Okay, so you’ve been hitting the gym to bulk up your chest muscles. If you’re not seeing the development you want, then you might want to give calisthenics a try.
You’ll be surprised at how well it can maximize your chest routine.
Calisthenic workouts use the power of your body weight to help you get in shape.
While weight-lifting and the typical weight machines at your local gym are made to focus on building one muscle at a time, calisthenic exercises can train multiple muscles and groups at once.
Calisthenics for Chest
First, it’s important to know what muscles are actually in your chest. Understanding what they are and where they are located can help you know how to work them to your advantage. The biggest muscle in your chest is your pectoralis major, which covers the area from your collar bone down to your armpit, connecting to your breast bone as well. You also have the pectoralis minor which is located on your upper ribs.
Now, even though calisthenics invites you to push yourself to the max, don’t force yourself beyond your limitations. For movements where you feel overextended, modify them for what you can do now. Or you can choose other exercises to help you build skill for the next step. Making these choices can help you avoid injury. Just like with any new workout, you should talk with your doctor about selecting workouts that are safe for you and your body.
Always, always, always take the time to get in a good warm up before you work out. A short and easy warm up session can help to heat up your muscles to give them more flexibility. Before you try these other versions, you should be able to safely do a few basic push-ups first. To get you ready, we’ll walk you through the basic push-up position.
#1 – Basic Push Ups
Start out in plank form, with your arms outstretched and your hands under your shoulders. You should be propped up on the balls of your feet with your back flat. Slowly lower your body and bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle. Your body should stay stiff and your back should remain straight. Reverse the move to lift your body back up. Repeat.
Pro Tip: If you are struggling to keep your back straight, try modifying it by performing this movement on your knees (with your back still straight) until you build your skill and muscle.
Now that you’ve got that down, here are a few remixes of the classic push up. You can work these movements into your chest-day workouts a couple times a week. Just make sure to give your pecs adequate rest time in order to build those muscles.
Try These Push Up Upgrades
All of these pushups are based around the basic push-up position we explained above. Make sure you master it before moving on!
#2 – Flat Push Ups
Start in the basic push up position, but press your body all the way against the floor. As you push your body up, keep your back straight and your body stiff. Raise yourself up until your arms are extended, then lower yourself back down to the floor. Repeat.
Equipment: If you’re hesitant about having your entire body on the ground, you can use a calisthenic mat for comfort and cleanliness.
#3 – Decline Push Ups
Begin in a basic push-up position. Slowly lift your feet one at a time onto an elevated surface. Make sure you keep your balance for safety. Perform the basic push up from this elevated angle to adjust the tension on your chest muscles. Repeat.
Equipment: If you’re not sure what to use for an elevated surface, try a plyo box or a simple weight bench.
#4 – Incline Push Ups
Unlike the decline push up, for this exercise your arms should be resting on an elevated surface. Your elbows should be facing back and out. You can then perform the basic push-up movement from this position. Repeat.
On the surface, this position seems easier than its original form, but if you are executing it properly then that is not true. By elevating your push-ups, you are actually removing excess strane from your shoulders and giving your chest a harder workout.
Equipment: The elevation of your objects can vary. You could try a plyo box or a park bench for varying difficulty.
#5 – Diamond Push Ups
Start in basic push up position. Place your hands in a diamond shape, with the tips of your index fingers and thumbs touching, in the center of your mat. Your hands should be placed on the floor below your chest. Your elbows should be facing backwards, not out. Push up to raise your body until your arms are extended, then lower them again. Repeat.
Again, be sure to keep your back straight as you lift and lower your body. While certainly a more difficult form of push ups, the diamond push up can take your strength to the next level.
#6 – Wide Push Ups
Start in a basic push-up position with your hands wider than your shoulders. Slowly lower your body, keeping your shoulders pointed out to the sides. Bring your chest down to the height of your elbows before pushing back up again. Repeat.
#7 – Frog push ups
Get down on your hands and knees, with your hands positioned under your shoulders and your knees positioned under your hips. Raise your hips up in the air, keeping your knees bent at about a 90 degree angle. Lower you head to the ground with your elbows bending outward. Raise your head up again until your arms are extended, keeping the rest of your body stiffly in place.
This workout might feel a little funny (since you’re posing like a frog), but it’s definitely worth a shot for the workout it can give your chest muscles!
#8 – Clapping push ups
Start in a basic push-up position with your arms extended. Slowly lower your body down with your elbows bending backwards until your chest is at elbow height. Then push your arms down into the ground to lift your body up. While your body is lifted, quickly pull your hands up and clap them before putting them back again. Then lower your body back down. Repeat.
Pro Tip: If you’re ready for more of a challenge, try clapping behind your back instead.
#9 – Resistance band push ups
Get in the basic push-up position, but pin a resistance band under your hands and wrap it over your back. Perform a basic push up so as you move upward, the band will become tighter and tighter. This added resistance will act like an additional set of weights, adding more tension to your muscles.
Equipment: To perform this push-up you will need a set of resistance bands. You could also use a weighted vest, but the bands are much easier to transport and use.
#10 – Ring Push ups
Adjust the rings to the height you want. You could have them be at a standard height for push ups, or elevated. Grip the rings firmly with your hands and get in the basic push up stance. Perform the basic push up with your elbows aimed backwards. Lower yourself back down, focusing on a straight form and good balance. Repeat.
Pro Tip: This can be a very difficult position to perform correctly, so don’t be afraid to work up to this exercise so it can be performed safely.
Equipment: You will need a set of calisthenic rings to perform this workout. It can also be helpful to have a set of fitness gloves to make sure you get a safe grip on the rings.