When your burning fitness desire is to build a chest worthy of a 1980s cartoon character it’s natural to drift towards the bench press, but in truth it’s going to take a whole lot more than pressing to sculpt the popping pecs you’re after. Consider this for starters: the main function of the pecs is to move your arms inwards towards one another, which is impossible to do while holding a barbell, so if you stick solely to the bench press your chest is going to be left short-changed.
An easy solution is to forget all about the bench and do your chest workout at home. You don’t need any kit to do this home workout designed by strength and conditioning expert JC Santana. It’s made up entirely of press-up variations and hits the muscles in your chest and arms from all manner of different directions to ensure every part of your upper body gets the workout it deserves.
The workout uses the optimum number of reps needed for muscle growth, and here’s a bit of really good news – that number isn’t all that high, so you can rattle through the workout in just a few minutes. Probably something like the amount of minutes you’d normally spend waiting for the bench in a gym. Use that saved time as you wish, but it would be a shame if some of it wasn’t spent working on your pec-dance.
How to do it
- Do this workout once or twice a week.
- Do it 48 hours away from your regular bench day or your regular upper-body workout.
- Do all the reps of each move back to back (or with as little rest as possible), rest for two minutes, repeat, rest for two minutes and then repeat one last time.
Rotational press-up – Reps 20
- Start in a press-up position and lower yourself to one side, twisting as you do so most of your weight is on one shoulder.
- Press up, then do the same on the other side. That’s two reps.
Shuffle press-up – Reps 20
- Get in a press-up position with one hand ahead of your shoulder and one behind. Lower yourself to the floor and press up. That’s one rep.
- At the top of the move, jump or walk your hands into the opposite position, then do the next rep. Continue alternating.
Diamond press-up – Reps 10
- For this triceps blaster, position your hands together under your chest so your index fingers and thumbs form a triangle, and lower yourself until your chest touches your hands.
- Press back up to the start.
Gorilla press-up – Reps 10
- Start in a standard press-up position, lower yourself to the floor and then press up quickly, launching yourself off the floor.
- Slap your chest quickly before returning your hands to the start position.
One-leg press-up – Reps 10
- Raise one leg, keeping your glutes tight, and do a press-up.
- Switch legs and repeat. That’s two reps. Now do the rest.
More Home Workout Chest Moves
After a few weeks of doing that workout, add variety by switching out some of the moves with these ones. Even if it’s just a slight variation on the move it’s always good to hit your muscles in different ways and from different angles to ensure maximum growth. Some of the moves are performed with the use of a box, but if you don’t have one at home just grab anything that will elevate your body when your arm(s) rests on it, a large thick book for example.
Start in a press-up position but with your hands in front of your shoulders. As you bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor, twist your hips to one side and then back the other way, keeping your core engaged throughout. Then press back to the start. Starting with your hands further forward works your shoulders harder, while adding a hip rotation with each rep recruits your core and lower abs muscles.
Start in a normal press-up position but as you lower yourself reach one arm out to the side, resting on your wrist. Return to the start. Repeat with your other arm. This variation tests those small but important stabilising muscles of the shoulder that must work hard to support your bodyweight as you lower then lift your torso repeatedly. It also works your core muscles, which are forced to maintain torso stability with each rep.
Start in a press-up position then raise your hips and bend your elbows. Lower your head and chest down and forwards, moving your torso in a smooth arc to raise your head and chest. Reverse the movement to return to the start position. It works your shoulders hard, as well as your core to maintain torso stability.
Alternating shuffle press-up
Get yourself into the classic press-up position. Move your left hand to the right until both hands are next to each other. Then, slide your right hand further right until your hands are back in the original position (shoulder-width apart). At this point perform a press-up and then repeat the move in the opposite direction. That’s one rep.
Dynamic box press-up
Place both hands on a box in the diamond press-up position (outlined above). Lower your body and press as explosively as you can off the box, so your hands are able to land on the floor with the box placed between them. Immediately lower your body and press explosively up so that your hands land straight back on the box in the position that you started in. That counts as one rep. Watch your chin, though – people have been known to catch theirs on the box mid-rep. Not pretty.
Quite self-explanatory this one. Perform a press-up with your left hand on the floor and your right hand supported on the box. Switch over arms and then repeat. Remember that counts as one rep, not two.
Cross-over box press-up
Perform a one-arm press-up with your right hand on a box (or any other raised platform). From the starting position, lift your left hand to beside your right, then move your right hand down to the floor keeping your hands roughly shoulder-width apart. Perform a press-up. That counts as one rep.
Hands-on-box diamond press-up
Once again, fairly straightforward. Perform a diamond press-up but this time keep both hands planted on the box.