What are some exercises that come to mind when you hear about chest training? Like most people, you probably imagine activities like the bench and incline press, flyes, and maybe even some push-ups. But few people pay attention to the lower chest, which is a big mistake.
Emphasizing your lower chest is vital for the overall appearance and functionality of the pectorals. The lower chest muscle fibers are more active during specific movements, which means two things: First, we can emphasize the lower portion through better exercise selection. Second, developing the lower chest is essential for certain activities in the gym and outside of it.
Different Sections of the Chest
The pecs are a single muscle with three distinct regions: the lower, middle, and upper chest (1). The lower and middle portions make up the sternal head, where the upper chest consists of the clavicular head.
Your lower chest muscle fibers orient horizontally and up. Meaning, exercises that have you bring your arms forward and down (though pushing or doing a fly) emphasize that region better. An example of a good lower chest exercise is the dip because you’re pressing down to bring your body up.
Your middle chest muscle fibers mostly move straight across, making it relatively easy to activate and develop that region with most pec exercises. The muscle fibers of your upper chest move horizontally and down, which means that movements where your arms move forward and up emphasize it better. An example of a good upper chest exercise is the incline press (2).
Importance of Lower Chest Strength
- Well-rounded pecs: Your lower chest contributes to the overall look of your pectorals. By developing the lower portion, your chest looks rounder and more balanced.
- Possible improved performance: As discussed earlier, the lower chest muscle fibers have a unique orientation, which means that the region becomes more active in specific activities. By strengthening your lower chest, you can improve your performance on exercises like dips and decline presses.
How to isolate the muscles in a lower chest workout?
Isolating your lower chest is an impossible task because of two reasons:
- Your lower chest is part of a larger muscle that activates during most, if not all, chest-related exercises.
- For your chest to work, you have to involve other muscle groups. For instance, your shoulders and triceps produce force when pressing, and your biceps have to contribute when doing a fly (3).
Still, you can emphasize the lower chest through better exercise selection. Include exercises like:
- Decline Bench Press
- High Cable Crossover
- Chest Dips
Final Thoughts about the Lower Chest Workout
Doing a few bench and incline press sets and some flyes might seem like a great chest workout. But balanced pectoral development comes from giving each area of your chest enough attention.
Most people do an excellent job of training the middle and upper chest, but few take the time to emphasize the lower chest region. So, begin by introducing some lower chest exercises, such as dips and decline press. You might even start with a few sets of high cable crossover.