5 bodyweight chest exercises to build superhero pecs without weights

Shirtless man with defined pectoral and abs muscles
(Image credit: Getty Images)

What do Superman, Batman, and Aquaman all have in common? Seriously enviable pecs. And, good news, you can score them too, without needing to squeeze into a spandex suit or save anyone from danger (unless you want to, of course).

If you like training at the gym with a set of dumbbells, then your chest day probably involves some incline and bench presses with a few sets of chest flys. These are staple upper body moves for a reason, but you can ditch the weights and still get impressive results. 

This is ideal if you're tight on time or want a quick workout you can do from anywhere without compromising on your muscle-building goals. With that in mind, here are five bodyweight chest exercises you can do anytime, anywhere — no weights (or capes) required.

What are your pecs?

Your pectorals, or pecs, consist of four muscles: the Pectoralis Major, located superficially on each side of your chest; the Pectoralis Minor, located underneath the Pectoralis Major; the Serratus Anterior, located on the sides of your ribcage; and the Subclavius, located underneath your collarbone.  

Your pecs are responsible for several everyday functions, like moving your arms across your body, stabilizing your shoulders, and assisting with the in and out motion of your breath. 

5-move bodyweight chest workout to build superhero pecs

These bodyweight chest exercises are designed to challenge your muscles, so if you're new to this type of training, check in with your doctor or medical professional before you start.

1. Push-up

The push-up is a classic upper-body exercise, and it targets the peccs, triceps, back muscles, and core all in a single move. It's a form of compound exercise that targets several muscles simultaneously. 

If the standard push-up is too challenging, lower your knees to the floor. Or you can start with inclined bench or wall push-ups before attempting the traditional form. For a greater challenge, elevate your feet and do the push-up in a declined position. 

  • Start on all fours on the floor, with your knees underneath your hips and hands underneath your shoulders. Step your feet behind you about hip-width apart, and keep the center of your chest between your two hands.
  • Engage your core and keep your hips in line with your shoulders — don’t let them drop towards the floor or rise into the air. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your body down to the floor, keeping your spine neutral.
  • Once you’ve lowered all the way down, push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Continue for 10 - 12 repetitions or until can't continue without breaking form. 

2. Uneven push-ups

This push-up variation is a great way to challenge your stability and pectoral strength. All you need is an object (like a book or exercise step) to lift one side of your body. You can modify the uneven push-up by performing the exercise with your knees on the floor. 

  • Start on all fours on the floor, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Step your feet back behind you, about hip-width apart.
  • Place your right hand on the object and your left on the floor. Keep your core engaged, your hips aligned with your shoulders, and your spine neutral. Slowly lower yourself towards the floor.
  • Once you've reached the end of your range, push yourself back up to the starting position.
  • Continue for 6-8 reps before repeating with your left hand on the object.

3. Narrow-grip underhand pull-ups

Pull-ups are more widely known as an exercise to strengthen your back and biceps but change your grip position, and you’ll target the pecs as well. 

Pull-ups can be very difficult, especially if you’re a beginner. At the gym, you can practice using an assisted pull-up machine, or wrap a resistance band around a pull-up bar to help you build up to an unassisted pull-up. 

  • Stand in front of a pull-up bar with feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing your body) and with your two pinky fingers touching.
  • Keep your core engaged and your spine neutral as you squeeze your chest and pull yourself up, aiming your chin for the bar.
  • Once you’ve reached the end of your range, lower yourself to the starting position.
  • Continue for 10-12 repetitions.

4. Plank-ups

Also known as moving planks, plank-ups are great for working the pecs along with the deep muscles of your core. Like push-ups, you can reduce the intensity and modify plank-ups with your knees on the floor. 

  • Start on the floor on all fours, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Step your feet behind you about hip-width apart, and come to your forearms. Keep your elbows directly underneath your shoulders.
  • With your core engaged and spine neutral, pick your right forearm off the floor and place your right hand underneath your right shoulder, roughly where your right elbow was resting. Repeat the same action on the left side, and push yourself up.
  • Pick your right hand up, and place your right forearm back down on the floor. Follow with your left side, until you’re back in the starting position.
  • Continue for 6-8 repetitions starting with your right side, then repeat for another 6-8 repetitions, beginning on your left side. 

5. Star planks

I forgot to mention Spiderman when listing my favorite superheroes, so let’s make up for that with a star plank. This advanced move will leave you ready to scale buildings like the webbed crusader and with strong pectorals, and core muscles, too! 

  • Start on the floor on all fours and step your feet behind you, and keep your hands aligned underneath your shoulders. Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine.
  • Step your feet apart, shoulder-width or slighty wider. Reach your hands out to the sides to make a star shape.
  • Hold in this position for 30 seconds.

More from Tom's Guide

Jennifer Rizzuto

Jennifer Rizzuto is a freelance writer and certified personal trainer based in Long Island, NY. She covers various fitness-related topics and reviews for Tom's Guide. She also writes sketch comedy and short films, and performs frequently as an actor, singer, and improviser. When she's not writing, working out, or performing, you'll find her trying to convince her husband to get a dog.