Training the muscles across your chest might not be something you hear about very often in female training circles, but these muscles are hugely important for overall upper-body strength. The chest muscles, which include the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor (better known collectively as your pecs) and the serratus anterior (the muscle that covers your upper ribs), help with pushing movements and play an important role in keeping your shoulders stable and structurally balanced. BODY BASICS Your pecs have attachments on your breastbone, ribs, collarbone and upper arm, so they play a hugely important role in upper-body strength and stability. They also work in conjunction with your shoulder and neck muscles to keep your shoulder joints and neck stable. Meanwhile, your serratus anterior muscles pull your shoulder blades back and down during pushing movements. It’s very common to see weaknesses and imbalances at the shoulder joint, which can lead to reduced performance and/or injury. Lack of shoulder stability and, in turn, poor form during pushing exercises (think push-ups and bench presses) compromise the shoulder joint and make it difficult to improve your upper-body strength. Many people also have weak serratus anterior muscles, which causes your shoulder blade to rotate up, or ‘wing’, during pushing movements – address this straight away if you want stay injury free. A good personal trainer will be able to spot this. Given that shoulder stability is so key, you need to focus on training your shoulders and chest together. Bodyweight training is ideal for this, especially at the outset, as you don’t need additional load when training your chest or doing pushing movements. It’s even easier than training your back muscles, which do require resistance-training equipment. Just make sure your training is progressive and perform all the exercises in good form – your shoulders will thank you for it. Try the three top bodyweight movements below to help you strengthen your chest and pushing movements, while also keeping your shoulders in check.
3 BEST BODYWEIGHT CHEST MOVES
Starting in a high push-up position, core engaged, lower your body a little way towards the floor without bending your arms – think about pulling yourself down with your shoulder blades. Then, still with arms straight, push yourself back to the start by spreading your shoulders back. Start with two to three sets of 15 reps. Try it on your knees if it’s too hard.
Lie on your front with your hands flat on the floor, a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Keeping your core engaged, push your toes into the floor and push yourself up, so your arms straighten. Then, thinking about pulling yourself down to the floor, bend your arms and lower yourself so your chin, chest and hips all brush the floor. Push up again. Start with 10 reps.
Stand between parallel bars, holding them with an overhand grip. Push your body up until your arms are straight and your body’s hanging straight down. With a tight core, bend your elbows and lower your body until your shoulders are below your elbows. Hold briefly, then push back up to the start, engaging shoulders, chest and arms. Start with 10 reps.