A well-developed chest can help you forge a more ideal physique for the bodybuilding stage, turn heads at the beach, or just look a bit bigger in the mirror. That said, most people don’t think too far beyond meeting the bros at the bar for international chest day. But it does beg the question — at what point should you start paying more attention to how you exercise your pecs? Are things more complicated than they seem?
Bodybuilders who have worked out since the golden age of the sport espouse the dogma that in order to develop the entirety of your chest, you need to target specific areas of the muscle like the upper, inner, or (especially) your lower chest. Whether you believe this to be necessary or not, it is certainly hard to turn a blind eye to the results.
The incline is renowned for targeting the “upper chest” while the flat bench clearly hits the middle, but what about the lower chest? For that, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Here are five of the best lower chest workouts for bodybuilders.
Best Lower Chest Workouts for Bodybuilders
- Best Barbell Lower Chest Workout
- Best Dumbbell Lower Chest Workout
- Best Bodyweight Lower Chest Workout
- Best Cable Lower Chest Workout
- The “Anything Goes” Lower Chest Workout
Building a muscle group can be achieved in a few different ways, but in all of them you’ll be forced to train hard and get close to failure. A barbell based bodybuilding workout is best used by taking advantage of the fact that you can load a barbell the most out of any of the implements to hit the chest. Train heavy and get close (but not totally) to failure.
Barbell-based bodybuilding workouts should prioritize 1-2 major lifts before breaking off into more easily-customizable implements (such as cables, dumbbells, or even machines) to finish your day. Targeting the lower chest will be about properly aligning your body to best force mechanical tension through the lower fibers of your pecs. As such, a decline bench press is your best bet.
Complement it with a few sets on the standard bench press and then get on with the rest of your workout.
- Decline Barbell Bench Press: 3×10
- Flat Barbell Bench Press: 2×10-12
- Dip: 2×10-15
- Cable Pec Flye: 3×12-15
Dumbbells offer a much easier method of customizing ranges of motion and targeting areas of your body that a barbell can. The barbell can certainly be loaded heavier, which can provide a good spillover effect to grow your chest more generally, but dumbbells can be used to carve out specific regions with a bit more finesse.
Following the same logic as a barbell-based bodybuilding workout, selecting a decline angle to best align your lower chest for the main exercise of the day is a great choice. From there, dumbbell flyes at a similar angle can be a perfect compliment before hitting up some cables or machines. Since your dumbbells will not be as heavy as a barbell, choosing machines that you can err a bit more on the side of weight is a good plan as well.
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press: 3×12-15
- Low Decline Dumbbell Pec Fly: 3×12-15
- Plate-Loaded Dip Machine: 3×10-12
- Cable Pec Flye: 2×12-15
Bodyweight training can be very effective at building your pecs. Dips are a perfect staple for your lower chest development and would make for a great cornerstone of the workout. One of the biggest considerations for bodyweight workouts however are that due to their relatively lighter loads — you will be performing much more sets and repetitions to generate the same growth.
Pre-fatiguing the chest is a good option to keep your remaining exercises challenging enough to prevent 30 repetition sets for the whole day. A few hard sets of push-ups should do just the trick. Performing them with added range of motion, for example with a deficit, is another way to intensify things when you’re starting to get too strong. From here, line up some dips and get to work.
- Deficit Push-Up: 2xAMRAP
- Dip: 4xAMRAP
- Bench Dip: 3xAMRAP
Note: AMRAP refers to performing “as many repetitions as possible” within a single set. Push yourself to the brink, but only as far as you can maintain reasonable technique.
Cables are arguably the most versatile and useful tool for a bodybuilder. The immense customizability of exercise and body-type specific ranges of motion are nearly impossible for you to replicate using any other implement. Again, decline pressing movements in addition to flye-based exercises are some of the best choices for building the lower chest — and a cable setup can accommodate just that.
Using a bench and some creativity is all you need to recreate the decline pressing pattern on a cable system – and the same logic can be applied to mimicking a dip. A standing cable pressdown can be set-up to target the same range of motion as a dip, but you’ll likely need to load it a bit lighter and chase failure to get the same effect without literally shoving yourself out of position.
- Decline Cable Chest Press: 3×15
- Bilateral Standing Cable Vertical Pressdown: 3×15-20
- Single-Arm Cross-Body Cable Pressdown: 2×12
- High-to-Low Cable Flye: 2×12
Note: To perform the chest pressdown, grab each handle and tuck your arms to your sides with your elbows bent. Then, press the handles as though they were dumbbells. The posture and range of motion should closely resemble how you’d perform a dip, you’re just moving external resistance instead of your own body.
With all the tools in a commercial gym at your disposal, you should take advantage of the strengths of each training implement. Barbells, dumbbells, cables, and machines all have their place and can work together to build a beefy lower chest.
A heavy decline bench press can be complemented with a lighter and higher-repetition dumbbell variation. From there, using cables and machines to precisely target your lower chest and pump out a ton of high quality volume is the best way to arrange your workout for beastly gains.
- Decline Barbell Bench Press: 3×8-10
- Decline Dumbbell Bench Press: 2×10-12
- Dip Machine: 3×10-12
- High-to-Low Cable Flye: 3xAMRAP
Anatomy of the Chest
The chest is primarily composed of two muscle groups. The large and more visual pectoralis major and the smaller more deeply hidden pectoralis minor. The anterior deltoid and serratus anterior may play a bit of a role in building out the aesthetic edges of the chest — but your pectoralis muscles will be the biggest points to focus on.
The pectoralis major is the large fan-shaped muscle that makes up the majority of your chest. It has a common insertion where most of the fibers attach to the humerus (upper arm bone) around the armpit region. However, since it has a unique shape, there are actually a few distinct regions that the fibers of your pectoralis major originate from.
Significant portions attach to your clavicle (collarbone), sternum (breast bone), and costal cartilages of your ribs on your mid chest. The pectoralis major will be the major player in all of your chest based exercises — meaning that growing this muscle will be how you create the chest aesthetic you’re looking for.
The pectoralis minor is a much smaller muscle that sits underneath the pectoralis major. It originates from the front of the third to fifth ribs and inserts on the coracoid process (a bony bump protruding from the scapula). The pectoralis minor plays a much smaller role in chest movements, but can help “puff up” the overall appearance of your pecs.
Can You Really Target Your Lower Chest?
There’s plenty of mixed messaging on the idea that you can (or cannot) target specific regions of a muscle or muscle group for hypertrophy.
The deltoids are a great example of where this concept shines, as the anterior, medial, and posterior deltoids are all distinct muscles within the same broad muscle group which can be targeted by different exercises.
The pectoralis major is a bit more unique than the deltoids, though. While it doesn’t break down into different muscles, it does have some “regional hypertrophy” potential. How you line up your exercises can also help to bias certain areas of a muscle from a biomechanical standpoint as well. Here’s the deal.
Since your pectoralis major muscle has a large fan shape with multiple insertion points along the collarbone, breastplate and rib cage, it is possible to select exercises or ranges of motion that emphasize areas that you’d like to make a priority.
Research is starting to back up the old bodybuilder adage of selecting different exercises to carve out specific areas of the muscle, which is particularly useful for hitting the different parts of your chest. (1)
Each of the regions of your chest will have muscle fibers that run in subtly distinct directions from one other. Loosely speaking, you can consider these regions as the upper, middle, and lower chest. When you arrange an exercise or its range of motion to best target the muscle fibers of these regions, you should theoretically see some extra gains.
A great example of this is a standard pec flye, preferably on a cable machine. If you set the handles up high and draw your arms downward, the fibers of your chest that are most directly-aligned with that “line of pull” will do a bit of extra work. The opposite effect holds true if you start flow and flye high.
This may not create easily-visible results, and especially won’t develop an “imbalanced-looking” chest, but there’s some credibility to putting the right part of a muscle in the best position to do most of the work.
How to Warm Up for Chest Workouts
They may not be as top-to-bottom demanding as a full leg day or an Olympic lifting warm-up, but you should still take care when preparing to tackle a heavy chest workout.
Even though you don’t really utilize your lower body when training your chest, you should still perform a bit of full-body calisthenics or light cardio to increase blood circulation, raise your core temperature, and break a light sweat. After that, it’s all about priming the relevant joints and muscles.
In this case, that means ensuring your shoulders are “online” and stable, your elbows and wrists are warm and ready, and your pecs themselves are in the zone and ready to produce power. This brief upper body warm-up covers all those bases and then some. Give it a try.
Chest Workout Warm-Up
- 5 minutes of light cardio or calisthenics.
- 3 sets of 15-20 reps of face pulls or resistance band pull-aparts, superset with:
- 3 light sets of tempo close-grip push-ups focusing on your muscular contractions.
- 2 sets of 12-15 reps of cambered bar reverse curls.
The Big Pec Picture
While there may not be an inner or outer chest from an anatomical perspective (much to the chagrin of gym bros worldwide), targeting specific regions of your chest is actually possible to at least some degree.
Intelligently arranging your exercise selection can help you bring up areas of your physique that may be lagging, and creating a bodybuilding workout for your lower chest is the perfect example of this idea in motion.
Even if it takes a quick Google search to brush up on your muscular anatomy, you can very quickly start to implement this premise into your own workout — or, just use any of these lower chest workouts as proof of concept. There’s no good reason to leave a gap in your physique development, so get to work.
1. Zabaleta-Korta, A., Fernández-Peña, E., Torres-Unda, J., Garbisu-Hualde, A., & Santos-Concejero, J. (2021). The role of exercise selection in regional Muscle Hypertrophy: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of sports sciences, 39(20), 2298–2304.
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