The Best Moves to Train Your Chest and Abs
Looking to change up your chest-day routine? Try targeting other muscles in your torso too. “If you’re training your chest, your abs will usually be working, too,” says Julia Buckley, certified personal trainer and author of The Fat Burn Revolution. That’s because when you’re performing exercises like push-ups, squats, deadlifts, and pull-ups, your abs should be engaged to maintain the correct posture.
So why not save time with a chest and abs workout that strengthens both muscle groups at the same time? The easy-to-follow exercises below combine some of the best chest exercises with moves that get your heart pumping and target your core. Compound exercises like these “demand very high amounts of core strength to maintain proper body position,” says Paul Searles, CSCS, of the New York Sports Science Lab.
Best of all, you can do these exercises using only your body weight and dumbbells, so they’re the perfect addition to an at-home workout routine.
1. Plank Jack
- Start in high plank position, with your wrists under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from your head to your heels.
- Jump both feet out to the sides, and then back together. Keep your hips stable — try not to let them drop or lift up.
2. Triceps Pushup
- Start in a close-grip push-up position, with your arms straight and your hands slightly less than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest as close to the floor as possible. Keep your core strong, your elbows close to your sides, and your body straight from head to heels.
3. Chest Fly with Leg Raise
- Lie down on the floor and hold a pair of dumbbells directly over your chest, with your palms facing in and arms slightly bent. Extend your legs straight up toward the ceiling.
- Keeping your legs straight and your lower back pressed against the floor, lower your arms out to your sides and lower your legs toward the floor (but don’t let your heels touch the floor).
- Reverse the move, bringing your arms and legs back up to return to your starting position.
4. Inchworm Pushup
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms by your sides.
- Brace your core. Keeping your back flat, hinge forward at your hips and place both your palms on the floor. (If necessary, bend your knees just enough to let your palms touch the floor.)
- Walk your hands forward until you are in a high-plank position, with your wrists directly under your shoulders and your body straight from head to heels.
- Lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor, and then push back up. (If needed, do the push-up from your knees, then return to high plank position.)
- Walk your hands back toward your feet and return to a standing position.
5. Single-Arm Dumbbell Chest Press
- Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press your head, upper back, and butt into the floor.
- Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, directly above your chest, with your palm facing forward.
- Keeping your elbow close to your body, slowly lower the dumbbell to the side of your chest.
- Pause, and then push the weight back up to the starting position.
- After you’ve finished your reps, repeat on the left side.
6. Offset Loaded Carry
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and a heavy dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing in.
- Draw your shoulders back, and pull your head back (as if making a double chin). Hold this position throughout the movement.
- Keeping your core engaged and your gaze ahead of you, walk for about 30 seconds. Make sure you aren’t leaning or tilting to the side — avoiding lateral flexion is the purpose of this exercise.
- Switch sides and repeat.
7. Hollow Hold
- Lie on your back with your arms and legs lifted straight up toward the ceiling.
- Engage your core, press your lower back into the floor, and slowly begin to lower your legs down and your arms back. Lower your legs as far as you possibly can without your lower back coming off the floor, aiming for a “hollow” position that resembles a boat.
- Avoid letting your lower back lift off the floor. If it does, return to your starting position and don’t drop quite as far.
8. Dumbbell Reverse Chop
- Stand with your feet shoulder-distance apart. Hold a heavy dumbbell in front of you at arm’s length, with one hand on each end of the dumbbell. Keep your back flat and core braced.
- Bend your knees and rotate to your right, lowering the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee.
- In one explosive movement, stand back up and rotate to the left, pivoting your right foot as you swing the weight above your left shoulder.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Complete your reps on one side, then repeat on the other side.
How Often Should I Do a Chest and Abs Workout?
Buckley recommends adding exercises that incorporate your chest and ab muscles into your workout about three times a week.
If that’s not feasible, figure out what fits your workout schedule. “The most important factor is being consistent with your training,” Searles says.
Beginners can start with one set, working up to three sets per workout. Buckley advises keeping the reps low — about 10 to 15 per set — and using moderate to heavy weights to gain strength.