscles from different angles to change things up and avoid plateauing.

Side note on naming conventions for weight lifters: From what I have seen, when most people talk about an incline pushup, they are referring having your hands above your feet.  When they talk about a decline pushup, they mean your feet are above your hands. 

If you are familiar with incline and decline benches in the gym, the actual muscle movements are the opposite.  When you are on an incline bench in the gym, the direction of your pushing motion is the same as the “decline” pushup.  Remember, your feet are above your head.  When you are on the decline bench, you are doing the same motion as the “incline” pushup.

Nothing to get too hung up on (even though I just did).  In each case, the name is derived from where your head is relative to your center of mass.  Above – incline, below – decline.

chest exercises

The other main variation concept is hand position.  You can move your hands out wide, in close, position one higher than the other, position one further down the body toward your midsection, or raise one off the ground completely. 

Those variations hit the pectoral muscles in different ways, isolate and add resistance to one more than the other, or put more focus on the triceps.

The boring old pushup becomes a whole set of great chest exercises - and then some.

Pushup Variations: Body Position

Great Chest Exercises: Decline Pushup

Standard, flat-on-the-floor, pushups are outstanding pec exercises to build strength and muscle primarily in the chest.  As I indicated before, they will also work the front deltoid muscles (shoulders), triceps, and core muscles.  You can change the difficulty of pushups and slightly change how the muscles work by elevating either your hands or your feet. 

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Pushup Variations: Hand Position

Great Chest Exercises: Wide Arm Pushup

Adjusting the position of your hands during pushups is a great way to alter the main muscles worked.  As a quick example, having your hands out wide will work the chest muscles more.  Having your hands more narrow will work your triceps more.  Have you ever done a diamond pushup?

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Pushup Variations: Staggering and Offsetting

If you want to go beyond the common pushup and give yourself more of a challenge, here are some variations that will isolate and increase the work of one side then the other.  At the same time, get more of a stretch of the chest muscles during the movement.

Try introducing instability to increase the difficulty and strengthen stabilizer muscles. 

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6 More Exercises For Your Chest Workout

The beauty of the pushup is that it doesn’t have to be just a pushup.  Pushups don’t even have to be just chest exercises.  Here are a few more variations that will activate your shoulders, core, and leg muscles.

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Dip Exercise

The dips exercise is great for the triceps and chest.  The main kinds are parallel bar dips, bench (or wall) dips.  If you're really tough (and have them available) ring dips. 

In reality, dips are more of a triceps exercise than a chest exercise.  But don't discount them.  I incorporated dips into my routine and added real strength throughout my entire upper body.

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Bench Dips
Parallel Bar Dips

A mix of these great chest exercises will give you the full chest workout.  Incorporating all of the variations listed on these pages will develop your middle, upper, lower, inner, and outer pectoral muscles.  And by design, they also work your shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. 

Working a variety of these exercises into your routine a few times a week will not only build strong pec muscles, but will also greatly improve your overall upper body strength. 

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