Looking to get a good chest workout without having to hit the gym? Resistance bands are more effective than you think.
Cheap, versatile and portable, resistance bands offer an effective workout that can be done anywhere - at home, on holiday or while travelling.
These handy bands can replicate most resistance exercises, and are highly useful for stretching, warming up and injury rehabilitation.
For these reasons, resistance bands are worth having in your arsenal for shaking up your workout routine, as well as when you need something to fall back on when you can’t make it to the gym.
Resistance bands come in varying thicknesses. And the thicker the resistance band, the more resistance you’re going to get when included in your workout.
In general, colors indicate the amount of resistance the resistance band offers, and these can also be bought in complete sets for added convenience.
What’s more, resistance bands can be used as an accessory with dumbbells and barbells to make weight training even more difficult!
Resistance Band Chest Exercises
When it comes to hitting the pecs, you might think that the heavier you go, the better - but that’s not always the case.
To build a bigger chest, you need to initiate hypertrophy. This is when you exercise a muscle to an intensity that creates little tears in your muscle tissue, which will then repair and grow back larger.
Can you grow a bigger chest with resistance bands?
While overloading your chest with weight plays a big factor, so does technique - as well as the quality of the form with which you perform the exercises.
Resistance bands are different to free weights in that they provide resistance throughout each rep. For example: holding a dumbbell above your head with a fully extended arm isn’t too demanding. Why? Because you’ve reached the portion of the exercise with the lowest resistance.
With a resistance band, however, the elasticity will be pulling your arm back down, forcing you to put in extra effort.
This is where you can take advantage of resistance bands to get more out of your workouts, challenging your muscles in ways you haven’t yet covered.
And for the best resistance band exercises to do at home, find the complete list down below.
1. Resistance Band Push Ups
The push up is the king of all bodyweight exercises. Push ups can be done anywhere and will help to strengthen, and build muscle in, your chest, triceps, front delts and upper back.
Do you find push ups too easy? Then it’s time to add some resistance to the exercise with resistance bands.
To do a resistance band push up, or resisted push up, close the resistance band together, then bring it over your head and around your shoulder blades. With the end of each band underneath each palm, get into a push up position and perform the exercise for reps.
You will find that pushing up from the floor - the concentric phase of the exercise - will be a lot harder due to the resistance band forcing you back down.
And with this added resistance, you can bet it will mean more gains.
2. Resistance Band Diamond Push Ups
Another bonus of the push up is that there are countless variations. Unlike the bench press - where your hands are limited to a shoulder grip, narrow grip and wide grip - push ups allow you to place your hands anywhere on the floor. And this means you can effectively target more areas of your chest.
The diamond push up is one of the best push up variations because it targets your inner chest, lower chest and triceps. Throw a resistance band in the mix and you have yourself an effective chest exercise that you can do anywhere as long as you can get down on the floor.
To do a resistance band diamond push up, wrap the resistance band around your shoulder blades with each end of the band in each palm. Then, form a diamond, or triangle shape, with your thumbs and index fingers, and perform the push up as normal for reps.
3. Resistance Band Archer Push Ups
Here’s another push up variation that you should be doing!
Archer push ups - aptly named because the exercise looks like you are firing a bow - are one of the best chest exercises for targeting your outer chest.
And just like the diamond push up, the archer push up is one that you can’t replicate when doing a standard bench press.
To perform an archer push up, get into a push up position but with your hands spread wider than usual. From there, lower your chest to one side - one arm bent, the other kept straight - as low as you can go, before repeating on the other side for one rep.
It’s a tough exercise if you are new to it, but one you should be doing if you want to build a broad, wide chest.
And if the archer push up still isn’t challenging enough, wrap a resistance band around your shoulder blades to make the exercise harder.
4. Resistance Band Elevated Push Ups
Elevated push ups are the next best thing to doing incline and decline bench presses. The form and movement can be replicated without equipment, and it’s as simple as performing a push up with your hands or feet elevated on a stool, box or a pile of books.
To replicate an incline bench press with push ups, elevate your feet (decline push ups). To replicate a decline bench press with push ups, elevate your hands (incline push ups).
Decline push ups will target your upper chest, while incline push ups will target your lower chest.
And the same thing applies - to take this home chest exercise to the next level, simply add in your resistance band of choice. Wrap the resistance band around your shoulder blades, holding each end in your palm, and complete the workout for your desired amount of reps and sets.
5. Resistance Band Chest Press
Can you do a resistance band chest press? You can - and you can even perform the exercise without a gym bench.
The resistance band chest press replicates the same movement as a regular barbell bench press. To do it, bring the resistance band over your head and wrap it around your shoulder blades, then lie down on a comfortable floor surface and push the band up as you normally would when doing a regular bench press.
Increasing the difficulty of the resistance band chest press, or resistance band bench press, is as easy as using a thicker resistance band, or performing the exercise on a gym bench or something similar. In this case, you would secure the resistance band under the feet of the bench.
While you may not be able to go as heavy as a regular bench press at the gym, the resistance band chest press is better than nothing - especially if you’re stuck at a hotel in the middle of nowhere or can’t afford the monthly membership fees.
6. Resistance Band Chest Flys
Resistance band chest flys offer an effective chest workout that, once again, you can do absolutely anywhere.
Replicating the ever-popular chest cable fly, resistance band chest flys can serve as your go-to exercise when you can’t get to the gym and want to target all the areas of your inner chest.
And just like low and high cable flys, you can position the resistance bands to hit the upper and lower portions of your chest.
To perform a standard resistance band chest fly, fold the band together and wrap it around your shoulder blades. Remain standing with your chest pushed out and your shoulder blades squeezed together, then push the resistance band out in front of you in the same fashion as a standard cable fly, making sure to squeeze your pecs together.
To replicate a high or low cable fly, fasten the resistance band to a bedpost, closed door or pull up bar in the desired position. Perform the exercise as you normally would but as a one-arm fly.
You can also do resistance band chest flys with a pair of resistance bands, fastened at two separate points.
7. Resistance Band Overhead Press
While generally considered a shoulder exercise, the overhead press (military press, or shoulder press) also targets your upper chest when the exercise is performed with full range of motion. In the gym, this would mean lowering the dumbbell or barbell to your chestline, before pushing it back up and over your head.
And, you guessed it, you can perform the same exercise with resistance bands without the need of any expensive weights or gym equipment.
To do a resistance band overhead press, or resisted overhead press, that targets your upper chest, place the resistance band underneath your feet, spread shoulder-width apart. Push the resistance band from your chestline and up, over your head with extended arms, to complete one rep.
Don’t forget: the overhead press is a compound exercise, which means you’re hitting more than one muscle group. In this case, you’re not only working your upper chest, but your shoulders (front delts), triceps and traps.
8. Resistance Band Dips
Dips are one of the best chest exercises out there. In fact, many bodybuilders, gymnasts and calisthenics athletes believe it rivals the decline bench press, with some even calling it the more superior exercise for hitting the lower chest.
Chest dips are generally performed on a dip station or a set of parallel bars. However, dips can actually be performed without this equipment, using a pair of tall chairs, tall boxes, or the corner of a kitchen counter where the counter meets at ninety degrees!
As a last resort, you can even perform dips on the bars used at public bicycle parking facilities.
To perform a resistance band dip, or resisted dip, fold the resistance band together and bring it over your head so the band is resting on the back of your neck. With the two ends secured underneath your palms, perform the dip as usual, lowering your chest so that your elbows arrive at a 90-degree angle, before pushing back up for one rep.
The resistance band dip is an effective alternative to the weighted dip, which uses a weight plate fastened at the waist. Both can even be employed together for the ultimate lower chest workout.
9. Back Lever
Here’s an exercise that might be new to you, or one that you didn’t expect to see on this list!
The back lever is a static hold performed by gymnasts and calisthenics athletes. It involves hanging from a pull up bar with the body held in a perfect horizontal line, facing the ground.
As the move involves hanging with your arms pulled behind your back, the back lever provides a significant stretch of the pectoral muscles. This, in turn, tears muscle fibers and initiates hypertrophy for serious chest gains.
You may be thinking that this is a gymnastic move or feat of strength that you’ll never be able to achieve. But that’s where resistance bands step in!
In fact, one of the methods to unlock the full back lever is with the help of resistance bands. With the resistance band buoying up your legs or hips - the other end fastened to the pull up bar - the back lever becomes a doable exercise for even beginners. And, subsequently, an effective way for anyone to build chest muscle.
To perform an assisted back lever with resistance bands, grab a thicker band to begin with. Loop the band around a pull up bar, then perform a skin the cat manoeuvre to get into position with the resistance band supporting your legs or waist. From there, extend your legs and hold the position for as long as possible, before exiting the move safely in reverse order.
Another great way to begin back lever training is by performing the move with tucked legs, which will also target your chest muscles. And once the tucked back lever becomes easy, you can progress to the one-leg back lever, then the straddle back lever, before achieving the full back lever.
As the back lever is a full body static hold, it will also target your front delts, traps, biceps, quads, hip flexors, hamstrings and calves.
How many reps and sets for a big chest?
To get a big chest, the key is to aim for hypertrophy, which is when you perform the exercise to an intensity that creates tears in your muscle tissue. While it may sound bad, hypertrophy is actually the reason your muscles become sore, before growing back larger.
As a general rule, the range of reps and sets for achieving hypertrophy is 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps. With that in mind, aim to complete your workout within this rep and set range, using a resistance band that challenges you.
Which resistance bands should I buy?
If you want to buy resistance bands or try one out, start with the thinnest resistance band you can find. Get a feel of how to use it, which exercises it complements, then consider getting a thicker resistance band to make your workouts more challenging. From there, add to your resistance band collection as needed or desired.
Of course, you can always buy a complete set from the start to have a resistance band for any exercise or purpose. But take note: it’s worth purchasing your resistance bands from the same manufacturer or brand to make sure the resistances increase at the right tensions.
How about resistance bands with handles? Handled resistance bands are particularly useful for a range of resistance band exercises such as chest flys, tricep kickbacks and bicep curls. The handle will, of course, provide a better grip than the band on its own.
One resistance band accessory that you should make sure to have is a resistance band anchor, which will enable you to wedge the resistance band in any door frame. This is perfect for use at home or in any hotel room. Some resistance bands come with the anchor provided, which is an obvious bonus.
The bottom line: resistance bands are affordable, versatile and well worth having in your travel bag. They can also be easily combined with the best compact home gyms if you're looking to add variety to your home exercises.
For resisted bodyweight exercises, stretching or injury rehabilitation, you never know when you might need them!
All in all, resistance bands offer an effective chest home workout that you can do anywhere without having to break your budget on expensive weights or yearly gym memberships. In addition, resistance bands can be folded and packed away easily to take with you anywhere you go.
Don’t forget: a huge plus for resistance bands is that they provide a different kind of resistance to free weights. So this makes them well worth having if you’re looking to challenge your muscles in a way you’re not used to, helping you to become a well-rounded, versatile athlete who isn’t limited to one form of resistance training.
It’s also worth mentioning that resistance bands can be used for other muscle groups, not just chest workouts! These include leg workouts, shoulder workouts, triceps and biceps, as well as core and ab workouts.
And even if you are not keen on using resistance bands in your main workout, resistance bands are considered important workout tools for stretching, warming up and rehabilitation for a variety of serious and non-serious injuries.
For injuries such as tendinopathy, a stretchable resistance band will be of greater benefit than an iron dumbbell with a fixed weight.