No Gym? No Problem! Get Ripped With These At-Home Pec Workouts

Written by:

Julien Raby

Last updated:

Who doesn’t dream of a massive, superman-like chest? The pecs are a sign of strength, masculinity, and discipline. But how can you develop them if you don’t have a gym membership or a barbell? 

Don’t panic. You can use several at-home pec workouts to train your upper body and develop strength. We cover everything you need to know in the article below. Read on for more information. 


Any good chest workout routine starts with a warm-up. It may seem like a hassle, but warming up has serious advantages for bodyweight training. 

Warm-ups increase your heart rate, allowing nutrient-rich, oxygenated blood to flow to your upper body. It will activate the connections between the nerves and muscles, improving athletic performance. Afterward, your range of motion will be increased, helping you maintain proper form. 

Warming up will take anywhere between 5–15 minutes and help you get the most out of your at-home chest workouts. 

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5–10 Minutes of Light Cardio

Start your warm-up with 5–10 minutes of light cardio. The goal is to raise your body temperature and increase your heart rate to 55–60% maximum capacity. Some options include:

  • Jogging in place
  • Jump rope
  • Jumping jacks
  • Mountain climbers
  • Using an exercise bike

It doesn’t matter which options you choose, as long as you get your blood pumping and break a light sweat. 

Dynamic Stretching

Whether you’re performing bodyweight exercises or using a pair of dumbbells, you’ll need to do some dynamic stretches. Stretching is critical, as the shoulder joint is used in all chest exercises. It’s a complex joint that can be prone to injury, so use some of the following stretches:

  • Small and large arm circles
  • Pendulum circles
  • Shoulder rolls and shrugs.
  • Chest hugs
  • Overhead pressing movements without any weight. 

Do a few sets of these movements before starting your chest workout regime to prime the muscles and avoid shoulder pain or injury. 

Exercises Without Equipment

You don’t need access to equipment to build a muscular chest. There are several bodyweight chest exercises that can help you develop upper body strength. Some of these movements require an elevated surface, but you can use household items like a chair, bench, or heavy boxes. 

Standard Push-Up

Every bodyweight chest workout should include regular Push-Ups. Standard push-ups are a tried and true method for engaging the tricep, shoulder, and pectoral muscles. Classic push-ups require core control, helping you develop stability and chest strength.

This bodyweight option can be incredibly challenging, depending on your fitness level. If you aren’t sure how many you can perform, start with sets of 10 regular push-ups and adjust accordingly. 

How to perform the Standard Push-Up: 

  1. Do the exercise on a steady surface. Put your hands apart, about the width of your shoulders. Get into a raised plank position with your arms straight. Slightly pull back your shoulder blades.
  2. Remember to tighten your core to keep your back in a straight position. Bend your elbows backward to lower your body. Keep your elbows close to your body, and avoid letting them stick out.
  3. Lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Push your body up until your arms are straight again.
  4. That finishes one repetition.

Incline Push-Up

The Incline Push-Up variation is an effective chest exercise, especially if the standard option is too difficult. This movement is performed on an elevated surface instead of flat on the floor. The elevated plank position requires you to lift less of your body weight, making the movement easier.

This doesn’t mean the incline variation is without benefits. It’s an excellent movement for targeting the lower pec muscles and adds more training volume to your chest workout regime. It will provide you with a solid chest workout, targeting the entire pectoralis major. 

How to do the Incline Push-Up:

  1. “First, find something to raise your upper body slightly, like a step or a sturdy box. Put your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart on the raised surface.
  2. Start with your arms straight and slightly in front of you. Lower your body down until your chest touches the raised surface. It should be a bit lower than the position you would be in for a regular push-up.
  3. Then, straighten your arms until they are fully extended again.”

Decline Push-Up

The Decline Push-Up is more difficult than the regular and incline options. It’s an incredibly effective chest workout that positions your legs higher than your hands. This angle engages the upper chest and deltoid muscles more, providing you with a well-balanced chest routine. 

The decline pushup will help with strength gains, coordination, and stability. You will need a raised surface, like a chair, box, or flat bench, if you have one. Consider a lower rep range, as this variation is much more challenging. 

How to perform the Decline Push-Up:

  1. First, find something to lift your feet off the ground, like a step or a sturdy box. Place your hands a bit wider than shoulder-width apart, and keep your arms straight.
  2. When you do it correctly, you’ll feel like you’ve shifted slightly forward. Because your feet are elevated, your body won’t go down in a straight line but will swing back a bit. So, position your hands slightly backward to compensate for this.
  3. Slowly lower your body until you can’t go any further. The floor will likely be around the middle of your chest level or slightly higher.

Close-Grip Push-Up

If you only have body weight to work with, adjusting your hand placement can be a fantastic technique for engaging the chest muscles. The Close-Grip Push-Up engages the upper chest and triceps more, making it wonderful for an upper body pump. 

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It’s a straightforward variation, as you assume a standard push-up position but bring the arm closer to the body. It can be more challenging than the standard option, so adjust your reps and sets accordingly. 

How to do the Close-Grip Push-Up:

  1. Start in a push-up position and bring your hands closer together, just a bit narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lower your body by bending your elbows, keeping them at about a 45-degree angle from your body. Go down until your chest touches the ground.
  3. Then, straighten your arms and push your body back up to the starting position.

Chest Dips

Bodyweight Chest Dips are a fantastic exercise for the upper body. They target the chest, shoulders, and triceps, helping to build strength and muscle definition. It’s versatile, as adjusting the depth of the dip and the position of your hands can increase the difficulty. 

Mastering this exercise enhances upper body strength, muscle growth, and physical performance. Since they require minimal or no equipment, you can do them at home or anywhere with a stable surface.

How to perform Chest Dips:

  1. Bring two chairs close together, as if they are dip bars, or you can use the seat of one chair. Adjust the position until you’re comfortable.
  2. Stand between the chairs and put your hands on the seats. Place the cushiony part of your palms on the edge of the chair. This is a better hand position that reduces stress on your wrists.
  3. Straighten your legs and keep your arms straight too. Lower your body straight down. Go down as much as you can or until your upper arm is parallel to the ground.
  4. Push straight up and extend your arms to return to the starting position.

Exercises With Equipment

A pair of dumbbells can go a long way when it comes to chest day. Dumbbell chest exercises will challenge the muscles and provide you with more training options. You don’t need a complete set of weights for dumbbell workouts, either. 

You can purchase a set of adjustable dumbbells and perform dumbbell exercises in various weights and rep ranges.

Here are some of the best movements to incorporate into your dumbbell chest workouts. 

Dumbbell Floor Chest Press

The Floor Dumbbell Chest Press is a fantastic option if you don’t have access to a weight bench. This movement is similar to the dumbbell bench press variation, but you lay flat on the floor. 

This position reduces the range of motion and engages the triceps more, as your elbows don’t stretch behind the back. You can use heavy dumbbells in lower rep ranges to make up for the reduced range of motion. Regardless, it’s a must-have movement in your dumbbell chest workouts. 

How to perform the Floor Dumbbell Chest Press:

  1. Lie down on the ground with your knees bent or legs straight. Hold two dumbbells with your palms facing upward.
  2. Begin with your arms straight up above your chest and the dumbbells touching each other. Slowly lower the dumbbells while bending your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  3. Lower the dumbbells until the back of your arms touches the floor. Pause briefly, and then straighten your arms back to the starting position.

Dumbbell Bench Press

If you have access to a chest press bench at home, then the Dumbbell Bench Press is right up your alley. This movement is similar to the floor variation, but the elbows have a fuller range of motion. A more extensive range of motion allows you to engage the entire chest and push your muscles to the limit. 

How to do the Dumbbell Bench Press:

  1. Grasp each dumbbell firmly and squeeze your shoulder blades together. Raise one knee to lift a dumbbell towards your shoulder, then repeat with the other knee. 
  2. As you lift the last dumbbell, lie back down on the bench. Begin with both dumbbells over your chest, with arms fully extended.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and ensure your feet are pressing firmly into the floor.
  4. Lower the dumbbells slowly down toward your chest. Let the weights descend down and out to the sides. 
  5. Lower them until your upper arm is parallel to the floor or slightly lower or until the weights reach chest height. Keep your elbows positioned under your wrists throughout the movement.
  6. Once your back is tight and the weights are at chest level, push the dumbbells up and inward. Your hands should end up back on top of your shoulders.

Dumbbell Flyes

Dumbbell Chest Flyes are an effective exercise for targeting the chest muscles. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, you lie on a bench and perform a controlled opening and closing motion, mimicking a fly’s wings.

By using dumbbells, you can work on each side independently, addressing any muscle imbalances. The exercise also activates stabilizer muscles, improving overall balance and coordination. 

How to perform Dumbbell Flyes:

  1. Lie on the ground and hold the dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Start with your arms fully extended over your body.
  2. Let your arms lower out to the sides with a slight bend in your elbows. Lower them until your arms touch the ground.
  3. Raise your arms back up until they are directly overhead again. Remember to keep your elbows slightly bent throughout the movement.

Dumbbell Pullover

During the Dumbbell Pullover, you lie flat on a weight bench and hold a dumbbell above your chest with both hands. Then, you lower the dumbbell backward over your head, stretching the chest and lats.

This movement not only promotes chest and back strength but also enhances shoulder flexibility. The exercise effectively engages multiple muscle groups, including the pectoral muscles, lats, and triceps, helping you achieve a well-rounded upper body development. 

How to do the Dumbbell Pullover:

  1. Lie down on a bench or the ground and grasp the dumbbell with your hands, forming a diamond shape around the weight.
  2. Start with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling. You can have a slight bend in your elbows during the movement.
  3. Lower the dumbbell back behind your head until your elbows are in line with your ears. Keep a safe distance between the dumbbell and your head, and feel the stretch in your chest muscles.
  4. Hold this position for a moment, and then contract your chest muscles to bring the dumbbell back to the starting position above your body.

Chest Anatomy

Understanding the chest muscles will help you identify weak points in your physique and technique, allowing you to personalize your workout regimen to suit your fitness goals. The chest is made up of two muscles, including the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. Here are the basics:

Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is the largest muscle in the area. It has a thick fan shape and lays on top of the pectoralis minor. When you think of a big chest, the pec major is what comes to mind. 

It has two muscle heads, including the clavicular head (upper head) and the sternocostal head (lower head). Adjusting your grip, angle, and technique can help your target one area more than the other. 

  • It enables you to move your arms across your body, like during chest fly exercises or hugging motions.
  • It helps lift the arms forward and upward, similar to reaching or throwing a ball overhead.
  • The pec major aids in rotating the upper arm inward, such as when reaching behind your back or punching. 

The pectoralis major is the main muscle regarding chest development, strength, shape, and size

Pectoralis Minor

The smaller muscle in the chest area is the triangular-shaped pectoralis minor, which starts between the third and fifth rib. The pec minor helps with stabilization, abduction, internal rotation, downward rotation, protraction, and depression of the scapula. 

  • When you take deep breaths or inhale deeply, the pectoralis minor contracts, lifting the ribs and expanding the chest cavity to aid in breathing.
  • The pectoralis minor is involved in pulling the scapula forward and around the ribcage, enabling activities like reaching forward or pushing objects away from your body.
  • It assists in rotating the scapula downward, such as when pressing down on a lever or performing a downward pulling motion.

The pec minor is important for stabilizing the shoulder joint and works with other muscles to ensure proper alignment and body control. 

The Benefits of a Strong Chest

What’s the point of a strong chest? Is it all for looks? Not quite; building your pecs can provide you with more upper body strength, better posture, and several other benefits. Here are a few to keep in mind. 

Enhanced Athletic Performance

Enhanced athletic performance is one of the key benefits of having a strong chest. The chest muscles play a critical role in various physical activities, like weightlifting, swimming, football, and basketball.

Many sports require forceful pushing actions, like tackling in football or making a powerful layup in basketball. With a strong chest, you’ll have the foundation for generating more upper body power, whether you’re in the gym or on the court. 

More Upper Body Strength

Strengthening the pecs can lead to several advantages in terms of upper body strength and overall physical performance. The chest is instrumental in everyday tasks, like pushing open doors, lifting heavy objects, and carrying groceries.

A strong chest allows individuals to exert more force during these activities, making daily tasks easier and more manageable.

Strong pecs also contribute to compound movements like the bench press and overhead press. Training your chest will provide you with more power, coordination, and stability when performing these exercises and other chest movements. 

Better Posture

The chest muscles, along with the muscles in the upper back and shoulders, play a crucial role in maintaining proper upper-body alignment. A strong chest helps counterbalance the effects of weak upper back muscles, preventing rounded shoulders and forward head posture.

Good posture, supported by a strong chest, distributes the body’s weight more evenly, reducing the strain on muscles, joints, and ligaments. This can lead to decreased discomfort and a lower risk of musculoskeletal injuries.

A Better Physique and Boosted Confidence

We can’t forget—a bigger chest will provide you with a more athletic physique and boost your confidence.

Developing a well-defined and muscular chest can positively impact body image as you gain strength, definition, and size. You may feel more confident in social situations, positively affecting your social interactions and relationships. 

Strengthening your chest muscles will take time and effort, providing you with a sense of accomplishment. This will provide you with a positive feedback loop, helping you continue to grow inside and outside the gym. 

Progression Tips

At-home workouts can seem ineffective, as it can be difficult to progress, especially if you’re only using bodyweight exercises. That said, there are ways you can increase your strength and build muscle mass. 

Use Negatives

Negatives are exercises that emphasize the eccentric phase of a movement. This means instead of going up, you only go down when you perform an exercise. They’re great if you’re working your way toward a standard push-up or if you want to challenge the muscles more. H3 

Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is one of the cornerstones of all muscle and strength gains. Progressive overload refers to increasing the difficulty of an exercise over time. You can achieve this by increasing the weight, rep range, amount of sets, time under tension, tempo, and range of motion. 

If you’re using a pair of dumbbells, you might slowly increase the weight each week by 5–10 pounds. Otherwise, you can increase the number of reps in each set, reduce rest between sets, or pause at the top of each rep. 

Adjust the Rep Range

It’s critical to adjust the rep range, especially if you’re performing bodyweight exercises only. Performing the same number of push-ups each training session will stop you from making muscle gains after a certain point. 

Instead, aim to increase the number of reps or sets gradually each week. For example, you might increase from three sets of 10 push-ups to four sets. This will ensure your muscles are consistently challenged and help you continue to gain strength. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How Can I Train My Pecs at Home?

You can train your pecs at home by performing standard push-ups and incline or decline variations. If you have access to dumbbells, you can perform chest flies, dumbbell chest presses, and pullovers. 

How Can I Build My Pecs Fast?

To build your pecs quickly, incorporate a variety of chest exercises, like push-up variations, dumbbell chest flies, and chest presses. You will need to train your chest 2–3 times per week, ensuring you’re using challenging rep ranges. 

About Julien Raby

My name is Julien Raby and I’m one of the owner of BoxLife. Here’s my background on LinkedIn if you want more info. I’ve been active pretty much my whole life and I discovered Crossfit about 7 years ago. I want to help you improve your Crossfit performances by giving tips on specific movements, workouts and equipment. You have a question? Get in touch!