Many gym trainees have trouble developing certain areas of the chest and for the most part, that’s namely the upper chest.
However, this article is for those fewer people, who have enough upper development but are lacking lower and outer chest.
Having the lower & outer sweeps developed gives the chest a more complete look, accounting for a more aesthetic look of the chest.
Keep in mind that it is a large muscle group, meaning that the more sectors are well developed, the better.
Before we get into any specific exercises, sets and repetitions, let’s look at the chest itself.
The chest musculature, also known as the pectorals, is made out of a couple of parts:
- Pectoralis major
The bulk of the chest musculature is referred to as “Pectoralis major” in anatomic terms.
This muscle group is responsible for pushing movements and consists of two parts: The upper chest, also called the “Pectoralis major clavicular”, pictured below:
And of course, the lower portion of the chest, also known as the “Pectoralis major sternal”, pictured below:
There’s also the “Pectoralis minor”, which is found right underneath the pectoralis major that is primarily responsible for shoulder joint movement and the flexion of the humerus (upper arm bone)
How to target different parts
If you have been reading our articles, you should already know that we preach targeting each muscle groups at various angles, in order to activate and work on its different zones.
In doing so, we achieve a more pleasing to look at development and last but not least, we get stronger and more functional under different angles.
So, the upper chest, we target with pushing movements that are more incline, as incline movements activate the pec major clavicular more.
However, we also see a more prominent activation of the shoulder during those angles, which is why it would be best to keep it at 45 degrees.
On the other hand, to target the lower portion of the pectoralis major, we do the exact opposite- We aim for more decline, flat or vertical movements.
Below, we will give you our best picks for lower chest exercises, which you can include in your workouts.
- Flat barbell bench press
This is a classic exercise that everyone does.
If it feels a bit hard and you are neglecting it because of that, maybe that’s the reason why your lower chest is lacking. Give it some more time and energy and it will give you good results.
- Load the bar appropriately
- Lay down on the bench comfortably and slightly arch your back
- Keep your butt on the bench
- Keep your head rested back to avoid excessive neck tension
- Grab the bar wider than shoulder width and un-rack it
- Keep elbows slightly bent to avoid excessive triceps activation
- Let the barbell go down slowly until it touches the lower portion of your chest at nipple level
- Without letting the barbell rest on your chest, push up explosively without locking out the elbow
- Parallel bar dips
This is a basic exercise that every trainee should master before moving on to lifting bigger weights, simply because it is a bodyweight exercise.
It is your perfect lower chest pick and if you have not been paying attention to it, definitely give a shot and feel it for yourself.
- Get up on the parallel bar
- Keep feet together and arms slightly bent at the elbow
- Keep your head looking down
- Start lowering your body slowly, until your arms are at a 90-degree angle
- Push up explosively, without locking out the elbow
Note that if you’re looking down, your chest will be activated more, while if you’re looking up, the triceps will get activated more prominently.
- Decline dumbbell bench press
- Sit comfortably on the decline bench
- Grab the dumbbells and keep them over your head with elbows slightly bent
- Keep your head rested down and let the dumbbells down to the lower portion of your chest
- Push up explosively without locking out the elbow
- Standing cable crossover
- Grab the pulleys and step forward with one leg for balance
- Keep elbows slightly bent, back straight and head looking forward
- Bend over very slightly and push down, with no extension or flexion in the elbow
- Contract the chest strongly then let the cables back up slowly to stretch out the chest
Sets, repetitions and rest times
Now, we want this article to be useful for trainees of every group- Beginners, intermediates and even more advanced ones.
This is exactly why we won’t give you certain sets and rep ranges but rather advise you according to specific goals.
If you’re looking for bulk muscle gains in the chest area, then you can follow this scheme:
Beginners should pick one of those exercises and include it in their full body circuit, done 3 times a week.
The number of working sets should not exceed 4-5 and the repetitions should be in the 8-12 range, without reaching failure.
Your goal as a beginner is to get stronger on this exercise and learn the proper execution.
Intermediates can pick 1-2 of those exercises, along with exercises for the upper chest and include it in their split routine, which allows you to train each group twice a week.
The total number of sets for all of the chest exercises should be ~8-10 and the repetitions can be kept at the 6-10 range.
That is of course, after a couple of warm up sets with lighter weights and higher repetitions. Failure can be reached every now and then.
Advanced trainees can pick 2-3 of these exercises and combine them with the upper chest exercises, for a total of ~10-12 working sets.
The repetitions can vary from 12 to 6 with the lesser repetitions being done with a solid, challenging weight.
Rest times are generally at 60-90 seconds – The heavier the weight and the lower the repetitions, the more rest you will need.
If you already have a foundation of bulk muscle gains and are looking to shape it up while losing the fat, then we would recommend you to pick 1 compound movement and 1 isolated movement.
A compound movement would be any bench press and an isolated movement can be the cable crossovers (isolated).
Combine those two with 1 or 2 more movements for a total of 8 to 10 sets and you are good to go.
The sets should be kept at a light 10-15 repetitions with a couple of repetitions in reserve, without reaching failure or high levels of intensity
The rest times then would be kept at 30-50 seconds, progressively decreasing.
The lower weight and higher reps, combined with lower rest times, will allow for better felt muscle contractions and more blood filling of the musculature.
That will ultimately deliver more nutrient-rich blood to the muscle, helping you retain it while losing the fat, but it will also help you shape it up more prominently.
The chest is a big muscle group that can take a solid volume of work. It can also be targeted at different angles to engage its different parts and achieve a more aesthetically pleasing look.
We have the pectoralis major clavicular, which is the upper chest and the pectoralis major sternal, which is the middle & lower part of the chest, but we also have pectoralis minor underneath the bulk portion.
To work on the lower part, we take into account more decline, pushing movements, as well as vertical movements such as the parallel bar dips.
If we are looking to gain bulk muscle, we want to work in the 6-10 rep range with heavier weights, being careful to stay away from failure if we are a beginner, until we get used to the load.
Intermediates and advanced trainees can pick more than 2 exercises and combine them with the rest of their chest workout for a total of ~10 working sets, reaching failure every now and then.
If on the other hand, we are looking to just maintain and shape up the chest muscles, we should aim for higher repetitions away from failure with rest times no more than 40-50 seconds.
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