- 7 September

What ARE the best and most effective exercises to build a big chest without the gym?

What does it take to build a big chest? With so much information out there, it’s easy to spend weeks (even months!) practicing chest variations and getting nowhere fast. And when you’re not getting the results you want because your chest isn’t growing or building, things can get very frustrating.

With the most general go-to for chest building exercises being that good old bench, we’re here to tell you there’s a smarter and more efficient way to get the results you’re looking for. 

You’re not alone if you’re looking for a chest to fill out your shirt.  We’re with you! But aside from aesthetics, having a strong chest is incredibly beneficial for many functional fitness exercises. That’s because hypertrophy of your chest muscle greatly increases its functionality. Meaning, you can lift more and do more without fatigue. Whether you’re a bodybuilder, a powerlifter, an endurance athlete or a weekend warrior, getting a stronger chest is advantageous for both aesthetics AND performance. 

And here’s something you may not have considered: To make your chest harder, bigger and stronger, you won’t need that bench or the bulky, expensive equipment to go with it.  In fact, to get an effective chest building workout, all you need is a couple of resistance bands and these kick-ass muscle-building exercises. 

In this post, we’ll be focusing on how to build your chest without weights using some of our favorite chest exercises with bands.  We’ve taken some of the best chest building moves you’ve seen using bulky equipment, and translated them (with instruction) into a resistance band workout you can do anywhere for a fuller, stronger and more developed chest.

What are the Chest Muscles?

First, let’s highlight the main area of the chest we’ll be working on.  We refer to this area as our pecs or pectorals. These muscles mostly consist of:

  1. Pectoralis major
  2. Pectoralis minor

You can locate the pectoralis minor directly underneath the pectoralis major. Both of these chest muscles start at the clavicle (collarbone) and insert at the sternum (breastbone) and the humerus (armpit). The pectorals are mostly used to control arm movement. Contracting the pectoralis major results in pulling on the humerus to create vertical, lateral and rotational motions of the arm. 

Even though the pec is divided into two parts, there are actually six separate sets of muscle fibers within the pectoralis muscle. This is important because these sets of fibers allow portions of the muscle to be moved independently by the nervous system.

Chest Building Benefits Using Resistance Bands

Because many people don’t fully appreciate how to properly use resistance bands, they may ask themselves if resistance band training really works.  And according to many fitness experts and scientific studies alike, for chest workouts and any other type of functional exercise, resistance bands are an extremely effective tool. Here’s why:

Mechanical Tension: Go Heavy and GROW

Like barbells, dumbbells, or any other type of weight, the key to muscle growth is tension AKA resistance. Resistance bands were created to provide your muscles with resistance in a given movement. Therefore, resistance bands trigger hypertrophy just as weights do.

Linear Variable Resistance: Have More Control

Resistance bands have linear variable resistance. This means you can increase the weight in an exercise by simply minimizing slack in the band (you’ll see just what we mean in the chest exercises to follow).

Unlike weights, there’s no one fixed level of resistance with bands. Because of this, it’s easier to make small adjustments in an exercise to control your output, and ultimately, to maximize the value of every set.

Time Under Tension: Maximize Results

You may think the greater (or heavier) the force, the more mechanical tension – which is true but only to a certain extent. To trigger hypertrophy, we must consider our X-Factor of Time Under Tension (TUT), in other words, how long you are holding that particular load or force. 

With linear variable resistance, resistance bands allow you to customize the mechanical tension of an exercise on the fly. This allows more control over the quality and speed of the movement. You can increase your chest’s time under tension by slowing down your eccentric, isometric, and concentric movements. In turn, this maximizes hypertrophy and enables your muscles to grow more quickly.

Convenience: Workout Anytime, Anywhere

Plain and simple: Resistance bands are convenient. They’re lightweight, low-profile, and can be thrown in a backpack or suitcase for easy transportation wherever life takes you. You’ve got no excuse to skip a resistance band workout. For this reason alone, resistance bands lend themselves to great results.

What is the Best Chest Workout Using Resistance Bands?

Here’s a comprehensive chest workout routine that combines dynamic compound movements with isometric chest exercises led by our Chief Fitness Officer and Undersun Founder, James Grage. But first, we need to cover a few workout details before diving into these killer chest exercises.

Anchored versus Unanchored

This resistance band chest workout features both anchored and unanchored exercises. Unanchored exercises can be done absolutely anywhere, as you only need your body and a resistance band. Anchored exercises, on the other hand, require a door or a stationary object to hold the band in place to create resistance.

For the anchored exercises, we recommend using this resistance band door anchor. This will allow you to create anchor points at any height on the door for countless exercise angles and variations.

We also recommend using these full-fingered gloves to protect your hands and get the optimal grip on your loop-style resistance bands.

Set Structure

Each of these resistance band chest exercises should be performed in four complete sets. The rep structure is the same in each of the exercises:

  • First Set: A slow and controlled 20 reps. 
  • Second & Third Sets: 10 reps with additional weight. With these extra-heavy sets, adjust the resistance as necessary to complete the full amount of reps. It’s about the quality of the movement, not the quantity of resistance. Never sacrifice form at any point in this chest workout.
  • Fourth Set: 15 explosive reps to work fast-twitch muscle fibers. Drop the weight back down to match the 20-rep set. Performing the last set in double time burns out your muscles and achieve maximum pump.
  • Rest for 90 seconds between each set.

Now that you’re all dialed in, LET’S HIT IT! 

Chest Resistance Band Workout

The following workout includes some of our favorite resistance band exercises for chest. 

Chest Exercise 1: Resistance Band Push-Ups (Unanchored)

Band weight: Heavy to X-heavy (add a medium band for the second and third sets)

  • Set the band across the broadest part of your upper back holding each end of the resistance band with arms straight outward
  • Put your hands on the ground in a push-up position first, then step your feet back
  • Perform a complete push-up—from your chest on the ground to full extension at the top
  • Hold and squeeze shoulder blades at the top
  • Slowly lower back down
  • Repeat 
Chest Exercise 2: Single Arm Incline Press (Anchored)

Band weight: Heavy to X-heavy (add a medium band for the second and third sets)

  • Situate your door anchor about hip height *to avoid any accidents, make sure the door opens away from you
  • Loop the resistance band around the door anchor
  • Square your body away from the door, clasping the end of the loop in one hand at chest height
  • Step the same foot as the hand holding the band backward for stability
  • Push forward and up until the arm is extended
  • Hold at the top
  • With control, bring your arm back to starting position
  • Repeat, then switch arms

Simply step backward or forward to adjust the amount of tension in the band(s). Linear variable resistance for the win!

Chest Exercise 3: Single-Arm Hook Flye (Anchored)

Band weight: Light (switch to medium for second and third sets)

  • Situate the door anchor/band at chest height 
  • With your body perpendicular to the door, hold the band with an extended arm (there should be no slack in the band—make sure you feel plenty of resistance)
  • Pull your arm in front of your chest focusing on squeezing your pectoral muscle
  • Repeat, then switch sides
Chest Exercise 4: Reverse Grip Flye (Unanchored)

Band weight: Light (switch to medium for second and third sets)

  • Step on the resistance band with feet shoulder-width apart—make sure it’s centered under the arch of each foot
  • Grab the band close to your feet, palms facing inward (the further down on the resistance band you place your hands, the more tension you’ll feel as you pull upward)
  • Stand up tall, core engaged
  • With straight arms, raise your hands up from underneath until they reach chest height—focus on bringing your elbows together as you move your arms upward
  • With control, lower your hands back to starting position
  • Repeat

These are four simple, do-anywhere exercises to get a killer chest workout without weights. Take them with you to the beach, to your backyard, on a trip around the world. After completing this workout, you’ll find that chest training with resistance bands is just as good, if not better than pumping iron in a gym.

Based on their ease and effectiveness, we’ve selected these four exercises as the best chest workout without weights. But this routine is just the tip of the iceberg in ultimate chest training. Check out our TA2 Build for a comprehensive 90-day workout program with full access to a ton more exercises, variations, and angles. 

Related Article: If you’re putting in the effort, but not seeing your desired results, you may be missing these 3 Key Muscle Building Principles in your game of #gainz

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