Whether you’re using towels for sliding exercises or elastic tubing to replace weights, you can get a vigorous chest workout without a rack of weights or fancy machines. Even if your home is a cramped studio apartment, you can crank out pushups to blast your chest. Aim to work not only the front of your chest, but also the sides and the lower region. By strengthening your chest, or pectoralis muscle, you'll find lifting easier and your posture improved.
As a bodyweight exercise, the pushup is a flexible exercise requiring no equipment and also offers numerous variations to target different areas of your chest. If the classic pushup is not enough of a challenge, you can increase the intensity of the exercise by changing your body position, adding weight or even changing the shape -- fists or fingertips -- of your hands. For example, perform a three-point pushup. Assume the standard pushup position but stack your feet. Place the toe of your right foot on top of the heel of the left foot or vice versa. Because your weight is distributed on three points instead of four, the pushup is more intense. For the same reason, you can also perform one-armed pushups to boost the challenge.
If you perform flyes on a slick floor with towels under your feet, your chest, shoulder and arm muscles will burn. You’re not only holding your body weight up but also trying to maintain balance on an unstable surface. Begin by assuming the pushup position on the floor. Put a towel under each hand. Maintaining a slight bend in your elbows, exhale and slide your arms out to your sides. Keep your hands in line with your ears. Simulating a dumbbell fly, focus on contracting your chest muscles as you inhale and draw your hands back together. Perform eight to 10 reps for three sets.
A chest press with an elastic band can be as or more intense than the same exercise on a machine or with free weights. The band provides resistance during both the eccentric and concentric stages of the exercise, according to “Fitness and Wellness: A Personalized Program” by Werner Hoeger and Sharon Hoeger. Begin by sitting in a chair and looping the band around the back of the chair or your own back. Hold the ends with a neutral grip, bending your elbows and holding your hands at chest level. Exhale and slowly extend your arms directly in front of you. Hold the peak position for a second, feeling the contraction in your pecs. Inhale and return to starting position. Perform 10 to 15 reps for one or two sets.
Tips and Considerations
Move slowly when working against resistance so as not to put too much stress on your shoulder joints. Controlled movement will maximize the benefits of each exercise and deter you from using momentum to squeeze out more reps. If you’re doing a lot of pushups on a regular basis, vary your hand position to ease the pressure on your wrists, according to “The Men’s Health Guide to Peak Conditioning” by Richard Laliberte. For example, you can grip a pair of octagonal dumbbells or form your hands into fists, which straighten your wrists.