Let’s face it most lifters love to train chest and the go-to exercises are the bench press, flys, and push-up variations. And when done consistently, these will build size and strength. However, the chest (pec major) is a large, two-headed superficial muscle running at different angles with multiple attachment points. As such, it behooves you to think about it in different sections (i.e. upper, lower and middle/inner chest) and use a variety of exercises that target specific areas to get the best possible development and definition of your chest…This leads us to the purpose of this post – exercises that emphasize the lower chest.

By simply changing the angle that you press at or perform a fly, you can better target your lower chest (which is an often neglected area) for size and strength. Below we will show you how to do that. In this, we are going to cover the chest anatomy and functions, benefits of training the lower chest, and 7 of the best exercises that target the lower chest.

Now, let’s build some pecs.

Anatomy of the Chest

The two major chest muscles that make up the majority of the chest are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pec major is a large superficial muscle located on the front of your ribcage. The pec minor is a small superficial muscle also located on the front of the ribcage but is underneath the pec major. 

The pec major has two heads which are the clavicular head (upper chest) and the sternocostal head (middle to the lower chest). The clavicular head originates at the anterior surface of the medial half of the clavicle and the sternocostal head originates at the anterior surface of the sternum and both insert on the humerus (upper arm bone) and controls a lot of movements of the chest and shoulders.

As mentioned, the sternocostal head makes up the middle and lower areas of the chest. In other words, it’s considerably bigger than the clavicular head. In fact, it is 70-80% of your pec major. You can see this from the picture below…

can you isolate the lower chest

With the understanding that, first, there is no such thing as a lower and upper chest, it is simply the sternocostal head and clavicular head, AND your sternocostal head is very large, for the purpose of this post, when we refer to exercises as “lower chest exercises”, we simply mean exercises that target the lower area of your sternocostal head. 

Chest Muscle Movements

The chest controls the movement of the arms and shoulders, with the contractions of the chest muscle performing movements that include:

  • Arm Extension: Chin-ups, pull-ups (sternal head)
  • Shoulder flexion: Front raises (clavicular head)
  • Horizontal adduction: Bench press, flys
  • Internal rotation: Cable internal rotation

They’re known as the hugging muscle (horizontal adduction) and a strong and muscular chest is needed to tackle an opponent, to throw or hit a ball with power, and to fend off an opponent in the sporting arena.

Can You Isolate the Lower Chest?

No, you can not isolate the lower chest, just like you can’t isolate your upper chest or inner chest. Any time you do a pressing or fly motion you are going to be activating your entire pec major, along with other muscles like your delts and triceps. That said, you can emphasize the lower chest by altering training variables, such as the angle you press at. By doing this, you can really hone in on the development of the lower area of your pec major. 

lower chest exercises

The Benefits of Targeting the Lower Chest

Besides the eye-popping benefits of a defined lower chest, there are a few important benefits of specifically targeting the lower chest.   

  • Avoiding Muscle Imbalance: It’s important that you are hitting your chest from all angles as this will allow for the best possible development of your chest. Moreover, it’s going to help you avoid any muscle imbalances between your pecs and the anterior (front) and posterior (back) sides. 
  • Improve Performance: Because the pecs are your hugging muscle their size and strength will help you perform better in the sporting arena. Everything from tackling or fending off opponents, to hitting a tennis ball, throwing a football and baseball powerfully.
  • Better Breathing: The chest muscles which are attached to the ribcage support breathing through the contraction of the ribcage. Therefore, the strengthening and lengthening of the chest muscles support deeper breathing by allowing the ribcage to do its job.
  • Improved Posture: With the chest being one of the largest muscles in the upper body, their length and strength play an important role in assisting good posture. Because the chest muscles play an important role in shoulder position.

7 Best Lower Chest Exercises

1. Decline Bench Press

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The decline barbell bench is a piece of equipment you don’t see often and that’s a real shame. However, your gym likely has a decline bench for abs, which can be used for dumbbell decline bench (or even a set up inside a Smith machine). Although the regular bench press trains the lower chest, the decline bench press variation really hones in on the lower chest because of the change of angle and pressing path. You also have the option of taking your elbows out wider to place even more emphasis on the lower chest. What’s more, because of the decline angle, there is less strain on the lower back, and you will be using less delts and slightly more lats.

How to do decline bench press:

  1. Assume a face-up position on a decline bench and secure your feet.
  2. Get your eyes underneath the bar and take a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Position your shoulder blades together and keep puffing your chest out.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell to your lower chest/sternum with your elbows underneath the barbell.
  5. Pause in the bottom position and press the barbell back up to lockout and reset and repeat.

2. Jackhammer Pushdown

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This is not your regular triceps pushdown. This is because the jackhammer position with your elbows out wide and the slight forward lean isolates the lower chest and takes the focus off the triceps. Plus, the constant tension of the cable machine and the larger range of motion of this exercise make it an effective muscle-building exercise for the lower chest.   

How to do jackhammer pushdowns:

  1. Standing in front of the cable machine, use the same handle for your regular triceps pushdown.
  2. Standing close to the cable machine with the cable over one of your shoulders, lean the torso forward and take a wide grip of the handle.
  3. Bring the handle up towards your chest and let your elbows flare out at the top of the movement.
  4. Push down to extend the elbows and squeeze the chest muscles together.
  5. Slowly return to the starting position by bringing the elbows out and up.
  6. Reset and repeat for reps.

3. Chest Dips

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Dips are often referred to as squats for the upper body. The large ROM puts a greater stretch on the lower chest and triceps for greater muscle-building potential. The key here for the lower chest is the torso lean. Doing this puts more emphasis on the lower chest but it puts a strain on the anterior shoulders, so be careful. And this is a great carryover to the regular bench and overhead press because triceps dips improve your lockout strength.

How to do chest dips:

  1. Stand between the dip bars and grip firmly and press up until elbows are straight.
  2. Engage your upper back by keeping your chest up and shoulders down.
  3. Grip the parallel bars tightly bar and lower yourself down while maintaining a forward lean.
  4. Press up and lockout and squeeze the back of your triceps.
  5. Slowly lower down and repeat.

Related: Dips Exercise Guide & Variations

4. Cable Crossover Fly (High Position)

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The cable crossover fly is a great exercise that is adjusted to target the lower chest. By setting the pulleys to the high position it changes the angle to target the lower chest. Being in the high position, this variation stretches the chest from the start and takes you through a large ROM for better hypertrophy potential. Similar to the chest dip exercise, maintaining a slight forward lean will emphasize the lower chest muscles further.

How to do cable crossover flys (high position):

  1. Set each handle of the cable machine at the highest level.
  2. Stand in the center with one foot behind the other and take a grip on both handles.
  3. Lean your torso forward keeping your spine straight and with a slight bend of the elbows too.
  4. Engaging your anterior core, pull both handles down and across your body, and squeeze the lower chest muscles at lockout.
  5. Slowly reverse to the starting position, keeping the bend in your elbows.
  6. Reset and repeat.

Related: Best Cable Chest Exercises

5. Decline Dumbbell Fly

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Similar to the decline bench press the decline dumbbell fly is a variation performed on a slight decline on the decline bench. This decline trains the lower chest muscles slightly more than the flat and incline dumbbell fly variations. Like the decline bench press, this decline fly decreases the strain on the shoulders compared to the incline and flat variation. Like with all fly variations there is less triceps and shoulder involvement making it a great isolation exercise for the lower chest.   

How to do decline dumbbell flys:

  1. Lie face up on the decline bench holding a pair of dumbbells with a neutral grip.
  2. Secure your feet and extend your elbows until the dumbbells are together above your chest.
  3. Lower the weights laterally, maintaining a slight bend at your elbows to avoid elbow strain.
  4. Make sure you feel a stretch in your chest muscle when the dumbbells are at chest level. 
  5. Squeeze your chest muscles and bring the dumbbells back to the starting position.
  6. Reset and repeat.

6. Incline Push Up

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The classic that never goes out of style, the push-up is another exercise that can be adjusted to target the lower chest more. Putting your hands up on an incline, you create a decline pressing angle to emphasize the lower chest. Because push-ups are relatively safe, you’ll be able to rep out for added volume and better lower chest hypertrophy. If some of the variations on this list cause you discomfort, decline push-ups are a great option. 

How to do decline push ups:

  1. Kneeling with a bench behind you place your toes on the bench and walk out into the push-up position.
  2. Get your hands underneath your shoulders, engage your glutes to get your back flat, and screw your hands into the ground.
  3. With your chest muscles slowly lower yourself until your chest is about an inch from the floor.
  4. Drive your hands through the floor and lock out your elbows.
  5. Reset and repeat for reps.

Note: You can use a loop resistance band to add resistance to the push up. 

7. Dumbbell Hip Extension (Glute Bridge) Chest Press

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The decline bench press may not be available at your gym. If so, the dumbbell hip extension press is a great option. For reference, by hip extension we mean a glute bridge on the floor. Essentially, you create a decline angle for the chest by pressing from a glute bridge on the floor. By doing so, you’ll train the lower chest muscle fibers while improving hip mobility and glute strength. Both of these have great carryover to create lower body drive with the regular bench press.

How to do dumbbell glute bridge chest press:

  1. Lying supine on the floor holding a dumbbell in each hand with your feet flat on the floor and your legs bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Hold each dumbbell with a neutral grip with your elbows away from your torso.
  3. Press your feet through the floor and raise your hips into the hip extension position.
  4. Press the dumbbells up until your elbows are locked out.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells until your upper arms are touching the ground.
  6. Reset and repeat making sure to stay strong in your hip extension position.

Related: Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises Without a Bench

How to Warm-up Your Lower Chest Before Training

Strolling up to the bar and slapping a pair of 45-pound plates is not the best way to warm up. Instead doing some light sets or ramp-up sets is a better way to go about it. This will help groove better technique, move important flow to the area, lubricate the joints, and help you decide your working weight for the day.

Here’s an example of a ramp-up set for Decline Bench Press:

  • 10 reps with an empty barbell
  • 8 reps with 95 pounds
  • 6 reps with 135 pounds
  • 5 reps with 155 pounds
  • 4 reps with 175 pounds

The same can be done with dumbbells or a cable machine (start light and work your way up). You can even do fewer reps if you don’t want to burn out before your working sets.

The extra volume here is helpful for your muscle-building goals and to prevent injury.

lower chest

Workout Example For Lower Chest

Let’s combine some of the exercises above with other upper body exercises for an upper body workout that emphasizes and builds up your lower chest.

Note: If you do two upper body sessions per week, then you could do a similar workout with different exercises the next session. For that next session, you would hone in on the upper/middle chest, and change up the back exercises as well. 

Superset #1:
1A. Decline bench press 6-12 reps (moderate to heavyweight)
1B. Cable crossover fly 12-15 reps

Rest 2-3 minutes and repeat for 2 to 3 rounds

Superset #2:
2A. Decline push-up 15-30 reps
2B. Inverted row 8-15 reps

Rest 2-3 minutes and repeat for 2 to 3 rounds

Superset #3:
3A. Jackhammer pushdown 8-15 reps
3B. Band pull aparts 15-25 reps

Rest 2-3 minutes and repeat for 2 to 3 rounds

If you are on a “bro-split”, then check out this killer chest & tricep workout.

Let us know what your favorite lower chest exercise is in the comments below.

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