The key to shape your chest is knowing which exercises to prioritize for which part. Of course this sounds easier said than done. Especially with all the misinformation and broscience out there! To help you out, we put together this scientific guide for the best bodyweight exercises for your chest workout. So if your chest lacks symmetry or isn’t even growing at all, keep reading!
What you will learn in this article:
Chest muscle: its parts and how it works
Before talking about a chest workout, it’s important to know how the chest is built and and how it works. The chest muscle aka the pectoralis major can be separated into 3 different parts: the clavicular head, the sternocostal head and the abdominal head . All muscle fibers of these heads come together into one single tendon, inserting on the front of your upper arm.
The primary function of your pectoralis major is to bring your arm forward or upwards. This is called shoulder flexion and happens when you are bench pressing, doing push ups or throwing a punch. Other functions of your pecs are to adduct your upper arm. This means bringing it closer to your side and to internally rotate it. Depending on the angle at which you move your arm, different muscle fibers of the pecs will work more or less.
If you do a more overhead pressing movement you will target the upper fibers, so the clavicular part. If you do a more horizontal pressing movement, you will target the whole pec muscle fibers pretty evenly, although it’s still the best angle for focusing on the sternocostal part. And if you press down you will target the lower fibers, so the abdominal part. Keep in mind that it’s still impossible to isolate those parts completely. No matter which chest exercise you do, all parts will be active and you can only shift the focus between them.
How to target the upper chest
If you want to target the upper fibers of the pecs with push ups you have to do decline push ups. Best done at an angle of about 30°. The further you go above this point the more you will involve the front delts and decrease the upper pec activity. For doing decline push ups we suggest using parallettes or push up handles to get the full range of motion.
How to target the middle chest
The best chest exercises for your workout to traget the middle chest are all versions or progressions of a horizontal push up. This includes regular push ups, side to side push ups, archer push ups, one arm push ups and even explosive push ups. All of those are done at the same pressing angle but vary in difficulty. As a beginner you should start with regular push ups. Once you’ll pass 15 reps try the other ones to keep it challenging!
How to target the lower chest
To target the lower chest with bodyweight exercises simply do dips and to optimize them try chest dips. Here you lean a bit forward to decrease the shoulder stress and triceps involvement as much as possible. Just imagine it like a decline bench press with a 30° angle. You can do the chest dips with straight or bent legs. The important thing is to keep your upper body at the right angle and maintain the same center of gravity.
How to target the inner & outer chest
Most people will say that you can’t target your inner or outer chest, because there is no interruption between the fibers itself. So you can target different parts like the upper, middle and lower chest, but not selectively contract parts over the fibers length. Others say that regional or nonhomogeneous hypertrophy exists and point out that several studies prove that point.
However, no matter if you think it’s possible or not, there is no bodyweight exercise that directly focuses on the inner and outer chest. Simply do all of the exercises mentioned above and your will include these parts as well.
Watch this video to learn how to train your chest
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