When most of the people think about building strong and massive upper body, the first exercise that comes to their mind is the bench press. Without, doubt that is a very effective strength training exercise.
But, what if for some reasons you cannot go to the gym, or you have no bench at home? Does it mean you have no chance to build big and powerful pecs?
That is no true because you can have a very efficient chest workout without a bench. The answer is bodyweight exercises, mainly push-ups.
Push up is an underestimated exercise. However, it is an excellent practice to boost the power and size of your chest muscles. And, if you perform the various push-up variations, the results are even better.
And, not necessarily, if you have a pair of dumbbells, you can make your chest workout even more versatile.
Here I would like to show you the best exercises and a sample chest workout plan for home.
Best chest exercises without a bench
The press up is without a doubt the best alternative to bench press. And the variations are endless. With the help of them, you can focus on developing your strength, or target a particular area of your chest.
(Anyway, your chest includes two muscles the pectoralis minor and mayor. So, there is no such thing as upper or lower pecs. But, it is easier to understand what targets the move.)
Traditional: That works the entire upper body, mainly your middle chest and triceps. It is the fundamental of each variation. Hence, it is essential to learn the proper form and practice it.
The incline: This is the version when you place your hands on something higher for example on a bench or two chairs. Since most of your bodyweight is on the ground, the upper body gets less load, so it is maybe easier to perform. Therefore, a good starting exercise for beginners. It targets the lower parts of the pecs.
The decline: This is the variations when you put your feet on something high, a box or chair. Hence, there is more load on the upper body. With that, it requires more power to perform. It works the upper part of the chest well.
OK, so these are the primary versions, that can be enhanced and modified in various ways depending on your fitness level to have progressive overload.
Here a few typical ways:
- Increase or decrease the intensity. Instead of performing the push-ups at the same speed all the time, you can do them slower or faster. For example, when you do regular push-ups, you lower your body in 5 seconds, and you press yourself up very quickly.
- Change the distance between your hands. If you put your hands closer to each other, you can target your inner chest and triceps (for example diamond push-ups.) If you make it broader, it works your shoulders and even your back more. For instance, wide grip decline push-ups.
- Get in touch with the floor with fewer points. What do I mean? You lift one of your feet, or you perform the exercises with one arm. Apparently, these movements are much harder to perform, particularly the single arm ones. But, that is the reason why they are so effective to gain muscle mass and strength.
- Plyometrics (jump moves): These are push-ups when you press yourself up as quickly as possible with such a power that your hands leave the ground. A good example is the clapping push up.
These modifications are enough for everyone to create a chest workout without a bench that gains each part of the chest efficiently.
For even more different types of push-ups check out the following video.
Dumbbell chest exercises without bench
If you have a pair of adjustable dumbbells but have no bench, you can perform various exercises. (And combine them with press-ups)
Typically, these are very similar to the exercises we usually do on the bench (dumbbell bench press), but instead, we do them on the floor. This way the range of motion will be shorter, which is not so good, but you can handle much heavier weights. And, that leads to significant strength development.
Dumbbell floor press: This is the best for power and size. If your strength level is better, you can use one dumbbell instead of two. This asymmetric move activates your pec and core muscles even better since it is more difficult to perform the exercise and keep your stability. Here is the tutorial.
Chest flyes on the floor: Without a doubt, the bench version is far better, since the range of motion is considerably longer, but this drill is still OK to stretch and widened your pecs. If you have a stability ball at home, lie on that instead. Check the tut here.
Svend press: This is a standing chest exercise that is usually done with a weight plate, but you can use a dumbbell as well. Check out how to do it here.
Related: Chest exercises with dumbbells
Sample chest workouts without a bench
The base of a home chest workout is the push-up, so I suppose you can do at least 10. If not, follow this progressions guide.
A complete chest workout trains your pecs from every angle. Hence, you should do various exercises. Depending on your fitness level do this routine 1-3 times a week. As you develop, increase the number of reps /sets and try harder variations.
Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before/after your training.
Push up plan:
- 3×10-15 regular
- 3×8-10 decline
- 2×15 incline
Combination plan with dumbbells
- 3×10-15 push-ups
- 3×8-10 floor press
- 2×15 incline
Apparently, at that level, you will do more reps, and more types of exercises (plyo, static, weighted, push up equipment) and may increase the intensity.
Here is a sample push up plan. Do 3-4 rounds with 1-minute rest.
- 20 regular
- 30 sec push up hold
- 20 decline
- 20 diamond
- 40-50 incline
Can you build big and firm chest without bench exercises?
Yes and no. If you want to get massive pecs as bodybuilders have, you should enter the gym and do bench press. But, with chest exercises at home, you can build a powerful and formed upper body if you follow the progressive overload technique.
Just think about those calisthenics guys who do chest workout without a bench. They are extremely strong and can perform moves that bodybuilders can hardly do.