One of the most effective ways to make your entire physique look bigger is grow your pecs. Situated on the front of your upper torso, the pecs can make you look stronger and more powerful if trained correctly.
However, many people believe that you need to hit the gym in order to grow your chest. The bench press, fly and pec deck are all good exercises, but they’re not necessary to build pecs. Take a look at any gymnastic or callisthenic artist, and you’ll see they have impressive pecs but only use their bodyweight as resistance in their training.
Today, this article is going to show you exactly how to build big and aesthetic pecs from the comfort of your own home. Whether you’re strapped for time or simply can’t afford to go to a gym, there’s always a workout you can do to challenge your muscles.
The Anatomy of the Pecs
Let’s first take a look at exactly what the pecs actually are. The chest is made up of two main muscles:
1. Pectoralis major
This sits on top of the pec minor consisting of a sternal head and a clavicle head. Of the two muscles, this one is far more powerful and makes a bigger impression on your overall physique.
The main function of the pec major is to adduct (bring closer to the body) and medially rotate (turn inward) the upper portion of the arm. It also works to flex (bring forward) the arm, too.
2. Pectoralis minor
This is a much smaller, weaker muscle that lies underneath the larger pec major.
The function of the pec minor is to stabilise the scapula (shoulder blade) through abduction and depression. As well as this, it elevates the third to fifth ribs and helps to expand the ribcage.
Why choose home workouts?
There are four answers to this question:
1. Time – being able to get a good workout in from home means that you save time travelling to and from the gym. Also, it means that you can exercise whenever you want without worrying about gym or membership times. You’re far more likely to stick to your program if it fits into your schedule and works around your lifestyle.
2. Money – Not paying for a gym membership will save you a lot of money which you can use for other things. You may need to pick up some equipment to get in a good workout at home, but this will be far less than the money you’d spend each month for the gym.
3. People – Do you ever walk into an empty gym and breathe a sigh of relief? Or do you dread going in case someone sees or judges you? Well, home workouts take this fear away. You can wear what you want and do what you want without the worry of those around you.
4. Ease – There’s no doubt that home workouts are much easier to commit to than going to the gym. Less time out of your day, you know the equipment’s going to be free, as much space as you need and far less money. All in all, home workouts are much, much easier to complete.
Not all these reasons need apply to you, but chances are that at least one will.
Bodyweight Exercises for Pecs
All the exercises listed below are effective variations of the push-up. The push-up is the best bodyweight exercise you can do to work the pecs.
One piece of equipment you might want to invest in is a set of resistance bands. These can help make the exercises harder by putting it around the top of your back and then holding it down with each hand. You can also use resistance bands in other ways and exercises to target pecs.
1. Standard Press Ups
This is a great starter exercise to establish a mind-muscle connection with your pecs to stimulate more growth in the session.
Commonly, people expect that wide push ups better target the pecs. Actually, it doesn’t. Studies show something different. By performing push ups with a narrow hand position and bringing the elbows closer in to the body, more emphasis is placed on both the pecs and triceps!
To complete this exercise, simply get into a normal push up position with your hands at shoulder width or slightly wider. This will be a normal starting position for the exercise.
2. Feet Elevated Push Ups
Just as you change the angle of the bench to hit different areas of the pecs in the bench press, you can change the angle of your body for a similar result. By elevating the legs, you can hit the upper chest more and also make the exercise more challenging.
The exercise really is exactly what it says on the tin. The more you elevate your feet, the more emphasis will be placed on the shoulders and upper chest. So, choose the angle which suits you best.
3. Swiss ball push ups
By performing push ups with either the hands or the feet on a Swiss ball, studies have shown that the chest muscle was not affected via surface stability. Triceps and ab muscles showed a slight increase in muscle activation when the hands, rather than the feet, were placed onto an unstable surface.
For beginners, muscle activation will be greater than for experienced users while performing exercises on a stable surface.
4. Suspension push ups
Researchers also revealed that push ups, when performed from a suspended position, did yield greater levels of muscle activation than standard push ups. This is because the suspended position allows for a far deeper stretch and engages more of the other muscles in stabilising the body.
The chest muscles, triceps, and anterior (front) deltoid all showed increased levels of activation with suspension push ups, than with standard push ups. Therefore, when greater training challenges are needed, suspension push ups are considered to be advanced variants of standard push ups, and should be included into your training.
5. Diamond Press ups
Opposite to the wide press up, the diamond press-up forces the triceps to work harder and takes some weight off the pecs. This allows you to create further overload even when your chest is fatigued. It also means that you can build big arms in order to match your powerful pecs.
For this exercise, you need to create a triangle underneath your chest by touching your index fingers and thumbs together respectively. Come down so that the diamond touches just below your chest and then push back up.
6. Plyometric Push Ups
You don’t just want your pecs to be strong, you also want it to be fast. Establishing speed in a muscle means that you can complete reps quicker, use less energy and therefore, lift higher weights as well as recover quicker.
This exercise is simple but you won’t be able to complete as many reps as the normal push up. Simply get into the standard push up position, and push with as much force as possible to lift yourself off the ground. It’s best to aim for 3-6 reps for each set as after this, your power will drop off.
7. Archer Push Ups
The archer push up is a great way to develop a foundation towards the king of all home pec exercises: the one arm push-up. It allows for you to focus on one arm at a time whilst getting minimal help from the other arm. This will also highlight any imbalances you may have.
For this exercise, you’ll start in the same position as the wide grip push up with your hands placed slightly wider than shoulder width. From here, move your upper body closer to one hand and lower yourself down, push back up and then lean towards the other side.
8. Single-Leg Push Ups
Taking a single leg stance tests your balance and co-ordination which stimulates the chest muscles more. It’s also a great way to test the core which translates over to improving many other exercises.
Simply raise one leg and complete half your reps before switching to lifting the other leg for the remaining reps.
9. One Arm Push Ups
One of the most demanding and impressive feats of bodyweight strength is the one arm push up. It requires a lot of muscle in the arms, shoulders, core and most importantly, the pecs. Being able to complete just a single rep of this exercise is incredible and will show you just how strong your body truly is.
There are a few different positions you can try for this exercise, but the most common is separating the legs so that they’re slightly wider than hip width and then putting one hand in the small of your back. Make sure the hand of your working arm is situated directly underneath the centre of your body to create stability. From here, lower yourself down and slightly twist your upper body before raising yourself back up. It can be easy to let your stomach drop to the ground which curves the lower spine.
Try to avoid this by engaging your abs and glutes to keep a tight and stable core.
10. Tempo Push Ups
If you’re looking to improve your form and time under tension (TUT), then tempo push ups are the solution. This is where you have a set time in which to lower and raise your body. For instance, you may lower for 4 seconds, pause for 2 seconds and then raise for 4 seconds again. What this does is allow you more time to correct your form in the exercise itself and drill the correct form into your mind.
TUT has also been proven to be a prime contributor to growth. The more time your muscles are placed under a stimulus, the more likely they are to be forced to adapt and grow bigger. Tempo push ups are a great way to kill two birds with one stone.
Now, if you do want to invest in more equipment other than a resistance band so that you can do more exercises at home, then the next best option is a bench and some dumbbells. These won’t take up much space, especially if kept in your garage or spare room, but will provide you with many other options to train not only your pecs, but your entire body.
These won’t take up much space, especially if kept in your garage or spare room, but will provide you with many other options to train not only your pecs, but your entire body.
Pec workout at home
I will give you some examples of workout routines. You can try one of them without using any expensive equipment. It will help you to better understand and start your pec workout.
Standard Press Ups 2 – 4 sets of 10 – 30 reps.
Feet Elevated Push Ups 2 – 4 sets of 10 – 20 reps.
Tempo Push Ups 2 sets of 8 – 20 reps.
Archer Push Ups 3 – 4 sets of 8 – 20 reps.
Feet Elevated Push Ups 2 – 4 sets of 10 – 20 reps.
Single-Leg Push Ups 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 20 reps.
Dumbbell Incline Bench Press 3 – 4 sets of 6-12 reps.
Plyometric Push Ups 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 20 reps.
Standard Press Ups 2 – 3 sets of 10 – 30 reps.
Depending on your experience you can go for more sets or reps in push ups. Adapt training volume to your fitness level. There is no magic workout routine which suits all of us. Experiment, experiment, experiment…and you will find what works for you!
What do you think about pecs home workouts?