Chest workouts at home to build muscle and develop strength

Use these chest workouts at home to build upper body muscle and get stronger

chest workouts at home
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Although many people opt for the gym, doing chest workouts at home is a great way to develop strength. You don't need large machines or expensive equipment either, as you can do most of the exercises with your bodyweight alone.

This makes them ideal for building upper body strength and developing your pectoral muscles without breaking the bank. And you can add a set of the best resistance bands to each move if you want to increase the load and work your muscles harder.

Training without weights also means that this routine is great for when you're tight on time or traveling. Equipment-free exercises, like learning how to do a push-up, make for a great beginner chest workout at home, too, as you'll do more repetitions as you get stronger.

You can do most of the moves here without equipment, although you'll need a set of weights (like the best adjustable dumbbells) for the floor chest flys. These customizable weights combine several dumbbells in one, making them an excellent choice for at-home chest workouts.

You can add some of these exercises into your regular workout or add them into your schedule as an upper-body-focused routine. Be sure to focus on your form to get the most from your training, develop your chest, and get stronger.

How to perform the best chest workouts at home

The workout listed below is ideal for slipping in a few times a week alongside your current exercise routine. Although we’ve included rep targets, the most important thing is to focus on your form and achieve as much as possible without injuring yourself. 

The more experience you get with each move, the easier it’ll be to reach the target. Similarly, if you’re breezing through the exercises, consider increasing the number of reps. Just be sure to give yourself enough time to rest between workouts for effective muscle repair. 

A few of the best chest workouts at home also use additional equipment, like dumbbells or resistance bands. If you invest in a set of the best adjustable dumbbells, you’ll be able to adjust the weights up over time as you build muscle and feel able to lift more. 

Chest workouts at home: the five best moves

1. Push up

Man demoing a push up

(Image credit: Future)

15 reps, rest for 20 seconds

Place your palms flat on the floor just underneath your chest, extend legs out behind you and balance weight on the toes. Keeping the back flat, press your bodyweight up through your palms. Squeeze the shoulder blades together, keep the elbows pointing behind you and tucked in towards the sides. 

To place more emphasis on the chest muscles, practice contracting the pecs during this early pushing stage, pause at the top for a second and slowly lower towards the ground, keeping tension on the chest muscles by leading with the pecs. 

  • Make this workout easier: Rather than extending your legs out behind you, try the push up from a kneeling position.
  • Make this workout harder: Add an explosive plyometric element by pressing so the hands briefly leave the ground during the mid-portion, before slowly lowering, resetting and repeating.

2. Decline push up

10-15 reps, rest for 20 seconds

Exactly as before but place your feet up on a chair or a solid raised platform. This elevated angle increases the load on the lower portion of the pecs, which helps produce that coveted pronounced chest look.   

During the lowering portion of this move, ensure you angle you body down towards the ground and lead with the chest, stopping just before the pecs brush the ground, pause and press back up again.

  • Make this workout easier: Place your hands on a stable raised platform, rather than the legs. This transforms the move into an incline push up, which achieves a similar outcome without so much weight placed on the upper body.
  • Make this workout harder: Perform a dive-bomber push up. Start in a standard push up position but walk your hands backwards until the body adopts the Downward Dog yoga pose (an inverted V). From here, lower the chest towards the ground and continue to glide through your shoulders as your push up into an Upward Dog or Cobra pose. Reverse this on the way back and repeat.

3. Shoulder-tap push up

6-8 reps on each side, rest for 20 seconds between sets

Another push up variation! We told you this move is excellent for developing a bigger, stronger chest. In this alternative, all you have to do is perform a push up but rather than pausing at the top of the move, you need to bring a hand off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder. 

Return your hand to the ground, then perform a push up and repeat on the other side. Ensure you keep stable throughout by squeezing the abs and glutes (butt muscles). Don't be tempted to rush the shoulder tap and work each side equally.

  • Make this workout easier: Remove the push up element from this move and simply alternate the shoulder taps. This move will work the shoulders but contracting the chest muscles as you bring the hand across your chest will also engage the pecs.
  • Make this workout harder: Add in a Spider-Man push up before each shoulder tap, where you bring your right knee out to meet the right elbow during the lowering portion. Repeat this on the left side and ensure you work both sides equally.

4. Resistance band press

10-15 reps, rest for 20 seconds

Grab the best resistance band you can find, and a bench if you have one (the floor is fine if you don't). Loop the band around your back and grab a length in the palm of each hand before laying back on the bench or floor.

Press your feet into the ground, squeeze your shoulder blades back and towards your butt and press the band up with both hands, leading with the chest, not the shoulders.

Don't allow the shoulders to roll forward, ensure they are pinned back. Stop just before the arms are completely locked out to keep tension on the pecs and slowly lower back to the start position.

  • Make this workout easier: A declined press can feel easier for those just starting out but realistically, it’s simply a case of picking up a much lighter resistance band.
  • Make this workout harder: Invest in some heavy dumbbells and perform a typical bench or floor press. The additional weight will force the chest muscles to work harder.

5. Floor chest fly

10-15 reps, rest for 20 seconds

You'll need a set of dumbbells for this one but it is worth it for the gains. Lie on the floor with shoulders pressed into the ground and start with the dumbbells held out-stretched above your chest, arms not quite locked out, knuckles facing inwards.

Lower the dumbbells by slowly bringing them out and down towards the ground, as if you were spreading the arms out wide. Keep the chest engaged and shoulder blades squeezed tight and pause just before the triceps hit the ground.

Ensure tension is kept on the pecs and don't rest on the ground before pressing the dumbbells out and up to the start position, breathing out as you do so.

  • Make this workout easier: Don't worry if you don’t have dumbbells as this move can be practiced with tinned goods or anything that has some heft (just ensure there is an equal weight in each hand).
  • Make this workout harder: Increase the weight of the dumbbell gradually but also try tempo training. Attempt a three-second lowering portion, pause for a second and then take a further three-seconds to press back up. Pause for a second and repeat. This increases time under tension and makes things a lot more difficult. 

Want to know more? Find out; can you build muscle in a calorie deficit?

An automotive and technology writer by trade, Leon keeps in shape by lifting heavy objects inside and riding various machinery outside. Leon is an Editor who has written for Wired Uk, The Sun, Stuff Magazine, and Fit&Well's sister title, T3. Now though, Leon is working for The Gear Loop covering just about everything from hiking to kayaking.