- Why Exercising Your Chest is Important
- The 10 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
- Progressing with the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
- Easy Calisthenics Chest Exercise Alternatives
- Conclusions About the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
- Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
With the best Calisthenics chest exercises, you build the gorilla-like upper musculature that scores of men envy. There are many exercises that target the chest to varying degrees of effectiveness. Our selection of the best calisthenics chest exercises is the most effective and efficient method of getting those broad, bulbous pecs as well as the area around the chest. They consist of core Calisthenics exercise and their most effective variations. Focus on these chest exercises primarily for the best results, both as a beginner and an advanced Calisthenics practitioner. We’ll show you exactly how to perform these chest exercises, and how you incorporate them into a progressive Calisthenics routine. Ready to get big? Keep reading about the best Calisthenics chest exercises.
Why Exercising Your Chest is Important
Your chest contains some of the largest muscles in your body and some of the most voluminous ones, potentially. If you want to look big, then exercising your chest will be one of the most important and core facets of your training regime. The chest consists of the Pectoralis Major and the Pectoralis Minor, combined also referred to as your “Pecs”. Together, they give your chest volume but also provide you with a lot of your pushing power. Pushing is an important part of a Calisthenics Split Routine and so, exercising the chest is vital to see successful gains.
The Pectoralis Major is where you see the most volume increase. It consists of 3 parts:
- Pars Clavicularis: the upper part, connecting to your clavicle bone.
- Pars Sternocostalis: the middle chest, connecting to your sternum.
- Pars Abdominalis: the lower chest, connecting to your abdominal muscles.
All parts connect to your Crista Tuberculi Majoris, the inside of your shoulder. Each part needs to be exercised separately to achieve the biggest gains. Knowing the best Calisthenics chest exercises for each part and incorporating them all in the right amount into your Calisthenics regime is important if you want to see efficient results.
The 10 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
Let’s delve right into the best Calisthenics chest exercises that bring you results. The following selection will be part of your core exercises, forever. Acquire and master these skills and you will have unlocked the secret to a huge chest.
#1 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Dips
If you were not allowed to do Push-Ups, the best Calisthenics chest exercise you could do instead would be the Dip. Dips workout the triceps, the deltoids (shoulders) and the pectorals; your chest. This single exercise targets the whole upper body effectively as a compound exercise. It is less about isolating a muscle, so it is not as efficient as a more chest-oriented exercise. However, holistic growth is important to get a well-balanced, large upper body. Dips are a fundamental part of your Calisthenics chest exercises and get you this balanced, symmetrical upper body.
You need some kind of stand to practice Dips on. For some variation of the dip, two chairs or even a sturdy bench is enough. For the more versatile standard dip, a quality Dip Bars is a necessity.
The Dip has many variations, ranging from very easy to very, very hard. It is a very scalable exercise that you will never stop doing, even in its most basic form. This effect is compounded when you start adding weight to your exercises.
The Basic Dip
- Place your hands firmly on either Dip Bar, in line with your shoulders.
- Tuck your legs so that you are now suspended, resting on your arms and hands holding the Dip Bars.
- Bend your elbows and lower your body until your elbows are just beyond 45 degrees bent.
- Push yourself back up to your original position for one completed Dip.
#2 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Parallette Push-Ups
The second core chest exercise is the Push-Up. This simple technique is so effective that many programs are built entirely around the Push-Up to build strength and stamina. It is also a very efficient exercise that can really push your entire body to its limits. Push-Ups workout the shoulders, scapula, chest, triceps, core, abdomen and even the legs as a compound exercise. Your whole body needs to tense up and do its job to perform the technique. Push-Ups are most effective, however, for your upper body. Together with the Dip, you will never stop doing Push-Ups and its many variations.
Using Parallettes during your exercise gets the most out of the Push-Up. They allow you to do a deeper Push-Up, stretching your chest muscles and achieving a larger Range of Motion (ROM) A lacking ROM is a very common beginner Calisthenics mistake. You can easily start without Parallettes, but they are a worthwhile (small) investment that gives you so much more efficiency.
The Push-Up can be adjusted to (radically) change its area of influence on your muscles. With slight Push-Up variations in body posture and technique, you can target specific parts of your chest more effectively. The best Calisthenics chest exercises will feature a lot of Push-Ups.
Performing the Push-Up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank Hold (the Push-Up position) with your hands grabbing the Parallettes in a hammer grip. Keep your legs and back straight, forming a straight, diagonal slope from feet to shoulders.
- Bend your elbows and lower your body without moving your hands or feet, until your chest just barely caresses the floor.
- Push back up again to your original position for a single completed Push-Up.
#3 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Ring Push-ups
The Ring Push-Up is like the Push-Up, but you perform them using Gymnastic Rings instead of barehanded or on Parallettes. The Rings give you a host of other options, while also being a difficulty factor themselves. Unlike Parallettes, the Rings are movable, and you need to tense your muscles to keep them stable. This additional difficulty causes increased hypertrophy and faster results. It will also activate otherwise more dormant muscles as you keep yourself steady. There is a reason why Olympic gymnasts specializing in the rings are built the way they are built. By incorporating the Gymnastic Rings, you can do almost any Calisthenics technique using them, amplifying their effectiveness and Ring Push-Ups are arguably the best Calisthenics chest exercise of them all.
Performing the Ring Push-Up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank Hold (the Push-Up position) with your hands grabbing the Rings in a hammer grip. Keep your legs and back straight, forming a straight, diagonal slope from feet to shoulders.
- Perform the Push-Up as described above.
- Keep all your arm muscles tensed and your abdomen as well to keep the ropes taut and stable in position. You should keep your hands stable and motionless in place.
#4 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Ring / Suspension Trainer Flies
Using the Gymnastic Rings or the Suspension Trainer is a great way to exercise your chest. Some of the best Calisthenics chest exercises can be performed with either the Rings or the Suspension Trainer to increase their efficiency. They also bring new exercises that can only be done with these tools at your disposal. One of the best Calisthenics chest exercises with Rings or a Suspension Trainer are Chest Flies. Not only are Chest Flies very effective, but you can also use them to build incredible endurance by slowing down the technique. They are uniquely well suited for slow motion techniques. Chest Flies are again a compound exercise targeting the whole chest, arms and shoulders.
Performing the Chest Fly
- Stand with your back towards the mounting point / trainer and hold the handles out in front of you. The rings or handles should hang low enough that you can lean forward. The farther you can lean forward, the deeper the Chest Fly and the harder the technique will be.
- Lean forward while moving your arms straight out to the side until you come to a complete stop and your arms are stretched to the side.
- Move backward by pushing your arms back in front of you again.
- You should keep your arms straight throughout both the forward and backward movement. Keep your legs straight and use them as little as possible to come back upright.
#5 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Archer Push-ups
The Archer Push-Up is a great complementary workout that propels the beginner Calisthenics practitioner to an advanced status. It lays the focus on the triceps and the core muscles and builds endurance. With a little less focus on the chest, the Archer Push-Up is still a crucial step to take to build the required stability and endurance to engage in more advanced Calisthenics chest exercises. Without this core stability and endurance, you won’t get the same efficiency out of your more advanced Push-Up techniques that build a large chest. They are coupled with Diamond Push-Ups to advance you to the next level of expertise.
Performing the Archer Push-Up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank (Push-Up position) with your hands flat on the floor or grabbing the Gymnastic Rings. Keep your legs and back straight in a diagonal slope from feet to shoulders.
- Shift your body to the right, bending the right elbow and extending the left arm while keeping your hands firmly in place. Do this until your chest barely caresses your hand or wrist.
- Move back to your original straight arm plank position for one completed Archer Push-Up.
- Repeat on the left side and in an alternating pattern.
#6 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Diamond Push-ups
For an increase focus on your triceps, the Diamond Push-Up is ideal. Diamond Push-Ups are another required step to building a large chest as your triceps are likely the weakest link in your chest exercise regime. Mixing in Diamond Push-Ups in your training routine will build that required triceps strength quickly. At the same time, they do also build the chest muscles more so than Archer Push-Ups do. Together with Archer Push-Ups, Diamond Push-Ups are an important intermediate exercise which, when mastered, signals that you are no longer a beginner but an advanced Calisthenics practitioner. You are now ready for the more focused, intense and best Calisthenics chest exercises.
Performing the Diamond Push-Up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank Hold but with your hands underneath your sternum, the tips of your index fingers and thumbs touching to create a diamond shape.
- Perform the Push-Up as described above.
#7 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Explosive Push-ups
The Explosive Push-Up is all about sudden, explosive strength that goes in both directions. You perform your regular proper Push-Up with such power in the ascent that you lift off the floor. When you come back, you need to stop yourself in the perfect downward straight arm plank position. Not only is it one of the best Calisthenics chest exercises because it builds massive, immediate explosive strength, but also the power to ‘brace yourself’ as your muscles need to absorb the shock of the return gradually and come into that good plank position again.
Explosive Push-Ups are also plyometric, increasing your stamina as well as your strength and performance.
Performing the Explosive Push-Up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank Hold (the Push-Up position) with your hands flat on the floor (no Parallettes or Rings this time). Keep your legs and back straight, forming a straight, diagonal slope from feet to shoulders.
- Perform the upward motion of the Push-Up with enough force to lift off the floor.
- Land and cushion the landing by rapidly but gradually tensing the muscles in your arms, chest and shoulders, bending the elbows and coming into the downward plank position.
#8 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Hindu Push-ups
The Hindu Push-Up is also one of the best Calisthenics chest exercises as well as for your arms, shoulders, core and to work on your flexibility. The fluid motion, that is basically a full flexion head nod combined with a Push-Up. This is not only a great flexibility training alongside working your chest, but it also introduces an endurance element. Unlike normal Push-Ups where there are clear stop points, the Hindu Push-Up is more fluid, and your muscles will keep adapting to the changing stresses throughout the motion. Hindu Push-Ups are added to the advanced best Calisthenics chest exercise routine to maintain flexibility and mobility.
Performing the Hindu Push-Up
- Assume the adjusted Straight Arm Plank Hold for the Pike Push-Up; with your butt sticking up high in the air, your feet nearly flat on the floor, your arms and legs straight and stretched out.
- Bend your arms and lower your head down to the floor with your nose almost touching the floor. You will come forward during this motion, arch your back to maintain your balance.
- Move your head up into the air and tilt it backwards until it can’t go any further.
- Push yourself backward into the original Pike Push-Up position.
- Keep your legs straight throughout the exercise.
#9 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Straight Bar Dips
I want to highlight the Straight Bar Dip from the regular dip because of its Muscle-Up potential. Not only does the Straight Bar Dip build you an immense chest and the rest of your upper body, once you master the Muscle-Up you’ve unlocked a key to becoming a Calisthenics Master. The Straight Bar Dip is an essential step along the way to achieve that mastery while also being among the best Calisthenics chest exercises you can perform.
Performing the Straight Bar Dip
- Hop onto the straight bar of a suitable Pull-Up Bar or suitable Dip Bar with your hips suspended slouched/bent over the bar.
- Hold onto the bar with both hands with your knuckles pointing forward.
- Push yourself up until your arms are straight.
- Lower yourself back to the original position, but do not let your weight rest on the bar with your abdomen or hips.
#10 Best Calisthenics Chest Exercise: Wide Push-ups
The Wide Push-Up has the potential to transform your chest completely. Not only do you stretch your pecs, but you will also always achieve a “deeper” Push-Up by default just because you start from an already stretched position. Coupling this with Parallettes can really get 110% out of your Push-Ups. Being able to go as deep as possible with your Push-Ups can significantly increase your gains. Once you master the Push-Up, the Wide Push-Up is the best Calisthenics chest exercise out there, easily rivalling and superseding any weightlifting technique, too.
Performing the Wide Push-up
- Assume the Straight Arm Plank Hold but place your hands one hand’s length away or farther to the side from their usual place.
- Perform the Push-Up as described above. Use Parallettes for an even deeper Push-Up and more activation of the chest muscles.
Progressing with the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
Once you notice no notable gains from your chest exercise, it is time to progress. Progression takes place by making the current exercise harder or by introducing a (slight) variation to the exercise that you’re doing to increase its range of motion (ROM). Throughout your Calisthenics career, you will keep these best Calisthenics chest exercises almost entirely intact. These exercises simply work the best for your chest, both in terms of introducing resistance as well as for your body’s locomotion. For your chest this means Push-Ups and progressing to make those Push-ups harder, more numerous or adding variations.
Here are the best ways you can progress your chest exercise from beginner to expert:
Increasing Repetitions and Sets
Steadily increasing the number of repetitions and sets will increase your endurance. You’ll be able to flex your muscles and exert force for longer. Your Calisthenics training regime will indicate a target set and repetition combination. You build up to this gradually, usually in steps. Once the current number of repetitions and sets become easy, you add more ─ that’s what proper Push-Up Progression looks like. We advise beginners to keep pushing their boundaries and increase their reps and sets frequently. It is still easy to get up to speed as a beginner. Later, you will have to rely more on variations and added weight to get more out of these best Calisthenics chest exercises.
Increasing ROM (Range of Motion)
You keep doing the core technique but add variations that increase the range of motion required. Typical examples of this are Archer Push-Ups, Diamond Push-Ups and Wide Push-Ups. These all require you to stretch or contract your muscles more to complete a single repetition. Combining these variations with the core exercise will result in a more effective activation of the targeted muscles.
Increasing the ROM of your Push-Up Routine will also help prevent clumped up, stiff muscle growth. You should add variations that increase your ROM after you’ve started doing the best Calisthenics chest exercises above and have gotten the core technique down right. First increase the number of repetitions and sets according to your training regime, then add increased ROM variations to your training. That’s also where those Parallettes make all the difference in the world.
By modulating the speed of your repetitions, you can get more out of even the best Calisthenics chest exercises. Increase the speed of your movement to increase explosive power. Perform the movement very slowly to make the chest exercise harder. Typically, a faster chest exercise is coupled with an increased number of repetitions. A slowed down movement can be coupled with drop sets, effectively.
Advanced Calisthenics practitioners, who already have the sets and reps down and are incorporating Range of Motion techniques, can use speed modulation to get more benefit out of the core technique. It is important to note that the core technique remains unaltered completely. They only change the Time Under Tension of their muscles using the same technique. Time Under Tension refers to the length of time the muscle exerts itself and by lengthening of shortening the Time Under Tension you can achieve drastically different result.
Another common mistake many beginners make is to increase their movement speed, in other words shortening the Time Under Tension. Beginners should not do this. They should focus on getting perfect form and a high range of motion first.
In comparison, faster and slower techniques, or rather shorter and longer Time Under Tension methods both have benefits to the advanced Calisthenics practitioner:
|Faster / Shorter T.U.T.
|Slower / Longer T.U.T.
|Increases Explosive Power
|Also great for Plyometrics
|Also great for Weighted Calisthenics
Adding Resistance Bands
After you’ve established your core technique well and have an increased range of motion to your techniques, it’s time to start adding additional resistance to your exercises. At some point, no number of extra sets or variation will induce additional hypertrophy. From that point onward, you will have to add artificial resistance to your bodyweight exercise.
One of the easiest and most versatile ways to do this is by using Calisthenics Resistance Bands. These training aids are a core implement to your Calisthenics Home Equipment and can not only make exercise harder, but also easier. You can apply these Resistance Bands not only to all the best Calisthenics chest exercises, but also to many other Calisthenics exercises.
Add the Resistance Band to your Push-Up: sling the Resistance Band around your shoulders and hold each end in the palm of your hand. You may need to bend or loop the Resistance Band once or more to get it taut enough so that when you push your arms forward, the band must flex. Now you can perform regular Push-Ups and with every upstroke, the Resistance Band will work against you.
Wearing a Weighted Vest or a Dip Belt
Wearing a Weighted Vest during your Push-Ups or Dips will have a significant impact on your performance. The additional weight from the vest goes a long way in securing additional gains when your own bodyweight is no longer a source of sufficient resistance. A Dip Belt will severely limit your mobility and are awkward to wear for Push-Ups. For Dips and Pull-Ups, however, they are great, and they can carry a lot more weight than a Weighted Vest. You add weight to your exercise in small increments, while keeping the exercises themselves largely the same.
Performing Drop Sets
Drop Sets are a series of sets performed to failure, where each additional set consists of fewer repetitions (typically) as you start to tire more and more. Drop Sets allow you to get the absolute maximum number of repetitions in a single workout, which increases endurance and stimulates hypertrophy. It is a bodybuilding technique aimed at increasing muscle mass and less concerned with attaining functional strength. If all you’re interested in is a large chest, then performing Drop Sets can help you with that.
They are typically performed as a replacement for one set of the same exercise every week. For instance, one regular set of Push-Ups performed multiple times a week is replaced with a Drop Set of Push-Ups.
Easy Calisthenics Chest Exercise Alternatives
The great thing about both Push-Ups and Dips is the sheer number of effective alternatives. If you want to build a big chest, the best Calisthenics chest exercises get progressively harder and more focused. However, if you can’t perform the standard proper Push-Up and proper Dip yet, there is also no need to worry. The following easy Calisthenics moves allow you to start today and work your way up quickly.
The Incline Push-Up is the same as the proper Push-Up but performed on an incline. This means more of the weight remains on your feet while you focus on perfect form. You can gradually decrease the incline until you’re vertical, in other words, performing the proper Push-Up. You can start as vertical as standing up and using a wall as the surface to perform Push-Ups against. A stair is a good tool to use as well, you start at a higher tread and gradually work your way toward ground level. This way, you’ll seamlessly and almost effortlessly acquire the core best Calisthenics chest exercise.
With the Bench Dip you can gradually increase the depth of your dip while essentially making a very simple sit down, sit up motion supported by your arms. This is how you perform the Bench Dip:
- Sit on a bench, sturdy chair or a stair. Place your hands beside you on the edge of whatever you’re sitting on.
- Move your butt forward until it’s no longer touching the sitting surface.
- Bend your elbows and lower your upper body towards the floor, while keeping your legs relaxed and unengaged.
- Push your body back up to the original position using your arms only.
Conclusions About the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
The best Calisthenics chest exercises bring efficient results. They are effective at targeting the whole chest but also all the supporting muscles for strong upper body growth. This means that the triceps and shoulders are also worked out and that you accumulate enough core strength to do the more advanced Calisthenics exercises as well.
Many of the best Calisthenics chest exercises will become a mainstay of your workouts, never really disappearing from the curriculum. Rather, their intensity increases and variations are added which put emphasis on different parts of the chest or supporting upper body muscles. After the basics have been established, like the proper Push-Up and Dip, you are made ready for the advanced techniques with steppingstones like the Archer Push-Up and Diamond Push-Up.
Advanced techniques like the Wide Push-Up and by using techniques like Drop Sets, adding weight through Weighted Vests and Dip Belts or by modulating your technique speed are the next step in building that huge chest. Now that you know the best Calisthenics chest exercises, they are readily and easily incorporated into your Calisthenics Program.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Calisthenics Chest Exercises
Here are a few more frequently found questions regarding the best Calisthenics chest exercises and how to bulk up your chest.
The best Calisthenics chest exercise is the Push-Up and its many variations. Almost all Push-Ups target the chest, and some advanced variations really focus on building huge chest muscles. Push-Ups can progress from very easy to very hard seamlessly, making them a staple exercise for both beginner and advanced Calisthenics practitioner.
Doing 4 sets is a middle ground between building functional strength and building muscle mass. For optimal muscle mass growth, doing between 4 and 10 sets is best, while for optimal strength doing a lower (but slower) set is better.