How to Design a Bodyweight Chest Workout

How to Design a Bodyweight Chest Workout

Can you build strength and size in the chest with bodyweight movements only? 

This is a relevant question if you are a coach programming for clients who do not have access to a training facility. Whether a client is training at home or working out in a hotel room, you still want to provide optimal training programs, and you want a client to continuously make progress.

Creating a bodyweight chest workout to increase size and strength can be done, but will require more than just a few sets of standard push-ups. 

To add muscle and strength to a client’s frame, you need to “overload” a muscle, contracting more than is comfortable or easy. Push-ups may be challenging for a novice client, but for an advanced trainee they simply aren’t hard enough to drive adaptation. Thankfully, you can overload the body with creative pushing variations that load the chest from multiple angles.

3 Different Types of BodyWeight Chest Workouts

Client Avatars 

This blog will break down three levels of chest workouts for a beginner, intermediate, and advanced client. The main principle in each level is to create a challenge that will overload the chest based on their current level of fitness. 

Beginner Level 

Example one is for a client who cannot perform a push-up and example two will be for a client who can perform multiple push-ups.

If a client cannot complete push-ups, incorporate assisted variations with knees on the floor or by completing exercises on elevated surfaces, and introduce negatives.

Training Example 1)

A1) Dip Negatives @30A1, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

  • A = assisting yourself back to the starting position 

A2) Incline Push-Up @2010, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds 

B1) Bench Dip Negatives @30A1, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

  • A = assisting yourself back to the starting position 

B2) Knee Push-Up @2010; 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

Training Example 2)

A1) Strict Dip @30A1, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

A2) Push-Up @2010, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

B1) Bench Dip @2010, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

B2) Wide Push-Up @2010, 8-12 Reps x 3 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds 

For a beginner client, select three to five exercises. Stick to the principle of less is more. Start small and increase the number of sets and repetitions. Begin with prescribing the most difficult exercise first and end with the easiest exercise. This will ensure they can complete the entire session prescribed as their strength output decreases. 

Intermediate Level 

At this stage, a client should already have enough muscle adaptation to increase the workload in training. You can use the same routine as a beginner and increase the overall volume or increase the intensity by prescribing harder progressions.

Training Example 1)

A1) Strict Dip @20X1, 12-15 Reps x 4 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

A2) Diamond Push-Up @2010, 12-15 Reps x 4 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

B1) Pike Push-Up @2010, 12-15 Reps x 4 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

B2) Wide Push-Up @2010, 12-15 Reps x 4 Sets; Rest 90 Seconds 

This training example will target muscle endurance and muscle mass due to the volume in repetitions. 

Training Example 2)

A1) Pseudo Planche Push-Ups @30X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

A2) Weighted Dip @20X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 90 Seconds

B1) Elevated Pike Push-Up @30X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 30 Seconds

B2) Archer Push-Up @2010, 4-6 Reps/Arm x 5 Sets; Rest 90 Seconds

This second training example will target muscle strength and muscle mass due to the overload in weight and loading angles. 

Advanced Level

Advanced clients will require more complex movements. They have built up the necessary volume and strength that requires more stress and intensity to elicit the proper dose-response. At this level, you can prescribe high skill movements, manipulate time under tension, add external load, and incorporate plyometrics.

Training Example 1)

A1) Deficit Ring Push-Up @40X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

A2) Eccentric One Arm Push-Up @30A0, 6-8 Reps/arm x 5 Sets; Rest 2 Minutes

B1) Weighted Dip @2010, 8-12 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

B2) Weighted Diamond Push-Up @2010, 12-15 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 2 Minutes

Training Example 2)

A1) Strict Handstand Push-Up @30X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

A2) Weighted Dip @40X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 2 Minutes

B1) Elevated Pike Push-Up @30X1, 4-6 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 60 Seconds

B2) Plyometric Push-Up @10X0, 9-12 Reps x 5 Sets; Rest 2 Minutes

Bodyweight chest training is a great way to increase a client’s pushing capacity with little to no equipment. The secret to getting results from this type of training is to track the repetitions and add volume over time. Part of your journey to being a master coach is to realize that there is a wide variety of doses from exercise. Everyone responds differently. 

With knowledge of a few fundamental program design principles, you can create long-term results with bodyweight-only training. We’re sharing those principles in our guide, Bodyweight-Only Program Design.

In this guide and accompanying video seminar, you will learn how to control the dose-response from bodyweight training, the best bodyweight training split, and three different ways to progress your program designs. Download now and learn how to create long-term results with bodyweight-only training.

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