• Fay Ellis

🎶 Lets Talk About Chest Baby 🎶

We know the chest is often people's favourite body part to train. You've seen how busy gyms get on a Monday "International chest day", it's crazy... and it never changes!

Hell, I even love training chest and I'm a girl...heavy bench movements, slinging up heavy dumbbells...it feels great doesn't it?!

But how much do you really know about what the chest does and the reasons for the choices of exercise? Lets take a look....

The chest is made up of two muscles: Pectoralis major and pectoralis minor (see pictures).

Pec major is the larger and outer most muscle which can be split up into upper, mid and lower as we know. All of these parts originate at different parts of the chest and insert (end) at the humerus (the upper arm bone)....but because their fibres all run in different directions, is the reason why we choose a variation of excercies to hit each part appropriately....I'll expand on all of this a bit further on.

💡 Did you know: The origin of every muscle is always towards the most central part of the body, and is like an anchor point.

The insertion is always at the most distal part and it is from here that movement occurs.

Anyway....the pec major has four functions:

🔘 Flexion of the arm: e.g throwing a ball underhand

🔘 Adduction of the arm: e.g if you hold your arms out and pretend you're flapping wings, it controls the downward motion

🔘 Medial rotation: e.g as when arm wrestling

🔘 Keeps the arm attached to the body

Pec minor lies underneath the pec major and is alot smaller in size. It originates on the 3rd-5th ribs and goes up to insert on the coracoid process - top outer corner of the scapula (shoulder blade). It's function is to stabilise and draw the scapula forward and downward.

If you look on the diagram in the pictures you will see that the fibres of pec major all run in different directions and this will help is to determine what exercises to do in order to hit a particular part of the chest.

Remember, no exercise will fully isolate a particular portion of the pec, but it will maximize the use of that part's fibres as a way to develop that part.

🔹 Upper chest: origin is at at the clavicle (collar bone) and its fibres run downward to insert on the arm. So we need movements that will take the arm from down to up, following the path of it's fibres.

This will be: incline barbell bench press, incline dumbbell press, incline Smith machine press, standing cable flyes which start low and finish high, incline dumbbell flyes, incline cable flyes, incline hammer machine press etc.

When performing each movement, keep in mind the direction of the fibres and where your hands should start and end at the top of the movement: start slightly lower on the chest and end higher up towards your neck.

With the obvious exception that cable flyes will start alot lower down and a smith machine will have a fixed bar path.

Another exercise which is also great for upper chest is dumbbell pullovers.

🔹Mid chest: pretty simple, originates on the sternum (breast bone) and costal cartilages of the top ribs, and inserts directly across onto the arm....so it's fibres run across the middle and any flat movements will be used here.

This will be: flat barbell bench press, flat dumbbell press, flat machine press, flat Smith machine press, standing mid cable flyes or lying bench cable flyes, flat dumbell flyes, cable crossovers, machine flyes or pec deck and single arm across body machine press.

Keep the movement roughly in that mid plane for all movements however a barbell press may travel a bit toward the upper chest as a good press will usually travel with a slight arc.

Cable crossovers are great if you struggle to get a good mind to muscle connection with dumbell or regular cable flyes... we'll do a short video on these movements soon.

TIP: If you struggle to feel your chest it may be that you're pressing with your shoulders. Drop your shoulder blades back and down, which should push the chest out and allow you to push with your chest first. You can also put your legs up on the bench to further isolate the chest.

🔹 Lower chest: this has a couple of origin points, these being the sternum/costal cartilages and a tendinous sheath of the external obliques (aponeurosis)...and these fibres run upward to join on to the arm.

So looking at this we know that the movements need to travel in the same direction of these fibres....although this can be pretty hard to emulate with certain exercises, you can position the bench into a decline to help.

These will be: decline barbell bench press, decline dumbbell press, dips/dip machine, cable flyes starting higher up and pushing down, decline pressing machines and single arm cable press going high to low.

The decline barbell bench press however, is also a great and underrated exercise for building the mid chest and serratus.

Pec minor will be recruited on all of these exercises to a certain extent, but as we're not performing a movement pertaining to what it does, you can work pec minor if you so wish to, straight after doing machine dips like so:

Push the weight down, slightly lean forward and round the shoulders. Now you are going to perform a reverse shrug. Don't bend the arms or move the weight with the arms, but only shrug the shoulders up and back down as if pushing the weight through the floor.

It may take a while to get the hang of but is great to finish off dip machine with.

That isn't a complete list of exercises, but the main ones that are commonly used and I prefer to stick to the old basics as they work best rather than fandangled hybrid movements.

Be mindful when pressing:

When performing a bench press (mainly flat bench) it's important to find the best arm/hand width for you as everyone is different in terms of arm length, soulder width and rib cage depth.... what's good for one person may not be good for another.

These are a couple of things you can adjust to find what's best for you to activate chest and less likely to promote injury (only practice positions initially with lighter weights):

🔘 Grip width: wide or close? A slightly closer grip will reduce the bottom stretch of the chest thus reducing the risk of injury at the chest/bicep tendon. Smaller/narrower people will tend to find this more comfortable as it doesn't over compromise the shoulder joint and nearby tendons....but this doesn't mean that larger people won't find it better too.

🔘 Elbow position: flared elbows will recruit mid fibres more but again, can promote pinching in the shoulder.

If you drop your elbows forward slightly this will direct some the effort onto the front delt and upper pec....but if this is more comfortable for you then do this as it will still be hitting mid fibres.

🔘 To arch or not to arch: whilst laid on the bench, if you drop your shoulders back and down this will create a slight arch in the back and may allow you to lift heavier weights with a better drive off the bottom portion of the lift....this is predominantly used during powerlifting. Regardless if you arch or not, make sure you keep your glutes in contact with the bench at all times.

If you have lower back problems I would recommend not to arch.

🔘 Legs up: this may help if you have lower back issues as it prevents excessive arching, it is also good if you have natural lordosis. It can also help to recruit the chest if you have problems feeling it work during pressing.

Bonus: it works the core.

Have a play around with different positions and find what works best for you....again what works for one person may not work for another.

How many exercises should you be doing during your chest workout?

We tend to stick to 4-5 exercises, so one each for upper, mid and lower...plus a stretch movement such as cable flye and sometimes we'll add in dips/dip machine too.

Use heavy weights and intensity such as drop sets and rest pause.

If you have a really weak chest I would recommend to add in a second very short session during the week, but maybe just do a volume super set targeting one particular area for 4 weeks - for example upper for 4 weeks, then mid for 4 weeks then lower for 4 weeks.

An example super set for upper would be:

Low to high cable flyes superset with incline dumbbell press for 4-5 sets of 12-15 reps....on the first set aim to get a number of reps that you can just about get for all the remaining sets. Then each week add reps or move up weight.

Stretching post workout is also recommended on all workouts as it will improve mobility, flexibility, prevent injury and a stretched muscle fascia will allow for more muscle growth.... and getting bigger is the aim of the game right?! 😎

So, armed with this information I hope you'll be able to better design future workouts and target any weak points and also help to avoid injury.

There is a simple yet effective chest workout in the pictures if you want to give it a go.

If you're a member of MuscleFactory and ever need help with training when you're there just ask Chris or myself or any of the more experienced members and we'll be happy to help.

Remember you can get free training plans and diet plans as part of your membership here, there's no joining fee and great membership options.

Feel free to call in for a look around!

Stay strong



#love #chestday #pecs #bodybuilding #muscle #motivation


MuscleFactory Gymnasium

William Street End


South Yorkshire

S64 8BP

01709 591846

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