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9 Lower Chest Workouts/Exercises

In gyms around the world, Monday is National Chest Training Day, and for most exercisers, that means it’s National Bench Press Day too. The bench press is a hugely popular exercise, and that’s because it’s very effective for building muscle size and strength. It’s also the second lift contested in powerlifting competitions and one of the test exercises in the NFL Combine.

However, as good as the bench press is, it’s not the only chest exercise around.

Your chest is made up of fibers that run in several different directions, essentially giving you an upper, middle, and lower chest. This means, if you want to build the ultimate pecs, you need a range of exercises to work your chest from a variety of angles.

In this article, we reveal the best exercises to include in your next lower chest workout. You don’t need to do all these exercises, but you should definitely do 1-2 of them to ensure you hit your pecs from all the available angles.

And we’re not saying you need to give up the bench press either. Just supplement your bench press workout with a couple of the exercises outlined below.

Lower Chest Workouts & Exercises

Anatomy of The Lower Chest

Chest and abs anatomy

The correct anatomical name for your chest is pectoralis major. The pecs are a large, flat muscle made up of three distinct sets of fibers aligned at different angles.

This gives you an upper, middle, and lower chest, although, in reality, these fibers all work together. However, it is possible to emphasize different parts of your chest by performing specific exercises that involve different joint angles.

The Upper Fibers

The upper fibers of the pecs are properly called the clavicular part of the chest because they run upward toward your clavicles or collar bones. They are most active during incline movements, such as incline bench presses and incline dumbbell flyes.

The Middle Fibers

Run roughly horizontally across your chest and are properly called the sternal portion of the pecs. They’re involved in exercises performed on a flat bench, such as regular bench presses and the pec deck.

The Lower Fibers

The lower fibers which are the focus of this article, are also known as the abdominal or costal part of the pecs. Costal means ribs. The lower pecs are most active during decline movements, such as decline bench presses and high to low cable crossovers on a machine.

How Do I Build My Lower Chest?

The best way to bring up your lower chest is to make it your training priority. Instead of starting your chest workout with flat or incline bench presses, begin with one of the exercises outlined below. Better still, do two lower chest exercises before moving onto your mid and upper chest.

Alternatively, train your chest twice a week, dedicating one session to general pec training and a second workout to your lower chest.

Whichever option you choose, make sure you support your workouts by eating plenty of high protein foods and getting adequate rest between workouts. Also, try to clock up at least eight hours of sleep per night. After all, muscles only grow while you rest.

9 Lower Chest Exercises

Build the chest of your dreams with these tried and tested lower pec exercises.

1. Parallel Bar Dips

Parallel bar dips

Parallel bar dips are such a good lower chest exercise that we could start and finish our list here!

That said, you need to be strong enough to lift your entire weight with just your arms to do dips, and it’s always nice to have a range of exercises to choose from.

How to do it:

  1. Hold the parallel bars with your hands facing inward. Support your weight on straight arms. Pull your shoulders down and back. Cross your feet behind you.
  2. Bend your arms and descend until your biceps touch your forearms. Get a good stretch.
  3. Push back up and repeat.
  4. Use a chin/dip belt to make this exercise harder if you can do 12 or more reps.

2. Push-Ups

woman doing a push-up

The humble push-up is a useful lower chest exercise. If you look at the angle of your body, you will soon see this move is very similar to decline barbell bench presses – #3.

With only 60% of your body weight on your arms, this exercise is considerably easier than dips.

How to do it:

  1. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, fingers pointing forward and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back, so your body is straight. Brace your abs.
  2. Bend your arms and lower your chest to the floor, or very close to it.
  3. Push yourself back up and repeat.
  4. Bend your legs and rest on your knees for an easier workout.

3. Decline Barbell Bench Press

The main advantage of decline barbell bench presses over bodyweight moves like dips and push-ups is that you can control the weight more easily. A lot of people also find that decline bench presses are very shoulder-friendly, which could be good news if you suffer from joint pain.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the decline bench with your head lowermost. Reach up and grab the bar with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Unrack the bar and hold it over your chest with your arms straight.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the bar to lightly touch your sternum.
  3. Push it back up and repeat.

4. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

With decline barbell presses, your range of motion comes to a sudden stop when the bar touches your chest. With dumbbells, you can get a deeper stretch and use a larger range of motion, which may increase muscle activation.

How to do it:

  1. Set your bench to a 15 to 30-degree decline. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on the bench with your head lowermost. Hold the weights at arms’ length over your chest.
  2. Bend your arms and lower the dumbbells down to the outside of your chest.
  3. Push the weights back up and repeat.

5. Decline Dumbbell Fly

decline dumbbell flys

Flyes are an isolation exercise, meaning that they involve movement at just one joint; the shoulders. Taking your triceps out of the movement means you’ll be able to focus all your attention on your pecs. However, this exercise only really works with light to moderate weights.

How to do it:

  1. Set your bench to a 15 to 30-degree decline. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on the bench with your head lowermost. Hold the weights at arms’ length over your chest.
  2. Open your arms and lower the dumbbells out and down to the side. Get a good stretch but take care not to hyperextend your shoulders.
  3. Squeeze the weights back up and together, and then repeat.

6. Dumbbell Pullover

Dumbbell pullovers are often viewed as an upper back exercise, but they’re a very useful lower pec exercise, too. Like decline dumbbell flyes, pullovers are also an isolation exercise as only your shoulders should move.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on an exercise bench holding a single dumbbell over your chest. Your arms should be slightly bent but rigid.
  2. Lower the dumbbell back and over your head until your biceps are next to your ears.
  3. Pull the weight back up and over your chest.

7. High to Low Cable Crossovers

Upper to lower cable flys

Crossovers are a cable version of dumbbell flyes. Going from high to low emphasizes your lower inner chest. Like dumbbell flyes, this is an isolation chest exercise.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a D-shaped handle to the uppermost pulleys on a cable crossover machine. Take a handle in each hand and stand exactly between them. Adopt a staggered stance for balance. Bend your elbows slightly, and then keep them rigid.
  2. Bring the handles forward and down, so they come together just in front of your hips.
  3. Raise your arms, getting a good stretch in your chest, and repeat.

8. Decline Smith Machine Bench Press

The bar on a Smith machine is guided by rods, so you’re free to focus on lifting and lowering the weight; no balance required. You can also lock the weight off if you get stuck mid-rep. Doing bench presses on a Smith machine makes training alone much safer.

How to do it:

  1. Set the backrest on an adjustable bench to a 10 to 15-degree decline. Lie on the bench with your head lowermost. Grip the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder-width overhand grip. Unrack the bar and hold it at arms’ length.
  2. Bend your elbows and lower the bar to lightly touch your sternum.
  3. Push it back up and repeat.

9. Decline Chest Press Machine

Decline chest press machine

Some gyms have decline chest press machines. The angle of the machine means you can work your lower pecs in safety and without having to worry about dropping a barbell or dumbbells on your chest.

How to do it:

  1. Adjust the seat on the machine so that the handles are roughly level with your chest when you sit on it. Take a seat and grab the handles.
  2. Extend your arms and push the handles down and away from you.
  3. Bend your arms and return to your starting position without letting the weights touch.

Bottom Line

If you are a powerlifter, you should spend most of your training time and energy on the barbell bench press. After all, it’s the second lift in most powerlifting competitions. But, if you’re more into bodybuilding or working out for health and fitness, you need more than the bench press to meet your training goals. You need incline and decline chest exercises to ensure that you develop your pecs from all available angles.

Most decline movements chest exercises emphasize your lower chest. That’s not to say they isolate your lower pecs, but that part of your chest is more active.

Because of the joint angle, a lot of exercisers find that lower pec exercises are more shoulder-friendly than flat and incline movements. That’s good news if you are one of the many people who suffer from training-related shoulder pain.

However, you should take care not to do too much lower pec work. Overdeveloped lower pecs look a bit like boobs, which could spoil your aesthetics. 1-2 decline exercises per workout should be all you really need.

Instead, most exercisers need to bring up their upper pecs, and that means things like max incline bench presses and flyes.

Either way, training your lower chest should be part of a well-balanced pec workout designed to work your chest from all angles.


References

  1. Fitness Volt, https://fitnessvolt.com/

Patrick Dale is an ex-British Royal Marine and owner and lecturer for a fitness qualifications company. In addition to training prospective personal trainers, Patrick has also authored three fitness and exercise books, dozens of e-books, thousands of articles, and several fitness videos.

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