Bodyweight Chest Workout: The Best 30-Minute Routine

Man doing dips on parallel bars on the beach, as part of his bodyweight chest workout

If you are looking for a quick and reliable bodyweight chest workout, then you are in the right place. Beginner, intermediate, or advanced, you will find a routine to suit your needs.

Most people rely on weights to develop their chest muscles; they abuse the bench press, neglecting natural movements such as the push up.

If you don’t want to be dependent on weights for your training, are under a time constraint, or simply want to work out at home, then you should consider doing one of the routines below.

Bodyweight chest workout

Remember that you should always warm up.

Start with your shoulders, elbows, and wrists; these are the joints that are the most prone to injury due to the pressure placed on them by either the barbell or your bodyweight.

Beginner

woman struggling to complete a repetition of a push-up

Not everyone starts at the same fitness level. If you are a complete beginner and cannot do a push up just yet, we recommend you to check the article on how to do your first push up.

In the meantime, you will be able to do most of the exercises on your knees. Staying on your knees will reduce the amount of strain and allow you to build strength towards harder variations.

  • 3 x (8-12) Diamond push ups
  • 3 x (8-12) Dips
  • 3 x (8-12) Decline push ups
  • 3 x (8-12) Wide push ups
  • 3 x (8-12) Regular push ups

As a beginner, you will get away with anywhere between three to five exercises.

Usually, in training, less is more. If you are a newbie and don’t have that much experience with exercising, doing more may lead to overuse injury. Start small and increase the number of sets and exercises as you progress with the training.

As for the exercises order, we recommend you to play around with it.

The first exercise should be the one that’s the most difficult for you. The last exercise should be the one that you find the easiest. 

As you go through the workout session, your energy and strength output will decrease. Having the most difficult exercise at the end of your session may result in an inability to complete it, or at least poor form.

Intermediate

Man doing push ups in the rain

At this stage, you should already have enough muscle adaption to increase the workload.

You can either stick to the above routine and increase the volume, or you can increase the intensity by doing harder progressions.

Increased volume:

  • 4 x (12-15) Diamond push ups
  • 4 x (12-15) Dips
  • 4 x (12-15) Decline push ups
  • 4 x (12-15) Wide push ups
  • 4 x (12-15) Regular push ups

Increased intensity:

  • 3-4 x (8-12) Archer push ups
  • 3-4 x (8-12) Dips + 15-25% of your bodyweight
  • 3-4 x (8-12) Pseudo planche push ups
  • 3-4 x (8-12) Straight bar dips
  • 3-4 x (8-12) Diamond push ups

If you want to increase your endurance and muscle mass, you should go with the increased volume. However, if you are looking to increase your strength and muscle mass, then the second workout would be a better fit.

Advanced

Picture of Daniel Vadnal from FitnessFAQs performing the straddle planche

Daniel Vadnal from FitnessFAQs performing the straddle planche

In the advanced stages, we’re already going towards more difficult movements such as the one arm push up and the planche.

Also, adding weight to your training is recommended.

  • 3-5 x (3-6) Planche push ups
  • 3-5 x (6-8) One arm push ups each arm
  • 3-5 x (8-12) Dips + 40-60% bodyweight
  • 3-5 x (6-10) Archer push ups
  • 3-5 x (8-12) Straight bar dips + 15-25% bodyweight

This level of strength is difficult to achieve.

If you can do the above routine, congratulations!

If you are unable to do it, don’t worry. You can either strive to achieve it, or you may not have any incentive in doing so. Reaching this level of strength requires a lot of dedication and prioritization of your workouts over other endeavors in your life.

The anatomy of the chest

This is the so-called boring section of this article; therefore, I chose to present it after the workout itself.

In this section, you will find information on how the chest muscles work. Such information will help you understand how the above bodyweight chest workout was thought and may help you select the chest exercises to create your own routine.

Pectoralis major

Diagram of the pectoralis major muscles

The pectoralis major is the biggest and most superficial of the chest muscles. Being the most superficial muscle, it forms the bulk of our chest.

The exercises that train this muscle the most are push ups and bench pressing. In order to get a good training of this muscle, you should consider doing the exercises using narrow, shoulder width, and wide grips.

It should be noted that the anterior deltoid and triceps usually work in conjunction with this muscle whenever an exercise is performed.

Anatomy

The muscle is divided into two distinct heads:

  • Clavicular head
  • Sternocostal head

As the name suggests, the clavicular head originates from the anteromedial clavicle. In the bodybuilding world, this head is also known as the “upper chest”.

The sternocostal head originates from the anterior section of our sternum and is known as the lower chest.

These two heads connect and insert into our humerus.

Pictures of the clavicular head and the sternocostal head of the pectoralis major

Function

The clavicular and the sternocostal heads have slightly different functions.

The clavicular head flexes the humerus (imagine raising the arm in front of you), while the sternocostal head extends the humerus back to its anatomical position (arm by your side). The two heads work opposite to one another if you consider them in isolation.

When the two heads work together they perform adduction of the humerus (imagine raising the arm laterally) and internal rotation.

This has to be the best video I was able to find on this topic.

The video is really easy to follow and the narrator talks in layman's terms (which was very helpful for me and others who have watched this video). 

Pectoralis minor

Diagram of the pectoralis minor muscle

Underneath the pectoralis major, you will find the minor, which is a thin muscle located at the upper part of the chest.

If you want to maximize the development of this muscle, then exercises such as dips and flys are recommended. Stretching this muscle is also important; it was found that a flexible pectoralis minor decreases the chance in shoulder injury (study).

Anatomy

The pec minor originates from the anterior surface of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rib. It extends from the origin point and inserts into the medial surface of the coracoid process of the scapula.

Function

The major function of this muscle is the stabilization of the scapula.

When the muscle contracts it is pulling down on the coracoid process of the scapula; it makes the shoulder blades go down and forward.

Picture showing the pectoralis minor with its origin and insertion points

Serratus anterior

Diagram of the serratus anterior muscles

The serratus anterior is a fan-shaped muscle, located at the lateral wall of the thorax. Its main part lies deep under the scapula and the pectoral muscles.

You can easily palpate the serratus anterior between the latissimus dorsi (lats) and the pectoralis major. In athletic bodies, you may even be able to see the muscle along the ribs.

Anatomy

This muscle originates at the 1st through 9th rib and inserts in the medial border of the scapula.

The serratus anterior is divided into three parts:

  • The superior part, from the 1st to 2nd rib
  • The intermediate part, from the 2nd to 3rd rib
  • The inferior part, from the 4th to 9th rib

The inferior part of the muscle is the most prominent and powerful section.

Picture showing the origin and insertion points of the serratus anterior

Function

Just as many muscles in the upper body area, the serratus anterior has the function of stabilizing the scapula. In synergy with the trapezius and rhomboids, the serratus anterior holds the shoulder blades against the thorax.

The muscle also helps with the forward movement of the scapula, for example when pushing an object or throwing a punch. For this reason, this muscle is also known as the boxer’s muscle.

In synergy with other muscles, it also has the function of elevating the arm.

Conclusion

The routine presented above should keep you busy for a few months until you reach the advanced level.

Please do not forget to balance this routine with a back workout; otherwise, issues such as pain, posture deterioration, and injury may arise.

In this article, we have presented what we regard as a good bodyweight chest workout. However, if it does not align with your goals, you may want to try to create your own routine using the exercises presented in this list.

Over to you.