Do you want a big and strong chest? Then you need to develop both the upper, middle, and lower chest muscle fibers.
In this article, I’ll list ten of the best lower chest exercises and how you can put them together into a lower chest workout.
In order to understand the exercise choices, let’s begin by taking a look at your chest muscles.
How to Work Your Lower Chest Muscles
Your chest muscles are almost entirely made up of one large muscle on each side: your pectoralis major, or pecs.
The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle with a wide origin. It is generally divided into two parts:
- The sternocostal part is the larger, lower portion, which originates mainly from your sternum (and to a degree, from your upper abdominal sheath and ribs).
- The clavicular part is the smaller, upper portion, which originates from the first half of your clavicle.
Muscle fibers from this whole range come together into one single tendon that inserts on the front of your upper arms.
Depending on the angle at which you bring your arm forward, different muscle fibers of the pectoral muscles will work more or less.
- Incline pressing will target the upper pec muscle fibers (the clavicular head).
- Decline pressing will target the lower pec muscle fibers (the sternal head).
- Flat pressing, like bench pressing, will target the whole pec muscle pretty evenly (the sternal and the clavicular part).
When it comes to working your lower pec, we want to use exercises that either have you moving your arm straight forward as these will work your entire chest muscles pretty evenly, or exercises in which you move your arm forward in a slight downward angle as these will emphasize your lower chest fibers.
Let’s have a look at ten great exercises for targeting your lower chest, and how you can put together a lower chest workout.
1. Bar Dips
The bar dip is sometimes referred to as “the squat of the upper body” because of how it works many of your major muscle groups in your upper body – your lower chest included.
Because you are pressing at a downward angle in the bar dip, this exercise works your lower pecs thoroughly. Your middle pecs and triceps are also worked.
Another benefit of the bar dip is that peak resistance occurs while your muscles are in a stretched position, which is beneficial for your lower chest muscle growth.
The best way to perform dips when you want to grow your chest muscles is the dip variant above. It is sometimes referred to as chest dips, as opposed to bench dips which puts more emphasis on your triceps.
2. Bench Press
This list would not be complete without the bench press. The bench press is one of the best exercises for building a big and strong chest, including the lower portion.
Shouldn’t you be doing decline bench presses instead of flat bench presses?
In general, unless you know what you’re doing, I would recommend against this for three reasons.
- Your lower chest is already worked to a good extent in the flat press.
- If you have even the slightest arch (which you probably should have when you bench press), you will emphasize your lower pecs even more.
- The risk of injury increase steeply in the decline bench press. From getting pinned with the bar on your throat to the increased blood pressure in your head, I would recommend against this exercise unless you have safety precautions in place. The risk:reward ratio is not worth it.
The flat barbell bench press is a fantastic pec exercise in its own right, and that includes your lower chest.
3. Dumbbell Chest Press
Similar to the bench press, the flat dumbbell chest press works all parts of your pecs, including your lower chest.
The key to getting the best results from this exercise is to use light enough weights to feel your pecs working. A benefit of the dumbbell chest press is that you work each side independently, which can help you identify and address any side-to-side imbalances in muscle and strength.
It can be tricky to get a pair of heavy dumbbells up into the starting position. The best solution is to ask a training partner for help, but you can also try placing the dumbbells on your knees and then kicking them up into position.
4. Machine Chest Press
The machine chest press works your pecs, front delts, and triceps in a movement similar to the bench press and dumbbell press, but you’re using a machine instead of free weights.
The extra stability offered by machines can be useful in many situations, for example for beginners or elderly people with an impaired balance. For the bodybuilder, machines offer a safe way to train to exhaustion without having to worry about balancing heavy, free weights.
Read more in our article about free weights vs. machines.
5. Cable Chest Flyes
Cables are a great bodybuilding tool as they allow you to load your muscles in angles that would have been difficult with free weights. In the case of the standing cable chest fly (also known as cable crossover), performing the exercise from high to low targets your lower pecs perfectly, and with a constant tension that makes finding good muscle contact easy.
This is a great addition to your chest workouts because of the different angle and force curve compared to many free weight or bodyweight exercises.
Start light in this exercise, go for medium-to-high rep numbers, and chase that pump.
6. Dumbbell Chest Fly
Similar to the bench press, the dumbbell chest fly works your entire pec muscles even if you use a flat bench. Add a slight arch as I do in the gif above and you emphasize your lower chest even more.
This is another exercise where the force curve peaks when your muscles are in a lengthened position, which adds to its muscle-building effect. If you want to keep constant tension on your pecs, reverse the movement before you reach the top position.
This exercise gets really heavy, really fast in the bottom position, so make sure you start off really light. 10% of your bench press 1RM is a good starting point.
Make sure to squeeze your shoulder blades together, and keep a slight bend in your elbow.
7. Machine Chest Fly
Once again, a machine offers an alternative way of performing a chest fly, including extra stability and no risk of dropping a heavy dumbbell on your training buddy.
Experiment and see which chest fly variation that feels the best for your muscles and then stick with that. Or, alternate between two or even three chest fly exercises just to mix things up and keep the training fun.
Machines for chest flyes will generally have you working in a direction perpendicular to your torso, which (just like the flat bench press) will work your entire chest, including your lower pecs.
You can’t go wrong with the classics. The push-up is a great chest exercise that you always carry with you. The best part in the context of this article? It emphasizes your lower chest because of the pressing angle.
Some people scoff at the push-up because they think they are too strong for it, and that the high number of reps they can do makes this exercise light to the point of it being useless.
To that, I have two things to say:
- Research shows that even up to 40 repetitions per set are effective for building muscle, as long as you train close to failure.
- If you do the push-ups strictly – deep, in a full range of motion and in a controlled manner – you are likely going to have to cut your “PE numbers” in half. Or more.
Do the push-up right, and it is a great exercise for your lower chest that you don’t even need to go to the gym to do.
9. Incline Push-Ups
If you find the regular push-up too difficult or you just want to emphasize the lower chest even more, do incline push-ups against a low stepping board or bench. This shifts the direction of work downwards, which will activate your lower pec muscle fibers to a larger extent.
If you want to make the incline push-up more difficult, you can use a weighted west or strap a resistance band around your back and hold it in your hands while pushing. If you want to make the exercise easier, use a higher incline or do kneeling incline push-ups.
10. Dumbbell Pullover
If you would have said “pullover” to me when I was a kid, I would have assumed you meant a sweatshirt. Nowadays, I associate pullover with the old school bodybuilding exercise rumored to “expand your rib cage”. While I don’t really believe in that, I do know that some people swear by the dumbbell pullover as a lower pec exercise, and therefore it gets to finish this list.
Start out with a light or medium weight as you get to know the exercise, and try to make your chest muscles do all of the work.
Full Chest Workout Example (Including Lower Chest)
For all the talk about lower chest training, I actually don’t think you need a dedicated lower chest workout. That is because your lower chest fibers are already worked in so many of the regular chest exercises.
Instead, I recommend you do a complete chest workout that not only works your lower pecs, but your upper and middle pecs as well.
Here is a free chest workout from our app StrengthLog. If you download the app (100% free), you can track your weights and reps in this workout routine and make sure that you lift more with time, which is the fundamental principle of muscle growth.
Download StrengthLog for free with the links below!
StrengthLog’s Chest Workout
- Bench Press: 3 sets x 5 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets x 8 reps
- Dips: 3 sets x 12 reps (add weight if necessary)
- Standing Cable Chest Fly: 3 sets x 20 reps
This workout begins with the bench press, which works pretty much your entire pec muscles. If you have even the slightest arch when you bench press, the emphasis on your lower chest is even greater. This exercise lets you use heavy weights and works a lot of muscle mass at the same time. In other words, it lays the foundation of your chest workout.
Then, you follow up with some incline pressing which emphasizes your upper pecs and front delts but still works your middle pec muscle fibers.
After that, you move on to bar dips which shift the focus to your lower pec muscle fibers and hammer them hard.
Isolation exercises are generally best to put at the end of your workout, therefore you’ll end the show with some high rep cable flyes to really hit that chest pump.
And there you go! Ten of the best lower chest exercises, and an example of how you can put them together into a complete chest workout.
If there’s one thing you can do now to improve your muscle growth and training results, it is to download our workout tracker StrengthLog for free and start keeping track of the weights and reps you use. If you regularly beat what you did last time, you will get bigger and stronger.
Click the links below to download StrengthLog for free:
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