Monday is National Chest Training Day in gyms all around the globe. Invariably, you’ll see droves of exercisers cueing up for their turn on the bench press. But did you know the bench press is not the only way to build bigger pecs? In fact, for some people, it might even be ineffective. Arm length, chest depth, and shoulder mechanics mean that some people aren’t built to be great bench pressers and fail to experience gains from this super-popular exercise. And what if you train alone or work out at home? Bench pressing without a spotter can be highly dangerous, and some people don’t have the space or the budget to build a well-equipped home or garage gym. The good news is that you don’t need a ton of fancy, expensive equipment to build the chest of your dreams. In fact, your body and some space are all you really need. Get yourself some gymnastic rings and parallel dip bars, and you really have everything required to create a varied and challenging gym-beating home chest workout.
In this article, we reveal the best calisthenics chest exercises and workout so you can pump up your pecs at home.
Calisthenics – The Basics
Bodyweight training, often known as calisthenics, is a time-honored workout method that’s making a grand comeback in today’s fitness scene. While gym workouts remain a staple for many, a growing number of fitness enthusiasts are opting for home routines or park-based sessions.
Some popular calisthenic exercises include:
– Chin-ups & pull-ups
– Inverted rows
– Front and back levers
– Parallel bar and ring dips
– Bodyweight squats
– Single-leg squats
– Nordic curls
The term ‘calisthenics’ has its roots in the Greek words for beauty (‘kallos’) and strength (‘sthenos’). Combined, they give us “kalisthenes,” which has evolved into the term we recognize today. From martial arts and gymnastics to military training, calisthenics has been a preferred training method. It’s an adaptable workout system suitable for various fitness objectives, be it muscle development, strength enhancement, cardio improvement, or fat reduction.
The benefits of bodyweight training include:
– Economical: With a focus on using your own body weight for resistance, there’s no need for pricey gym subscriptions or gear.
– Accessibility: Most calisthenic exercises can be performed almost anywhere, from parks and playgrounds to your home. Your calisthenic gym is never closed.
– Full-body Training: Calisthenic exercises often work multiple muscles simultaneously, ensuring a balanced workout and a better physique.
– Useable Strength: The exercises in calisthenics frequently resemble everyday movements, developing functional strength that’s useful in real-life scenarios.
– Agility, Balance, and Coordination: Calisthenics teaches you to master your body. With no machines to guide your movements, you’ll soon learn how to control your limbs and muscles with precision.
– Develop an Athletic Physique: Calisthenics can help you build a tight, lean body, resulting in a chiseled, athletic appearance.
– Enhanced Core Strength: Most calisthenic exercises involve your core, either directly or indirectly. If you’ve always dreamed of a firm, lean midsection, calisthenics could be the answer.
– Adaptable and customizable: Calisthenics exercises can be adjusted to suit any fitness level, ensuring ongoing progression from complete beginner to super-advanced.
However, calisthenics isn’t without challenges:
– Initial Hurdles: Fundamental exercises like chin-ups can be daunting for beginners, possibly leading to early setbacks. Technical exercises like handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, and front levers can be hard to learn without hands-on coaching.
– May Not Be Optimal for Muscle Growth: While calisthenics does build muscle, it may be less effective than conventional strength training.
– Difficult to Isolate Specific Muscles: Unlike weight training, which allows for specific muscle targeting, calisthenics can pose challenges when trying to focus on particular muscle sections.
– Progression Can Be Difficult: In the absence of external weights, progressively upping the resistance can be a challenge, which might lead to plateaus and stagnation in muscle and strength development.
Chest Muscle Anatomy Overview
While it’s not essential, a basic knowledge of the form and function of your chest muscles can make choosing the best exercises and designing your workouts a little easier. So, let’s briefly examine the muscles that make up your chest and their critical functions.
The main muscle of your chest is the pectoralis major, which is usually abbreviated to pecs. This is the big, fan-shaped muscle that spans across the front of your upper torso. The pectoralis major has three main parts or “heads”:
– Clavicular Head: This is the upper part, originating from your collarbone (clavicle). When you hear people talking about their “upper chest,” this is what they’re referring to.
– Sternal Head: This is the larger middle part of your chest that starts from the front of your sternum (breastbone).
– Abdominal or Costal Head: This portion originates from the top of the abdominal wall. It’s usually referred to as the lower pecs.
These three heads work together, but it is also possible to emphasize each one by adjusting the angle of your arms relative to your torso. Pushing upward hits the clavicular fibers more, whereas pressing horizontally involves more of the sternal fibers. Pushing downward emphasizes the abdominal/costal fibers. However, it is impossible to fully isolate any of the heads, and they all work together.
The functions of the pectoralis major are:
– Horizontal flexion, i.e., pushing your arms forward.
– Adduction, i.e., drawing your arms down toward the midline of your body.
– Medial rotation, i.e., turning your upper arms inward.
There are also a couple of minor muscles that directly impact the appearance and function of your pecs:
The pectoralis minor is a smaller, triangle-shaped muscle located just beneath its larger counterpart. While not as large or powerful, the pectoralis minor plays a crucial role in stabilizing the scapula by keeping the shoulder blade against the ribs, ensuring smooth shoulder movements. It also assists in breathing, lifting the ribs during deep inhalations.
The serratus anterior is a fan-shaped muscle located on the side of the chest and upper ribs. It’s essential for scapular movement and stability, helping to rotate and protract the shoulder blade. Well-developed, the serratus…