Building muscle mass increases your strength, metabolism and overall health. Strength training builds muscle by tearing muscle fibers, which rebuild stronger during rest days. Strong ab and chest muscles, or pectorals, will improve your balance and coordination, and increase your power. If you want to work out at home without equipment, there are plenty of effective strength-training exercises for your abs and chest that don't involve weights.
Your ab muscle group is made up of your rectus abdominus and obliques. To effectively build your abs, you must work both muscles. A 2001 San Diego State University study funded by the American Council on Exercise monitored muscle activity as men and women performed 13 different common ab exercises. The bicycle maneuver, captain's chair, crunches on an exercise ball and vertical leg crunch activated the rectus abdominus the most, making them more effective. In addition to these exercises, do reverse crunches, which were found to be among the most effective for targeting your obliques.
According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, chest dips are the most effective non-weight-lifting exercise to build your pecs. Pushups are effective, too, but suspended pushups are more effective than standard pushups. To do suspended pushups, put your weight on gymnastics rings about 12 inches above the ground. Do yoga poses that recruit your abs and chest for balance to increase your strength. Do the Plank, Side Plank and Dolphin Plank as a beginner. Advance your way toward holding the Crane, Side Crane and Eight Angle pose using your abs and chest.
Sets and Reps
The American Council on Exercise recommends doing one to three sets of eight to 12 reps for optimal muscle gain. Only perform an exercise if you're able to complete the correct, full range of motion without losing proper form. When you can do 12 reps without breaking form, increase your weight resistance by 5 to 10 percent to keep challenging your muscles.
Tips and Warnings
Cut out simple carbs and sugars from your diet and increase your intake of lean proteins to fuel muscle growth. Strength-train all your muscles; strength imbalances can cause injuries. Do several exercises per muscle group and mix them up week to week to challenge your muscles and avoid strength plateaus. Don't overtrain; give your muscles at least two days to fully recover. Stretch your muscles at the end of a strength-training workout to loosen your muscles and prevent injury. Do at least two or three cardio workouts per week for a balanced program.