Chest workouts aren’t just for men, although if you ever look at who’s bench pressing in your gym’s weights room you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Working your chest is just as important for women because it helps to create balance throughout the body. You wouldn’t train just your legs and forget about your arms, so why neglect your chest?
Working out your chest muscles doesn’t have to be all clap press-ups and bench pressing heavy weights, either. These four simple but effective chest exercises will help women avoid injury, improve posture and make day-to-day life that bit easier. Every time you push open a door, for example, you are using your chest muscles. Strengthening these muscles will also help your performance in sports such as boxing and swimming.
Give these four moves a go, following the allotted reps. Once you’ve done a round of all the exercises, run through them another three times for a total of four circuits. You’ll need some floor space and a set of dumbbells, as well as a weight bench for one of the exercises.
Time 60sec Rest 30sec
This is great for the chest but hits the shoulders and core too. Start in a high plank position with your body in a straight line, your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders and toes tucked under. Take your left hand off the ground and tap your right shoulder. Place that hand back down and lift your right hand to tap your left shoulder. Keep alternating sides and aim for minimal movement in the hips throughout.
2 Dumbbell floor press
Reps 15 Rest 30sec
Lie on your back on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat. Grasp a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing your knees. Hold the dumbbells just above your chest, then extend your arms to press them both up. Slowly lower to the start.
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Reps 12 Rest 30sec
Sit on a weight bench with the backrest set to 45° and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing, with arms straight up above your chest and a slight bend in your elbows. Keeping your arms straight, lower the weights out to the sides. Avoid arching your back as you do this. Pause and then, focusing on using your chest muscles, bring your arms back to the start position. Move slowly, taking your time with this exercise.
Reps 20 Rest 30sec
A classic chest move that requires no equipment. Start in a high plank position, as you did with the shoulder tap, with your body in a straight line, your palms on the floor directly under your shoulders and toes tucked under. Lower by bending your elbows until your chest is just above the ground. Hold here for a second, then push yourself back up to the start. Press-ups can be hard to master – if this is too much for you, start by doing press-ups on your knees rather than your toes, and build up to doing full press-ups.
Lucy is a freelance journalist, and former health and fitness editor across various UK women’s magazines. She is also a level 3 personal trainer and is trained in pre- and post-natal fitness.
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