Home chest workout: a 5-move, equipment-free routine that will build muscle

Go for a stronger, more defined chest with this at home chest workout

Two women following the best at home chest workout
(Image credit: Photo by Nathan Cowley from Pexels)

At home chest workouts are sought out by everyone from those looking to bulk up their upper body to those who simply want to build strength in this area. 

Happily, turning excess fat into a stronger, more muscular chest is achievable by anyone, and with very little equipment. Some dedication is required too, admittedly. That's why we've created this home chest workout, to help make the task a little bit easier.

Undoubtedly one of the best exercises to build a stronger chest or larger pecs is the push-up or press-up. This will feature heavily in all home workouts as it requires zero investment in equipment but has the ability to work the arms, shoulders, back and chest in unison. But it is important to know how to do a push up properly, if you want to reap the benefits - so make sure you're familiar with correct form before you get started.

If a traditional push-up proves too difficult, fret not because there are plenty of ways to make the move easier, but still work the chest muscles to gradually build the strength that will allow you to progress to more difficult variations.

Above all else, ensure you are doing the workout justice by resting properly afterwards, allowing at least 48 hours before working the chest muscles again. It should go without saying that ensuring that you are eating healthily also goes hand-in-hand with this home chest workout, with protein playing an important role in building muscle. See our guide 'how much protein do I need?' for more information.

How to perform the best at home chest workout

The workout listed below is designed to be performed once or, at most, twice a week, as part of a wider workout regime. As mentioned before, getting the appropriate rest to allow muscles to repair and grow is essential, so don’t be tempted to over-do it here.

You’ll also notice that some of the exercises suggest using some equipment and by far the cheapest and most accessible of these is a set of resistance bands, which don't have to chose the earth (see our pick of the best resistance bands to suit all budgets) but add enough tension to gradually overload the muscle and encourage growth. More advanced exercisers could also look to add a set of dumbbells to proceedings, as this will considerably increase load on the muscles and promote growth in the long term. We've picked the best adjustable dumbbells for home use in our handy guide.

Study the form mentioned below and practice contracting the chest muscles during each repetition. The body has a clever way of incorporating other, larger muscle groups to assist in difficult movements, so you could find that you are accidentally working the shoulders or back muscles, rather than honing in on the chest. Don’t rush reps, control the breathing and you’ll see results in no time.

The best at home chest workout

1. Press-up (15 reps)

Man demoing a press up

(Image credit: Future)

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. Repeat this movement 15 times and rest for 20 seconds before moving on to the next exercise.

Make this workout easier: Rather than extending your legs out behind you, try the press-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 press-up (10-15 reps)

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 press-up, which achieves a similar outcome without so much weight placed on the upper body.

Make this workout harder: Perform a dive-bomber press-up. Start in a standard press-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 press up into an Upward Dog or Cobra pose. Reverse this on the way back and repeat.

3. Shoulder-tap press-ups (6-8 reps each side)

Another press-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 press-up but rather than merely pausing at the top of the move, you need to bring a hand off the ground and tap the opposite shoulder before returning, performing a press-up and repeating 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 press-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: What, you really want to make this harder? You could throw in a Spider-Man press-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)

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)

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. 

Leon Poultney
Leon Poultney

An automotive and technology writer by trade, Leon keeps in shape by lifting heavy objects inside and riding various machinery outside.