By Leon Poultney published
The best chest workouts with resistance bands are a cost-effective way to build upper body strength. Resistance bands are one of the most versatile pieces of fitness tools, as you can use them for a range of workouts.
Whether you're training from home or working out in a gym, resistance bands can be just as effective as using free weights. However, they are much more affordable, lightweight, and take up little space.
This makes them ideal if you are short on space or want to fit in a workout while traveling or those who want to smash out some of the best at-home chest workouts to build practical muscle.
If you're looking to improve your upper body strength, the best chest workouts with resistance bands can help you do this. As the name suggests, resistance bands offer you different tension levels. The thicker the band you opt for, the more resistance it'll add to your workout.
So, if you're looking for the best chest exercises with resistance bands, look no further. Here's our ultimate guide to the best chest workouts with resistance bands, from resistance band push-ups to chest presses.
Which resistance bands should I buy?
Before you get going with the chest workouts with resistance bands below, you'll need the right kit - i.e. a set of the best resistance bands.
Likened by many as glorified rubber bands, they come in all manner of shapes, sizes and gauges. Generally, they are color-coded to represent different tension levels, with the skinnier bands offering the least tension and the thicker (often darker colored) bands representing the heaviest tension.
The heavier you go in terms of gauge, the harder it will be to physically move that band, as it represents a much greater weight, so it is a good idea to invest in a range of bands to cover all bases (and exercises) and offer something more challenging when the moves become too easy.
Bands also come in different shapes, with the latex, flat bands often only really designed for light stretching. The heavy duty numbers are much better suited to exercise, while the specially designed rubber tubing is also typically offered with a variety of handle attachments, making them easier to grip and use.
The great thing about resistance bands is that they offer something to suit all levels of workout intensity, and they're also highly affordable.
Ready to work? Complete the five moves below for the best chest workouts with resistance bands...
Best chest workouts with resistance bands: a five-move routine
1. Resistance band push up
4 x sets of 10-15 reps
Any chest workout worth its salt involves the push up (or press up). When performed correctly (see our guide on how to do a push up for tips on perfect form), this move is absolutely brilliant at activating the pecs, as well as targeting muscles in the arms, upper back and even the abs.
Introducing a resistance band works the chest harder, placing the muscles under constant tension throughout the move. Wrap the loop of the band around the palm of your left hand and pass it behind your back, grabbing the other end in the palm of your right hand.
Now enter a push up position, with the band in between your palms and the floor, legs extended behind you, back flat, stomach and butt muscles squeezed tight. Lower to the floor in a slow, controlled manner, keeping your elbows tucked in towards your sides.
Hold at the bottom of this move, with your forehead and chest hovering just off the ground and press back up explosively. The heavier the band, the more resistance you will feel at this portion of the move and the harder it will work the chest muscles.
2. Chest press
4 x sets of 10-15 reps
Find a pole, bar or anything solid that you can wrap the band around and grab an end in each hand, with the band behind you. Take a step forward and bring your arms parallel to the floor, so your fists stop in line with your chest. From here, keep the back straight, engage your core and press the bands out in front of you using the chest muscles, so the hands almost touch when the arms are extended.
Don’t let your shoulder round or start to drift forward - your chest should be open wide with your shoulders pulled back and down towards your butt. The heavier the band is, the harder this move will be, so make sure you start off light and gradually increase the thickness of your band as your form improves.
3. Standing lower chest fly
4 x sets of 10-15 reps
Due to the amount of stretch that’s required for this move, you will need either a thin, lower gauge closed loop band or, preferably, tube resistance bands with a set of handles attached to each end. Run the band under the soles of your feet and stand straight with a solid base.
Grab each end of the resistance band and hold the handles (or band) at around waist-height. Keeping your shoulders pinned back and down towards your butt, raise your arms straight up (palms facing the ceiling) until your extended arms are hovering up at eye level.
Again, focus on contracting your chest muscles on the way up and slowly lower to the beginning of the move in a controlled fashion. The longer you take on the lowering (eccentric) portion, the more emphasis is placed on the muscles.
4. Single arm resistance band crossover
4 x sets of 10-15 reps on each arm
This move is typically performed on a cable machine in the gym, but you can achieve an effective chest workout with a resistance band. Loop the band securely around a bar or pole (a sturdy tree trunk will also work) so you have one end or a single handle dangling.
Stand side on to the band with feet hip-width apart and grab the resistance band with the hand closest to the band. Now take a few steps away to create some resistance. Your arm should be out to your side, palm around head height and facing down towards the ground. Using your corresponding pectoral muscle (don’t let your shoulders roll forward) pull the handle down towards the ground but keep the arm almost locked at the elbow.
The band should cross the midpoint of your body just in front of your groin, where maximum flex of the chest muscle will be felt. Hold this point for a second or two and then slowly return the band to its starting position, making sure you are controlled throughout. Repeat the same amount of reps on each arm.
5. Resistance band pullover
4 x sets of 10-15 reps
Ensure you have a mat (one of our best yoga mat picks would do the trick) or some kind of soft surface to lay on, as well as an anchor point to wrap a resistance band around. A sturdy table leg or the bottom of a fence post works well, just as long as the object won’t move as you start adding tension to the band.
Lay on your back with knees bent and feet pressed firmly into the floor. Position yourself so you can reach behind you to grab the band. There should be a slight resistance here but ensure there is enough length to carry out the move without it becoming too difficult.
Grab the band with both hands and pull the band over your head using your chest muscles (keeping the arms locked throughout). Hold for a few seconds at the top of the move, where the hands should be directly in your line of sight if looking up at the ceiling.
Control the lowering portion and return to the start position slowly, ensuring there is a load on the chest muscles throughout. Again, it is a good idea to start with a thinner band to decrease the resistance slightly and make it easier to perfect form. Start to increased the gauge of the band as you improve.
Why use resistance bands instead of weights for your chest workout?
The beauty of resistance bands – apart from the fact that you don’t need masses of floorspace to house a gargantuan chest press machine – is that they place the muscles under constant tension, meaning they are worked on the explosive pushing or pulling portion of the move, as well as when returning to the start position. The elastic band is constantly pulling on your arms, always wanting to be slack, so a slower, controlled lowering or "eccentric" phase tasks your muscles all the way through the movement.
Resistance band users claim that the quality of each repetition is better than training with, say, just free weights or machinery, as they promote the small stabilizing muscles to fire into action, which will pay dividends for anyone looking to improve their fitness over the long term. They're also a lot safer than free weights for older exercisers and people with joint issues, as errors in form are less likely to cause injury. If you drop or let go of a resistance band, it's a very light piece of elastic that snaps back to its original form, whereas dropping a heavy dumbbell or barbell can lead to injury.
For the same reason, exercising with resistance bands offers a great home workout solution for people living in apartment blocks – they certainly create less noise than heavy dumbbells. Resistance bands are relatively cheap, lightweight and ultimately portable pieces of kit, making them great for those working out at home, the local park or even when traveling.
However, that's not to say they offer an easy ride, as they can certainly perform as well as free weights or bodyweight training in the right circumstances. A study published in the scientific journal Frontiers in Sports and Active Living found that resistance band deadlifts "produced higher force when compared to free weights". This increased force, combined with the constant pressure on your muscles thanks to the resistance band's elastic force, helps to tax your muscles and work them harder. This, in turn, will help them grow.
Fueling your resistance band chest workout
If you're performing these resistance band movements, you're working to tax your muscles, and they might be sore the next day. The reason they're sore is something called delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) caused by lots of very small tears in the muscle fibres.
Don't worry: these tears are totally normal. The muscle repairs these tears over time, leaving it bigger and stronger than when it started. Think about filling in a crack in the sidewalk with cement, then spreading another layer of cement on top. If you do that once a week, soon the layer of cement will be much thicker than it used to be.
The cement is your muscles: over time, your muscles get thicker and stronger. However, in order to do this, you'll need a good source of protein to consume after your workout, which acts like cement mixture. Great sources of protein can be pulses like peas and beans, legumes, soy, lean red meat and white meat such as chicken or turkey.
Try and eat a good-size serving of protein as soon as possible after a workout in order to help your muscles grow. Alternatively, you can check out our guide to the best protein powder for weight loss, which offers a convenient low-carbohydrate muscle-building solution.
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.
Best rowing machines for home to upgrade your workouts
Buying Guide The best rowing machines you can buy to get a total body workout done at home including foldable and water rowers
By Chris Smith • Published
Best exercise machines to lose weight: Top treadmills, multi-gyms, rowers and more
Buying Guide We find which of the the best exercise machines to lose weight is right for you, no matter your budget or exercise style
By Lee Bell • Published