With all the best home gym equipment sold out, people look at alternative ways to get big arms. Bodyweight exercises can build muscle definition – just looks at all those calisthenics Youtube influencers – but only if you do them right. Push ups are particularly great for sculpting big arms and a broad chest, all at the same time.
Not to mention, according to science, push ups (a.k.a. press ups) are equally as good for building pecs as the bench press. Pretty surprising, right? Not so much if you think about it. Using the correct form, push ups and bench presses are very similar moves and also work pretty much the same muscles. And admittedly, setting up a press up station is cheaper than getting the best home gym equipment required to do bench presses.
But it begs the question: what are the best push up workouts that will build big chest and big arms? How should you structure your press up workout in order to maximise chest muscle gains? What push up variations are the best for building pecs?
First and foremost, you’ll need to know how to build push ups. As in the case in most resistance training exercises, a good push up form is more important than churning out ‘half-reps’, so make sure your core, delts and pecs are all engaged when performing press ups. Slow, controlled reps are key to build muscle effectively.
Ready to soak up some push up knowledge? Here are the best push up workout advice we can provide that will get you to broad chest heaven sooner.
PUSH UP TIP #1: DO MORE REPS
When performing resistance training with the best home weights, you want to stay within the ‘hypertrophy range’ which is between 8-12 reps per set. This is said to be the best build increase muscle mass, as opposed to a lower rep range that build strength and a higher rep range that build muscle endurance.
That said, bodyweight training is a bit different, especially push ups. Once you can do 10-12 push ups, if you stay in this range going forward, you won’t see results anytime soon, or ever. Doing 20-30 or even more reps per set is advised to increase resistance and stimulate the pecs more.
PUSH UP TIP #2: WEAR A WEIGHTED VEST
No need to increase the rep range if you add resistance to your push ups. Wearing a weighted vest in one way to add resistance to your push ups. Most vests come with detachable weights so you can adjust the amount resistance and follow a progressive overload pattern in your push up training.
PUSH UP TIP #3: ADD ELEVATION
If you want to keep the training as minimal as possible and don’t want to invest in the best home gym equipment, you can add more resistance by elevating your legs off the floor. The higher up the legs, the harder the push ups will be. You can gradually increase resistance by increasing the legs higher and higher as you progress.
It is worth mentioning that at some point, as you elevate the leg further and further up, you will end up working your shoulders more and the pecs less. Handstand push ups work the pecs very little but are excellent for the delts and the triceps.
PUSH UP TIP #4: USE RESISTANCE BANDS
Especially at the apex of the push up movement, you might find it less challenging to hold this pose. Resistance bands provide the most resistance when your arms are extended and as long as you don’t lock your elbows, the band’s resistance will work the triceps beautifully too. Even the best resistance bands are pretty cheap and can be stored wherever, ideal for smaller living spaces.
PUSH UP TIP #5: LOOK AFTER YOUR WRISTS
One of the complaints most often brought up about push ups is that it it kills the wrists and indeed, that’s certainly a disadvantage over bench press. The way the hands are placed is important and so is to warm up the joints before you get down on the floor.
If you are happy to invest a little, we recommend getting a push up handle or a couple of parallettes to give your wrists a break. Using these, your hands take on a similar pose as if you were doing bench press, which is way better for wrist health. And much like resistance bands, push up handles are cheap and take up very little space.