11 Best Bodyweight Chest Exercises That Can Help Build A Strong Upper Body

Building strong muscles can help your body function as expected and make it less challenging to perform many pulling and pushing activities.

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Your chest muscles play a vital role in many of your daily activities. Many of the moves in exercise and athletics rely on the chest muscles.

Exercises that target and work your chest muscles can help strengthen your chest muscles.

Many types of exercises can help you target your chest muscles. Some involve using various gym equipment, while others don’t rely on any gym equipment.

Bodyweight chest exercises are one group of such exercises that can help build your chest muscles without any gym equipment.

push-ups bodyweight chest exercises

Bodyweight chest exercises are some of the best movements to rely on if you do most of your fitness training in the confines of your home and have little or no gym equipment.

You can also use the bodyweight chest exercises to support your strength training and to give you variety, even if your gym is well equipped.

The Chest Muscles

The chest muscles, aka the pecs, comprise the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. They occupy a large portion of our upper body.

The chest muscles help us perform many functions, such as moving the arms up and down and across the body, rotating the arms, etc. Strong chest muscles can help your body function as expected.

Thus it is necessary to ensure your chest muscles are strong enough to support your daily activities.

Bodyweight chest exercises can help you burn more calories and prepare your body for strenuous strength training exercises.

They can also wake up some small muscles that may be difficult to target with compound exercises.

Best bodyweight chest exercises for building a strong upper body

Most bodyweight chest exercises target other upper body muscles, including your arm and shoulder muscles. Thus building your chest can help give you a strong body.

Below are some of the best bodyweight chest exercises for strengthening your upper body muscles.

Push-up

push ups bodyweight chest exercises

Push-ups are some of the well-known and best bodyweight chest exercises.

It is a compound movement that activates many muscles and joints, including your shoulder, arm, leg, and core muscles.

Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises for building chest and shoulder stability. Include the push-ups in your upper body or full body workouts.

Steps to follow

  • Get on all fours, with hands more than shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift your knees to rest your body on your toes and hands. Ensure your body, from head to toe, is in a straight line.
  • Engage your abs, and lower your body by bending your elbows.
  • Keep lowering your body until your elbows are at 90 degrees.
  • Press back to your starting position to complete a rep. Ensure you keep your body in a straight line throughout the movement. Do not sag in the middle.
  • Repeat 10-16 reps and 1-3 sets to complete a session


Chest Dip

The chest dip is one of the best bodyweight chest exercises that can also target the triceps and the shoulders.

The vertical pressing movements
that the chest dips make provide a unique stimulus for the chest muscles.

You will need a dip bar or dip station for the exercise. These are some of the best calisthenics equipment for your bodyweight exercises.

Check here for our recommended dip bars if you are yet to acquire one. There are portable ones to suit those living in small places. Alternatively, you can opt for a dip station if you have a home gym or planning to set one up.

Steps to follow

  • Using a neutral grip, grab the dip bars.
  • Unlock your elbows and lower yourself down slowly until your forearms and the floor are parallel.
  • Push through your palms and raise yourself to your starting position
  • Repeat.


Plyometric (plyo) pushups

The Plyometric push-ups, aka Plyo push-ups or clap push-ups, are advanced bodyweight chest exercises that work the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs.

You will need a strong upper body for the exercise. Thus it is not suitable for novices.

The exercise combines a push-up with “jumping” to make it more challenging and explosive. It can also help burn calories and build muscles.

The Plyo push-ups can help athletes build speed, endurance, and strength, leading to a boost in performance.

Steps to follow

  • Go into the plank pose by balancing your boding on your toes and palm, ensuring your body from head to toe is in a straight line.
  • Lower your body as if doing a push-up
  • Once at the lowest point of the movement, push yourself up forcefully and clap your hands quickly as soon as your hands leave the floor, but before you reach the top.
  • Quickly reposition your hands, land softly on the floor, and repeat the rep without pausing.

Decline Push-up

decline push-ups bodyweight chest exercises

The decline push-ups are a variation of the conventional push-ups and one of the best bodyweight chest exercises. It is similar to the incline bench and is one of the best exercises for targeting your upper chest muscles.

You will need a weight bench or an elevated platform for the exercise.

Steps to follow

  • Get on all fours, and extend your legs onto the bench. In other words,
  • Get into the push-up position with palms on the floor and toes on the weight bench. Keep your legs straight, extend your elbows, and keep your head neutral and looking at the floor.
  • Go through the push-up motions as described above for your desired number of reps.


Incline Push-up

incline push ups teres major exercises

The incline push-ups are good bodyweight chest exercises for your upper body muscles, including the chest, triceps, and shoulders.

It is similar to the decline bench press and is a way to build confidence to help you do the conventional bodyweight push-ups.

You will need a weight bench or an elevated platform for the exercise.

Steps to follow

  • Get into the push-up position with your palms on the weight bench and your toes on the floor.
  • Keep your legs straight, your head neutral and looking down, and extend your elbows.
  • Go through the push-up motions as described earlier for your desired number of reps.

Burpees

burpees bodyweight chest exercises

Burpees are full-body exercises that comprise a push-up followed by an explosive jump into the air.

Burpees are one of the best bodyweight exercises for targeting your chest muscles, building strength and endurance, and burning unwanted fat simultaneously. They are also a great way to boost your cardio fitness.

Steps to follow to do the burpees

Spiderman Push-up

The spiderman push-up is another compound exercise for your chest, core, and obliques.

It is one of the bodyweight chest exercises that target muscles in your upper and lower bodies.

It is an advanced variation of conventional push-ups. Thus you should master that before progressing to the spiderman push-ups.

Steps to follow

  • Go into the plank pose with hands more than shoulder-width apart and stretched full and directly under your shoulders. Ensure your body, from head to heels, is in a straight line.
  • Brace your core.
  • Inhale and lower your chest to the floor by bending your elbows to form a 45-degree angle with your body.
  • Move your left knee up and out to your elbow just before your chest touches the floor.
  • Reverse the movement by extending your elbows to push up to the plank position while at the same time returning your left foot to the floor. Exhale as you reverse the movement.
  • Repeat for the other side of your body
  • After completing all the reps, place your knees on the floor, kneel, and then stand.

T-Push Up

The T-push-ups combine a push-up with a side plank.

They are bodyweight chest exercises for working your upper body muscles, including your chest, shoulders, and triceps. The inclusion of a plank allows you to challenge your core muscles.

Steps to follow

  • Get on all fours, with hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  • Extend your legs and get into the push-up position with your legs and elbows in full extension. Keep your head neutral and look down.
  • Retract your shoulder blades, unlock your elbows, and slowly push your chest towards the floor until your chest touches the floor.
  • Push back to your starting position.
  • Then rotate your upper back and extend your arm to point to the ceiling while following the movement of your hand with your eyes.
  • Reverse and repeat the motions with your other hand to complete a rep
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.


Muscle Up

The muscle up is a combination of pull-up and dip exercises. Its primary target is the chest muscles, but your lats, shoulders, biceps, triceps, and muscles benefit.

Muscle ups are advanced bodyweight chest exercises that require total body control. Attempt them after mastering push-ups and straight bar dips.

You will need a pull-up bar for the exercise.

Steps to follow

  • Using a false grip, go into a hanging position on a dip bar.
  • Pull yourself up behind the bar.
  • As your momentum starts losing pace and your chest gets closer to the bar, move from a pull-up into a dip.
  • Finish the dip by extending your body, legs, and elbows
  • Flip your elbows to reverse the movement and get back into the pull-up
  • Lower back slowly to your starting position
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps

TRX Single-Arm Chest Press

The single-arm chest press is one of the best upper body strength exercises for your chest, triceps, and shoulders. You will usually use a cable machine for the exercises.

But you can use TRX Suspension Trainers instead. Doing the exercises separately on each arm allows you to correct imperfections on any side of your upper body.

You will be standing for the exercises. That will allow many of your body muscles to work together to deliver results.

Using TRX will allow you to adjust the intensity to make the exercise less or more challenging. The instability of the TRX Suspension Trainers will require stabilization from your upper and lower bodies.

The TRX single-arm chest press is one of the best bodyweight chest exercises for correcting pressing imbalances between the sides of your body.

Aside from your chest, the exercise will target your triceps, front deltoid, glutes, and core.

You will need TRX Suspension Trainers for the exercises.

Steps to follow

  • Anchor the suspension trainers at a high point.
  • Stand upright, loop the handles together, and grab them with one arm.
  • Position yourself with your back toward the anchor point. The closer your feet are from the anchor point, the more horizontal to the floor your body will be, and the more challenging the exercise will be. Ensure you place the straps over your shoulders.
  • Without rotating your body, lower yourself slowly as far as possible.
  • Press back to return to your starting position.
  • Repeat for your desired number of reps.
  • Change hand positions and go through the motions for the other side of your body.


TRX Chest Fly

The chest fly is one of the best ways to work your pectoral muscles without putting much stress on your joints. You will usually use a cable machine for the exercise. But you can use TRX Suspension Trainers if you are training away from the commercial gym or don’t have access to a cable machine.

The TRX chest fly mimics the motions of a cable machine, making it one of the best bodyweight chest exercises to include in your training. It is one of the best ways to build strength in the pushing muscles of your body, including your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

You will need TRX Suspension Trainers for the exercises. You can also use adjustable gymnastic rings instead.

Steps to follow

  • Anchor the suspension trainers at a high point.
  • Stand upright, grab the handles, and position yourself facing away from the anchor point. The further your feet are from the anchor point, the less horizontal to the floor your body will be, and the easier the exercise will be. You can also take a staggered stance with one of your legs in front to make the exercise less challenging.
  • Extend your arms and bring them up to chest level, still holding the handles with palms facing each other. Ensure you place the suspension trainers above your shoulders and keep your body straight.
  • Stabilize your shoulders, abs, and glutes.
  • Start lowering yourself towards the floor while opening your stretched arms in an arc motion. Ensure you keep a slight bend in your elbows.
  • Lower yourself as far as possible, or when you feel a mild stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  • Pause, and following the arc motion, pull your arms together to move your body back to your starting position. Ensure you keep your body straight and your arms extended with a slight bend in the elbows throughout the movement
  • Repeat.

Final words from LiveLIfe

Building strong chest muscles can help your body function as expected and make it less challenging to perform many pulling and pushing activities.

You don’t need expensive gym equipment or a gym membership to target and strengthen your chest muscles.

Incorporate these bodyweight chest exercises into your training to help build a strong upper body.

  1. Robert M Cogley, Teasha A Archambault, Jon F Fibeger, et al. 2005. Comparison of muscle activation using various hand positions during the push-up exercise. National Library of Medicine. PMID: 16095413 DOI: 10.1519/15094.1
  2. Arm exercises: Push-up. (n.d.). American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  3. Andrews E. (2016). Explosive plyometric workout. American Council on Exercise (ACE)

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