Bodyweight Exercise Muscle Mass Strength

3 Little Known Bodyweight Exercises To Pump Up Your Pecs

Written by Todd Kuslikis

Are you a bodyweight exercise fanatic?

Have you ever stopped to ask why?

Many people that are die-hard bodyweight fanatics have had a moment in their lives that transformed the direction of their exercise routines forever.

Maybe it happened while they were on vacation and didn’t have a gym. They learned a few bodyweight exercises and were hooked.

Others may hate fighting traffic and one day found themselves grumbling while stuck on the highway on their way to ride a stationary bike in the gym.

My defining moment happened several years ago.. I was obsessed with Arnold’s “The Pump”. He had triceps like the horseshoe of a Clydesdale, biceps like Mount Everest and a chest like a Silverback.

The Greek Gods didn’t have nothin on Arnie.

Like most every other young man out there… I wanted to be like him.

After studying the routines that he did (and scaling them way back for a guy that didn’t have 5 hours to spend in the gym) I embarked on a weight lifting journey that ended almost as fast as it began.

The first few months went great. I started to see some nice muscle gain throughout all my major muscle groups.

I was excited.

Then IT happened…

A slow but steady pain started growing in my left shoulder. At first it was more of a discomfort. Then it grew to the point where I couldn’t ignore it. Guess what? I did anyway.

It hurt mostly while doing bench press. I would often dread chest day because I knew my left shoulder would be giving me hell.

I pushed on anyway.


Then one day while doing bench press my left shoulder gave out. I had to roll the barbell off me. After standing up I realized that I could barely lift my left arm. My shoulder throbbed with pain.

Now, I will be the first to say that it might have been my own fault.

My form probably wasn’t the greatest since I was just focusing solely on increasing weight.

Maybe I should have also listened to my body when my shoulder started to ache.

Regardless, I ended up with an arm that I could barely move for several weeks.

In those weeks I started to experiment with body weight exercises. I learned that push ups and pull ups were really just the tip of the iceberg.

I found out that there are literally hundreds of body weight exercises that can target any area of the body and can keep your workouts exciting and effective.

Its interesting to note that months after my injury I experimented with weights again and my shoulder immediately started to hurt. But when I did similar exercises (like the push up compared to bench press) my shoulder didn’t hurt and in fact felt stronger.

<centerCould bodyweight exercises be more effective than weight lifting?

Most people would answer, “Depends on your goals. Weight lifting will help you build muscle and body weight exercises help you tone up.

I would tell them, “Wrong.”

The principles of muscle growth are the same whether you are lifting weights or doing body weight exercises. Your body DOES NOT KNOW if the stress you are placing on it comes from a weight you are lifting or its own body weight.

Follow the principles of muscle growth (which I will interweave in the information below) and you will gain muscle.


Flippin’ the Bird At The Bench Press…I stiffen my upper lip at you bench press. Screw me once shame on you, screw me twice shame on me. I will no longer allow you to hurt me or any of my other fitness enthusiasts. Below you will find 3 of my favorite bodyweight exercises used to build a bigger chest.

3 Hardcore Bodyweight Exercises To Help You Add Size To Your Chest

1. Modified Angled Push Up


The modified angled push up is my “go-to” exercise for building chest size. Most people know the normal push up but few have thought of the fact that if you modify it by adjusting your body weight distribution you can make this classic exercise much more difficult.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start off in the normal push up position. Make sure your back is straight and your arms are about shoulder width apart.
  2. Shift your body weight over to one side so that you are about at a weight distribution of 70%/30%.
  3. Lower your body down until your chest lightly grazes the floor. Make sure to keep this 70/30 weight distribution the whole time.
  4. Push back up.

This exercise will blast you really quickly. In order to build muscle you MUST stay at a low rep range: 6-8 for strength gains and 8-12 for hypertrophy.

If you are cranking out 20, 30 or even 40 reps of push ups you will NOT be building muscle. You will be increasing your muscular endurance but not muscle size.

Here’s what happens in your body when you hammer out a ton of reps of a particular exercise. Your muscles start to deplete oxygen levels because it uses this oxygen to perform the work. Over time your body then adapts and you obtain a greater ability to transport oxygen faster to your muscle.

That’s why you can do even more reps now than you did a month ago.

However, when you fatigue within a low rep range your muscles are fatiguing (think = tearing) before they run out of oxygen. This is a GOOD thing when trying to build muscle.

That’s why you need to stay in a low rep range when trying to build muscle.

2. Modified Chest Dips


Chest dips are a great exercise for tearing the lower part of the chest muscle. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute Todd! Chest dips aren’t ‘little known’. Everyone knows these!

Yes, my friend but I am here to teach you how to build muscle with a version of chest dips that are NOT widely known.

I am assuming that you are a home fitness enthusiast and don’t have access to a Dip Station at a gym. I often will do chest dips off the back of two chairs. Make sure to wrap a couple wash cloths or towels around the tops of the chairs to make it more comfortable for your hands.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Grab two chairs of equal height with backs that you can grip on to.
  2. Lift yourself up until your arms are locked.
  3. Lower yourself down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor.
  4. Press back up.

Modification: If you can do more than 12 reps of the chest dip than you need to modify it to make it more difficult. How do you do that? Shift your body weight over to one side.

When you are up in the air shift your body weight over to one side to adjust your weight distribution. This will make it much more difficult to lower yourself down and will place the majority of the stress on one chest muscle.

It’s a killer and you need to work up to it but is a FANTASTIC exercise for building muscle strength and size, especially in the lower part of the chest.

3. Crucifix Push Up


The Crucifix Push Up is one of the best bodyweight chest exercises to build a wider looking chest. There is really no need to apply our bodyweight distribution principle to this one since it is already difficult.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Start off in the normal push up position.
  2. Walk your hands out so they are further than shoulder width apart (the further out they are the harder it will be).
  3. Turn your fingers so they are pointed outward.
  4. Lower yourself down until your chest lightly touches the ground.
  5. Press back up.

Modification: If you find this exercise too easy try walking your hands out really far. You don’t need a large movement for this exercise. It can be just a couple of inches up and down. The key is to fatigue within a 6-8 or 8-12 rep range.

Sometimes I like to start by laying flat on the ground and have my arms fully extended. I’ll then walk my fingers in just a little bit and then try to push up. Its a great way to measure your progress and each time you perform the movement try to keep your hands out wider.

2 Important Considerations To Remember When Trying To Build Muscle With Bodyweight Exercises:

1. Stay Within A Low Rep Range

You MUST, MUST, MUST, stay within a low rep range in order to build muscle using bodyweight exercises. Don’t think that because you are spending an hour doing push ups that you’ll gain a large chest. You need to be strategic with how you exercise. Use the principle of bodyweight distribution to adjust your body and fatigue within a low rep range.

2. Always Go To Fatigue

One of the most common questions I get asked on my blog is, “How many reps should I do?” I think the “10 rep mindset” has hypnotized the mass public and sold them on the idea that they just have to reach a certain rep number and they will be good.


Always go to fatigue. If you are not pushing yourself and straining to get the last rep than you are not causing change in your body. This is especially true when trying to build a big chest. The last few reps should be extremely difficult and you should not physically be able to do any more reps after you are done.

Happy Muscle Building! And remember you don’t need the ol’ bench press. Your own body weight can be just as effective!

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About the author

Todd Kuslikis


  • I have always loved body weight exercises because I feel that lifting weights in the way that body builders do is detrimental to the body. It ain’t natural so the body don’t like it. I prefer Indian club bells or kettle bells, how about you. I was attempting jump squats the other day and pulled a tendon in my lower calf muscle. It didn’t seem too bad until I tried skipping a few days later. What exercise or stretching regime would you suggest to remedy the problem.

    • Hey Michael. Rest and ice until the inflammation is gone. Then gradually ease back into your training and make sure you build up slowly to all out bouts of jump squats or sprinting. Dynamic warm-ups and some joint mobility work before you train will help prevent future injury.

    • Hi Michael,

      Sorry to hear about your injury. I would agree with Adam below that rest and ice are the first steps. Some good options for joint mobility are to do either (1) toe taps or (2) write the alphabet with your foot. Both are great for rehabbing tendons. Also, try doing a mixture of ice and heat (15 min alternating). It will help flush blood and nutrients into the injury.


  • That is great..but what if you have pain in your shoulder and unable to do these excercises. What else can you do to build up your chest.

    • Hi Ron. That’s a pretty vast question, and the kind of thing that you should really only address directly with a qualified trainer or health care practitioner who can work directly with you to assess the exact problem and which exercises are contra-indicated.

      But in general, I think that you should not be thinking of developing your pecs at all until your shoulder issue is dealt with 100%. If you are constantly aggravating whatever dysfunction you have by trying to “work around” the problem, you’ll end up nursing it for years. […I speak from experience…]

    • Hi Ron,

      I totally agree with Adam again. There are a lot of different problems that could have arisen. Definitely take care of your shoulder first and then think about building up your pecs.


  • Todd — Your encounter with IT is very familiar, so thanks for the alternative ideas. before I start attempting them can you clarify what you mean when you say “stay in a rep range… either 6-8 or 8-12.” Are you referring to reps per set or reps in total? If the former do you have recco’s for sets per workout? Thanks.

    • Hey Aitch,

      Great question. For the first question, yes its referring to reps per set. For building muscle using bodyweight exercises I recommend doing higher volume of sets. I typically lay out 8 sets per exercise. It helps fatigue the muscle more effectively than just doing one or two sets.


  • Todd,

    Awesome variations for building the chest! What’s your thoughts on using a backpack loaded with books (15-20 pounds) while performing these chest variations? Will it increase the size development?

  • Hi

    Some great push up variations here. What rep tempo do you use/recommend?

    I like to do 4 second reps (3 down/1 up) for creating enough tension and taking the pecs to failure on the low rep ranges



  • i liked all your articles i read. I was planning for my whole body,but i cannot find an exercise for my lats without equipment. Please get one for me here

  • I’m not sure I get it. How can you *stay* low-rep? Won’t it just get so easy to do a given exercise, over time, that doing a low number of reps doesn’t do anything for you at all?

  • hello there, i get the fact that in order to gain muscle we need to keep it between 8 to 12 reps, but how many sets we should do ?

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  • Hi,

    I totally agree with Adam again. There are a lot of different problems that could have arisen. Definitely take care of your shoulder first and then think about building up your pecs.


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