When one side is weaker or stronger than the other, or when your core is unable to hold you steady while you train, you notice it right away. But this do-anywhere six-pack of exercises is the perfect way to balance out one of the most important parts of your body: your chest. So if you’re not satisfied with what you see when you look down, things are about to look up!
Each chest-intensive move in this program is either a unilateral exercise that works one side at a time to shore up your weaker half or a stability move that requires other muscles to keep you steady as you train. Requiring only a stability ball and a set of dumbbells, this program can be done at home or in the gym and you should see noticeable gains in lean muscle, symmetry, coordination and strength in only six weeks!
This routine should be performed once or twice a week, resting at least two days between sessions for recovery. The six moves are split into two different workouts for the first two weeks:
- For Workout 1 and Workout 2, you’ll choose a moderately heavy weight to use for 12 to 15 reps per move. You’ll also rest 60 seconds between sets to allow for adequate recovery.
- For Workout 3, the exercises are arranged in a circuit with no rest in between to change things up, shocking your body to promote change while giving you a little cardio boost for the day.
The whole program repeats once more to carry you through six weeks of training.
Up and Out Push-Up
Setup: Kneel and place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor. Straighten your legs behind you so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
Action: Keeping your body straight, raise your left foot off the floor and extend it a few inches out to the side. Then bend your elbows and lower your chest down to the floor. When it touches or nearly touches down, push yourself back up until your arms are straight, then return your foot to the start. Continue, alternating feet.
Tip: If this move is too challenging, try doing the exercise on one knee with your other leg extended straight back and to the side. This alteration decreases the weight you have to push by about 50 percent.
Bonus Benefits: Extending your leg tilts you slightly off-center, causing your core to work extra hard to stabilize you throughout the set.
Piston Stability-Ball Incline Chest Press
Setup: Holding a light dumbbell in each hand, lie back on a stability ball with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your torso should be positioned at a 45-degree angle with your hips lower than your chest and the weights at your shoulders, palms forward and elbows down.
Action: Press the weight in your left hand up without moving your right arm. As you lower the weight in your left hand back down, press the weight in your right hand up. Continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Perform this move at a brisk pace that you can comfortably maintain without compromising your balance.
Bonus Benefits: Working each arm briskly like this improves endurance and strengthens your abs as you’re constantly fighting to control your balance.
Alternating Floor Flye
Setup: Lie with a light dumbbell in each hand, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Extend your arms over your chest with your elbows slightly bent, palms facing forward.
Action: Without moving your right arm, slowly open your left arm out to the side, lowering it until the dumbbell gently touches the floor. Bring your left arm back to the start and then continue, alternating sides.
Tip: Do this move with your weaker side first to give it priority and have a chance to catch up.
Bonus Benefits: Balancing both sides of your chest will allow you to lift more weight and get better results over time.
Chair Push-Up (with pause)
Setup: Stand in front of a sturdy chair and place your hands on the seat shoulder-width apart, fingers forward. Extend your legs behind you so your body forms a straight line from your head to your heels.
Action: Bend your elbows and lower your chest down halfway, then pause and hold for two seconds. Then lower yourself again until your chest almost touches the seat, then return to the halfway point and hold for two more seconds. Extend your arms to rise to the start to complete one rep.
Tip: If this move is too difficult, try either reducing the time to one second per pause or eliminating the pause in one direction.
Bonus Benefits: Pausing halfway increases the time your muscles stay under tension, stimulating growth and improving endurance.
Stability-Ball Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Press
Setup: Hold a set of dumbbells at your shoulders with your palms facing inward, and lie back on a stability ball so your head and upper back are supported. Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
Action: Extend your arms and press the weights up over your chest. As you extend, corkscrew your palms so they face rearward at the top. Reverse the motion to slowly return to the start.
Tip: Move your feet farther apart for more stability or bring them closer together for a greater balancing challenge.
Bonus Benefits: This corkscrewing motion works the smaller muscles of the rotator cuff, improving shoulder stability and strength.
45-Degree Floor Press
Setup: Lie with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a set of dumbbells over your chest with your palms facing midway forward and inward.
Action: Keeping your wrists positioned at this angle, slowly lower the weights down to the sides of your chest, taking no less than three seconds to come down. Once your upper arms touch the floor, quickly press the dumbbells straight up above your chest until your arms are straight.
Tip: Letting your upper arms stop once they touch the floor — even for a second — will remove most of the tension from your chest muscles immediately. Touch and go for best results.
Bonus Benefits: Lying on the floor reduces your range of motion, allowing you to place all the effort directly on your chest muscles throughout the movement; angling your hands to 45 degrees helps reduce wrist strain.
Your Flip Side
You’ve given your chest a great workout, now it’s time to target your flip side. Training your back helps prevent postural problems, lowers your risk of injury and, most important, makes your top half look great from every angle. Try these six at-home moves to keep your body in perfect balance.
- One-Arm Dumbbell Row
- Bent-Over Dumbbell Row
- Bent-Over Reverse-Grip Dumbbell Row
- Dumbbell Upright Row
- Cross-Bench Dumbbell Pullover
- Dumbbell Shrug