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Home » 11 Best Chest Exercises With Resistance Bands (+4 Week Plan)

11 Best Chest Exercises With Resistance Bands (+4 Week Plan)

Picture of a man performing resistance band exercises

You might be surprised to learn just how effective resistance bands can be for your chest workouts. These versatile tools aren’t just great for those avoiding the gym; they also offer a unique way of targeting muscles that free weights can’t match.

In this article, we’ll delve into the science behind how resistance bands enhance muscle growth and strength. We’ll also explore my list of the 11 best resistance band chest exercises and how to perform them correctly.

Benefits Of Resistance Band Exercises

During the pandemic, bands gained significant popularity as an alternative way to exercise at home. And as soon as the gyms opened back up, resistance bands became another unnecessary fitness trend, stored somewhere collecting dust.

The truth is that resistance bands exercises offer a lot more than just convenience.

More Muscle With Dual Resistance & Time Under Tension

Resistance bands keep the muscle engaged throughout an exercise as they can generate resistance for both the concentric (contracting) and eccentric (lengthening) phases.

In contrast, free weights generate varying degrees of resistance as you move the weight.

This means that bands are able to keep the muscle under tension for longer. This is commonly known as time under tension.

What is time under tension? 

Time under tension (TUT) describes exactly what you would expect – the timespan a muscle is under tension during an exercise.

A study by Burd et al. (2012) reviewed that the longer the time under tension, the greater the muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth).

A graph from the study Burd et al. (2012) which shows the increased muscle protein synthesis with an increased time under tension. This graph is used to showcase how resistance band exercises can build muscle in the chest.
Source: Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men (2012)

Incorporating resistance bands into your chest workout, can help you increase the muscle’s TUT and as a result increase muscle growth.

How Do Resistance Bands Have Greater TUT?

This study by Nunes et al. (2020) compared the difference in torque generated by a muscle when comparing cable and free weight exercises.

What they were able to find is that free weights exercises generated greater torque when the muscle was lengthened. In comparison, cable exercises exert a relatively constant force (torque) throughout the entire range of motion, irrespective of muscle length.

This difference is due to the mechanics of the equipment. Free weights rely on gravity to generate muscle tension, whereas cable machines use a pulley system that provides a more consistent resistance throughout the movement.

Similarly, the resistance in the band is generated by the band itself. Thus, the tension is continuous throughout the entirety of the movement.

Finally, to tie everything together we have this study from Bergquist et al. (2018) where they compared the EMG activation (how much the muscle contracts) between elastic bands and free weights and found that there is barely any difference. 

A figure from a study showing how resistance bands were able to perform just as well as free-weights when eliciting an EMG response from the chest, shoulders, biceps, and lats. This image is used to showcase how resistance bands are a great tool for chest workouts.

Their paper concludes that resistance bands were able to generate similar, sometimes even greater, EMG activation. Proving that resistance bands exercises should be a consideriation as a substitute to free weights, or in addition to free-weights.

Resistance Band Exercises Build Strength

Because of their dual resistance and higher time under tension, resistance bands could help you build more strength.

This study from Folkins et al. (2021) shows how resistance bands helped participants build strength at qual rates as with free-weights.

An image of three graphs showing the shoulder, elbow flexors and hip abductor concentric and eccentric muscle contractions when the muscles are exercised with resistance bands and free weights. The image is used to show how resistance bands were able to generate greater muscle engagement in both movements - outperforming the free weights.

Again, here we can see how both the concentric and eccentric values of resistance bands is greater than free-weights.

Enhance Existing Chest Exercises

Why not combine the best of both worlds?

Due to their higher time under tension, resistance bands can be used to increase the time under tension for other exercises.

For example, banded bench press:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJ1T2EU8Kvs&ab_channel=CoachFmt
Banded Bench Press Guide

Resistance Bands & Progressive Overload

Progressive overload is one of the primary driving factors of muscle growth. It happens when you gradually increase the demand and stress of a muscle. For example, by doing the same reps and sets, with a heavier weight.

Progressive overload is what makes resistance band exercises a great tool for home workouts. No heavy or expensive equipment, just a few rubber bands.

On top of that, resistance bands can be a creative way of adding progressive overload to your chest workout. Again, the banded bench press is a great example – where we increase muscle demand by incporating a band to our bench press.

Lower Chance of Injury

According to American Journal of Sports Medicine 90% of all injuries recorded at the gym come from dumbbells and barbells (source).

This also makes resistance bands ideal for those who have previously suffered from injury.

Workout Anywhere

Probably the most noticeable benefit of incporating resistance bands to your chest workout is the ability to exercise anywhere – without sacrificing any muscle growth.

Best Resistance Bands to Train the Chest

Using the correct bands can make a big difference in both comfort and performance.

The two main categories of resistance bands are:ss

  1. Looped
  2. With handles

Looped Bands

A picture of a man exercising with a looped resistance band. Looped resistance bands are the most versatile variation of the tool - making the band very useful for chest workouts. However, their build can also make them uncofortable due to friction in the hands.

Probably one of the most popular type of bands are looped bands. They are incredibly versatile, and can be applied to a variety of exercises.

Looped bands are also the best way to incorporate resistance bands with other chest exercises – such as the banded bench press.

However, I would strongly suggest not using looped bands where you have to hold the band with your hands. They can irritate the skin on your hands as they rub against it. A solution to this would be using exercise gloves.

But a far better alternative would be using resistance bands with handles.

Bands with Handles

A picture of a man performing resistance bands shoulder exercises with handles - this image is used to show how resistance bands with handles are a more comfortable and convenient way of exercising.

Not as applicable as the looped bands, however the handles offer a more convenient way of exercising.

The handles also help strabilize your grip.

Bonus: Resistance band anchors

Anchors, usually attached to a door, make it easier to set up exercises. While completely optional, I would strongly suggest getting one as they will make your entire workout a lot more manageable.

The anchor for bands is especially useful for chest exercises, as it makes it easier to carry out compound movements.

Like I said, most resistance band anchors are made to be attached to the door. However, if you carry out your chest exercises outside, there are a lot of “anywhere” anchors which make it possible to attach the bands to any surface.

The 11 Best Chest Exercises with Resistance Bands

Here is a quick overview of the exercise list in this sample resistance band workout.

1. Resistance Band Push Ups (Banded Push Ups)

The resistance band push ups will serve as the main chest exercise for building muscle mass and strength. It promotes the same chest activation as another fundamental chest exercise – the bench press.

Equipment:

  1. Looped or Bands with handles

Set up:

  1. Grab a “looped” resistance band of a desired weight resistance.
  2. Drape the band across your upper back, below your shoulders. Run your hands through the loop’s ends.

How to:

    1. Get in a push-up/plank position with your hands on the ground at shoulder width apart and at chest level. Legs fully extended, back straight and chest out. Keep your feet close together. You should form almost a diagonal line starting from your feet all the way to your neck. This is your starting position
    2. Inhale and lower yourself down. Keep your elbows slightly flared out, away from your body, but not too much. Descend to the point where your chest is almost touching the floor.
    3. Exhale and push yourself back to your starting position.
    Reps & Sets:

    Low to moderate rep range – ideal for strength and muscle.

    Do 6-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets. Your first set is a warm-up, without the resistance bands.

    2. Resistance Band Single Arm Chest Fly

    One of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite chest exercises. That should tell you something.

    Arnold states “…it is a great movement for hitting the pecs with maximum intensity to achieve maximum growth”. So if your goal is to get bigger pecs, chest flys need to be a part of your workout program.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles
    2. Anchor (Optional)

    Set up:

    Setting up this exercise will require some tinkering and testing to make sure that the band is securely attached and so that you are properly targeting the chest muscles.

    Make sure that the anchor has to be at chest level.

    How to:

    1. Loop your hand through the band and grab its end.
    2. Step away from the anchor point of the resistance band, whilst holding the resistance band. Make sure that your hand and the band’s handle are just passing your back (about 5-7 inches).
    3. Keep your feet firm on the ground and in a staggered stance where one foot is in front of the other.
    4. Keep your chest puffed out, back straight with a slight arch, and knees slightly bent.
    5. With a slight bend in your elbow, exhale and pull the band past the center/middle of your chest. Squeeze your chest once you reach that point.
    6. Inhale and slowly return to your starting position.
    Reps & Sets:

    Moderately higher volume. Do 10-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets.

    3. Resistance Band Reverse Grip Chest Fly

    Banded chest flys are great at lengthening (eccentric) the chest, while the reverse grip chest fly applies more focus on the contraction (concentric) of the chest.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped resistance bands

    How to do:

    1. Step on one end of a looped resistance band with your feet at shoulder width apart. Knees bent, chest out, back straight and a slight arch in your lower back for stability.
    2. Grab the other end of the band with both hand and with your palms facing each other. This is your starting position.
    3. Exhale and lift your arms up extending the resistance band. Raise the band to your chest level and bring your arms together. Keep your elbows slightly bent and do not fully extend them. Squeeze your chest at the top of the movement and hold that position for a second.
    4. Inhale and lower the band to the starting position.
    Reps & Sets:

    Do 8-12 repetitions for 3-4 sets.

    4. Decline Resistance Band Push Ups

    The decline angle, i.e. where your upper body is lower than your lower body, is a great addition to an already great exercise that will help you build a bigger, fuller and wider chest. This is because this exercise focuses the tension on the lower portion of your chest.

    Allowing you to add more “thickness” to your lower pecs.

    Due to the decline, your shoulders do less of the work. This helps isolate the chest for a greater pump.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles

    Set up:

    Find a surface where you can rest your feet on.  Make sure that you form a 15-30 degree decline.

    Similarly to the push-up, drape the band across your upper back.

    How to do:

    1. Get in a push-up position with your feet rested on the elevated surface. Keep your back straight, legs fully extended, your feet close to each other, and your hands at shoulder width and at chest level.
    2. Inhale and slowly lower yourself towards the floor. Keep your elbows slightly flared. Stop once your chest is about to touch the floor.
    3. Exhale and push yourself back to your starting position. Do not fully extend your arms and lock your elbows to avoid undesirable strain to the joint.
    Reps & Sets:

    Aim for 8-10 repetitions for 3-4 sets.

    Your first set can be a band-less one as a warm-up.

    5. Incline Resistance Band Chest Press

    No chest workout would be complete without an incline exercise.

    While all of the other resistance band chest exercises help target the chest as a whole, they neglect the upper chest. The incline angle targets the upper chest. Why is this important? The upper chest is notorious for being smaller for everyone when compared to other parts of the muscle.

    This will promote a fuller and bigger chest development.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles
    2. Anchor

    Set up:

    You will want to anchor the band at about hip height.

    Again, this would be much easier if you have a door anchor.

    How to do:

    1. Grab the end of the loop so that it goes across your palm.
    2. Look away from the door and raise your hand holding the loop at chest level with your elbow fully bent. This is your starting position.
    3. Take a staggered stance, where one leg is in front the other. Keep your knees slightly bent, back straight with a slight arch in your lower back.
    4. Exhale and push forward until your arms is almost fully extended. Do not lock your elbow! Once your arm is extended, move your hand further than the center of your chest in the opposite direction of your working arm. So if you’re using your right arm – you’re going left and vice versa.
    5. Squeeze your chest at the top and hold that position for a second.
    6. Inhale and lower your hand back to your starting position.
    7. Repeat for the other side.
    Exercise Notes:

    Remember to go past the center of your chest and squeeze your pecs for maximum shortening and contraction.

    Reps & Sets:

    Do 8-10 repetitions for 4 sets.

    6. Resistance Band Pullover

    The pullover is a great resistance band chest exercise that emphasizes on the stretch of the chest muscles. And as you can see, it does it in a different way when compared to chest flys or crossovers.

    This band exercise does also activate your lats as they stretch along with the chest to carry out the movement.

    With that being said, our goal is to emphasize on chest growth. Which is why, when doing this exercise you want to focus on using your chest to move the band.

    And I quite literally mean visualize using your pecs to move the weight. Mind-muscle connection is a powerful tool that is shown to actually promote better and more effective muscle growth (study). But that’s a topic for a separate article all by itself.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles
    2. Anchor (Optional)

    Set up:

    Anchor the resistance band to something that is close to the floor. You can use a chair or a table, anything sturdy enough to withstand the force.

    If you have a yoga mat on which to lay so it’s more comfortable when laying on the floor.

    How to do:

    1. Position yourself further away from the anchor point so that the band is stretched when holding it.
    2. Lie on the floor, or on a mat, by holding the resistance band with both hands. Have your arms extended above your head. This is your starting position.
    3. Exhale and pull the band by engaging your chest muscles. Bring your hands below your chest. Stop once your hands are above your stomach.
    4. Squeeze your chest and hold that position for a second.
    5. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position.
    Exercise Notes:

    Make sure that the band is stretched at your starting position. This is to ensure that your chest is worked throughout the entire movement.

    Reps & Sets:

    Do 10-12 repetitions for 3 sets.

    7. Single Arm Kneeling Resistance Band Low Crossover

    This exercise is sort of a double whammy. It’s the best of both worlds: it does a great job at contracting the chest (just like the reverse grip chest fly) and the stretch of the chest (like with traditional flys).

    The main thing to watch out here is to not incorporate your biceps. Because your elbow is slightly bent and you are using an underhand grip, it can be easy to fall victim to using your biceps to help.

    So, make sure that you don’t go too heavy. Just like with the pullover, focus on using your chest moving the weight.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles
    2. Anchor (Optional)

    Set up:

    You only need a looped resistance band.

    Maybe use a pillow, mat, or some other soft object on which you can kneel.

    How to do:

    1. Get in a half-kneeling position. It resembles a kneeling lunge, with the front leg forming a 90 degree angle and your back leg is the one you are kneeling on.
    2. Keep your core tight, back straight, chest out and shoulders pushed back.
    3. Run a looped band through your kneeling leg so that one end of the loop goes around your ankle.
    4. Grab the band with the hand that is on the same side as your kneeling leg. So if you’re kneeling on your right leg use your right hand, and if you’re kneeling on your left leg, use your left hand.
    5. Exhale and pull the band to slightly past your centerline on the opposite side of your working arm and kneeling leg. Stop to the point where the band reaches head level.
    6. Inhale and slowly return the band to your starting position.
    Reps & Sets:

    Do 10-15 repetitions for 3 sets.

    8. Standing Resistance Band Svend Press

    While the inner chest does not play as big of a role for chest mass, it still is a valuable area to target.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped resistance bands

    Set up:

    All you need is a looped resistance band.

    How to do:

    1. Loop through the band’s hole and position it so its at chest level with one end of the band at your back and the other at your chest.
    2. Grab the resistance band with both hands with your palms open and facing each other. Clasp the band with the bottom part of your palm.
    3. Make sure that you hold the band so that there is minimum slack and the band is stretched. So, grab the part closest to your chest. There should be extra resistance band hanging at the tip of your hands.
    4. Exhale and by flexing your chest extend your arms. Do not fully extend your elbows and focus on engaging and squeezing your chest.
    5. Inhale and return to your starting position.
    Reps & Sets:

    Do 10-12 repetitions for 3 sets.

    9. Single Arm Resistance Band Chest Push Down

    Unfortunately, I was not able to find an instructional video. Please pay close attention to the instructions below.

    The purpose of this exercise is to mimic the movement pattern of chest variation dips. It is one of the most effective exercises that targets the functionality of the chest, helps build overall upper-body strength, and promotes shoulder strength and flexibility.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped or Bands with handles
    2. Anchor (Optional)

    How to set up:

    You will need a looped resistance band and preferably a door anchor.

    You want a high anchor point. One that is above your head – so for example the top of your door works perfectly. The height should be enough so that the band is stretched at your starting position and will allow you to fully stretch your chest.

    Alternatively, kneeling down will help increase the length of the band.

    Again, make sure that the anchor point is sturdy enough to withstand the pressure from the band.

    How to do:

    1.  Stand with your feet at shoulder with apart, knees slightly bent, back straight with a slight arch and your chest puffed out.
    2. Grab the resistance band through the loop with one hand and position your palm so it’s facing your body. Make sure that when you are holding the band at a level where you are feeling a slight stretch in your chest muscle.
    3. This is the important bit: lean your torso forward and keep your elbows slightly flared out, not close to your body. This is your starting position.
    4. Exhale and push straight down with your working arm. Stop at the point when your arm is almost fully extended, but do not fully extend or lock your elbow. Emphasize on chest activation by squeezing your pec.
    5. Inhale and slowly return to your starting position.
    Exercise Notes:

    Remember to lean forward when doing this exercise. If you are standing up straight, you are putting more emphasis on your triceps and shoulder and less on your chest. Keeping your elbows slightly flared out helps further stretch the chest.

    Reps & Sets:

    Do 8-10 repetitions for 4 sets.

    10. Banded Bench Press

    As mentioned earlier, one of the best attributes of resistance bands is that they can be easily integrated to existing chest exercises and improve their muscle building properties.

    Incporating bands to your bench press is a great way to boost chest development and strength.

    Equipment:

    1. 1x (or 2x) Looped resistance bands
    2. Bench
    3. Barbell

    Set up:

    Rest the looped band at the center of the barbell. Both long ends of the band need to be dangling above the head rest of the bench. The placement does not matter yet, however you’d like the band to at around shoulder width.

    Grab both ends of the band, pull them down, and securely attach them to the headrest of the bench.

    Alternatively, you can anchor the resistance band to the floor with a dumbbell or a plate.

    How to do:

    Perform the bench press exercise as you normally would.

    1. Start with the bar extended above your shoulders, with your hands placed at shoulder width, and elbows slightly bent.
    2. Slowly lower the bar to about an inch above your chest.
    3. Briefly pause at the bottom.
    4. With one controlled movement, push the bar back to its starting position.
    Exercise Notes:
    • You should feel almost no band resistance near the bottom of the exercise (where the bar is closest to the chest), and the most amount of extra resistance at the top of the movement (where your arms are almost extended).
    • Remember to not bounce the bar on your chest, and avoid  jerking the weight up.
    • Lastly, avoid locking your elbows at the top of the movement. Locking your elbow will take away the tension from the bar, and place it on your elbow joint. This drastically increases your chances of injury, and is less effective at targeting the chest as you lose time under tension.

    Reps & Sets:

    Do 6-8 repetitions for 4 sets.

    11. Band Resisted Chest Dips

    The chest variation of the tips is one of the best ways to build upper body strength, mobility, and muscle.

    Bands can be used to both assist and resist your movement during the exercise.

    The main benefit of incorporating resistance bands with dips, is the stability and performance. With traditional weighted dips usually leads to you tucking a dumbbell between your legs, or using a weighted dipping belt.

    While weighted dips help improve shoulder stability and flexibility, they also tired you out more quickly. Leaving you with less energy to exercise the chest.

    Equipment:

    1. Looped resistance bands
    2. Dip Station

    Set up:

    Loop the band around the back of your neck. You can either run your hands through the resistance band’s ends.

    Or, you can loop the band over the handles of the dip station.

    How to do:

    Perform the chest dips exercise as you normally would.

    1. With the looped resistance band in place, place your hands on the handles. Make sure the handles are at shoulder width.
    2. Lift yourself up, with the band behind your neck. This is your starting position.
    3. Slowly lower yourself down, bending the elbows, and slightly leaning the body forward.
    4. Slightly flare out your elbows, to contract the chest more.
    5. Once your elbows are below 90 degrees, push yourself back to your starting position.
    Exercise Notes:
    • Remember to lean your body slightly forward. This will apply more tension on the chest, and less on the triceps and shoulders.
    • You can also use the resistance band to assist your movement during the dips. All you have to change is where the band is placed:
      • Behind your neck – will add resistance as you push through the band.
      • Under your knees – will remove resistance.
    • The only disadvantage that banded chest dips, is that you cannot really rest at the top of the movement. If you want to gather your strength for that last rep or set, you will need to come down from the dip station, and go back up again.
    • Lastly, similar to the bench press, avoid locking your elbows.

    Essentially, when you are below the band you add resistance. When you are above the band, you remove resistance.

    Reps & Sets:

    Do 6-8 repetitions for 4 sets.

    4 Week Resistance Band Chest Workout

    Now, we can incorporate the resistance band chest exercises from above into a proper chest workout plan.

    I have made a sample 4 week workout program, to help you get started.

    You can download PDF of the workout program here: Download Resistance Band Chest Workout Program as Pdf .

    Week 1:

    Exercises Sets Reps
    Exercise 1: Resistance band push-ups 4 8 – 10
    Exercise 2: Resistance band single arm chest fly 4 10 – 12
    Exercise 3: Resistance band pullover 3 8 – 12
    Exercise 4: Incline resistance band chest press 3 10 – 12

    Week 2:

    Exercises Sets Reps
    Exercise 1: Incline resistance band chest press (Drop set) 4 8 – 10
    Exercise 2: Resistance band single arm chest fly (Drop set) 4 10 – 12
    Exercise 3: Kneeling resistance band low crossover 4 8 – 12
    Exercise 4: Resistance band svend press 3 10 – 12

    Week 3:

    Exercises Sets Reps
    Exercise 1: Resistance band chest push down (Negative set) 4 8 – 10
    Exercise 2: Resistance band svend press 4 10 – 12
    Exercise 3: Resistance band push-ups  4 8 – 12
    Exercise 4: Resistance band reverse grip fly (Drop set) 3 10 – 12

    Week 4:

    Exercises Sets Reps
    Exercise 1: Resistance band push-ups (Negative set) 4 8 – 10
    Exercise 2: Kneeling resistance band low crossover (Drop set) 4 10 – 12
    Exercise 3: Decline resistance band push-ups 4 8 – 12
    Exercise 4:Resistance band single arm chest fly 3 10 – 12

    Conclusion

    Resistance bands provide a versatile and effective way to enhance chest workouts. Offering benefits such as increased time under tension, safer training, and the ability to work out anywhere.

    Incorporating these exercises into your routine can help build muscle mass, strength, and overall chest development without the need for heavy equipment. Whether used alone or in combination with free weights, resistance bands are a valuable addition to any fitness regimen.

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