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January 12, 2021 10 min read

You’re working on your chest. Twice a week you go into the gym and you’re bench pressing like there’s no tomorrow, but something’s not quite right. Every time you press something in front of your body you feel like you’re missing some strength. Maybe something about your diet isn't quite cutting it. Maybe you’re incorporating the heavy bag into your workouts, and your punches don’t have the strength and speed you expected.

Maybe it’s just the definition of your pecs. You’ve spent all of this time working on it, and the shape just isn’t there yet. It sounds like you’ve been neglecting your inner pecs. This part of your pecs is responsible for so much of the movement of your arms that it’s easy to miss out on the exercises that will really blast them. Take some time to learn more about your inner chest, and more importantly a few exercises that will really put you head and shoulders (and chest) above the rest.

The Anatomy of Your Inner Chest

Any time you want to work out a specific part of your body it’s important to learn what it does and how it works in order to really get the most of your workout. This is probably part of how you ended up here in the first place. So listen up, we’re gonna jam some knowledge in your head.

Your pecs are a huge set of fan-shaped muscles, they don’t call them the pectoralis major for nothing. Well, the reason isn’t really because of their size. Your pectoralis major sit on top of the pectoralis minor, so it’s more about position than girth, but your pectoralis major are much larger and they’re responsible for much more movement than the pectoralis minor.

They basically make up the entire top half of the front of your torso. If you’d like to get technical for a second (and you should) they begin on the anterior surface of the sternal half of the clavicle, extending down to the cartilage area of your sixth to seventh ribs. You can feel this yourself. Put your hand on your collar bone and move your arm around. You can feel your clavicle being pulled around by your pecs. Try tracing from there and down your sternum while moving your arm around, and you’ll get a clear picture of the size and shape of your pecs without having to cut anything open or look at any weird cross-sections.

All of those muscle fibers stretch across your chest and inserts themselves into the upper joint of your humerus. It’s part of the complex jungle of tendons and muscles that make up your shoulder joints. It’s also why your arms are able to lift and press so much weight. There’s just a lot of pure muscle involved in moving your upper arm around.

Something else you’ll notice while experimenting with the position of your pectoralis major is that they’re not engaged in every single ‘movement your arm makes. That’s because your pecs are responsible for three major movements of your humerus. Those are flexion, adduction, and internal rotation. Those words sound complicated, but really they’re pretty simple.

 Flexion is just flexing, technically that means reducing the angle of a limb and the joint it’s attached to, so in this case, any movement you make that decreases the angle between your upper arm and your shoulder.

Adduction is the opposite of abduction. It’s easy to remember this one. Abduction is what aliens do, they take something away from Earth, so adduction is bringing it back towards yourself. Your pecs bring your arms back towards your body (technically the midline of the body, but you get it. 

Internal rotation is the weirdest one to imagine, but it means any rotation towards the central axis of your body. This one is easy to replicate. Put your arms down by your side and twist your arm in towards your body. Any time you make that movement is an internal rotation, so arms up above your head or parallel to the ground, that specific twist is brought to you by your pecs.

That’s a lot of responsibility for your pecs to take on, and they’re huge, so working them out completely involves a lot of work. It’s easy to see now how anybody could miss out on thoroughly working out every single part of their chest. Your inner chest specifically is hard to get to, it’s responsible for the internal rotation and flexion that just aren’t what come to mind first and foremost when we think of our chests.

Chest workout

Inner Chest-mas

These 7 exercises are excellent examples of how to cover the often-neglected inner chest movements. If you slot these into your workout routines you’ll start seeing results in no time.

1. Dumbbell Chest Flyes

Dumbbell chest flyes are pretty simple. If you’ve ever sat down on the pec deck, then you know the basic movements required to pull this exercise off. We’re doing them with dumbbells because they allow for more comfortable positioning with your hands, and once you’ve become more comfortable with them, you can add in a twist of your arms to dig deep into your inner chest and cover the broadest possible range of motion. We think they’re much more effective than the dumbbell bench press.

  • Start by lying down flat on a bench
  • Get your hands on a pair of dumbbells and hold them in a hammer grip
  • Lift your arms with the weights straight over your chest so your arms are extended straight above you without locking your elbows 
  • Inhale and bring your arms out to your sides in a smooth controlled arc until they’re in line with your chest. Don’t overextend by brining them down past your shoulders
  • Exhale and bring the dumbbells back into the starting position slowly

After you’ve become accustomed to this exercise, you can turn your dumbbells 45 degrees before bringing them back down to your sides. Once you’ve done this bring them back up into the starting position and twist them back into the hammer position you started with and repeat until you’ve finished your set.

2. Hammer Squeeze Press 

The hammer squeeze press is something you can do with an extra piece of equipment if you’re feeling fancy. You can incorporate a medium size ball like a volleyball or a soccer ball into this one. If you opt for a ball here, the fine motor control required to keep your arms steady enough throughout the entire exercise are going to lend you an incredible amount of mind-muscle connection allowing you to really hone in on the details of the motions your pecs allow you to make with your arms. 

The ball is totally optional, and honestly, it shouldn’t be introduced until you’re confident that your inner chest strength is up to snuff. This is an excellent exercise for forcing you to work on the flexion and adduction of your pecs at the same time.

  • Start flat on your back with a pair of dumbbells in a hammer grip
  • Press the two weights together on your chest, and keep them pressed together through the full movement of this exercise
  • Inhale and press the weights up above your chest until your arms are fully extended without locking your elbows
  • Slowly lower the heavy weights back down towards your chest and repeat 

Adding a ball here is as simple as pressing the ball in between your weights and not dropping it as you press the weight upwards. The motivation to keep a ball from hitting your face as well as forcing you to keep your arms an equal distance away from each other the entire time will be excellent for your inner chest training.

Chest Dips

3. Chest Dips

Chest dips are amazing for your chest. They’re way more effective in fully activating your pecs than something like the bench press, and they’re an excellent compound exercise. When you do your first chest dip you’ll quickly realize how many muscles it’s going to take to stabilize you in the position. The stabilization and the form you’re going to be using during this exercise are the keys to making this exercise an effective addition to your routine.

Chest dips are also going to be excellent for developing your upper chest and inner chest holistically, which should always be your goal in the long run. Developing a certain set of muscle groups for a time in order to keep it from lagging behind is great, but always make sure to work out the full range of motion for your entire body.  Plus the tricep action doesn’t hurt either. 

  • Grab the bar with both hands, and lean forward slightly. Leaning forward ensures you’re doing the maximum amount of mechanical work with your muscles
  • Open your elbows up slightly past your shoulders
  • Move your knees slightly forward as well, make a slight c shape with your body, again, this is to keep the weight you’re moving in front of your center of gravity so your chest will really get a work out in
  • Engage your core and dip your body down towards the ground
  • Raise yourself until your arms are fully extended, hold for a moment and repeat

4. Ground and Pound Alternating Press 

The ground and pound alternating press is great for several different reasons. It’s an exercise built around maximizing your compound movements and engaging as much of your chest as possible for the entire duration. The weight of the cable pulley is being pulled up behind you the entire time you’re doing this exercise much like a cable crossover, so even when you’re in the neutral starting position you’re still putting tension on your muscles. The movement of the ground and pound press is also going to see you reaching across the central axis of your body, this is great for that difficult to replicate adduction motion that your inner chest muscles love making. You’re also going to be internally rotating your arms and keeping tension on that movement the entire time you’re going through these motions.

  • Get set up with either a cable machine or resistance bands attached to a pull-up bar
  • Get down on your knees and grab your cables
  • Bring both hands together with your cables down onto the floor in front of you
  • Engage your core and bring one of your hands up towards your body, stopping when your hand is about even with your chest
  • Press that hand back down into the ground and do the same with your opposite hand

5. Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell pullovers are similar to skull crushers, but a few tweaks to the exercise make this an amazing movement for your pectoral muscles. It combines the flexion and adduction of your lower chest, and it’s easy to pack on a lot of weight here as you progress. 

Dumbbell pullovers can also be done with resistance bands or barbells, so you’re not limited to dumbbells if that’s not your tool of choice. Remember to keep your hands close to each other throughout this exercise. We suggest sticking with a dumbbell to make that easier, but there’s nothing wrong with a close grip barbell variant. Whatever your body is most comfortable with is always the best road to success.

  • Lie down on a flat bench
  • Grab a single barbell in both hands with a hammer grip
  • Start with your arms extended fully over your head in line with the rest of your body.
  • Bring the weight in a deliberate arc over your chest until your arms are fully extended over the middle of your chest without locking your elbows
  • Hold here for a moment and bring the weight back down slowly

If you’re struggling with keeping the weight balanced, you can experiment with raising your hips off of the bench slightly. Getting more stability under your belt is going to help with your core strength as well as methodically turning your pecs into solid steel as you build and industrialize your pectoral muscles.

Push Ups

6. Diamond Push-ups

Diamond push-ups are the apex push-up. Kiss the standard push-up goodbye. They're the best push-up variation to graduate into while you build up your pec strength. The diamond you’re making with your hand focuses the body weight you’re pressing into the center of your mass, making your chest pull out all of the stops. 

For a calisthenic exercise, diamond push-ups are amazing at what they set out to do. They’re the prime example of using your body’s full natural range of motion to achieve results in hard to reach places. Sometimes compound exercises create blind spots, but some keen understanding of your body and its mechanical functions will grant you the ability to pull the most out of every exercise you add to your toolbox.

  • Get down on all fours with your hands underneath your chest
  • Put your hands together in a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs touching
  • Extend your arms so your upper body is raised away from the floor
  • Keep your back in a straight line
  • Lower yourself down towards the floor and keep your elbows from flaring
  • Stop just before touching the floor with your chest and put yourself back up to the starting position
  • Repeat as many reps as possible

7. Plate Squeeze Press

The plate squeeze press is a pec exercise at its purest. The action of squeezing that amount of weight between your arms is basically targeting the trickiest areas of your pecs by brute forcing the motions they’re responsible for making. It’s really simple, and it’s something you can add onto your workout without scrounging up any more equipment. If you’re bench pressing, you can round out your session by plucking a plate off of your bar and getting some squeeze presses in before you leave for the day.

  • Grab about two or three plates and hold them together in between the palms of your hands
  • Bring the plates towards the middle of your chest
  • Push your shoulders back a little bit and keep your chest up
  • Push your hands back out until your arms are forward and slightly upwards. Think a little less than a 45-degree angle. If you go too high you’ll be working more on your deltoids than your chest activation
  • Bring the weight back towards your chest and repeat 

If you’re having trouble with two plates try pressing the same amount of weight with three smaller plates. The increased friction will keep the plates from sliding around allowing you to focus on the pressing motion. This also means that when you’re looking for more challenge, you can crank up the difficulty by squeezing larger weights and fewer plates.

Pick a Peck of Powerful Pecs

These chest workouts are basically guaranteed to up your chest game. Using your body’s natural range of motion is the best way to build muscle in tricky areas. Always remember to take time to rest and allow your body to repair the muscles you’re pushing to the brink, and keep your nutrition balanced. You’ll be getting that fully rounded chest in no time.