Exercising at home with push-ups and dips can get boring. Add a little interest without investing the time and space in a huge set of dumbbells or a bench press rack, and then obtain a spring bar to enhance your at-home pec workout. It won't replace staple bodyweight exercises, but it can add a new element to your chest training.
The spring bar, sometimes called a flex bar, resembles two separate bars linked together with a thick spring. More modern versions, such as those sold by Theraband, are solid rubber and come in a variety of resistance levels.
Exercises for the chest with the spring bar are pretty simple. You basically have two ways to use it: upper bar squeezes and lower bar squeezes.
The major chest muscle is the pectoralis major, a wide fan-like muscle that covers your chest wall. Squeezing the bar activates one of the primary actions of the pectoralis muscle, the medial rotation of the shoulder muscle. This is the movement that simulates a bird flapping its wings, only you're working your arms instead. The spring bar squeezes are similar to the action of a pec deck machine or dumbbell flyes.
Upper Squeeze: Hold the bar with at either end with an overhand grip. Bring your hands toward each other so the bar's spring arches up toward the ceiling. Draw the palms as close together as possible, and then slowly release.
Lower Squeeze: Hold the bar at either end with an underhand grip. Bring your palms together so that the bar arcs toward the floor. Release slowly to work against the resistance of the weight.
For both exercises, stand with your feet hip-distance apart. Actively push your pecs together and slightly forward to really target the muscles.
Make the squeezes more challenging by slowing down and holding for one to three counts when your palms are closest together. Avoid allowing the bar to spring back quickly, releasing the bar's tension slowly also engages your pec muscles.
The spring bar is a solid exercise for beginners or when you can't make it to the gym. However, it's not going to replace intense muscle-building chest moves such as the bench press and bent-over cable flyes.
If your only option is a home-based workout, use the spring bar in conjunction with bodyweight moves such as the push-up and chest dips, which are done on parallel bars.
When these bodyweight moves become too easy, consider investing in a spring bar with greater resistance as well as mixing up your push-up options. Do decline push-ups, push-ups on an unstable surface — use a stability ball or half ball, or go for a squishy sofa cushion — staggered push-ups, spiderman push-ups and close grip, or triangle, push-ups.