Edited by Juan Carlos Santana
Face it: The bench press is irreplaceable. No guy should completely eliminate the exercise from his workout.
But the truth is, you can build lots of muscle in your chest and arms—and boost your bench—without lifting a barbell or dumbbell, or using a machine.
We’re conditioned to think that using weights is the only way to develop a strong, muscular chest. But at the gym I own, the Institute of Human Performance in Boca Raton, Florida, we do the opposite of what you learned. We use no weights, no spotters, and no bench—which means you can do our entire program at home.
I’m talking about push-ups. You’ll shred fat, boost strength, stimulate new growth, and carve eye-grabbing pecs by blasting through 60-rep pushup sets.
The bench press is popular. But after this routine, you’ll wonder why you ever tried anything different.
Scrawny to Brawny
Push Your Growth
Follow these three steps to add layers of new muscle in just 8 weeks. The first step builds your endurance, the second increases strength, and the final step adds explosiveness and speed so you can pack on more size.
Before starting the program, you should be able to do 20 consecutive push-ups. If you can’t, then build your strength with this 3-week prep: Three days a week, do 3 sets of pushups, resting 3 minutes between sets. (A set is as many push-ups as you can complete.)
The entire workout uses variations of the standard push-up. For each movement, assume a pushup position (with your body in a straight line from ankles to shoulders) and then lower your chest to the floor. Press your body back to the starting position by straightening your arms. To add difficulty, perform the exercise with your hands on a medicine ball.
1: Weeks 1 and 2
Perform these exercises 2 or 3 days a week in the order shown, with at least 1 day of rest between workouts. Complete 3 sets of each push-up type, resting 1 to 2 minutes between sets. Aim for sets of 10 to 15 reps; if you can’t reach that goal, do as many reps as you can.
A. Wide pushup
Do a standard pushup, but with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
B. Alternating shuffle push-up
Start in push-up position. Move your right hand to the left until your two hands are next to each other. Now slide your left hand farther left until your hands are shoulder-width apart again. Do a push-up and repeat the process, this time moving to the right and doing another push-up. That’s 1 rep.
C. Diamond push-up
Do a push-up with your hands close enough for the tips of your thumbs and index fingers to touch, forming a diamond shape.
2: Weeks 3, 4, 5, and 6
Perform these exercises 2 days a week. Complete 4 sets of each push-up type, resting 1 to 2 minutes between sets. Aim for 10 to 15 reps in each set. For these push-ups, you’ll need a 4- to 8-inch-high box or step.
A. One-arm pushup
Do a push-up with your right hand on the floor and your left hand on the box. Switch arms and repeat. That’s 1 rep.
B. Crossover box pushup
Do a one-arm push-up with your left hand on the box. Then, from the starting position, lift your right hand and place it beside your left hand on top of the box. Then move your left hand down to the floor so your hands are shoulder-width apart again. Perform a push-up. That’s 1 rep.
C. Hands-on-box diamond pushup
Perform a diamond push-up, but with both hands on the box.
D. Dynamic box pushup
Place your hands on a box in the diamond push-up position. Lower your body and press explosively off the box, your hands landing on the floor with the box between them. Immediately lower your body and press explosively up so your hands land back on the box in the starting position. That’s 1 rep.
3: Weeks 7 and 8
Complete the exercises in step 2 as a circuit, performing one exercise after the other with no rest. Try to perform 10 reps of each exercise. Do this twice a week, and allow 3 or 4 days of rest.
Main Photo: U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Justin A. Moeller, 4th Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs