The 3 Best Chest Exercises for Beginners in Calisthenics

Chest Exercise beginner calisthenics

If you are new to calisthenics, you may wonder how exercises with only bodyweight can get you a great chest since it probably only involves push-ups. Well, you may be surprised to see what chest exercises you can do with calisthenics! Check out these 3 simple and realistic exercises for beginners.  

About the Chest Muscle

First, let us tell you something about your chest muscle. Its official name is m.pectoralis major and m.pectoralis minor. Your pectoralis major is your main focus when you want a bigger chest. It consists of 3 parts:

  • Upper chest part (pars clavicularis)
  • Middle chest part (pars sternocostalis)
  • Lower chest part (pars abdominalis) 

These parts all start at a different point in your chest (upper, middle or lower) but all end on the inside of your shoulder (crista tuberculli majoris). You need to know this if you want a complete chest workout. Because every part needs to be hit separately to achieve the biggest gains. Calisthenics will help you do just that. Here are the 3 best exercises for your chest. 

3 Best Chest Calisthenics Exercises

1. (Paralettes) Push-Ups 

Push Up Exercises

Of course, the first exercise is push-ups. Yes, people have done this exercise for ages. But there is a good reason for it. It works and is great for your pecs to develop. The push-up mostly benefits the middle part of your chest. 

Starting Position 

Face the floor and place your hands next to your chest. Your fingers face forward and your elbows align with your body while pointing in the direction of your feet. You need this position to work your triceps as well as your chest. The chest and triceps work together as a pair and this enables you to do some extra repetitions. Your legs are extended and you tuck in your toes for balance. Make sure you contract your abs. 

How to Use the Paralettes 

Paralettes increase your range of motion (ROM) during exercises. They make the exercise more difficult and help achieve progress. Place the parelettes next to your chest for the optimal ROM. 

How to Perform the Exercise 

From the starting position, push your body up and extend your elbows. Make sure your abs are contracted and your body moves up like a planche. As you come up your shoulders are aligned with your hands and when you go down they are in front of them. Make sure you keep looking at the ground to keep your head in a neutral position.  

How to Progress in push-ups

Start with 3 times 10 repetitions and build them up to 3 times 20. And if this becomes easy, use paralettes to increase ROM and difficulty. Alternatively, you can put a weighted vest on your back and put some weight in it to increase the load you are pushing. A second alternative is using resistance bands to increase difficulty. Still to easy? See If you can perform a planche push-up. 

Push-up resistance band calisthenics

2. (Assisted) Straight Bar Dips 

Straight bar dip calisthenics exercises

The straight bar dip aims mostly at the lower part of your chest, shoulders and your triceps. It’s also a precursor for the muscle-up.  If this exercise seems too difficult at first you can use a resistance band to make it easier. 

Starting Position 

You start by putting your hands in a pronated grip (palms facing towards the ground) on the bar at shoulder width. Then you jump upwards and extend your elbows entirely. Make sure your abs are contracted and your back is straight. Bend your knees 90 degrees if you’re able to touch the ground while going down.

How to Use the Resistance Band 

Put the resistance on a low bar by putting it around the bar and running it back through the band. Now pull it tight and together. Turn your hand palms out to the side, grab the band at the lower quarter of its length. Then do a simple triceps extension and you can put your knees inside the band. See here how to attach the band:

How to Perform the Exercise 

Lower your chest towards the bar until it touches it. Your elbows should bend and point outwards. This will train your shoulders too. Next, push yourself back into the starting position. Let the resistance band help you achieve this. 

How to Progress

As soon as you can perform 3 times 20 reps with the resistance band you can stop using it. Instead, start doing negatives by jumping upwards and slowly moving down until you touch the floor with your feet. Again, build up to 3 times 20 reps. If you can only perform a few straight bar dips try to maximize them by doing 3 sets with maximum repititions. Build them up to 3 times 20 reps. When this starts to get easy you can improve your ROM and let your chest go lower than the bar. Once this becomes easy at maximum ROM you can wear a weighted vest to increase the resistance. 

3. Decline Push-Up

Decline Push-Up Calisthenics

The decline push-up mostly works your upper chest muscle and shoulders. The incline bench press also works the upper chest muscle. This is due to your own body being in a different position. 

Starting Position 

Your legs/feet need to be elevated on a higher platform. This could be a bench, bar, desk – anything really. Start on something that’s not too high, like a bench or chair. Your starting position is pretty much the same as with the normal push-up. So, hands under your chest, fingers facing foward, elbows (narrow) aligned with your body. Legs are extended and you tuck your toes as you tighten your abs and glutes. 

How to Perform the Decline Push-up 

You push almost the same as in a regular push-up. However, as you come up you make sure that your shoulders are aligned with your hands. Stretch the elbows as far as you can. When going down make sure your shoulders are forward as much as possible. This works the upper chest the most. Move your head away a bit to have a bigger ROM. 

How to Progress 

If you can perform 3 times 20 reps it is time to raise your feet to a higher platform. This will increase the difficulty level a lot. You can go all the way until you are in a wall push-up position. Alternatively, you can use paralletes or a weighted vest to increase ROM and difficulty level. 

More Than Chest Exercises

These 3 chest exercises together work your whole chest and give you a great workout as a beginner. We hope you’ll enjoy them. 

As mentioned above, chest exercises will also train your triceps. There is more you can do to get bigger triceps though. Check out our guide for the best triceps exercises for beginners in calisthenics. If you need any of the equipment we mentioned, like resistance bands or paralletes, check out the recommended calisthenics equipment that we use ourselves.

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