Weights are great exercise tools, but they aren’t the only way to work out. Whether you’re giving the bench press a rest or you can’t get to the gym, you can build chest strength anywhere — no weights required.
And don’t worry about cost, either. This chest workout is totally BYOBW: Bring Your Own Body Weight.
Traditional push-ups are an obvious go-to, but mixing it up with push-up variations like wide push-ups can keep things fun while seriously working your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Start in plank position with toes on the floor. Move hands wider than shoulder width. Lower your body toward the floor, and then push back up. Don’t let hips sag, and avoid pushing upper body up first.
Do 10 reps per set, taking a 30-second rest between sets.
- Don’t let your hips sag.
- Drop to your knees to modify the move.
- Don’t push your upper body up first — move your body as a unit.
Resistance band bench press
You don’t need a bar to get the chest and arm results of bench pressing.
Place your resistance band on the bench legs or wrap it under your back. Holding one end of the band in each hand, press the band up and then lower it back down.
Do 10–12 reps.
- Move your hands toward each other at the top.
- Let your thumbs graze your shoulders as you lower.
Standing chest press
Get friendly with a nearby pole and use a resistance band for a standing chest press (great if you’re in a place where the floor seems sketchy but you still want to work your upper bod). It’ll improve your balance and target your the rotator cuff, erector spinae, and transversus muscles.
Wrap the band around a pole or anchor it at about chest height. Standing with your back to the pole and holding one end of the band in each hand, step forward to reduce the slack.
With hands at chest height, press from your chest all the way out, and then bring hands back toward chest.
Try 12–15 reps.
- Don’t lock your elbows on the extension.
Start standing. Squat and place your hands on the floor. Jump your feet back into plank position. Do a push-up. Jump your feet to your hands, into a squat.
Optional: Jump as high as you can, throwing your hands over your head.
Start with a few reps and work up to 2 sets of 10.
- Don’t arch your back in the plank position before you jump up.
- Your chest — not just your belly button or pelvis — should touch the floor during the push-up.
- Look straight ahead as you stand up and jump.
Resistance band push-up
Grab a resistance band and try these push-ups for a little extra oomph.
Position the resistance band across your upper back and loop the ends of the band through your thumbs. Then get into plank position with your hands on the floor.
Lower your chest to the floor, and then push back up, squeezing your glutes and abs for stability.
Complete 5–20 reps.
- Contract your glutes and abs before pushing up.
Kick things up a notch with these exercises that use your body weight to improve chest strength.
Got parallel bars (or two sturdy chairs) handy? Get dippin’.
Support yourself with both parallel objects to raise your feet off the floor. Keep elbows straight, head aligned with knees, and wrists under forearms. Engage abs and interlock legs to stabilize your lower body.
Bend elbows and lower your body until elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Keep your upper arms parallel with the floor and your wrists straight, and keep legs directly under your body to prevent swinging.
Pause and push into the bars to return to the starting position.
Do 8–12 reps, working up to 2–3 sets.
- Don’t look up and down during the move — keep your head and neck neutral.
Looking for a chiseled chest? Diamond push-ups change up your arm position to work your triceps too.
Start in plank position. Bring your hands together so your pointer fingers and thumbs make the shape of a diamond (or triangle)
Bend your elbows inward and lower your torso to just a few inches above the floor. Press back up. Do 2–3 sets of 10 reps.
- Squeeze your thighs and glutes for stability.
Make nice with a bench (or the couch) and work on your push-ups with a little elevation.
Facing a bench, place both hands on the bench at shoulder width or slightly wider. Plant your feet behind you. Lower yourself toward the bench, keeping your back straight, and then push back up.
- Don’t let your hips dip down.
Can’t stand planks or push-ups? Well, these exercises can blast your chest and core when combined… so it’s time to get acquainted.
Start in forearm plank position. Raise your body into push-up position one arm at a time. Focus on pushing up with your triceps. Lower yourself back down to forearm plank one arm at a time.
Start with a few and work up to 2 sets of 10 reps.
- Don’t let your hips dip, and keep your back straight.
Take the traditional push-up up a notch by elevating your feet higher than your hands. Place your feet on the platform of your choice, but keep in mind: The higher the bench, box, or chair is, the more intense the movement — and the better the results — will be.
Prepare a platform, like a bench, box, or chair. Start on hands and knees, and then place your feet on the platform. Perform a traditional push-up.
Try for 2–4 sets of 8–20 reps.
- Start with a low platform and gradually increase the height.
- Keep your back straight throughout the movement. To avoid arching your back, tilt your pelvis backward and engage your core and glutes to stabilize your spine.
Mastered the push-up? Now try it with one hand and unleash your inner Rocky.
Start in plank position. Place one arm at your side or slightly behind your back.
Lower your body down on the other arm, and then press back up to plank position.
- To make it a little easier, allow your push-up arm to go out so your hand is wider than your shoulder. Your feet can also move wider than hip width.
- Keep the arm behind your back straight.
Add more intensity to push-ups by lifting one leg off the floor. This forces your chest muscles to do more work.
Start in a plank position with legs straight. Lift one foot 3 inches off the floor. Bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the floor, and then push back up
Try 10 reps on each side.
- Keep your hips parallel to the floor.
Plyometric push-ups are an advanced exercise you should try only if you’ve mastered the traditional push-up and all its family members (variations).
Start in plank position. As you lower yourself toward the floor, press your weight through your hands into the floor. Push your hands and body off the floor and spring up.
Try 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.
- Keep your abs tight, back flat, and neck aligned with spine.
Pull-ups are simple in theory, but in reality, they’re pretty hard. They work your shoulders and your chest.
Start by hanging from the bar with an overhand grip. Squeeze your shoulder blades back and down to raise your body. Pull up with your arms until your chin reaches the bar, and then lower back down.
Work up to 2 sets of 10 reps.
- Keep your neck in a neutral position.
- Keep your core tight so your chest touches the bar.
Got a TRX suspension training system hanging around? Use it to take your push-ups to the next level.
Adjust the straps to full length. Stand at a 45-degree angle, facing away from the anchor point. Grip the handles and lower your chest toward your hands, and then press back up to the starting position.
Do 10 reps.
- Keep your back flat and core engaged as you lower into a push-up.
- To make it harder, put your feet closer to the anchor point.
“When it comes to training for the first time and even for the more advanced fitness person, bodyweight is the way to go,” says Ryan Toth, a fitness training specialist at Total Core Fitness in New Jersey.
“I like to call pure bodyweight exercises foundation exercises. Once you get good at the mechanics of the movement and start to get stronger, move on to ones that include weights and/or bands,” Toth advises. Then you can start to do them for longer amounts of time too.
He recommends starting with four of the exercises and doing them in intervals with rest breaks. Then you can work up to incorporating bands or weights.
“This allows you to do as many as you feel comfortable and not getting discouraged, especially in the beginning if you cannot get the recommended reps in,” Toth says. “On top of that, this style of training will allow for more fat loss and muscle growth at the same time.”