If you’ve ever gone to a gym with the purpose of strengthening your chest and triceps muscles, you’ve probably focused mainly on machine-based exercises and/or free weights. In fact, many people think the only way to get a strong, sculpted upper body is to work with machines; and maybe free weights if they’re feeling extra creative.
But what the average gym-goer doesn’t realize is that some of the very best exercises to work your chest and triceps require only your own bodyweight- and maybe a couple of bars at most. Bodyweight exercises can provide a flexible alternative to lifting free weights due to the fact that they can be done anywhere and at any time.
A bodyweight workout for the chest and triceps can nicely compliment your weight training sessions or can be used as a stand-alone workout. Either way, it is worth giving bodyweight exercises a go. You might be surprised by just how much you enjoy them!
- 1 Bodyweight Chest Exercises
- 2 Bodyweight Triceps Exercises
Bodyweight Chest Exercises
Here are powerful bodyweight exercises for developing a huge, sculpted chest:
This is the classic exercise that comes to every one’s mind when you talk about chest bodyweight workouts. Push-ups engage various muscle groups simultaneously including the triceps, back, chest, abs, biceps and deltoids. It is a great all round exercise and simultaneously works multiple muscles for a great all body workout.
How to do them:
Keep your back straight throughout the exercise and concentrate on slowly going through the movement, working all those muscle groups. For best results perform this exercise slowly, and steadily increase the repetitions that you do on a weekly basis. A great way to spice up a push-up is to put weights on your back. Find a back-pack and fill it up with books to add resistance to the exercise to help stimulate extra growth.
Parallel Bar Dips
This exercise uses just your bodyweight, but it does require a set of dip bars for it to be performed correctly.
How to do them:
Firmly grip each bar and support your body, which will hang between the bars. Slowly lower your body until your arms form right angles and then raise yourself back to the start. This is a very challenging exercise and you are likely to find that you can only do a few reps. But, as you start to progress you can make things harder by strapping a weight plate belt around your waist. Alternatively, fill a backpack up with heavy objects. The parallel dip bars work both the triceps and the chest muscles. To focus on the chest muscles, lean your chest forward a bit when you do the lowering motion.
To do a declined push-up place your feet on an elevated object such as a box or a chair. Your arms should be on the ground as usual. You will then lower your upper body towards the ground at a steeper angle than a normal push-up. This puts more of a focus on the lower part of the chest. It is always a good idea to mix up the widths of the push-up grips so that all areas of the chest muscles get in a decent workout.
Incline Push Ups
Push-ups on an incline involve you raising your arms onto a platform such as a chair or a box. Your feet will be on the floor. Do the press up as usual but at this new angle. You will find that you will feel the exercise working your upper chest area with an incline push up. Upper chest muscles often get neglected so incline push ups are a great addition to your arsenal of bodyweight exercises for the chest.
Wide Grip Push Ups
With a normal push-up your arms are approximately shoulder width apart and the focus is placed on working the chest muscles, shoulders, and arms. However, if you adopt a wider stance with your arms more than shoulder width apart you take the focus off the arm and shoulder muscles and place it back on the chest muscles. Wide grip push-ups tend to work the outer chest muscles more and are good for shaping and toning.
Bodyweight Triceps Exercises
Here are the best bodyweight exercises to get strong, defined triceps muscles:
Diamond push ups
Although even regular push ups will strengthen your triceps, diamond push ups really take triceps activation to the next level. If you’re used to doing your push ups with your elbows splayed out, you’ll notice a huge difference in how much your triceps need to work with diamond push ups.
How to do them:
Begin in a normal push up position with your first finger and thumb coming together to form a diamond shape. While keeping your elbows as close to your side as possible, lower yourself down until you’re about 2-3 inches above the ground. Make sure to breathe and tighten your core, glutes and quads. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Still feel too easy to you? Step your diamond push ups up a level by putting your feet on higher and higher surfaces for elevated diamond push ups.
One way to make this exercise easier is to simply add more space between your hands: the closer your hands are together, the harder the push ups will be. If that’s still too tough, lower to your knees and do diamond push ups in a half push up position.
Dips are undoubtedly one of the best triceps exercises of all time since they focus almost fully on the triceps muscles. Perform enough dips and you’ll soon develop stronger, bigger and more defined triceps than ever before.
How to do them:
Grip your dip bar with both hands, straighten your arms and cross your legs to keep them off the floor. While keeping your chest up and shoulders back, lower down so that your elbows are parallel to the floor or slightly further. Raise yourself back to the starting position—that’s one rep.
Tip: to make this exercise harder, try doing plyo dips, dips using rings, or for the ultimate triceps exercise, try muscle ups.
Grip your dip bar with straight arms and place your feet on an elevated surface so that your legs are straight and parallel to the floor. Keep your chest up and shoulders back, then lower down so that your arms form a 90 degree angle (or just lower as far as you can). Raise yourself back to the starting position.
Note: If this is still too hard, try bending your knees instead of keeping your legs straight.
Unlike chin ups, which use mainly your biceps (among other muscles) to pull yourself up toward the bar, pull ups require quite a bit of triceps activation in order to do them successfully. And while the majority of people will get a fantastic triceps workout doing normal or even modified pull ups, putting your hands even closer together will cause even greater triceps activation.
How to do them:
Hang from a pull up bar with your elbows slightly bent and shoulders pulled down, palms facing away from you. Keep your chest out, back straight and shoulders back then squeeze your glutes and slightly cross your legs. Pull yourself up until your chin goes slightly past the bar, then come down and repeat.
Handstand push ups
Handstand push ups require a tremendous amount of triceps strength just to be able to even attempt them. Master even the beginner version of these and your triceps will be loads stronger than any average gym-goer.
How to do them:
Face away from the wall in a standing position. Elevate your legs and assume a handstand position against the wall. Tighten your core, glutes and quads, then lower yourself as far as possible (a full handstand push up includes your head touching or nearly touching the ground). Press up and repeat.
Set your feet on an elevated surface with your hands on the floor so that you’re bent over in a 90 degree position. Lower yourself toward the ground as far as possible, keeping the 90 degree angle. Push back up and repeat.
If you are looking for more chest and tricep workouts take a look at these articles on exercises to build inner chest muscles and kettlebell exercises to get a shaped and defined chest.