Working these muscle groups will increase your upper-body strength and make everyday tasks easier.
Training your chest and triceps isn’t just about gaining muscle for aesthetic purposes. Building these muscles is also essential for feeling strong in everyday activities, such as pushing or pulling a heavy door or pushing yourself off the floor. Fortunately, it’s easy to complete an efficient chest and triceps workout at home with minimal equipment.
Your chest muscles—which consist primarily of the large pectoralis major that connects to your upper arm and the smaller pectoralis minor that lies underneath—are responsible for shoulder movements. For movements that involve bending your elbows, you rely on your triceps, a three-part arm muscle composed of the medial, lateral, and long heads. Improving the strength of accessory muscles like your triceps will also help with compound exercises such as bench presses.
It doesn’t even take much time (or gym equipment) to build these important muscles. You can do one of these chest and triceps workouts at home (the first can be done with just your body weight), and you’ll soon start enjoying those upper-body gains.
How Often Should You Do a Chest and Triceps Workout at Home?
When you’re working isolated muscle groups such as the chest and triceps, it’s important to find a balance between lifting enough to build strength and doing too much and risking injury. “Most people can probably get an adequate stimulus off 6 to 8 working sets per week,” says Josh Clay, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and Fitness Programming Specialist at Tonal.
To reach that goal, he recommends doing one of the following workouts either twice a week (with 3 to 4 sets of each exercise) or three times a week (with 2 to 3 sets of each exercise).
Bodyweight Chest and Triceps Workout at Home
Although this workout looks like just a bunch of pushups, the key is how each variation challenges your chest and triceps from a different angle.
“You’re exposing your chest to a variety of joint angles and you’re ensuring that you’re hitting all the [muscle] fibers of the chest,” says Clay. He explains that recent research has shown that various chest press angles stimulate activation in different chest muscles, so moving between them is optimal for strengthening your entire chest.
Clay recommends going to failure in each exercise before moving on to the next. “Hypertrophy is best accomplished when you’re at or near failure,” he says. You’ll start with the most challenging move to ensure you’ll have energy in the tank to finish. Because you’ll likely be able to do more of certain exercises than others, Clay says you’ll also be exposing your muscles to different rep ranges to develop both muscular strength and endurance. Go through the workout for 2 to 4 sets, performing as many reps of each exercise as possible.
Why it Works: A more challenging take on the classic pushup, this variation targets your upper chest and the front of your shoulders. This move will be more difficult with a higher surface and easier with a lower one. If you can’t do this exercise, just start the workout with the regular pushup below. Clay cautions, though, to avoid using a surface that’s too high or the exercise will start working your shoulders more than your chest.
How to Do it: Place your hands on the floor a few feet away from a bench or other elevated surface, slightly wider than your shoulders. Position both feet on the bench with toes tucked. Bend at your elbows and keep your upper arm about 45 degrees from your torso as you drop down and aim your collar bones to the floor. Once at the bottom, push the floor away from you, pressing with your chest, and repeat.
Why it Works: Pushups are a classic for a reason. These foundational bodyweight exercises strengthen your chest and upper arms.
How to Do it: Bending the elbows about 45 degrees from the torso, drop your chest toward the floor aiming for your fingertips. Once at the bottom, push the floor away from you while pressing with your chest.
Why it Works: In this incline position, you’ll take some of the weight off your arms and shoulders and concentrate on your chest. You can make this move more difficult by using a lower surface, or easier by using a higher one.
How to Do it: Place your hands at the edge of the bench or other elevated surface slightly wider than the shoulders, with legs extended behind you on the floor. Bend the elbows about 45 degrees from your body as you aim your chest to your fingertips. Once your chest is just above the bench, press through your hands to push back up.
Bodyweight Skull Crusher
Why it Works: To work your triceps in the lengthened position, Clay recommends this challenging exercise. In addition to triceps strength, you’ll also need a strong core to keep your torso stable in this move. “It’s just as much a core exercise, as it is a triceps exercise,” he says. If this exercise is too difficult standing up, try kneeling in front of a low bench and performing it from that position.
How to Do It: Grip a heavy table, bench, or another stable surface with hands shoulder-width apart and stand two to three steps away. Lower your body toward the surface bending only at your elbows. Stop when your head is in-between your hands and push back up to the starting position using your triceps.
Why it Works: This pushup variation targets your triceps, specifically in the shortened position. To make it more or less difficult you can try elevating your feet or your hands, just as you did with the traditional pushups above.
How to Do it: Get into a pushup position and bring your hands in, slightly closer than shoulder width. With your elbows tight to your torso, drop your chest down toward the floor aiming for your fingertips. Once at the bottom, push the floor away from you, pressing with your chest and triceps.
Take Your Training Up a Notch with This On-Tonal Chest and Triceps Workout at Home
When you’re ready to take your workout to the next level and add resistance, there are a variety of chest and triceps exercises on Tonal that’ll work your muscles from every angle. Tonal automatically selects the appropriate weight for you and tracks all your progress to take the guesswork out of your routine.
Do three sets of each exercise, first with 10 reps, then 8 reps, and finally 6 reps to build strength while exposing your muscles to those varying rep ranges.
Barbell Bench Press
Why it Works: When it comes to building bigger chest muscles, you can’t go wrong with the old-school barbell bench press. “Hypertrophy is all about having a stable base,” says Clay. “If we do a flat bench press, we have a stable base to move from.” While exercises that start in an unstable position (think single-limb movements such as a kneeling single-arm chest press) are essential for challenging your balance and strengthening small stabilizing muscles, for pure strength gains the barbell bench press allows you to push heavier weights.
How to Do it: Position yourself on the bench underneath the barbell with your head near Tonal. Plant your feet on the floor, chest in line with the end of Tonal’s arms. Take the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width and bring your arms straight over your chest. Lower down by bending the elbows about 45 degrees from the body, and forearms perpendicular to the floor. Press your knuckles straight up to the ceiling to finish with your hands above your chest.
Why it Works: Like the bodyweight version above, this exercise works your triceps in the lengthened position, and the deep flexion in your elbow allows you to isolate your triceps in a way most other exercises can’t
How to Do it: Lie on your back with your head near Tonal. Plant your feet on the floor, chest in line with the end of Tonal’s arms. Grab the handles and bring your arms straight over your chest. With palms facing forward, lower your hands toward your forehead by bending the elbows as if your knuckles could crush your skull. Press your knuckles straight up to the ceiling to finish with your hands above your chest.
Incline Chest Fly
Why it Works: To strengthen your chest from a different angle than the flat bench press, try this move that especially targets the upper pectoral muscle fibers.
How to Do it: Take a handle in each hand and stand facing away from Tonal in a split stance with arms at your sides and palms facing forward. Keeping a soft elbow bend, bring your arms forward and up toward your chin like you’re trying to scoop up the air, and end with arms in front of your face and palms facing up. Bring your arms back to your sides to finish and repeat.
Why it Works: Balance out the skull crushers with this exercise that works your triceps in the shortened position.
How to Do it: Extend your elbows to bring your hands down toward your hips, working the back of the arms. Imagine a magnet between your shoulder blades as you pull the rope down. Control your hands back up until they are just above the elbows.
Decline Chest Fly
Why it Works: You hit the upper part of your chest with the incline fly, now even things out with this move that focuses on the lower chest muscle fibers. In this position, you’ll also recruit your triceps for stabilizing support.
How to Do it: Take a handle in each hand and extend the arms in front of you slightly below your chest like you’re hugging a beach ball. Open your arms back and up toward Tonal, keeping them slightly bent, until they are almost in line with your shoulders. Bring your arms back to center and slightly below the chest, and repeat.
On Tonal, you can create a Custom Workout with these moves on the mobile app and use Tonal’s personalized weight recommendations for each exercise. If you’d rather work out with guidance from an expert coach, try one of these Tonal workouts that specifically target the chest and triceps:
Quick Fit: Chest Superset – Coach Trace Gotsis
This quick workout is all about developing powerful chest muscles through a circuit of challenging moves.
Quick Fit: Total Chest Pump – Coach Paul Wright
Work your chest from all angles in this short—but highly effective—session.
Quick Fit: Triceps in 10 – Coach Natalie Carey
It only takes 10 minutes to strengthen your triceps in this workout.
Quick Fit: Bis and Tris – Coach Kendall Wood
This workout combines triceps exercises with moves for the biceps, back, and chest for a full upper-body pump.