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At-Home Chest Workout

You don't need a bench press station, barbells, and dumbbells to build a bigger, stronger chest. You can grow your pecs at home with this high-intensity workout.

At Home Chest Workout

You’re stuck at home due to weather, kids out of school, coronavirus perhaps, or whatever the case, and it’s chest day. No problem – you can just do push-ups, right?

True, the push-up is the perfect bodyweight, do-anywhere pushing exercise for targeting the chest. But if you have any decent upper body strength, push-ups may be too easy for a good muscle-building chest workout. Not if you organize the workout properly, though.

Workout Overview

 The below at-home workout uses nothing but your body weight, and an optional backpack, to allow you to get an amazing chest workout at home, in a hotel room, or in whatever non-gym environment you find yourself.

Warm-Up: Arm Circles + Arm Swings

Before getting started, consider doing a 10-15-minute general warm-up of walking, running, cycling/biking, or calisthenics.

The formal workout starts with a dynamic warm-up. You’ll do 10 small forward arm circles (about 1 foot in diameter), followed by another 10 in the opposite (reverse) direction. Then, you’ll do 10 forward arm swings with bigger circles (about 2 feet in diameter), and 10 big reverse arm circles. You’ll finish off with 10 horizontal arm swings, crossing your arms in front of your body.

You’ll benefit more from a dynamic warm-up than a static hold like stretching your pecs in a doorway. Holding a static stretch can actually decrease strength and power during your workout. Dynamic stretching, on the other hand, has been shown to enhance power output in workouts.

Power-Up Complex: Power Push-Up + Incline Press Throw

After the dynamic warm-up, it’s time to target the fast-twitch muscle fibers of the chest with fast, explosive movements. Here, we’ll use complex training to magnify power development. Complex training involves doing two exercises back-to-back, with little rest between them, to take advantage of the greater force that the first exercise allows the body to apply on the second exercise. The scientific term for this is Postactivation Potentiation (PAP).

The way PAP works, in simple terms, is that it primes the nervous system to fire with more force and power. Think about a baseball or softball player warming up to bat. Often, the athlete will swing with several bats for added weight or use a weighted “donut” on the bat while in the on deck circle. Doing this primes the nervous system to move a heavier bat. Then, when the athlete is batting for real with a lighter bat, the nervous system fires with the force and power to move the heavier bat. The stronger nerve impulses cause the athlete to swing the bat with more force than he or she normally would. This results in a more powerful swing to hit the ball farther.

For your at-home chest complex, you’ll pair three sets of power push-ups (3-5 reps per set) with three sets of “medicine ball” incline press throws (5-10 reps), done with a loaded backpack or other weighted object to stand in for a medicine ball (unless, of course, you have a med ball at home). Assuming you don’t have an incline bench at home, create the incline by sitting on a chair or sofa with your torso at roughly a 30-45-degree angle with the floor.  

Rest no more than 30-60 seconds between push-ups and incline press throws to take advantage of the PAP effect from the push-ups. Rest 1-2 minutes between complex sets (ie, after incline throws).

Training Tip: If you can’t do power push-ups from the floor, try them with your hands on a bench or other sturdy raised surface. Elevating your hands reduces the resistance that your body provides, essentially making the push-up easier. You can also achieve this by leaning in a doorway. Stand 2-3 feet in front of the doorway and lean forward, placing your hands on the sides...

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