By using your own body-weight and perhaps a set of dumbbells, you can effectively develop muscular tone in your chest without having to go to the gym. When you’re training for tone, your strength training workouts will be designed to overload and break down your muscle tissue, which in turn stimulates the tissue to develop.
The When and How
Workouts that are designed to develop tone consist of multiple exercises that are done for numerous sets. When you’re finished with your workout, your body goes to work at healing the damaged muscles, and when it does, the muscle tissue simultaneously increases in size. Therefore, work out your chest twice per week so that you can give it two days off to recover. Start by doing two sets of every chest exercise, but then after a few weeks, bump it up to three and then eventually four. Perform each set to near muscular failure, or when you’re almost unable to complete any more reps while using correct technique. According to the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Georgia State University, instead of muscular exhaustion per set, you want to create the cumulative exhaustion over your total assigned number of sets. To facilitate the development of tone and definition, the American Council on Exercise recommends giving your muscles just 30 to 90-seconds of rest between each set and exercise.
Starting off with Pushups
Pushups are a quality chest exercise to do at home because they don’t require any weighted implement or other exercise equipment and they can be modified to reflect your current strength levels. Traditional pushups are performed from your toes with your hands positioned just outside the width of your chest. If these are too challenging, you can perform the exercise from the knees. Make the exercise more difficult by setting your toes on top of an elevated surface like a box or stool. If you have an exercise ball, performing pushups with your feet on the ball will make the exercise even more challenging. Widen your hands out slightly to place even greater emphasis on your chest.
Dipping for the Chest
With a pair of chairs, you can develop tone in your chest muscle with chest dips. Set the chairs parallel to each other, with your body positioned between them. Sit on the floor and place your hands on top of the chairs with your legs extended. Drive your hands into the chairs and straighten your arms to lift your hips off the floor. Your legs stay straight and your heels remain on the floor. Bend your elbows to lower your hips until your elbows are bent to about 90 degrees, and then extend them again until they’re fully straight. To make it slightly easier, perform the exercise with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Make it more challenging by placing something weighted on top of your thighs.
Options with Weights
If you have access to weighted implements, such as dumbbells, you can work your chest with chest press and chest fly. Chest press involves lying on your back, ideally on a flat bench or exercise ball, while holding the weights just outside the width of your chest with your palms facing your feet and then pressing the dumbbells toward the ceiling until your elbows are fully straight. Bend your elbows and lower your arms to return the weights to starting position. To reduce the stress placed on your shoulders, Muscle and Fitness recommends performing the press with a neutral grip, which means your wrists are rotated so that your palms face each other, and keeping your elbows in close to your torso instead of allowing them to flare out as you lower the dumbbells toward your chest. For chest fly, lie on your back on a bench or ball and begin with your arms held vertical with your palms facing each other. While keeping your elbows primarily straight, open your arms out to your sides until your upper arms are nearly parallel to the floor, and then squeeze them back together to return to the starting position.
- American Council on Exercise: When Strength Training, Is It Better To Do More Reps with Lighter Weights or Fewer Reps with Heavier Weights?
- ExRx.net: Push-up
- ExRx.net: Chest Dip (Between Benches)
- Georgia State University Department of Kinesiology and Health: Training for Hypertrophy
- Muscle and Fitness: Tweak Your Lifting Technique to Alleviate Shoulder Pain