A well-developed chest is one of more popular goals of men who hit the weight room. Take a gander at all the gym denizens and their time spent on the bench press, incline press, cable chest flies, dumbbell flies, and the infamous “pec-deck.” It’s usually quite a few. So, if you’re one of the "get a big chest" guys, be sure you’re using the best exercises to target the appropriate muscles.

 

Let’s take a look at the chest anatomy and kinesiology to determine what is important to concentrate on.

 

Pectoralis Major

 

chest muscles, chest workouts, bigger chest, chest exercisesThe pectoralis major is what you see bulging atop the anterior torso when a well-built man removes his shirt. The pec major has two heads: the sternal-costal head and the clavicular head. The sternal-costal head consists of more muscle mass. It originates at the sternum (center of the chest), more specifically the lateral manubrium, the six sternum costal cartilages, and the external oblique aponeurosis. It inserts at the upper arm (humerus), more specifically the lateral lip of bicipital groove of humerus and anterior lip of deltoid tuberosity.

 

The clavicular head is the smaller top section of the bare-chested upper-torso man bulge. It originates at the collarbone (clavicle), more specifically the anterior surface medial half of clavicle. It inserts at the upper arm, more specifically the lateral lip of bicipital groove of humerus and anterior lip of deltoid tuberosity.

 

Actions of the Pectoralis Major:

 

Both the sternal-costal and clavicular heads of the pec major perform these actions at the upper arm:

 

  • Adduction: lowering upper arm from side raise position to the midline of the body.
  • Medial rotation: rotating upper arm forward/inward to the midline of the body.
  • Transverse or horizontal flexion: from a side raise position, moving the upper arm to the front.

 

The sternal-costal head has another function: when the upper arm is flexed (raised to the front and above parallel to the ground), it extends the arm downward. The clavicular head also has another function: when the upper arm is flexed to around 110 degrees (slightly higher than parallel to the ground), it flexes and adducts the upper arm (raises toward the midline of the body).

 

Confused? You should be. It's complicated. Hang on, though, I will simplify it all shortly.

 

Pectoralis Minor

 

chest muscles, chest workouts, bigger chest, chest exercisesThis muscle lies under pectoralis major. It originates on the ribs, more specifically the anterior surface of the sternal end of ribs three, four, and five. It inserts at the scapula, more specifically the medial surface of coracoid process of scapula.

 

Actions of the pectoralis minor: Depression of the tip of shoulder (movement downward) and protraction of the scapula (movement down and forward).

 

Subclavius

 

This is a small muscle that originates on the ribs, more specifically on the first rib at the junction of the costal cartilage. It inserts on the clavicle, more specifically on the groove of the inferior surface of the clavicle between to costoclavicular and conoid ligaments.

 

Actions of the subclavius: Depresses the clavicle and moves it forward and downward.

 

I know what you're thinking, "Enough. Just explain how I can maximize my entire chest region." First, go ahead with your traditional chest exercises - barbell and dumbbell bench presses, machine chest presses, and dumbbell and machine chest flies. These primarily target the sterno-costal head of the pecs. For the upper-chest - the clavicular head of the pecs - think barbell, dumbbell, and machine incline presses along with incline flies. 

 

Three more tips:

 

1. Two of the best chest exercises that target both the pec major and pec minor are the decline press and dips.

 

SubclaviusPerform this simple experiment: Place your left hand over your right pec. Cover it all. Abduct your right arm to the side, and then horizontally flex it to the front as if performing a chest fly. Notice how you feel the right pec contract and bulge up.

 

Now do this: From that position, slowly lower the right arm downward and inward to the midline of the body. Do you feel an even fuller pec contraction as the arm moved to that position? This is where the fullest contraction of the sternal-costal pecs and the pectoralis minor occurs, the downward and inward motion of the upper arm to the midline of the body.

 

Therefore, to directly target the greatest amount of muscle fibers in the lower pectoral region, get after dips (weighted or machine), decline presses (barbell, dumbbell, or machine), and dumbbell decline flies.

 

2. Pullovers and close grip pulldowns target the sterno-costal pecs.

 

Traditionally, most upper body pulling exercises have been classified as back exercises. But when the upper arm is flexed (raised to the front and above parallel to the ground), it extends the arm downward. The aforementioned pullovers (barbell or machine) actually target the sterno-costal pecs due to their function in extending the arm downward. Pullovers and close grip pulldowns are also chest exercises, not solely back exercises. Amazing is our muscular system!

 

3. Dumbbell cross-over front raises address the clavicular pecs.

 

One last experiment. Again, place your left hand over your right pec. Now, flex your right arm (to the front) to parallel to the ground. Raise that arm upward (flexion) and inward. Notice the upper pecs (clavicular head) contract more than the lower pecs.

 

I know this may have been confusing, but I tried to present it as simply as possible. All of the previous info can be condensed down to this list. Here are the most effective exercises that maximally target and develop a man's chest:

 

  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine decline presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine decline flies. 
  • Weighted or machine dips.
  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine chest presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine chest flies.
  • Barbell, dumbbell, or machine incline presses.
  • Dumbbell or machine incline flies. 
  • Pullovers or close grip pulldowns.
  • Dumbbell front raise with arms converging at the midline of the body.

 

Photos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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