5 Lower Chest Exercises for More Defined Pecs
Your pectoral muscles — the twin slabs of sinew that span your chest — are the crown jewels of an athletic build. Many lifters find, however, that standard-issue moves like push-ups and bench presses only take development of those gems so far. To amplify the lower fibers of your pecs, you’ll need to get creative. These are the best lower chest exercises for the job.
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5 Best Moves for a Chiseled Lower Chest
To target the lowest reaches of the pectoralis major, you want moves that require pressing and clasping your arms downward.
- Grab the handles on a dip station and lift yourself into the top position: arms straight, shoulders down and back, abs engaged, body straight, ankles crossed.
- Keeping your forearms vertical and your elbows tucked at your sides (not flared), slowly lower yourself under control. Stop when your arms dip are parallel to the floor.
- Pause, then reverse the movement, pushing yourself back up to the starting position.
Safety tip: DO NOT perform full-range dips if you experience shoulder pain during the movement.
Too hard? Place a box or step under the dip bars and perform the move with one or both feet providing assistance by pushing off the box.
- Keeping your abs engaged, lie back on a decline bench, holding a pair of dumbbells at the sides of your chest. Your palms should face forward.
- Press the dumbbells to arm’s length above your chest.
- Reverse the movement under control to bring the weights back down to the starting position.
Decline dumbbell flys
- Keeping your abs engaged, lie back on a decline bench, holding a pair of dumbbells at the sides of your chest. Your palms should face each other.
- Press the dumbbells directly over your chest. This is the starting position.
- With your arms bent slightly, slowly lower the dumbbells directly out to your sides in wide arcs until you feel a deep stretch in your chest.
- Pause, and reverse the movement under control to bring the weights back up to the starting position.
Barbell decline bench press
- Place a barbell in the uprights of a decline bench press station, load it with a medium-heavy weight, and lie back on the bench.
- Grip the bar evenly, about six inches wider than shoulder width on each side, and press it off the uprights.
- Slowly lower the bar until it contacts your chest near the bottom of your rib cage.
- Press the bar back up to the starting position, squeezing your lower chest.
Safety tip: Always use a spotter when bench pressing heavy weights.
- Attach two “D” handles to a pair of crossover cable columns, and set the pulleys at about chest height.
- Grab the handles and, keeping your back straight and core engaged, raise your arms out to your sides, palms facing forward.
- Step one foot forward into a partial lunge and lean your torso forward to create tension on the cables.
- Bend your elbows slightly, making sure not to let them travel behind your shoulders. (You should still feel a deep stretch in your chest.) This is your starting position.
- Pull your hands down and toward each other in wide arcs, crossing your right arm over your left, and squeezing your chest hard for a one-count.
- Reverse the movement under control to return to the starting position, and repeat, alternating the crossing of your arms. Switch your forward foot with each set.
Can You Work a Part of a Muscle?
Some trainers contend that you can’t work a part of a muscle. Muscles, they argue, are either on or off, contracted or relaxed.
And while that’s true of small muscles with discreet attachment points, when it comes to muscle groups like the pecs — with its multiple heads and fibers representing different directional orientations — working different areas of a muscle is possible. “There are many instances when an intelligent selection of exercises will emphasize parts of a muscle group,” says physical therapist Dr. Chad Waterbury, author of Powerful Mobility: Corrective Exercises for Better Performance and Joint Health. “The key here is it must be a muscle group, not a single muscle.”
Old-school bodybuilders divide the chest into three sections: upper, middle, and lower. Anatomically, it’s more accurate to say the pectoralis major — which comprises the majority of your chest mass — has two parts, or heads:
• The clavicular head, which runs from your collarbone to your upper arm, and helps lift your arm up and across your body. And…
• The sternocostal head, which runs from your breastbone and upper ribs to your upper arm, and helps draw your upper arm down and across your chest.
To build the lower chest, explains Waterbury, “You should emphasize the sternal portion.” That means focusing on moves in which you adduct your upper arms, pulling them down and toward one another.
Benefits of Training Your Lower Chest Fibers
Your pectoral muscles — including the sternal (lower) fibers of the chest — are prime movers in almost any movement that involves pushing (exceptions including the overhead press). Chest exercises emphasizing the muscles’ lower fibers can improve your ability to punch, crawl, climb, swing a bat, tennis racquet, golf club, or perform any move in which you draw your upper arm toward and across your body’s midline.
A side benefit to dips and decline moves is that they also build the serratus anterior — the sawtooth muscle that covers the backs and sides of your rib cage. It’s responsible for both stabilizing and mobilizing your shoulder blades. In very lean people, the serratus is visible along the sides of the rib cage, particularly when the arms are raised overhead.