Sculpted pecs are arguably the most sought-after muscles in athletic men, with a chiseled chest ranking only second to washboard abs on the “attractive” scale (discovered in a 2009 study).
But when the line for the bench press wraps around the power rack — or the gym owner doesn’t receive the unofficial “Chest day is Monday” memo before locking up — it’s time to get creative!
Untangle (and dust off) that rubbery stretchy band in the basement, and don’t let that preworkout buzz fizzle out. Introducing the long-overlooked resistance band chest press:
What Is the Resistance Band Chest Press?
The resistance band chest press is an at-home pec exercise with three variations to spice up your at-home and (nearly) equipment-free training; they are:
- Lying (with a hooped resistance band tucked beneath your back)
- Seated (sitting on a 90° bench with a handle-less elastic band wrapped around the pad)
- Standing (with the handled band’s center wedged in a level door attachment)
Even with the thickest bands on the market — offering some 200 lbs of resistance — RBCPs are typically more a last-resort for the classic bench press, at least for committed bodybuilders.
Sure, they mimic the same straight pushing pattern.
But ROM takes the backburner, and there’s no way to accurately track progress since the actual resistance varies based on how wide your stance or how many steps you stand from the door.
For these reasons alone, it’s a solid choice for beginners (or moonlights well as a finisher).
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Resistance Band Chest Press Benefits
- A low-cost home gym. In 2016, some 37% of American gym-goers spent $21-50/month on a gym membership. A traditional resistance band set — featuring 4-5 bands offering up to 200 lbs of resistance — can clock in at half that.
- A strength-building equivalent. A meta-analysis study published in 2019 discovered that elastic band training was on par with dumbbells and barbells (the traditional training route) for building upper-body strength — those stubborn pecs included!
- A portable option. Most resistance bands arrive in a drawstring bag. Wrap them up, and then toss ‘em in the bag after pumping iron (… rubber), or tuck them under your living room TV stand if you have to clean-up in a pinch.
- A gradual weight increase. Unlike the old-school bench press, the RBCP features variable resistance (the lift feels heavier as you stretch the band and go through the rep). This challenges your pecs a little extra at their strongest point. A 2016 study found that this training style can ignite both strength and power gains.
Similar to the chest fly, the RBCP can also add a little excitement and plateau-busting pizazz to your chest workouts after the 8, 10, or 12-week marks.
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What Muscles Does the Resistance Band Chest Press Work?
The resistance band chest press is as much a pec exercise as its wildly popular distant cousins — the barbell and dumbbell bench presses. So, this exercise activates the following muscles:
- Pectorals (chest muscles)
- Anterior deltoids (the front of your shoulders)
- Triceps (as a synergist)
- Latissimus dorsi (upper back)
If the standing variation is more your speed, those abdominal muscles will also earn a little TLC (bracing to keep a straight-back and fix that sloppy, hunched-over posture that’s easy to resort to).
How to Do the Resistance Band Chest Press
The resistance band is a given if you want to crank out 40 reps in brutal rest-pause fashion. But the rest depends on whether the lying, seated, or standing RBCP earns a slot in your routine.
How to Do the Lying Resistance Band Chest Press
What You’ll Need: A hooped, looped, or circular elastic band
- Lie down on the floor with room on either side of you.
- Position a short and looped resistance band beneath your upper back, grabbing the ends so the band is just below the delts and crosses in front of forearms (closest to you).
- With your triceps resting on the floor nearly perpendicular to your upper body, extend your enclosed fists upward.
- Bring the band inward near the top of the rep; your hands should be just a few inches away from one another and your arms straight.
- Pause briefly at the top before slowly returning to the starting position.
How to Do the Seated Resistance Band Chest Press
What You’ll Need: A thick, handle-less elastic band & a 90° bench (or sturdy chair with a back)
- Sit on the chair with the handle-less band wrapped behind at just below chest level.
- Grab the ends of the band with either hand and position your hands just under your armpits; the tauter the band, the more resistance you’ll face.
- With your elbows up (near-perpendicular to your upper body), push your hands forward and straight out.
- Bring your hands slightly inward as you near the end of the rep.
- Once your arms are straight out, pause briefly, and return to the starting position.
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How to Do the Standing Resistance Band Chest Press
What You’ll Need: A resistance band sporting handles on either side & a door anchor
- Attach your handled resistance band’s center to your door using an anchor; choose a height that’s at about shoulder level.
- Grab the handles with your hands (facing down), step forward with one leg, and lean forward slightly to build a firm support base.
- With your arms tucked under your armpits and almost perpendicular to the torso, push the handles forward.
- Pause briefly once your arms are extended.
- Return to your starting position.
Safety Tip: Stand on the side of the door that won’t swing toward you if your brute strength proves too powerful. Lock the door, if you can.
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Resistance Band Chest Press Variations
The RBCP also falls into the traditional bench press’s footprints in another way. It probably crossed your mind at some point in the last few moments: Incline and decline versions.
Yes, they’re possible! Here’s how while using the standing version:
- Incline (to build beefier upper pecs): Achieve the classic upward-angled motion by wedging the door anchor at about knee-height. Start with your hands tucked beneath your armpits, pushing your hands forward and up.
- Decline (to sculpt chiseled lower pecs): Cut the angle between your triceps and chest muscles by anchoring the band at the top of your door. Begin with your fists at armpit-level, extending your hands forward and down.
For both variations, don’t forget to step forward with one leg with a slight upper-body lean. This position will create a stable base where you won’t wobble or lose form mid-rep.
Ready for more killer banded pec moves? Click here to check out even more chest exercises with resistance bands to build a larger chest at home!
- Evolutionary Psychology: Men’s Bodily Attractiveness: Muscles as Fitness Indicators
- The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research
- Statista: How much do you pay for your monthly gym membership?
- Muscle & Fitness: Rest-Pause Training for Greater Strength and Muscle
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