January 12, 2021 10 min read

So you’ve been working on your chest. Your bench press is killer, and you’re crushing the fly machine. You’re getting that thick powerful look you’ve been aiming for, but something’s missing. When you flex your pecs the effect isn’t quite right.

Well, it sounds like you’re looking for some more definition.

Carving out some good pec definition sounds like it should be simple. You just work out your pecs, right? Not quite. With any kind of definition we need to talk about effectively burning fat, which muscles you’re targeting, and how you grow muscle.

So if you’re serious about tightening up your lower chest, then let’s dive right in.

The Lower Chest Lowdown

Let’s start with the most basic fact: you’re never going to get the definition you want if you’re not burning fat. If you feel like you’ve isolated your pecs into oblivion and you’re no closer to the results you’re looking for than the day you began, then you reassess the amount of fat you’re burning. 

People want to crunch their way into six-pack abs or squat their way to a better butt. Isolation is only part of the equation. You’ve never going to see muscle definition if it’s hidden behind fat cells. 

Where do they come from, and what can you do about it? Well, when you eat food, your body takes glucose and other sugars from your food to power itself. That’s what your liver is doing most of the time. You store glucose as glycogen and it’s released into your bloodstream throughout the day. Your fat cells are made up of triglycerides. Sound familiar? 

Your fat cells are basically just glycerol jails. You bind excess glycerol to three other fatty acids and stick it to your body for later. So, to get rid of fat, you need to break up those jail cells. The key is an enzyme lipase. This enzyme unlocks the glycerol and sets it free until it makes it to your liver and it’s rerouted to your body for energy.

The trick then is to find a way to unlock your fat cells. Lipase only does its rounds when you run out of free-floating glycerol. If glycerol is energy, then you need to use up your energy until your body wants to open up those reserves.

That’s what we’re exercising for. Of course, you’re lifting to get bigger muscles, and you’re running for your health, but the real mechanical reason we’re doing most of this is to ensure we’re spending our energy. An energy saving’s account is just fat cells, and the local branch is your body.

This is why muscle definition is impossible with isolation alone. If your diet is full of calories you’re not burning, or carbs that’re just being bound to fatty acids and stuck to your chest, then you’re not going to see how hard those pecs are.

Nutrition is easily one of the most important aspects of working out, so start your workout routine over the stove. Check your nutrition labels, and make a plan so you’re not just defaulting to junk food when the post-workout munchies hit.

Man with muscled chest

More Pressing Matters

Nutrition is important, as we’ve established, but you’re not going to see chest definition if you don’t pump it up. All of the calf raises in the world aren’t going to build chest muscle, right?

The next thing we need to figure out what muscles we need to work on, what they do, and how to take advantage of that.

Easy right? Your chest is your pecs, next question.

Well, do you know that your pecs are two pairs of muscles working in tandem to hold your upper body together? They are:

Pectoralis Major:Your pectoralis major is what we think of most when we talk about your pecs. They’re the largest and basically the most important muscle when we’re talking about your chest and where its definition is coming from. We call it the chest muscle for a reason.

If you could see your pectoralis major, you’d see a large fan shape, divided into three distinct heads that start on either side of your sternum about where it meets your clavicle, running all the way down the part of your ribcage containing your “true” ribs. Those fibers stretch all the way across your chest on either side and end on your humerus where it meets your shoulder.

The upper pec is attached to your clavicle, earning it the title of “clavicular head” and the lower pec is attached to your sternum, and, you guessed it, that’s the “sternal head”

This broad muscle direction itself towards your arm means that it’s responsible for a few major motions that your arm is capable of, namely:

  • Flexion: that’s bringing your arm towards your chest
  • Adduction: a fancy word for bringing your arm (or any limb) towards the midline of your body
  • Internal Rotation: turning your arm in the direction of your body. Internal rotation here is great for mobility, but when it’s induced unnaturally you could do some serious damage.

  • Your pectoralis major really earns its name. It’s huge and responsible for a lot of the major actions your arm takes.

    Pectoralis Minor:Where your major pecs are large and bear several responsibilities, your pectoralis minor is the opposite in almost every sense.

    The pectoralis minor lives underneath your pectoralis major and only connect to a couple of your ribs. They really only exist to keep your shoulder blade attached and angeled the right way. Their role is small, but every single part of your body needs to be there to function properly, so when you’re doing some shoulder exercises, say a tiny thank you.

    Man working out

    Packing on Pecs

    In order to build muscle, we need to take advantage of a process in our bodies called hypertrophy. At its most basic, hypertrophy is when your body recognizes the presence of torn muscle fibers and sends in the troops to repair them.

    Anytime this happens your body employs the use of the protein you’ve ingested, and it tends to overcompensate. It’s easy to imagine that we grow stronger out of spite. Your body builds stronger muscles, challenging you to ever damage them again. You take that challenge head-on with harder workouts.

    These are some of the best lower chest exercises. Most of them are compound motion exercises, meaning that you’re going to be getting as close to a full-body workout as possible. The more efficient your exercises are, the more you’re going to be burning through your stores of energy without having to fuss around with tacking on a dozen different isolation exercises. This is a guide that will lead you directly to satisfying chest development in no time.

    Most lists like this would have a nice round number like 10, but pro bodybuilders say that 10 is too many exercises to worry about when you’re looking to pump up your chest. Keeping that in mind, we’re going to focus on seven different exercises that isolate the different heads of your pecs. This is going to allow us to hit all of the blades of that large fan-shaped chest, so you can maximize your results.

    Decline Bench:

    The decline bench is a slight variation on the bench press, but that small change allows you to target a totally different area of your chest. Declining the bench you’re pressing from works your lower pec. That the adduction in action.

    • Start on the bench, and decline the bench 15 to 30 degrees.
    • Grasp the weights with your hands, your grips just be just wider than shoulder-width apart
    • Straighten your arms to lift the weights off of the rack
    • Lock your elbows and move it over your shoulders 
    • Bring the bar slowly down towards your chest, inhaling on the way down
    • Press the weight back up, exhaling on the way up
    • Repeat as many times as your routine requires

    Tips:

    • Make sure you find a spotter, this is a terrible angle to get stuck under some weights
    • You can use dumbbells or a barbell for this 
      • If you feel like you’re lifting unevenly, or your wrists aren’t cooperating with the barbell, these would be excellent reasons to switch to chest presses with a pair of dumbbells.

    Decline Flyes:

    Decline flyes and decline bench presses should be in rotation with each other if you decide to add them to your routine. You’ll be needing much less heavy weights, so you can sub in more reps. Decline benches will be excellent for increasing strength and muscle mass, and these decline dumbbell flyes will up your endurance, allowing you to spend more time in the gym, and opening up more opportunities for burning fat.

    • Start with your back flat on a bench declined 15 to 30 degrees.
    • Grasp two dumbbells with a hammer grip
    • Start with the weights above your chest with a slight bend in your elbow
    • Keep the dumbbells in line with your chest and slowly open your arms until they’re parallel with the floor
    • Bring your arms back into the starting position, focusing on your chest
    • Repeat as many times as your routine requires

    Tips:

    • Be sure you’re not locking your elbows throughout your reps. You’ll cut off blood flow and reduce your endurance.
    • Be sure to secure your feet on the decline bench
    • Don’t rely on momentum for this exercise.
    Chest Dips

      Chest Dips:

      Dips are an excellent calisthenic, or bodyweight exercise. Calisthenics are great for muscle definition because they encourage fat burn without pushing muscle growth further than you may like.

      • Find either parallel bars or a dip machine
      • Grasp the bars and hop up so your arms are straight
      • Lean forward about 45 degrees. Keeping your body weight directly over your arms will cut down on the amount of work your body is doing
      Bend your elbows slowly to lower your body until your upper arms are about parallel with the ground
      • Straighten your arms until you return to the starting position
      • Repeat as often as your routine dictates

      Tips:

      • Don’t flare your elbows, this is terrible for you shoulders
      • Don’t overextend, this is also pretty bad for your shoulders
      • Make sure your reps aren’t too shallow, or you won’t be fully engaging your chest
      • Keep your wrists straight and engaged
      • If you’re having trouble with dips, you can add a band under your feet to alleviate some of the weight

      Standing Cable Flyes:

      Standing Cable flyes are a variation of the chest fly that targets your push muscles like your chest area, triceps, and deltoids. You may run into your core strength becoming a limiting factor in standing cable flyes. If this is the case, we recommend supplementing your routine with core exercises until you’re feeling more stable.

      • Start at a cable machine with the pulleys located around your shoulder height.
      • Grasp both handles and take a step forward to create a split stance
      • Press the handles together in front of your chest, keeping your arms extended with a slight bend in your elbows 
      • Return slowly to your starting position, keeping your chest flexed

      Tips:

      • Don’t let your elbows drift behind your shoulders
      • Use a wide arcing motion when bringing the handles in front of you

      Decline Push-ups:

      Decline Push-ups target your upper pecs, which is great for keeping your chest balanced. A powerful lower chest is great for muscle definition, but if your chest can’t keep up with itself, then you’re not going to be making much progress on your journey.

      • Find a raised surface. A bench you did your presses on would work, or maybe your gym has a box
      • Place your hands on the floor and put one foot at a time. Your body should be making an angle with your feet higher than your head
      • Get your shoulders over your hands, engage your core to maintain a straight back and neck
      • Lower your chest to the floor
      • Push yourself back up into your starting position
      • Repeat as necessary 

      Tips:

      • Don’t stick your butt in the air. You want to keep a flat surface from neck to foot
      • Think about looking down rather than up, to keep yourself inline
      • Don’t flare your elbows
      • If you’re looking to adjust your challenge level, incline or decline your feet. The higher your feet are, the harder you’ll be working

      Incline Push-ups:

      It’s easy to guess, but incline push-ups are the opposite of decline push-ups. This takes the pressure off of your hands and shoulders. If you’re having trouble with some of these push exercises, this may be a good place to build up from. 

      • Find a sturdy elevated surface
      • Place your hands on the surface, about should-width apart, with your shoulders above your hands
      • Keep your body in line with itself. Keep your head looking forward, keep track of your bottom and the angle you’re making with your hips
      • Bend your arms to lower yourself towards your surface
      • Straighten your arms out to bring yourself to the starting position
      • Repeat until you’ve finished a set

      Tips:

      • Focus on pushing with your chest
      • Be wary of starting too close to your elevated surface
      • Bring your hands closer together to increase the challenge
      Man and woman doing push ups

       

      Dumbbell Pullover:

      This is another great exercise for taking advantage of your chest’s natural range of motion. You also have the added benefit of working your lats as well, which will even out the force your newly jacked chest will be exerting on your posture.

      • Lie down on a bench, with your weights on the floor near your hands 
      • Grasp the weights with a hammer grip
      • Bring them together over your chest with your palms together
      • Engage your core, and bring the weights back over your head towards the floor
        • Make sure the weights are all the way behind your head without drifting behind it
      • Exhale and bring the weights back up over your chest.

      Tips

      • Keep your feet firmly planted on the floor
      • Don’t forget to engage your core
      • Don’t allow your wrists to go limp at any time during this
      • Make sure you’re ‘moving your arms at the same rate

      Pec it Up

      Targeting your chest isn’t hard. You can do almost anything that comes to mind. Flat bench presses will provide the kind of challenge in the gym you may be looking for when increasing your strength. However, with a deeper understanding of the muscle group that makes up all of your pectoral muscles we can suss out exactly which exercises will give us exactly the results we’re looking for.

      Don’t forget that chest training is just like training any other part of your body. Get in a good warm-up. Stretch when you’re done, and pack in some protein, so you’re constantly building towards building muscle inside and outside of the gym. 

      These lower chest exercises in conjunction with a good diet will chisel out the chest you’ve been looking for. Make sure you focus on burning fat if you find your quest for well-defined pecs plateauing, and you’ll pump out results like never before. 


      x