Bodyweight Chest Workout: The Best 30-Minute Routine

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

Having a good bodyweight chest workout is a lifesaver.

Whether you're traveling, you want to switch things up a bit, or you're only training using the weight of your body...

Having a reliable routine will help you a lot.

If you don’t want to be dependent on weights for your training...

If you are under a time constraint...

Or you 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 can't 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, or by placing your hands on an elevated surface.

Staying on your knees or elevating your hands will reduce the difficulty and allow you to build strength towards harder variations.

  • 3 x (8-12) Dips
  • 3 x (8-12) Diamond push-ups
  • 3 x (8-12) Pike 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 beginner 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 in a poor performance.

Intermediate

Man doing push-ups in the rain as part of his chest workout routine

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

Increased intensity:

  • 5 x (3-5) Pseudo planche push-ups
  • 5 x (3-5) Weighted dips*
  • 5 x (4-6) Elevated pike push-ups
  • 5 x (4-6) Archer push-ups, each arm

*add as much weight as you need to complete no more than five repetitions​​​​

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

Athlete doing dips for his chest workout

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 are unable to do the routine, 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

In this section, you will find information on how the chest muscles work.

Here you will understand how the above bodyweight chest workout was thought.

Pectoralis major

The pectoralis major is the largest and most superficial of the chest muscles.

Being the most superficial muscle, it forms the bulk of our chest.

The exercises that best engage this muscles 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.

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.

The sternocostal head extends the humerus back to its anatomical position; bringing the 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.

The video above is really easy to follow and the narrator avoids speciality terms. 

Pectoralis minor

The pectoralis minor is a thin muscle located at the upper part of the chest, underneath the pectoralis major.

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 of shoulder injury, according to this study.

Anatomy

Picture showing the pectoralis minor with its origin and insertion points

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.

Serratus anterior

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.

It also plays part in arm elevation.

Conclusion

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

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.

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