Whether you’re stuck at your house or apartment without a home gym or out on the road traveling at a hotel without a dedicated workout room, there will be times in your life when you have to make adjustments. You’ll be faced with situations without access to equipment—but if you know what you’re doing, you’ll still be able to target your big muscle groups like your chest almost as effectively as if you were still in the confines of your typical training space.
Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. has a four-movement workout session that hits every function of the chest, giving you a whole lot more to do when you find yourself without any weights than just aimless sets of pushups (although you will be doing plenty of those, too). You will need a resistance band (check out our top picks if you need one of those)—but at this point, one of these light, versatile fitness tools should be as essential for your home or travel kit as your tooth brush.
Samuel provides not just the exercises for this series—he’s also explaining the principle behind each movement. That way, if you want to switch up the session to make it fit your own preferences, you can make sure to hit the same training aspects for a complete chest day to address every angle of the muscle group.
1. Heavy Chest Exercise
4 sets of 10 to 12 reps; 60 to 90 seconds rest between
When training your chest with weights, the first step is usually to stack plates on the barbell or grab heavy dumbbells to load up the muscle group. This might feel like the toughest step to do at home sans gear, but according to Samuel, there are methods you can turn to for similar effect.
His pick: Archer pushups. The difficult maneuver puts all of your weight on one arm at a time, giving you that overload stimulus. Cut down to limited rest time to ratchet up the difficulty, too. “Trust me: It’ll be enough, especially if you’re really working to drive up explosively,” says Samuel.
2. Hit the Upper Chest
Incline Half-Full Pushup
4 sets of 12 to 15 reps; 60 seconds rest between
The name of the game for this home chest training principle is elevation. Typically, you’d want the next movement in your workout to hit the upper chest—and the best way to do that sans weights is to change the angle of your exercise. To make your efforts even more effective, Samuel recommends adding some technique, too.
The move is the incline half-full pushup, and to elevate you’ll need a box, bench, or some other sturdy raised platform like a couch or ottoman, if you’re at home. Put your feet up on the platform, get into pushup position, and get ready to blast the upper chest. But the real key is in the half-full rep protocol; instead of just moving up and down, you’ll go down, halfway up, then back down and all the way up to increase your time under tension.
3. Squeeze the Chest
Kneeling Single-Arm Paused Fly
3 sets of 12 to 15 reps per side; no rest
One of the main functions of the chest is adduction, or driving your arms to the midline of your torso to squeeze the pecs. Usually, you might grab weights, cables, or even jump on a machine for a fly-type exercise—but for this session, you’ll be using your resistance band.
To do the kneeling single-arm paused fly, tie off your resistance band to a sturdy anchor point. Kneel next to it, grab the band, engage your abs, and squeeze your chest to pull the band in toward your midline. Once you get to that point, Samuel says to hold the band in place and squeeze your chest for two seconds. Pro tip: drive up with your pinky to emphasize the contraction.
4. High Volume
100 reps, with as little rest as possible
We said there would be plenty of pushups in this workout. To finish, you’ll pile up the reps to challenge the muscle group with high volume. Fight to keep your form strong throughout—that’s the best way to make sure you’re not wasting your efforts.
You’ll do 100 reps as perfectly and efficiently as possible, with a one-second pause at the bottom of each. Do as many reps as you can to start, then once your form flags, take a quick five-second pause. Keep repeating until you hit 100.
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