Everyday is Monday, the international bench press day, when you first start training in a gym. Everyone knows the bench press, but is bench press the only way to build a powerful chest? What if I told you that calisthenics chest exercise will not only build you an unbelievably strong and sizable chest, but work your entire body as well? Why not get superhuman strength and aesthetics while also doing the same for your abs?
The bodyweight standard chest exercise. Most people strive to do many reps, which is great, but I recommend that you do them for difficulty, strength, and skill. So definitely do your standard push ups, but don’t only do standard pushups.
If you can’t perform a pushup:
- Start by learning from your knees. Keep your laces connected to the floor and pivot at the knee joint to make these more effective.
- Find your nearest staircase for the most effective pushup progression there is. Start doing full push ups with your hands on a high step, then work your way down, by moving your feet farther from the stairs and work with your hands on a lower step. Do this until your hands and feet are on the floor and you can do full push ups. This is also an incredibly effective method to progress towards one arm pushups and archers.
Now that you can do a pushup, lets increase difficulty and effectiveness by adjusting your form:
- keep elbows close to your body, with pits forward
- use a hollow body position, with protracted scapula, for added activation of the mid chest, and brutal ab requirement
- Experiment with different grips. Rather than a standard pronated pushup, with fingers forwards, try a neutral grip with fingers out to the sides, or a supinated grip with your hands backwards. You can even experiment with mixed grips
Once your form is dialed in, it would be a great time to begin working on more advanced skills:
- train pseudo planche push ups.
- Work towards a one arm pushup by using archers and typewriters to work primarily on one arm. Again, a staircase is extremely valuable for this.
- overload your stabilizers by adding rings. Not only are they significantly more difficult, but you can also begin working towards advanced variations such as ring flies and pelicans. Ring flies will work your mid chest in a way that will make dumbbell flies seem like child’s play. The extreme scapula protraction of ring skill will also target you mid chest intensely
- Rings-turned-out (palms forward) support hold swings are a surprisingly brutal chest exercise. Creating swing by pulling the rings to and from your hips will absolutely smoke your outer chest muscles.
- Rings also allow you to perform dips almost anywhere. With that said, let’s move on to the other essential bodyweight chest exercise.
Seeing dips listed as a chest exercise may surprise you a bit if you have only performed dips on bars, with your back arched, your knees bent, and your feet crossed behind you. While this still hits the chest a bit, you are primarily targeting the triceps and shoulders from this body alignment. To significantly increase the activation of your chest muscles, try performing your dips with a hollow thoracic spine, anterior pelvic tilt, and your legs straight in front of your body. Rounding your upper back so that your chest is above your hands, with vertical forearms, will be felt immediately in your lower chest. This position will also turn dips into a ferocious abdominal workout. Just like pushups, adding the hollow body to your standard bodyweight exercises, will connect and engage your entire body and turn you into a calisthenics machine.
Some fantastic ways to make dips even more difficult:
- Gymnastics rings. When Practiced with correct form, the instability of the rings will magnify the exercise intensity, while the ability to rotate your arms adds a wonderful therapeutic aspect to help heal up some deficiencies in your shoulder health
- free standing P-bars: Searching pbars on any search engine will give you endless options of what appear to be very tall pushup pars (parallettes.) These bars are usually around hip height for most users, so dips performed with a hollow spine and straight legs in front of your body, will force you to lean over your hands, move and compress into the pike which will increase the load on all muscles of the body. Since these bars are not attached to the floor, they will increase the recruitment of your stabilizer muscles and allow you to perform advanced movements such as archers, by pressing the pbar outwards and balancing it on the side of its base
- For those of you who don’t wish to purchase additional equipment, a great option for dips is two use two chairs. Fold two hand towels to create a grip cushion and put them on the top of the back of any two chairs of the same height. Metal folding chairs and standard dining room chairs are great options. Stand in between both chairs and turn them so that the seats of both chairs are facing away from you. You now have a perfect option for performing dips, while you wait for your rings or pbars to arrive in the mail, because, I really must suggest that you purchase calisthenics training equipment. Proper equipment will make your workouts more enjoyable, effective, and safer.
Speaking of safety, before ending this article, I would like to take a suggestion to address wrist health. Performing calisthenics? Bodyweight chest exercises can be very taxing on your small wrist joints. While using wrist wraps can be a great option to lessen the stress, understanding proper hand placement is essential. With hands on the floor, turning your hands slightly outwards or working on a very mild downhill surface will help beginners a ton. Try focusing the weight into the palm of your hands, directly beneath your forearms as your wrists and fingers slowly get strong enough to handle advanced loading and leans. If using push up handles, Paralettes, pbars, or rings, do not grip the bar or ring so that it runs across the center of your hand. This will cause your wrist to bend at an awkward angle with your weight focused off to the side. Have the bar or ring run diagonally across your hand from the inside of your thumb joint to the outside wrist, where the palm of your hand meets your forearm. This will cause your forearms to be directly above the bar or ring and take the majority of your body weight off of your wrist joints. This will allow you to stay healthy and train often. This is an endless journey. Stay safe and enjoy your evolution.