The pectoral (or chest) muscles can be extremely stubborn and reluctant to grow. To make matters even worse, you’ve managed to convince yourself that the reason behind your puny, flat chest is your lack of a gym membership.
But that’s not true. This is the truth behind getting a ripped chest at home.
What Is a Ripped Chest?
(Yes, a team of researchers in Chile actually secured funding for this. The pectorals are ranked among the top five most attractive muscles in men, as voted on by both men and women.)
A ripped chest is frankly the opposite of a caved-in chest. It’s equal parts muscular and trim (sub-10% body fat) — firm, dense, and aesthetically rounded, with a clear definition between the right and left halves.
Step 1 – Invest in Home Workout Equipment
If you want to get ripped with calisthenics, science is on your side.
Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2018 found that progressive push-up training was just as effective as bench press training for enhancing muscle thickness after four weeks of training.
Otherwise, the journey to a ripped chest from home begins with the right equipment:
An adjustable bench is as close as it comes to the Holy Grail of chest training. Thick, rounded pecs require flat, incline, and decline bench variations. So choose an adjustable bench that tilts back to at least 15 degrees with flat, 30-degree, and 70–85-degree settings as well.
Fitness Reality 1000 Super Max Weight Bench
Use this 12-position adjustable weight bench to perform popular exercises from bench presses to tricep kickbacks. Its 800lb weight capacity can take anything you throw at it.
Olympic Weight Set
Olympic bars and compatible weight plates are next up on the list as the “secrets” to a ripped chest. Select a 7-foot bar that fits in your rack with a weight capacity that’s at least your body weight. (Benching 100% of your body weight is average for men aged 20–29.)
CAP Barbell 300-Pound Olympic Set (Includes 7 Ft Bar)
Ready to take your home gym seriously? Here's a great starter Olympic barbell set complete with 300lbs of plates made by CAP Barbells, one of the most trusted brands in weight lifting.
Dumbbells are the next best thing if you don’t have the budget for an Olympic set or simply want to venture the old-school route. Adjustable dumbbells, weighing up to 52.5 pounds per handle, target the pectoralis major just as well as barbell chest presses, according to a 2011 clinical trial.
Bowflex SelectTech 552 Version 2
Each dumbbell adjusts from 5 to 52.5 pounds. Rapidly switch from one exercise to the next. You don't need multiple dumbbells cluttering up your home gym.
Resistance bands are the closest a traditional home gym comes to the classic cable or pulley machine (but even that’s a stretch). Choose a set with 4–5 looped bands with varying resistance to switching the focus to building triceps strength with extension exercises.
Fitness Dreamer Resistance Bands
Premium quality resistance bands for training almost anywhere. Combine different bands to give different levels of resistance. Plus a 100% satisfaction guarantee with a 90-day warranty.
Step 2 – Target Each Area of the Pecs
If your current chest routine is bench after bench after bench, therein lies your problem. Sculpting a firm, rounded, and defined chest means targeting the individual pec muscles:
The pectoralis major is the dominant, fan-shaped upper chest muscle spanning the armpit to the collarbone and connecting the sternum (breastbone) to the humerus (upper arm).
The clavicular head (closest to the shoulder) is best targeted with flat or incline bench presses (30 degrees) with a narrower grip. The sternocostal head (the bulk up the pec major and chest) responds best to the wide grip and regular bench press.
The lower pecs — often the most deflated of all — require a special approach, with research linking the decline bench (-15 degrees) to the greatest muscle activation.
The pectoralis major sits just beneath the pectoralis major and is a relatively small and flat muscle connecting the top of ribs 3–5 to the scapula (shoulder blade).
Most chest exercises target both the pec major and minor. However, chest dips and standing flies are some of the best exercises for isolating the pec minor (to an extent).
Quite literally every bench variation has some benefit or another. But to build a thick, aesthetic chest, add these pec exercises to your home workout routine:
- Narrow-grip bench press
- Wide-grip bench press
- Flat bench press
- Incline bench press – 30 degrees
- Decline bench press – -15 degrees
- Chest dips
- Resistance band flies
Whether you choose the dumbbell or barbell varieties depends on your preferences! The muscles also grow best with 6–15 reps per set. However, if your lagging chest is the result of a plateau, various rep ranges, set styles (i.e., supersets), and frequencies can spur gains.
Step 3 – Don’t Forget About Accessory Work
Sure, the end goal is to chisel away at an aesthetic, ripped chest. However, it’s not just your pec muscles targeted with bench exercises. Increasing strength and size in these muscles will translate over to heavier chest-based lifts, more muscle tearing, and enhanced size:
Weak triceps will essentially destroy any hope for a completely ripped chest. That’s because the lateral head — outside the upper arm — and medial head — the smaller head sitting beneath the long head — control much of the “lock-out” portion of the standard bench press.
Research published in the Frontiers of Sports and Active Living in 2020 also confirms what many of us already knew — medium and narrow-grip bench variations activate the triceps brachii (specifically the medial head) more than the wide-grip bench.
The lateral head of the triceps responds best to exercises like the dumbbell skull crusher or close-grip bench press. The medial head also sees some action during the close-grip bench but also exercises like resistance band triceps pushdowns and weighted bench dips.
The anterior deltoid — or front of the shoulders — muscles are actually just as involved in the standard bench press as the pectoralis major, according to research published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in 2010.
By strengthening your anterior delts, you can support heavier loads during chest exercises and enhance size and aesthetics.
Seated or standing shoulder presses, front raises, and Arnold presses are three of the best ways to (somewhat) isolate the anterior deltoids and strengthen your chest lifts.
Step 4 – Tweak Your Macronutrients & Calories
Half of building a ripped chest is increasing the size of your pectoralis major and minor muscles, and a portion of that requires strategic nutrition. (The other pieces are resistance training, cardio, and sports supplements.)
There are two approaches to getting ripped:
The Bodybuilder Approach
A review published in Sports Medicine in 2004 (back when things were simpler) identified the ideal macronutrient split for bodybuilders in the off-season and in the pre-competition phase.
|Bulking (Off-Season)||Cutting (Pre-Competition)|
|Calories||TDEE + 15%||TDEE – 15%|
Are you muscular with high body fat? Start with the cutting strategy. If you’re skinny with a goal of greater muscle and definition, stick to the bulking method. Then, adjust as you make progress!
The DIY Approach
If you want a more specific approach to building pec mass and cutting body fat to 10% or below (ripped territory), follow these rules instead:
- Plus or minus 250–500 calories (depending on if you’re cutting or bulking)
- 0.8–1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight
- 30–50% of your total calories from carbohydrates
- 0.4–0.6g of fat per pound of bodyweight.
Both of these strategies can improve your body composition and nudge you closer to a ripped chest. Of course, it all depends on whether you want to base your macros on your daily calorie requirements (or TDEE) or your current body weight.
Step 5 – Add Supplements to Your Routine
Supplements will never replace a healthy diet or exercise routine (as BodyFit programs remind us over and over and over again). But sports supplements can cut down the time between a flat or otherwise lame chest to ripped, shirtless-pic-worthy pecs.
If you try any supplements, make it these three:
Creatine is one of the three supplements we completely stand behind if your primary goals are building muscle and improving performance. This amino acid revolutionizes the body’s ATP (energy) stores to prolong workouts, boost power by 5–15%, and increase muscle thickness.
The longer your chest workouts last, the more overall volume you lift, and the quicker you recover, the faster you’ll progress toward a ripped chest.
Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn: Creatine Phospate
If you're looking to get swole, look no further than Swolverine Kre-Alkalyn. Our buffered creatine phosphate increases your performance in the gym and adds muscular size without those pesky side effects like bloating, cramping, and water retention.
Pre-workout powders tend to be hit or miss depending on the specific pre-workout product and the brand behind it.
Powders moderately high in caffeine can improve aerobic endurance and mental focus, while those high in creatine reap the benefits above, and beta-alanine-rich pre-workouts can significantly increase 1RM power and maximum power.
C4 Original Pre-Workout | Caffeine + Beta-Alanine + Creatine
Formulated with strength-boosting Creatine, CarnoSyn Beta-Alanine, and caffeine to improve your muscular endurance and keep fatigue at bay as you crush it in the gym.
With a long-term goal of 0.8–1.2 grams of protein per pound (or 25–30% of your total daily calories), whey protein is among the best ways to supplement this macronutrient.
Studies — like this one from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition — plug whey protein as a reliable method for building 1RMs, muscle size, and fat-free mass when added to a diet of 1.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.
Swolverine Whey Protein Isolate
This is one of our top recommended whey protein powders because of it's high protein content per serving, extreme deliciousness, and the fact that all Swolverine products are sourced from GMP-certified facilities
Step 6 – Don’t Overlook Cardio
The other half of a ripped chest is cut down to 10% body fat (give or take a few percentage points) to reveal muscle definition and an aesthetic build.
To the anti-cardio crowd, cardio can stand in the way of gains if done incorrectly. However, most experts agree that doing cardio separate from weightlifting and limiting your cardio to three 20–30-minute sessions per week can improve mass and limit muscle breakdown.
If you’re above 10% body fat and relatively muscular, HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or LISS (low-intensity steady state) cardio can burn residual fat that your diet doesn’t.
Aim for 2–3 HIIT sessions — alternating between 20 seconds of max-effort and 40 seconds of rest — to average about 12.62 calories burned per minute and land you in a caloric deficit.
How to Get a Ripped Chest at Home Conclusion
After all of that, we come away with six steps to getting a ripped chest at home:
- Investing in home gym equipment
- Targeting each area of the pecs
- Not forgetting about accessory work
- Tweaking your macronutrients and calories
- Adding supplements to your routine
- Not overlooking cardio
Of course, the time frame to getting ripped at home depends on how much body fat you have to lose and how much muscle you have to gain. But, realistically, most guys will notice progress in 12–16 weeks!