There is only one body-weight exercise you can think of for hitting pecs—pushups—and those get old after a while. Why pushups? It’s both their simplicity (everyone knows them; they require zero equipment) and that they test strength and cardio capacity.
Pushups are the ultimate adapter exercise. They can be done anywhere. They recruit more than half the muscles in the upper body, as well as much of the core. And they’re safe to do. Turns out, they’re also a measurement of overall health.
But hang on a minute. There is actually a multitude of pushup variations that hit the chest (as well as the triceps and delts) in subtly different ways. Perform them correctly, and they will keep your body-weight-pushing workouts from getting stale, which will in turn help you pack on more muscle and develop more strength.
Anytime you want to put more focus on your upper pecs. If this area is a weakness for you, do feet-elevated pushups before standard ones. Do: 3 sets of 12-15
- Place your feet up on a bench or box behind you in a pushup position, with your hands directly below your shoulders.
- Bend your elbows to lower yourself to the floor, keeping your core tight throughout so that your hips don’t sag.
- Don’t let your elbows point out to the sides; keep your forearms at 45 degrees or less to your torso.
- Go down until your face or forehead nearly touches the floor, then press back up.
Related article: Build Big Round Delts That Make Your Good Lifts Even Better
Late in an upper-body workout, since it focuses more on the triceps. Think of this as more of an isolation arm movement than a chest builder. Do: 2 sets pf 10-12
- Assume a pushup position in which your hands are placed a few inches forward than normal—directly below your face, instead of below your shoulders.
- With your elbows pointed behind you and tucked into your sides, lower your forearms all the way down to the floor.
- When your elbows touch down, press up until your arms are extended.
Early in your chest workout. Make this your first big strength move; your rep counts will likely be low. Do: 2 sets of 5
- From a standard pushup position, spread your feet wide behind you for stability and one hand up off the floor. (Keep it behind your back during the move.)
- Slowly lower yourself toward the floor.
- You may not be able to lower your chest all the way to the floor and get back up.
- (You can also place one arm on stacked plates and the other on the floor, as shown on the opening spread, to build up to this move.)
- Just go down as far as you can, then press back up to full arm extension.
- Repeat all reps on that arm, then switch arms.
Related article: 3 Exercises To Target Your Inner Pecs & Build a Strong Chest
Early in your workout. Explosive exercises should always be done first, even before heavy strength moves. Do: 2 sets of 5
- Assume a standard pushup position, making sure your hands aren’t too wide on the floor—no wider than shoulder-width.
- Slowly lower yourself toward the floor.
- When your chest touches down, press back up as explosively as possible so that your hands leave the floor at the top of the rep.
- Clap your hands quickly in midair before catching yourself with soft (slightly bent) elbows and your hands back on the floor.
- Settle yourself, then repeat for reps.
Related article: Master The 7 Variations Of The Push-Up For A Bigger Chest
Late in your workout; think of crucifixes as an isolation flye-type movement. Do: 2 sets of 15-20
- From a standard pushup position, spread your hands wide on the floor with your fingers pointed out to the sides.
- In the start position, your chest will already be fairly close to the floor, even with your arms extended.
- Bend your elbows to lower all the way down until your chest touches the floor, then press back up to full arm extension.
- The range of motion on this move is much shorter than with regular pushups.
Pushup + Arm and Leg Reach:
Late in a chest or upper-body workout or in a separate, core-focused routine. Do: 2 sets of 5 per side
- Start in a pushup position with your core tight.
- Perform 1 pushup rep, then, at the top, slowly lift one hand and opposite foot off the floor until your arm and leg are in a straight line with your torso.
- Hold for a count, then bring your hand and foot back down.
- Repeat with the opposite hand and foot.
- That’s 1 rep.