While you may strengthen and tone the muscles of the chest, which are known as the pectorals, at the gym with expensive exercise machines and hand weights, some women may find this type of training intimidating. One inexpensive, at-home, alternative is to use a resistance band while performing exercises specifically designed to work the chest muscles. Resistance bands are color-coded; each color relates to its stiffness or resistance level. Start your exercise program with a resistance band appropriate to your strength level and gradually increase the resistance as you get stronger. In general, the lighter the band color, the lighter its resistance.
Resistance Band Push-Ups
Push-ups effectively work the pectoralis major muscles. To create more resistance, perform the basic push-up with the addition of a resistance band. Get on your hands and knees on an exercise mat and position the band across the back of your shoulders. Wrap the ends of the band around your hands until you start to feel the resistance in the band. With your hands shoulder-width apart, lift your knees off the mat and straighten your body to assume a push-up position. Bend your elbows, lower your chest toward the floor and then push up against the resistance of the band to the starting position. The intensity of the exercise can be reduced by performing a modified push-up. This is where you keep your knees instead of your toes in contact with the mat.
Cross Chest Press
Another exercise, as suggested by Fitness Magazine trainer Holly Perkins, is the cross-chest press. Grasp one end of the resistance band with your right hand and stand on the other end with your right foot. Position your feet hip-width apart and place your left hand on your left hip. Bend your right elbow, bring your hand up to the right side of your chest and tuck your elbow into your ribs. This is the starting position. While keeping your hand close to your torso, press the band across your chest until your hand is above and to the side of your left shoulder. Allow a slight rotation of your torso during this movement. Slowly return to the starting position. Perform 10 reps and switch arms. Repeat three sets per side, suggests Perkins.
Seated Chest Press
In addition to working your pectoral muscles, the seated chest press also works your triceps and anterior deltoids. Sit up straight in a sturdy, armless chair. Loop the resistance band around your upper back and grasp the ends in your hands. Bend your elbows and bring your hands up in front of your shoulders with your palms facing inward. Wrap the band around your hands until you start to feel some resistance. Extend your arms and press the band out in front of your body. Keep your arms chest level and just before your elbows become locked, slowly return your hands to your shoulders. Repeat as desired. To make the exercise more challenging, sit on an exercise ball.
Standing Chest Fly
Resistance band chest flies primarily target your pectoralis major and pectoralis minor muscles. Fold your band in half and tie a secure knot at the folded end. Close the knot in a door at chest level. Grasp the ends of the band in your hands and stand 2 feet away from the door with your back toward the door. Extend your arms out to your sides and start with them just below shoulder level with a slight bend in your elbows. If you don't feel any resistance in the band, step forward until you do. While keeping your arms chest level, breathe out, slowly move your arms forward and bring your hands together in front of your body. Inhale and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times, rest a few minutes, and then perform another set.
- Strength Band Training; Phillip Page and Todd S. Ellenbecker
- Fitness Magazine: Shape Cleavage: Cross-Chest Press
- American Council on Exercise: Whole-Body Exercise Band Workout
- Carnegie Mellon University: Frugal Fitness
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images