A muscular chest is beautiful! Your t-shirt has something to lie upon, and people around you will literally see you differently. But how do you build a strong chest without the use of equipment?
Today, I will explain how you can create a strong chest without using any equipment. Also, I will teach you about the anatomy of the chest and some of the critical training principles you should consider in the process.
And finally, I will provide you with the three best exercises to build pecs at home, regardless of your fitness level!
Then, let’s get on with it:
The Anatomy of the Chest
Before you continue though, let’s have a look at what the chest is made off:
Anatomically there are two chest muscles:
- Pectoralis major
- Pectoralis minor
The pectoralis major is responsible for moving your arm horizontally (horizontal adduction) in front of you, from the outside to the inside.
Also, it helps you internally rotate your shoulder, move your arm to your side (adduction), and to lift it in front of you (flexion).
The big chest muscle can make all these movements because it has three origins:
- Top of your external oblique
When all these fibers connect to the upper arm, you can make the movements mentioned above.
Now, let’s move on to the pectoralis minor.
This is the small chest muscle. It’s fibers run from rib 3 to 5 and connects to a part of your shoulder blade that sticks out to the front (coracoid process).
The movements that you can do as a consequence is:
- Forward movement of the shoulder blade
- Downward movement of the shoulder blade
And, that’s where the problems begin.
The Problem with Unbalanced Chest Training
Huh!? Problems, you say?
Let me start at the beginning…
There is a difference between muscles that (predominantly) make you move, and muscles that stabilize:
The chest muscles are responsible for making movements. The back, however, has a more stabilizing function.
Therefore, the pectorals have more fast-twitch fibers. Those are the muscle fibers sprinters, for example, capitalize upon. At the same time though, the back has less of those.
What does this have to do with anything?
Wait a minute; we’re almost there…
Let’s throw the reigning sedentary lifestyle in the mix. When you sit in front of a computer or lie on the couch to watch television, you usually remain in a flexed position.
This means that your chest muscles are in a shortened state throughout large parts of your day.
More specifically, your shoulder blades will be moved to the front and down. Just like the movement your pectoralis minor makes.
Bottom line: By training your chest, you increase the bad posture that is a consequence of a sedentary lifestyle and vice versa.
Therefore, it is essential to:
- a) Mind your posture
- b) Stretch your pectoral muscles
- c) Consider the way you exercise
- d) Balance your chest training
The Importance of Back Training
Consider the above information; both chest training and your general lifestyle will reflect on your posture.
However, next to the factors I mentioned above, it’s important to add a lot of back training into your workout regime.
Remember, your chest muscles are moving muscles (phasic muscles), and your back consists more out of stabilizing muscles (tonic muscles).
So, what does this mean for your training?
Do twice as many repetitions for your back.
Here’s an example:
- If you do 4×8 for your chest, you do 2 exercises of 4×8 for your back.
- If you do 3 exercises of 4×12 for your chest, you do 4 of 4×18 for your back.
Always, do twice the volume for your back as you do for your chest. This doesn’t need to be in the same training though.
So, that’s settled.
At this moment, you understand:
- How sedentary lifestyle influences chest training and vice versa
- The importance of stretching your chest
- The importance of balancing your chest, with your back
Now, let’s move on to the exciting part!
The 3 Best Exercises to Build Pecs at Home
All you need to do these moves are your body weight and a couple of hands to press up with. In other words, no need for a bench press or any other fancy chest press devices!
The 3 best chest exercises you can do at home without equipment are:
- Plyometric Push-up
- Scapula Push
I suppose you all know how to do push-ups at least, read on and I’ll explain how to do the two others as well.
I will also provide you with some simple tips for every experience level.
This is the powerhouse of every chest workout!
Get into position, parallel to the floor with your hands placed at the shoulder level.
That was the easy part.
The trick with the push-up is not necessarily moving up and down in a controlled fashion. What’s more important is to keep your whole body tense like a plank.
You should avoid a “hanging bridge” at all costs. That means, no hollow back!
Try to flex your abdominals, flatten your lower back, and keep tension through your glutes and legs.
When you do this, you’ll notice that it is easier to do the push-up.
Moreover, when keeping proper form, you are decreasing the risk of back injuries.
Are you a beginner at doing push-ups? No problem:
Modify the starting position, so that your hands rest against the wall.
As soon as you feel more comfortable, decrease the angle of your body by using a chair. Keep going until you are strong enough to do them flat on the floor.
2. Plyometric Push-up
Remember what I said before, about that chest muscles have more fast-twitch muscle fibers?
That means that they are better at explosive force!
And, that’s where the plyometric push-up comes in:
With this exercise, you do everything the same as with regular push-ups.
However, once you’re at the lowest position, you press up, and away from the floor as fast as you can. Consequently, you will lift your hands from the floor and catch yourself on the way down.
Please, take care when you do this exercise. Do a thorough warming-up and practice a lighter push-up variation before moving on to this version. As things go, plyometrics are very hard on your joints and tendons!
Are you struggling?
Like the push-up, if you can’t do this exercise on the floor, start against the wall or on a low table to decrease its intensity.
With the scapula push, you only move your shoulder blade when you are in a push-up position.
So, you don’t move your arms, just your shoulder girdle.
This exercise works both the chest and a muscle called the serratus anterior (saw muscle).
This muscle is located in the inside of your shoulder blade, so the biggest part of it is hidden. The only part you sometimes see in more muscled people is the saw-like muscle on the side of your ribcage.
Seen it before?
This muscle is essential for proper shoulder function.
Because this is an isolation exercise (you only work one joint, and you do one small movement), it is excellent to warm-up with.
Before you move on to heavier work, your shoulder will be activated, and there will be enough blood supply in the entire area.
Aim for a higher volume, like 4×15-20 repetitions.
In general, try to stay around 6-12 repetitions when it comes to chest training. These are the ideal number when your goal is to gain REAL upper body strength.
As the chest consists mainly of fast-twitch muscle fibers, your pectoralis respond best to heavier weights and lower repetitions.
If you are a more advanced athlete and you can easily do 20 push-ups, it’s time to increase the resistance!
Buckle up with a backpack loaded with bottles filled with sand or a couple of books.
Now, try again.