The Ultimate Inner Chest Developing Workout
For so many bodybuilders and lifters, there a number of “problem” areas which often fail to develop at an optimal rate and lag behind others. One common area is the inner chest which is often underdeveloped as many popular chest-based resistance exercises place a large demand on the lower and outer portion of the pectorals, leaving the inner portion neglected.
With this in mind, the purpose of this article is to provide an example workout that will allow any lifter to build size in the inner chest. Incorporating this workout into one’s training will certainly help towards adding substantial size to the inner chest and lead to a more greater chest development.
Comprehensive Chest Development
For many, development of the outer chest tends to come fairly easily however, inner portion growth tends to be much more of a challenge. As stated, his is partly due to the fact that many chest-specific exercises rely heavily on the outer fibers of lower pecs.
The reason these fibers tend to dictate movement when shifting resistance is because the fibers of the pecs vary in length and consequent strength (1). Typically, the lower, outer portion of the pecs are larger and stronger than the fibers found in the inner chest.
Because these fibers take the brunt of the stress and strain, the outer portion of the pecs will develop and grow substantially. The inner portion however, does not experience as great a training stimulus as the outer portion and therefore, fails to develop at the same rate.
From an aesthetic point of view, it is essential that the inner chest develops at a similar rate, otherwise, the pecs will not look “full” or defined. In addition, packing on inner pec size can help compliment the shoulders and back to a greater degree and improve overall physique.
Hopefully, this serves to highlight the importance of developing the inner pecs for those with aesthetic-based goals. More often than not however, the inner pecs are not given the attention they need which can have a negative impact on one’s overall physique.
The purpose of the workout is evidently to drive substantial changes in this area. This is done through the use of inner chest-specific exercises and by moving away from traditional heavy pressing movements which fail to stimulate the fibers of the inner pecs most effectively.
The workout has been designed to fit into any training program and should be performed once per week to maximize growth. The workout uses a combination of both dumbbells and cables and will not take more than 60 minutes to complete.
Be aware that this workout has been designed for the intermediate lifter in mind. This is because a number of the resistance exercises and training techniques are perhaps too complex for the beginner or novice lifter.
The Inner Chest Workout
|Exercise||Sets x Reps|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||1 x 20
3 x 8 -12
|Dumbbell Bench Press (Superset)||3 x 8 – 12|
|Dumbbell Crush Press (Superset)||3 x 12 – 15|
|Incline Single Arm Chest Fly||3 x 12 – 15|
|Kneeling Incline Cross-Body Press||3 x 12 – 15|
Not only does the workout use inner chest specific exercises, it also utilizes an advanced training method in the superset. Supersets, which involves performing 2 exercises consecutively with no rest in between, boost overall training volume which may lead to efficient muscle growth (2).
Furthermore, the workout incorporates a variety of repetitions – 8 – 12 reps for some exercises and 12 – 15 reps with others. The number of reps to be complete is relatively high; this is because studies have suggested that a higher rep range may assist in muscular hypertrophy more so than low reps (3).
For the intermediate lifter, the dumbbell bench press and incline variation will already be known. Both are fundamental chest-based resistance exercises that are commonly used to effectively develop chest size and strength.
A number of studies have indicated that the using dumbbells can help heighten the degree of pectoral activation (4). Furthermore, setting the bench on an incline has been found to place more demand on the upper and inner portions of the pectorals (5).
However, the crush press, single arm fly and cross body press may well be new exercises for many. Therefore, the following section details the technique for each movement and highlights a number of key points to remember while performing these exercises.
1. Dumbbell Crush Press
The crush press involves setting up a bench at a 45 degree angle. Avoid the temptation to select a set of heavy dumbbells which will push the intensity to the limit. Instead, look to pick a weight which is manageable and controllable. The emphasis must be on isolating the inner pecs and therefore, by shifting heavy weights, it’s likely that the focus will shift from the inner pecs to the body of the pec muscle.
Lie back on the bench, place the feet flat on the floor, maintain a slight arch in the lower back, place the dumbbells on the chest and pull the shoulder blades together. Ensure to use a neutral grip on the dumbbells and look to push, or “crush” the dumbbells together to create tension on the pecs.
From that position, brace the core before driving the weight directly upward, all while maintaining the “crush”. It is this crushing action that will maintain inner pec activation – therefore, press the dumbbells together throughout the duration of the movement. Effectively doing this will also enhance one’s shoulder stability throughout the movement.
Avoid fully locking out at the elbow as this will help to maximize tension on the inner pecs. Once at the top of the movement, reverse the actions and, in a controlled fashion, drop the dumbbells back down to the starting position.
To maximize the stress place on the pecs and consequently optimize inner pec growth, imagine simultaneously completing a fly and a press while performing this exercise. This should help facilitate form as both of these movements involve pulling the shoulder blades back and down to prevent the muscles of the shoulders assisting in the movement.
2. Incline Single Arm Chest Fly
Once again, place a bench on a 45 degree incline and adjust the cable to ensure it is set up so that the arm is slightly lower than the level of the shoulder. This exercise is to be performed one arm at a time or “unilaterally”. The reason for this to allow the arm to move beyond the midline which leads to a greater range of motion and therefore facilitates a more acute inner pec contraction.
Lie on the bench and grasp the cable. When driving the cable across the body, keep the movement controlled and consistent – both on the way out and the way back in. In a similar vein to heavy weight, it would be wise to avoid an explosive concentric contraction. This will allow for a greater focus on using the pecs to move the weight, rather than the shoulder muscles.
While performing the exercise, feel free to use the other hand to feel whether or not the inner fibers are contracting in the desired way. Finally, remember to maintain a slight bend in the elbows throughout the duration of the movement for comprehensive pec activation.
3. Kneeling Incline Cross-Body Press
For the final inner pec-specific exercise, ensure that the cable is set at a low position to allow for a diagonal pressing motion. This exercise can be performed both bi and unilaterally, however, completing single sided reps may be of more benefit as it allows for a greater focus on inner pec activation.
The exercise is a combination of both a press and a fly, therefore, it’s important to visualise the actions of both of these exercises while executing the cross-body press. When selecting weight, once again, select a resistance which is challenging but not heavy enough to pull the body out of position or cause loss of muscle tension. Maintaining tension on the muscles is extremely important for increasing the rate of muscle hypertrophy (6).
When setting up, assume the kneeling position and take hold of the cable. Squeeze the core musculature to stabilize the body and keep the shoulders down. Drive the weight up diagonally until the hand is approximately in line with the nose and avoid locking the elbow. Lower in a controlled manner and complete the prescribed number of reps.
During the exercise, avoid letting the elbow move excessively behind the line of the body. Not only will going too far back fail to efficiently hit the inner fibers, it may increase the risk of developing shoulder injury.
While developing the inner portion of the chest can undoubtedly be challenging, it’s certainly not impossible. By following a program such as this, the inner chest will grow extensively and lead to a fuller looking chest and overall enhanced physique.
1– Solari, Francesca; Burns, Bracken (2019), “Anatomy, Thorax, Pectoralis Major Major”, StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, PMID 30252247
2– Weakley, Jonathon J. S.; Till, Kevin; Read, Dale B.; Roe, Gregory A. B.; Darrall-Jones, Joshua; Phibbs, Padraic J.; Jones, Ben (2017). “The effects of traditional, superset, and tri-set resistance training structures on perceived intensity and physiological responses”. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 117 (9): 1877–1889. doi:10.1007/s00421-017-3680-3. ISSN 1439-6319. PMC 5556132. PMID 28698987.
3– Grgic, Jozo; Schoenfeld, Brad J. (April 18, 2018). “Are the Hypertrophic Adaptations to High and Low-Load Resistance Training Muscle Fiber Type Specific?”. Frontiers in Physiology. 9. doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00402. ISSN 1664-042X. PMC 5915697. PMID 29720946.
4– Farias, Déborah de Araújo; Willardson, Jeffrey M.; Paz, Gabriel A.; Bezerra, Ewertton de S.; Miranda, Humberto (2017-7). “Maximal Strength Performance and Muscle Activation for the Bench Press and Triceps Extension Exercises Adopting Dumbbell, Barbell, and Machine Modalities Over Multiple Sets”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 31 (7): 1879–1887. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000001651. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 27669189.
5– Saeterbakken, Atle Hole; Mo, Dag-André; Scott, Suzanne; Andersen, Vidar (June 22, 2017). “The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance”. Journal of Human Kinetics. 57: 61–71. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0047. ISSN 1640-5544. PMC 5504579. PMID 28713459.
6– Schoenfeld, Brad J. (2010-10). “The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training”. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 24 (10): 2857–2872. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e840f3. ISSN 1533-4287. PMID 20847704.