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    The Only Calisthenics Chest Workout You Need for a Strong, Muscular Chest + 42 Bodyweight Chest Exercises

    When the average person thinks about how to build a strong muscular chest, most minds immediately imagine a huge pair of dumbbells, hefty barbells, and hundreds of pounds of iron being thrown around as the only way to build muscle.

    calisthenics chest workout

    That couldn’t be further from the truth. Look at any gymnast and you’ll stee it is clearly possible to build a perfect body and chiseled pectoral muscles with only bodyweight training and without the gym membership. In this article I’ll share how that’s possible via a simple, easy, and effective calisthenics chest workout, and all of the information you need for a solid home chest workout.

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    (Click here to jump to the workouts)

    Contents of this Calisthenics Chest Workout Guide

    Let’s start with the a simple, easy to follow calisthenics workout…then get into the information from there

    (Click here to jump to the beginner, intermediate, and advanced chest workouts, and learn how to adjust difficulty for maximum effectiveness)

    The Myth: You Need Weights to build a strong, muscular chest

    Whether we’re using strength training or any other resistance training, strength and muscle is developed by training your body with resistance and accumulating “time under tension.” It doesn’t matter whether that resistance comes from heavy weights, or your own weight hanging from gymnastics rings.

    With the right bodyweight exercises, that generate enough resistance to trigger growth, done with a sufficient number of reops structured into a calisthenic chest workout that packages those exercises together in a muscle and strength increase stimulating body weight chest workout with only your own body weight.

    Truth: You can build muscle and strength with calisthenics…if you have the right exercises the right routine

    Because muscle and strength is increased by overloading your muscles with resistance, to the point of near failure, in calisthenics, the hardest part of training is learning how to crank up the resistance, using only your bodyweight.

    With weights, achieving muscular overload with resistance is easy, we just add more weight plates. With our body weight we can’t increase our body weight (excluding adding a weight vest) so we use varying angles to create the best bodyweight exercises for creating muscle building resistance

    Choosing bodyweight chest exercises for muscle mass and a strong chest

    The best bodyweight chest exercises for you to effectively develop your chest muscles will depend on your strength and fitness level. Of the exercises I’ll list below, the exercises that will be best for you are will be the movements that you can do for 3 sets of 6 to 10 repetitions, getting close to fatigue and failure during the last set, or for 3 sets of 25 to 30 second holds for static exercises.

    Don’t worry, I’ll share three workouts for beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes to start with. Additionally, I’ll share the exercise progressions – so that when you’re successfully doing an exercise with 4 sets of 10 reps, you’ll know the exercise that’s the next level up to swap into your workout.

    Piece together exercises that work the entire chest area, upper and lower, in the workout

    In addition to choosing exercises at your level – that generate enough resistance to stimulate growth but are achievable enough to get enough “training volume” (number of reps in a total workout) to stimulate growth, you will need to do exercises that cover that work the entire area of your chest – both your upper chest and lower chest area, covering the entire pectoralis major.

    (Click here to jump to the workouts)

    Structuring the Perfect Calisthenics Workout

    Though variety is generally good and entertaining in life, if you are aiming specifically to develop your chest using calisthenics exercises, you are better off repeating what works until you get results, and then vary from that point forward if necessary for motivation or new stimulus.

    The beauty of this approach is we can use a simple workout structure repeatedly.

    Note that to provide the right amount of training stimulus – enough to trigger muscle growth, but not enough to trigger muscle strain or injury – we’ll stay in the “sweet spot” for each chest workout by using the following general workout guidelines.

    • Beginner: 3 sets, 3 to 4 exercises, 8 to 12 reps – 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between exercises, 1 to 2.5 minutes between sets
    • Intermediate: 4 sets, 3 to 4 exercises, 6 to 12 reps – 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between exercises, 1 to 2.5 minutes between sets
    • Advanced: 4 sets, 4 exercises, 6 to 12 reps (depending on goals) – 30 seconds to 1 minute rest between exercises, 1 to 2.5 minutes between sets

    The Perfect Calisthenics Chest Workout for Strength and Muscle

    • 4×6-12 Pushup variations
    • 4x 6-12 Chest dips or variations
    • 4×6-12 – Handstand Pushup or Pike Push Up variation
    • 4×6-12 – Chest fly variation
    • 2 x 60 second hold, core stability movement that engages the chest and triceps (l-sits, crucifix planks, etc.)

    Beginner calisthenics chest workout

    • 3×12 Regular Push-ups (scale down to incline push ups or knee push-ups) –> clap push ups –> decline push up
    • 3×12 Chair dips or leg supported parallette dips
    • 3×12 – Pike Push up
    • 3x 25 seconds – Crucifix plank hold with knees on ground, elbows bent
    • 2 x 60 second hold, core stability movement that engages the chest and triceps (l-sits, crucifix planks, etc.)

    Intermediate calisthenics workout

    • 4×6-12 Archer push-ups each arm or pause push-ups
    • 4x 6-12 Ring Dips
    • 4×6-12 – Dive bomber push-ups (bottom of push-up + push into a pike)
    • 4×6-12 – Archer chest flys with sliders
    • 2 x 60 second hold, core stability movement that engages the chest and triceps (l-sits, crucifix planks, etc.)

    Advanced version workout routine

    • 4×6-12 Tucked planche push-up or pseudo planche push-up
    • 4x 6-12 Ring dips with weight (backpack or weighted vest)
    • 4×6-12 – Handstand Pushups or 90 degree push-ups
    • 4×6-12 – Floor slider chest flys or gymnastics rings flys
    • 2 x 60 second hold, core stability movement that engages the chest and triceps (l-sits, crucifix planks, etc.)

    How to Do it: Exercising and recovering to build your chest

    Now that you know how to do a bodyweight workout for chest, the next step is to do it and recovery effectively.

    Do this workout one to times weekly, with minimum of 48 hours of recovery between workouts.

    Between workouts, eat for recovery, aiming for high protein foods, and vitamin, mineral, and water rich whole foods – give your body the fuel it needs to recovery and add muscle effectively – , and avoiding overly processed foods laden with indecipherable chemicals that cause inflammation, ruin your gut health, and stall recovery and muscle growth.

    Additionally, stretch and mobilize both your chest and your shoulders, aiming to keep and extend your range of motion as you recover, as well as building strength at the end of your range of motion and throughout the range of motion.

    Progressions – How to make your calisthenics exercises muscle building movements

    Now that you have a base workout and a recover plan, within a few weeks you will likely need to increase the intensity of your workout to increase the results.

    In the next section, we’ll review the exercise options and the “progressions,” which are the slightly more difficult versions of each movement, to replace movements with in each workout. In calisthenics training, “exercise progressions” are used to just barely increase the difficulty of a movement, such that we keep the resistance and intensity sufficient to stimulate strength an muscle growth, while being easy enough to achieve sufficient volume in a workout and avoid injury from placing muscles or joints under too much load.

    As a reference – once your are able to 4 sets of 12 of any movement, or hold each movement for 4 sets of 30 seconds each, consider moving to the next progression up.

    31 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises for Muscle Mass and a Bigger Chest

    Because in calisthenics the best way to increase the difficulty (and resistance) in an exercise is to switch exercises, the best exercise for your workout will vary as you become stronger. In this section, we’ll review a list of exercises and order of progression for the best results from your workouts.

    Push Up Variations

    • Incline Push-up with hands on an elevated surface (easier) or Wall Push Ups
    • Knee Push-ups (easier)
    • Resistance band assisted push-ups (easier)
    • Standard push up or normal push ups
    • Deficit push-ups
    • Pause Push Ups (1 second hold at top, middle, and bottom of upward and downward movements)
    • Ring push ups
    • Resistance Band Pushups (harder) – with resistance band wrapped under hands and over back
    • Explosive push-ups and clapping push ups
    • Archer Push Ups / Typewrite Push Ups (harder)
    • Weighted Push Ups (using a calisthenics weight vest or weighted backpack
    • Close grip push-ups / Diamond push-ups (Triceps emphasis)
    • Pseudo Planche push-ups
    • 1 arm chest fly push-ups (using floor sliders)
    • 1 arm push up progressions
      • 1 arm wall push-ups
      • 1 arm chair push-ups
      • 1 arm knee push-ups
      • Full 1 arm push-ups
    • Planche tuck Push Ups
    • One Arm Push Ups
    • Planche push ups

    90 Degree Push Up + progressions

    • Push Up to Pike | Dive bomber push ups
    • Dive bomber push-ups (bottom of push-up position to pike)
    • Wall walks
    • 90 degree push-up

    Chest dip variations

    • Chair dips (feet supported)
    • Negative dips
    • Bar dips
    • Ring dips
    • Weighted Dips

    Bodyweight Chest Fly Variations

    • Gymnastics Rings Chest Fly
    • Suspension trainer chest fly
    • Floor slider chest flys
    • Crucifix planks

    Core exercises with chest emphasis

    • Tucked L-Sit
    • L-sit
    • Crucifix planks

    Handstand Push Up Variations

    • Decline push-ups
    • Pike Hold
    • Pike push-up negatives
    • Pike push-up
    • Wall walks
    • Hand stand push-up

    DON’T FORGET! Proper form in chest calisthenics training: Essential for improvement and shoulder health

    The chest muscle groups make up a beefy and strong area of the body that works in concert with the shoulder to make many upper body movements possible. It is important to keep proper form in mind, in terms of elbow, shoulder blade, and shoulder positioning, during movements to ensure that during chest activation we are still promoting and building a healthy shoulders.

    Keep these points in mind during your chest workouts as you perform exercises:

    Keep the elbows locked in toward the body and shoulders externally rotated during pushing movements

    Keep the shoulder blades back and down, with the shoulder blades “screwed” into a neutral position in the back of their sockets

    Maintain a tight core by activating core muscles and maintaining a neutral spine – to protect the spine and better transmit force – in all movements such as normal push ups, pike push ups, dips, etc. In push ups, keep the body straight. In pike push ups, keep the belly button pulled in and the spine supported.

    Default to a shoulder width grip for movements, aiming to “break the bar” (or floor) by screwing the hands and shoulders externally (outward) and the elbows inward

    Ensure every movement is a controlled movement, to protect the shoulder and ensure it is in proper position

    Equipment to consider adding to your home workout arsenal

    Though all of the exercises in this post are possible at home with no equipment, and perhaps improvising with chairs, there are a few pieces of equipment I own that have been well worth the investment

    • Suspension Trainer:
    • Or gymnastics rings
    • Bolted anchor point
    • Sliders (or use socks)
    • Parallel bars, parallettes, or dip bars
    • Resistance bands
    • Weighted Vest

    Suspension Trainer

    Great for training pushing movements, such as chest presses and overhead presses, as well as pulling movements, like pull ups and rows, suspension trainers are an excellent piece of fitness kit that will add versatility to your workout as they are compact, can travel anywhere, and set easily in a doorway, on a tree, and virtually anywhere.

    I highly recommend either the Pocket Monkii, the TRX Go, or the DIY suspension trainer I always carry with me on my travels.

    Or gymnastics rings and a Bolted anchor point

    If you’re comfortable setting up a couple bolted anchors, I also highly recommend considering buying a set of gymnastics rings. With a pair of gymnastics rings, that allow for dips, pull ups, muscle ups, and virtually every possible gymnastics movement, you will have everything you need for a home gym.

    Floor Sliders (or use socks)

    Floor sliders are an excellent tool that reduce friction and create friction at angles, allowing us to do movements such as chest flys, lunges, and pikes with muscle building resistance.

    Parallel bars, parallettes, or dip bars

    Next to a suspension trainer or gymnastics rings, a set of parallettes or dip bars are possibly the best investment you could make in a home gym, especially for body weight chest exercises. Prrallettes allow you to go deeper into the moves doing the full range of motion in deficit push ups, deficit pike push-ups, and deficit handstands, as well as breaking into 90 degree push ups and other high intensity movements

    Resistance bands

    Resistance bands are an excellent tool in calisthenics because they can be used to assist movements, reducing resistance and putting intensity at the perfect level, can be used to add resistance to movement to bump up the intesity, or can be used on their own as resistance against pushing and pulling movements.

    I highly recommend Rogue’s Monster Bands as I use them often for both workouts and mobility

    Weighted Vest or Weighted Backpack Rucksack

    Possibly the easiest way to make any calisthenics exercise more difficult – simply add weight.

    Whenever I want to make pure pull ups, pure dips, or pure push ups harder, I either throw on my GORUCK weighted vest with a weight plate or a weighted backpack like my GR1 or GORUCK Rucker with a sandbag in it.

    FAQs about Calisthenics Chest Workouts

    Can I Build My Chest With Just Bodyweight?
    • You can absolutely build a strong and muscular chest with only bodyweight exercises, as long as you are doing exercises with enough intensity and resistance as well as enough volume (number of reps total) per workout.
    Are Push-Ups Good For Chest?
    • Push ups are an excellent exercise for the chest and arguably the best as other weightlifting chest exercises are based on the push up movement.

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      About A Brother Abroad


      Carlos is a nomad, slow traveler, and writer dedicated to helping others live abroad and travel better by using his 7+ years of experience living abroad and background as a management consultant and financial advisor to help other nomad and expats plot better paths for an international lifestyle. Click here to learn more about Carlos's story.