November 06, 2019 10 min read
Here’s what you need to know about the pectoralis majors or “pecs majors.” This is the name of that image that first comes to mind when you hear words like ‘gym’ or ‘workout.’ It’s also the set of muscles you absolutely need for controlling the movements of your arms. Your inner chest consists of pectoralis majors, two big chest muscles attached to the sternum, and also two smaller pec muscles, one on each side of the chest, named “pectoralis minor.” These, however, don’t reach the sternum and don’t need to be targeted with an exercise aimed to bring inner chest up.
When it comes to the inner chest workout, most of the special focus goes to the muscle connection and the area where pecks are attached to the sternum. This tricky inner part, the middle line, is what makes all the visual difference when it comes to pecs, and is the source of many doubts and discussions in the fitness expert world.
If you are a beginner in the inner chest workout, at this point you are probably asking yourself what are we talking about and why does it matter at all? With some patience invested, this article is going to answer all those questions, plus some others that you may never have thought of asking. You are about to discover why those are equally significant, as is the properly raised weight. In fact, the theory is the key to proper movement, and proper movement is the key to results. Ok, back to the matters of sternum area.
The deep line which separates pec majors, emphasizing their shape and giving them that sculpted-look commonly seen in competitions, is the place where pecs connect to the breast bone. This is the long, flat bone located in the central part of the chest, the sternum. It consists of three parts; the manubrium, body, and xiphoid process. Through cartilage, which turns to bone in adulthood, the sternum is connected to the ribs and forms the front of the rib cage that protects the heart, lungs, and major blood vessels from injury.
The line of visible contrast between muscle fiber and sternum connection also presents one of the biggest challenges for a bodybuilder to achieve, being a subject of long-time disagreements in matters of the methods available. The popular belief claims that the way to impressive striations leads through excessive usage of steroids. However, there are enough counter arguments to prove it false.
One of the unquestionable points is the science of anatomy, which says that you can’t truly isolate one part of a muscle to workout alone - commonly known as “all-or-nothing phenomenon”. The movement depends on the same nerves controlling all the regions of the inner chest. With that in mind, it’s logical to expect the same exercise to work equally at every single part of the muscle. What is missing in this picture?
There are several views on the matter.
All or nothing is the rule for the type of exercise aimed to build muscle, but the details do the trick. It’s about adapting the directions in a way to connect more directly to the middle area. Some experts in the field recommend workouts with upper chest movements made in such a way to have you “push” your inner pec muscle towards the centerline.
The goal here is not to change your sets of chest exercises completely. It’s about adding a few more diverse movements to the existing sets which are focused mostly on the development of the central pecs area. That means making the sets more complete with the full range of motions, for equal stimulation of all of the chest muscle fibers equally, encouraging complete muscle growth.
Some things we recommend adding are cable crossovers included after every common set. You’re free to choose according to your own preferences, as long as arm movement is not focused on the central line, but crosses in different angles.
The pec major can perform four anatomical motions: shoulder flexion, shoulder abduction, horizontal adduction, internal shoulder rotation. All of the movements set in motion the humerus (a long bone in the arm running from shoulder to elbow).
1. Shoulder flexion This just means lifting your arms in front of you.
2. Task muscles: Pec major (clavicular head or the parts attached to the collarbone) and anterior fibers of the deltoid.
3. Shoulder abduction: This is lowering the arm down.
4. Task muscles: Pec major (sternocostal head, the part that attaches pecs to the sternum) and latissimus dorsi.
5. Horizontal abduction: Your arm movement across the front of the body. From the starting position, lift your arms out to the side. The actions occur as you then move your arms in front of you.
6. Task muscles: Pec major (both clavicular and sternocostal heads work together) and anterior fibers of the deltoid.
7. Internal shoulder rotation: Rotate your arm toward the midline of the body so that the elbow faces forward. This action at the shoulder can occur when your arm is in different positions.
8. Task muscles: Pec major (both clavicular and sternocostal heads work together) and subscapularis latissimus dorsi.
There are two common types of gym exercises that include these movements: presses and flyes. Pressing exercises, with the use of barbell or dumbbells to add extra weight, are considered a fast way to get the most out of your training efforts, simultaneously activating a lot of muscles. But for targeting the inner pecs, adding some horizontal adduction emphasizing lifts to each set of chest training is mandatory.
A fly is a standard training technique, where the elbows are held at a constant angle, while both hands and arm move through an arc. In flyes, your arms are being used as levers, so the amount of weight that can be moved is significantly less than the equivalent press exercises for the same muscles (i.e. bench presses). It’s important to know that all types of fly exercises have a large potential for injuries, the kind that damages the shoulder joint and its associated ligaments and tendons of the muscles connecting to it. Caution is mandatory while performing, and we recommend that you have their effects first tested with light weights, and gradually progress towards heavier lifts.
To perform flyes, you can use any handheld weight, dumbbell being the standard, most simple tool. Another option requires using a cable machine, such as the pec deck, which allows stabilized movements while sitting straight. Flies can be performed supine, sitting or standing. Both dumbbell fly and cable machine exercises involve moving your hands and arms through the same anatomical plane - working the pecs to move the arms horizontally forward.
While performing the pec fly, the hands are usually brought out further than the elbows, with the biceps playing a minor role. The straighter the elbow is, the more stretch in the muscles. The advantages of using dumbbells over a cable machine lie in a fact that dumbbell exercises require the usage of stabilizer muscles associated with performing flies, giving more value to the workout.
Bench press weight training exercise is, as the name suggests, performed in lying position on a bench, by pressing the weight upward. It uses pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, and triceps, together with other stabilizing muscles, to horizontally adduct the shoulder. Weight tools used are commonly barbells or a pair of dumbbells. Wider hand spacing places a greater emphasis on shoulder flexion and is used more in pecs training.
There are several varieties in performing bench press exercises. The flat bench press involves both portions of the pecs with a focus on the lower head. The term 'bench press' primarily assumed as a flat bench press. A decline bench press emphasizes the lower portion of the pectoralis major and triceps. Reverse grip bench press uses a supinated grip to externally rotate the humerus and emphasizes the clavicular head of the pecs more than an incline bench press (which emphasizes more of anterior deltoids with minor effect on the upper head of the pecs). A wide grip, lowering the weight to a very high point on the chest or up to the neck is called a guillotine press and strengthens the upper pectorals.
This simple workout is an excellent choice for entry-level, good as both a beginner chest workout and part of advanced training. On a weight bench, lie on your back and level your arms with your chest. Bend your elbows at a 90-degree angle, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Alternatively, you may use a barbell. Straightening both arms, raise the weights towards the ceiling and hold the position for a few seconds, to reach peak contraction. Lower the weight down by bending elbows. Repeat.
If you work with dumbbells, try adding a twist known as the “hammer squeeze press”. Place a light ball between them. Keep squeeze-pressing the ball throughout the exercise. This combination of press and chest fly brings more focus to the middle part of the inner pecs area.
The push-up is one of the most traditional exercises, also great in a beginner chest workout, activating both the pecs and shoulders without the need for any additional equipment. Start in a plank position, with hands placed directly underneath your shoulders. Focus on engaging your abs. Slowly bend your elbows out, and lower your chest toward the floor.
From this point, there are two ways to perform. A simple pec pushup means that you pause when your chest is in line with your elbows and then return your body to the starting position by slowly straightening arms back. The key is maintaining a straight line from heel to head.
A small change in starting positions is required to do so-called “diamond pushups”, which are considered as elementary among exercises focused on the inside portion of the inner chest. Place your hands so that the ends of your index fingers and thumbs are nearly touching each other. “Nearly” means you need to be comfortable, without aggravating your elbows. What is created should resemble a diamond shape, thus the name of the exercise. Lowering your body is performed like doing a standard pushup, but instead of a slow return, you need to make it in a single explosive movement. At the same time tense the muscles like you’re trying to draw your hands closer together without actually moving them. Your mind should be focused on contracting the inner pecs, trying to feel them.
Technically, yes. Still, it is a better choice to opt for the gym. Not just to learn from experienced trainers how to perform the exercise in the right way, but also because they will minimize the risk of injuries.
However, if for any reason your home workout is more convenient for you then a gym session, here are several examples of exercises that can work for you.
1. Different push-up variations: Regular push-ups or Plyometric push-ups. Do the regular push-ups with a wider grip than usual. Gradually make it more demanding by raising the position of your legs. Do plyometric push-ups as fast, energetic lifts, like clapping push-ups. Think about timing. Go slowly with a strong focus on your performance.
2. Improvised bench press: Find a stable bench and get a pair of dumbbells.
There is a variety of dumbbell bench press exercises you can perform at home, just don't start with heavyweights.
3. Chest dips: This is a very useful pecs exercise, which both adds depth and width to the inner chest and involves a lot of stabilizers at the same time. What you need are two stable, flat, parallel surfaces you can dip between. Start by placing your hands on the flat surface, arms locked, knees bent without touching the floor. Inhale, slowly lowering your body, keeping your elbows pointed out slightly until you feel a slight stretch in your chest. Don’t go down too low. Exhale while contracting your chest and returning the body to start position. Repeat.
A basic recommendation would be doing two to four sets of each inner chest exercise two to three times a week, starting with ten to fifteen repeats in one set. The complete program should also include exercises to target the other muscle groups. Keep in mind that exercises should make your muscles burn, but in no way should cause increased pain.
Getting leaner means more noticeable pecs separation. Focusing on food and supplements is equally important as is doing the bodybuilding right.
Don’t avoid regular cardio exercise if you want to lose more fat throughout your body and chest. Combine fast walking, elliptical training, jogging, and stair climbing as fat-burning activities and a warm-up for the weights training. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing at least 150 to 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise per week.
Incorporate high-intensity interval training (HIIT) into your workout schedule for two nonconsecutive days per week. The alternation between high-intensity intervals with recovery intervals should cover up to 20 minutes of workout. Some disciplines are more suitable for HIIT than others. If you are a beginner, you should consider starting with an exercise bike, since it is significantly less risky than trying to do complicated exercises with added weights at a faster pace. Balance is key. A low interval period doesn’t mean you should stop completely, just slow down. It will help flush out lactic acid ahead from your next work period. Ask your trainer to help you maintain the proper heart rate, and calculate the number of rounds and intervals according to personal fit. HIIT is easy to overdo without proper balance.
Control your nutrition. Opt for meals that are full of fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients, “real” food. Make sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep hunger at bay. Avoid processed food, keep sugar of any origin at minimum, and focus on your protein intake.
Well, not literally. But, the key is persistence. You need to properly combine various elements and professional guidance. Expecting some magical results and overnight success leads nowhere but straight to disappointment. One thing that can not be changed (yet!) is our genetics. Inner chest workouts, the same as any other kind of training, can improve what we already have and bring out the best of its possibilities. That is what you should aim for.
Knowing your own body and its limits is a great help in achieving the best goals possible. Set your goals gradually. It’s proven that consecutive reaching and passing smaller thresholds work the best for the long term. Having one ultimate goal, that is large and takes a long time to reach, leaves a lot of space to demoralize and give up. Consider making smaller, more incremental and achievable goals to fill up that space in the middle.
Patience is important, don’t over-do it, and increase your levels gradually. Make sure not to skip the warm-up and stretching parts, for keeping to the overall balance. And try not to get bored. Too many repetitive workout routines could get you fed up, especially for beginners. Make sure to have enough training variety and some fresh workout options to include. And invest in the right equipment. One good pair of shoes can make all the difference you need. And never underestimate the power of adequate rest!