Can You Build Your Chest with Resistance Bands?
What are the best resistance band chest exercises?
Ask most exercisers, and they’ll probably tell you that the best way to build bigger, stronger, or more toned muscles is to lift weights. They’ll undoubtedly say that things like the barbell bench press and cable crossover machine are all but compulsory for building the chest of your dreams.
However, this is quite a narrow view of exercise, and there is more than one way to build the perfect pecs. Bodyweight exercises such as push-ups and dips both excellent options and even cardio activities like swimming can be helpful, too.
But there is another option to consider – resistance bands.
Resistance bands are cheap, portable, and versatile. They’re also easier on your joints than heavy weights, and they’re virtually silent in use. That means they’re ideal for home use, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use them in the gym.
In this article, we reveal the seven best resistance band chest exercises and provide you with a simple but effective workout to follow.
Chest Exercise Anatomy
All of the following exercises work your pectoralis major or pecs for short. The pecs are your primary chest muscles. However, in nature, muscles rarely work alone, and most resistance band chest exercises also involve your deltoids or shoulder muscles. In fact, the deltoids and the pecs almost always work together.
The last muscle involved in most chest exercises is your triceps brachii, known simply as your triceps for short. Located on the back of your upper arm, this muscle extends your shoulder joint.
The following exercises all involve your pecs and deltoids, and most work your triceps too.
The 7 Best Resistance Band Chest Exercises
Use the following exercises as an alternative to barbell, dumbbell, and machine chest exercises, or add them to your regular gym-based workout for some extra variety.
1. Resistance band push-ups
The humble push-up is a very effective exercise. But, once you can do 15-20 reps, it starts to lose some of its potency. The good news is that you can use a resistance band to make this classic calisthenic move more challenging.
How to do it:
- Place your resistance band around your upper back and hold it in both hands.
- Lie down on your front with your arms bent and body straight. Place your hands on the floor, anchoring the band. Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs.
- Keeping your body straight, extend your arms and push yourself off the floor against gravity and the resistance offered by the band.
- Lower your chest back down to an inch above the floor and repeat.
2. Resistance band floor press
Floor presses are a very effective chest and triceps exercise. They’re usually done with a barbell or dumbbells. However, you can also do this shoulder-friendly chest exercise with a resistance band.
- Place your resistance band on the floor and lie on it, so it’s under your upper back. Grab the ends of the band and position your forearms so they are vertical. Bend or straighten your legs are preferred.
- Extend your arms and push your hands up against the resistance offered by the band.
- Bend your arms until your upper arms lightly touch the floor and repeat.
3. Resistance band fly
Dumbbell flyes and cable crossovers are isolation exercises. That means they only involve movement at one joint. For chest exercises, that means the shoulders. Resistance band flyes are an excellent chest exercise, but they do not put much stress on your triceps.
How to do it:
- Attach your band to a chest-high anchor. Stand with your back to the anchor and take one end in each hand. Use a staggered stance for stability. Brace your abs.
- Raise your arms up and out to your sides so your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Keep your elbows slightly bent but rigid.
- Bring your arms forward so that they meet at about chest height.
- Open your arms, stretch your chest, and repeat.
- This exercise can be done using a low anchor and upward movement to work your upper chest or a high anchor and a downward movement to increase lower chest activation.
4. Resistance band chest press
While exercises like the resistance band push-up and floor press are both very effective, it’s always nice to have a workout option that doesn’t involve lying on the ground. This exercise is ideal for outdoor workouts when lying on the floor is not practical or desirable.
How to do it:
- Attach your band to a chest-high anchor. Stand with your back to the anchor and take one end of the band in each hand. Use a staggered stance for stability. Brace your abs.
- Starting with your arms bent and hands close to your shoulders, straighten your arms and push your hands away.
- Bend your arms and repeat.
5. Resistance band pullover
Pullovers are often viewed as an upper back exercise. While this exercise does work your lats, it also works your pecs. Like flyes and crossovers, this is a single joint or isolation exercise, so there is very little triceps involvement.
How to do it:
- Attach your resistance band to a low anchor point. Lie on your back with the anchor above your head. Grab the band with both hands and straighten your elbows. Your arms should be perpendicular to your body.
- Pull your arms over your head, drawing your hands down to your hips.
- Slowly raise your arms and repeat.
6. Resistance band single-arm crossover
Most resistance band chest exercises are bilateral, which means they work both arms at the same time. Unfortunately, this can disguise and even lead to left to right strength imbalances. Unilateral exercises like single-arm crossovers are an effective way to identify and fix imbalances and also increase core activation.
How to do it:
- Attach a resistance band to a chest-high anchor. Hold it in one hand, with your arm extended. Stand with a staggered stance for stability, and brace your abs.
- Keeping your arm slightly bent but rigid, draw your arm forward and across your body. Do not let your hips or shoulders twist.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
- Do the same number of reps on both sides.
- This exercise can also be done using a low anchor and upward movement to work your upper chest or a high anchor and a downward movement to increase lower chest activation.
7. Resistance band incline press
This useful exercise replicates incline dumbbell and barbell bench presses and works your upper chest. It also increases the distance that your band has to stretch, making it a more demanding resistance band chest exercise.
How to do it:
- Stand in a staggered stance. Put the middle of your resistance band under your back foot and hold the handles up at chest level.
- Press your arms forward and up to hit your upper chest.
- Slowly lower your hands back to your shoulders and repeat.
- Swap rear legs set by set to avoid developing any muscle imbalances.
BONUS EXERCISE: Bench press with bands
You can combine resistance bands with some barbell exercises to make them even more challenging. Bench presses with bands are a great way to increase the load as you lock your elbows, increasing triceps activation. Powerlifters use this technique to help eliminate a major bench press sticking point.
How to do it:
- With your barbell in a bench press station, put a resistance band around each end of the bar and weigh it down with a heavy dumbbell. Make sure the tension is the same on both sides.
- Lie on the bench with your eyes directly under the bar. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, grab the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip, and pull your shoulders down and back.
- Unrack the bar and hold it over your chest.
- Lower the bar to lightly touch your chest and then drive it back up. The tension on your muscles will increase as you approach lockout and the bands tighten.
Resistance Band Workout
While there is nothing to stop you from doing a few random resistance band chest exercises, you’ll get better results if you follow a more structured workout program. Here’s one to get you started!
Before you start, prepare your muscles and joints with 5-10 minutes of easy cardio followed by some dynamic flexibility and mobility exercises.
Do the following workout 1-2 times per week as part of a split routine. If you choose to do it twice, make sure you train your chest on non-consecutive days, e.g., Monday and Thursday, to allow plenty of time for rest and recovery.
Do 2-4 sets of 8-20 repetitions of the following exercises. The exact number of reps will depend on the strength of your bands. Just keep going until you start to feel your chest starting to fatigue. Rest for a moment or two and then repeat.
Resistance Band Chest Workout
Resistance band push-ups
Resistance band flyes
Resistance band chest press
Resistance band pullovers
Resistance band single-arm crossovers
Best Resistance Band Chest Exercises – Final Thoughts
Resistance bands offer a whole host of benefits and advantages. They’re light, portable, cheap, and versatile. In many instances, they’re safer than things like barbells and dumbbells too. After all, if you can’t lock out a barbell bench press, the weight could come crashing down across your chest. There are no such concerns with resistance band chest exercises.
Can you build muscle and strength with resistance bands? You bet!
As clever and complex as your body is, it has a hard time differentiating between doing resistance band floor presses and dumbbell bench presses. So long as you work hard and consistently, your muscles will adapt.
Build the upper body of your dreams with the best resistance band chest exercises.