All around the world, Monday is National Chest Training day. There will be a queue of people waiting to pay their dues on the bench press in almost every gym. But, as good an exercise as the bench press is, it might not be the best chest builder.
While this may seem blasphemous to some, the fact is that the bench press is an okay chest builder at best, and, for many, it’s more of a deltoid and triceps exercise. That’s because it only really works the lower and outer parts of your chest, especially if you’ve got short arms and are a little barrel-chested.
Because of this, if you spend too much time bench pressing, you could find that your inner chest is severely lacking.
The good news is that there are many great exercises you can do to create an effective inner chest workout. That doesn’t mean you have to quit bench presses for good, but you should be prepared to add some additional exercises to your chest sculpting workouts.
In this article, we review your chest’s anatomy and function and reveal the best exercises for building and shaping your inner pecs.
Inner Chest Workouts
Anatomy of The Inner Chest
Before we go any further, it’s essential to understand that the inner chest is not a muscle; it’s PART of a muscle – your pectoralis or your pecs for short. There are two pectoral sections or heads:
- Clavicular Head – also known as the upper pecs
- Sternocostal Head – also known as the lower pecs
The inner chest is simply the point at which these muscle heads join onto your sternum or breastbone. The pecs are a large, flat, fan-shaped muscle that covers most of your upper chest. It has three primary functions:
- Flexion of the shoulder joint
- Horizontal flexion of the shoulder joint
- Medial rotation of the shoulder joint
The entire chest works as one, but, that said, it is possible to emphasize the different regions of the chest with specific exercises and joint angles. Focusing on the inner chest could help create a deeper-looking chest, producing a defined separation between the pecs’ left and right sides. However, for such a gap to be visible, you’ll need to be lean enough for this detail to show through.
8 Chest Growing Exercises
So, while all chest exercises work the inner, outer, upper, and lower pecs, you can emphasize the inner chest, and these are the best exercises to do it!
1. Dumbbell Flyes
Dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise, which means they only involve movement at one joint. Start or finish your pec workouts with a few sets of medium to high rep dumbbell flyes to hit your inner pecs.
To do dumbbell flyes:
- Lie on an exercise bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Press them up to arms’ length, with your hands turned inward. Your elbows should be slightly bent.
- Open your arms and lower the weights out and down until you feel a stretch in your chest.
Using your pecs, squeeze your arms back up and repeat.
Dumbbell flyes can be done on a flat, decline, or incline bench.
2. Cable Flyes
When you do dumbbell flyes, there is almost no tension on your pecs at the top of each rep when your arms are closest together. Instead, your muscles work the hardest when your arms are apart. Cable flyes flip this strength curve on its head so that your pecs are working the hardest when your arms come together.
Cable flyes are not better or worse than dumbbell flyes; they’re just different. When it comes to building muscle, different is good because variation helps keep your workouts fresh and productive.
How to do Cable flyes:
- Stand in the middle of a cable crossover machine and grab the uppermost handles.
- With your elbows slightly bent, draw your arms down and forward so your hands meet in front of your hips.
- Raise your arms and repeat. You can also do dumbbell flyes using the lowermost handles, lifting your arms up and forward instead.
3. Pec Deck Machine
As its name suggests, the pec deck works your pectoralis major. The movement is a lot like doing dumbbells or cable flyes, which means it’s a useful inner pec exercise.
However, because the weight is guided on rods, you are free to focus on working your pecs as hard as possible and can forget about balancing weights or coordinating your movements.
Pec deck machines vary from model to model and manufacturer to manufacturer. Most work by placing your forearms on shoulder-high pads and then squeezing your arms together in front of your chest. Use the machine at your gym according to the instructions.
4. Diamond Push-Ups
Push-ups are arguably the most widely performed exercise on the planet. They’re an excellent general chest exercise but, one simple change turns them into a perfect inner chest workout.
How to do Diamond push-ups:
- Squat down and put your hands directly on the floor. Note: Your first fingers and thumbs should be touching, making a diamond shape.
- Walk with your feet back, so your body is straight.
- Then Bend your arms and lower your chest to your hands.
- Push back up and repeat. Note: Bending your legs and rest on your knees to make this exercise easier.
- Alternatively, you can put your feet on a bench or step to make them more demanding.
5. Medicine Ball Push-Ups
This exercise is very similar to diamond push-ups (#4) but is a lot more challenging. Perform as above but put your hands on a medicine ball instead. You’ll have to forcefully press your hands together to keep them on the ball, which will increase inner chest activation.
6. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
This unusual chest exercise hits your inner chest hard! It’s also good for general chest growth. You don’t need heavy weights for this exercise, which means it’s useful for anyone with sore shoulders or elbows. Dumbbell squeeze presses work best with hexagonal dumbbells.
How to Dumbbell Squeeze Press:
- Lay on your back with a dumbbell in each hand.
- Push them up and directly over your pecs. Turning your hands so your palms face inward.
- Press the weights together.
- Bend your arms and lower the dumbbells to the middle of your chest. Keep pressing inward.
- Push the weights back up and repeat. The harder you push the weights together, the more effective this exercise will be.
7. Plate Press
The plate press is a simplified version of the dumbbell squeeze press (exercise #6). However, all you need is a single-weight plate.
How to Plate Press:
- Lie on your back and hold a weight plate between your palms.
- Pushing inward, lower the weight to your chest and then press it back up again.
- Keep pressing inward to a) maximize inner pec recruitment and b) avoid dropping the weight on your chest!
8. Dumbbell Press/Cable Fly Combo
This exercise takes a little extra effort to set up, but you’ll be rewarded with an unusual and effective inner chest workout.
How to do dumbbell press/cable fly combo:
- Place a bench (flat position) in the middle of a cable crossover machine.
- Put straps around your wrists and attach the lowermost cables to them. Take a dumbbell in each hand and then lie on the bench.
- Do dumbbell presses as usual but work hard to push your arms in against the outward pull of the cables. Note: This will significantly increase inner chest activation.
Tips and Tricks for Increasing Inner Chest Size Fast
Get more from your inner chest workouts with these hints and hacks!
Prioritize – if you want your inner chest to grow fast, you need to prioritize it. Start and finish each workout with an inner chest exercise and do more sets for your inner chest than you do for the rest.
Double Up – train your chest twice a week. Do one general chest workout, and then, 2-3 days later, do another workout dedicated to your inner chest.
Try Daily Workouts for Two Weeks – while training your chest daily might seem like suicide for your gains, doing it for short periods can help jump-start muscle growth. Try doing one inner chest workout every day, even if it’s just a few sets of diamond push-ups. Continue for no more than two weeks; otherwise, you will start to feel overtrained.
Do Isometrics – Flex your chest by pushing your palms together in front of your sternum and contracting your pecs as hard as you can. Hold for 20-30 seconds several times each day. This will strengthen your mind/muscle connection and may help increase inner chest size.
Get Lean – Your inner pecs will be more noticeable if there is less body fat covering them. Cut down on junk food, ditch the alcohol, and step up your cardio to shed the layer of fat that’s obscuring your inner pecs.
While you cannot isolate your inner chest, you can choose exercises that emphasize this vital area. The best exercises feature some crossover motion or involve pressing your arms inward. With all of these exercises, the harder you push, the more effective they’ll be.
There are free weight, machine, and even bodyweight exercises you can use to work your inner chest, so it doesn’t matter if you work out in a state-of-the-art gym or at home in your garage.
If you are serious about improving your chest’s shape, you need to prioritize it, training it at the start of each week and first in your workouts. You may even want to train your inner chest twice a week (or more) to bring it up faster.
Remember, though, that the pecs are just one of 600 that make up the human body. While there is no denying their aesthetic appeal and importance, you must not neglect the rest of your body. Even picture-perfect pecs will look unimpressive if the rest of your body is not developed to the same standard.
That means, as well as celebrating National Chest Training Day; you also need to dedicate the same amount of energy to your back, legs, shoulders, and arms. Overdeveloped pecs look ridiculous!