The Only 20-Minute Body-Weight Chest Workout You Need to Build Stronger Pecs

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This 20-minute body-weight chest workout features push-up variations to target your inner and outer pecs, arms, shoulders and core.

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Bench presses are the foundation for most chest workouts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a great body-weight chest workout at home.

The push-up is a classic body-weight chest exercise that hammers your pecs (and your core and shoulders!) and can be modified for a variety of fitness levels. This 20-minute body-weight chest workout features different push-up variations that hone in on your inner and outer pectoral muscles.

These exercises help lay the groundwork for strong chest muscles by creating a solid foundation for “push” movements with proper form. Incorporate this 20-minute body-weight workout into your chest or upper-body days one to two times a week. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps per move. As you get stronger, add more reps to each move.

Before diving into the push-up variations, it’s important to start with movement prep to avoid injury. The plank walk-out is a great way to warm up your shoulders, arms and chest because it gets your arms and shoulder joints moving and engages your core and chest.

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  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Hinge forward at your hips, carefully walking your hands forward until you are in a high plank position.
  3. Your shoulders should be stacked over your elbows and wrists and your core should be tight. Squeeze your glutes and quads to keep your body in a straight line from your head to your toes.
  4. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, walk your hands back toward your feet to stand up.
  5. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

The push-up is a full-body exercise, but if you want to accentuate your chest, it’s all about tempo. Try slowing down the eccentric phase (lowering your chest toward the floor) and then press your body back up in one straight line.

Make sure your hands aren’t out too wide, too: According to a small February 2016 study in the ‌Journal of Physical Therapy Science‌, push-ups using narrow and neutral hand positioning activated the pectoral muscles more than wide-hand positioning.

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  1. Start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your elbows close to your rib cage and lower your chest until it is about two inches off the floor. Your thumbs should graze just the outside of your shoulders and your elbows should bend at a 45-degree angle to your body.
  3. To complete the rep, push your palms into the floor and drive your weight into the heels of your hands, straightening your arms until you are back in a high plank.
  4. As you complete this motion, engage your core by tucking your bellybutton into your spine to protect your back. Imagine keeping a straight line from the crown of your head to your shoulders, hips and heels.
  5. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Modifications

Elevated Push-Up: ‌Placing your hands on an elevated surface, such as a box, bench, chair or counter will allow you to practice this movement with proper form. It will also strengthen your chest muscles and place more weight on your lower body, while taking the pressure off your shoulders and arms.

Focus on keeping your elbows as close to your ribcage as possible and tucking your bellybutton into your spine to protect your back. This allows you to create a straight line from your head to your heels throughout the movement.

Knee Push-Up: ‌A push-up on your knees reduces the total body weight you need to lift, allowing you to bring your chest closer to the floor. But it works the same muscles as a regular push-up. As you complete the movement, you’ll continue to bend at your elbows, lowering your chest to the floor, and keeping a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.

By getting your whole body involved, this movement will work your arms, shoulders, chest and abs, while increasing your heart rate.

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  1. Begin in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists. Your feet should be about hip-width apart or slightly wider, and your core should be tight.
  2. Hike your hips up toward the ceiling and reach your left hand toward your right foot. Reverse the motion to return to a high plank, then reach your right hand toward your left foot.
  3. Completing both left and right sides equals 1 rep. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Modification

If you’re not able to touch your toes, reach for your shin or thigh.

Imagine diving underneath a fence and then changing your mind. That is the divebomber push-up. This movement challenges you to explore your range of motion while building pectoral strength and endurance.

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  1. Start in a downward dog position with your hips hiked up toward the sky, your legs straight and your chest pressed toward your knees.
  2. With a bend in your elbows, slide your chest toward the floor as if you are moving underneath a wire fence to bring your chest up to the other side.
  3. From the upward position, reverse the movement, and bring yourself back up to a downward dog.
  4. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Modification

  1. Start in a child’s pose with your butt resting on your heels and your palms reaching forward.
  2. Pull yourself forward as if you are sliding beneath a fence, keeping your forearms on the floor.
  3. Once your palms are by your shoulders, push through your hands, straighten your arms, and lift your torso off the ground to face the front of the room.
  4. Instead of reversing the movement, push your butt back into child’s pose and repeat the movement for the desired number of reps.

The burpee is the ultimate cardio and strength move that will get your heart pumping while firing up your pecs, shoulders and core.

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  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Quickly squat low, simultaneously placing your hands on the floor and shooting your legs behind you so your body is in a high plank position.
  3. Lower your body all the way onto the floor, keeping your elbows close to your body and your palms by your armpits.
  4. Simultaneously jump your feet forward into a low squat, then jump or stand up to complete 1 rep.
  5. Do 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps.

Modification

For a low-impact option, step your feet forward one at a time from the plank position when coming up from lowering your body to the floor.

Video credit: Donell – @X2ArtPhoto