The Best Lower Pec Exercises for a Sculpted Chest

Best Lower Pec Exercises

When it comes to chest training, most people’s go-to exercise is the bench press. The barbell bench press is a chest training staple for bodybuilders and especially for powerlifters.  

As well as being a great chest training exercise, the bench press is also a standard test of strength. They even use it in the NFL. If two gym bros meet up and start talking about training, invariably, one will say to the other – “hey, how much can you bench?”

Even non-exercisers recognize the bench press. And while this classic exercise IS great for general chest development, it won’t do much for your lower pecs.

If you want to develop more than just brute strength and want to sculpt an aesthetically pleasing chest, you need to hit your pecs with more than just set after set of barbell bench presses.

Instead, you need to include more variation and work on your upper chest, mid-chest, and lower chest to build your best pecs ever.

In this article, we’re going to focus on the lower pecs, and reveal the best way to sculpt this important part of your chest.

Pec Anatomy

While you don’t need a degree in anatomy or kinesiology to build a great chest, knowing a little more about the location and function of the muscles you want to train is always helpful. If nothing else, it will help you select the best lower chest workout exercises.

The pec major is the large, fan-shaped muscle located on the front of your torso. It is comprised of two different heads or sub-sections:

  • The clavicular (or upper) head
  • The sternal (or lower) head. The lower/sternal head is also known as the abdominal head.

Pec Anatomy

The clavicular head is responsible for three major movements:

  1. Shoulder flexion: Lifting your arm up, like you would to reach overhead
  2. Horizontal adduction: Pulling your arm across your body, as you would in a dumbbell fly
  3. Internal/medial rotation: Rotation of the shoulder toward the midline of the body

Whereas, the sternal head has the following functions:

  1. Shoulder extension: Pulling your arm down from an overhead position, as you would in a pullover
  2. Horizontal adduction: Pulling your arm across your body, as you would in a dumbbell fly
  3. Internal/medial rotation: Rotation of the shoulder toward the midline/front of the body

As you can see, both heads often work together and share some movements.

By altering the position of your body and selecting appropriate exercises, it is possible to emphasize the lower pecs. However, it is not possible to isolate them entirely because lower pecs and upper pecs always work together, and often alongside the deltoids or shoulder muscles.

So, what are the best exercises for targeting your lower pecs? Keep reading to find out!

7 Best Lower Pec Exercises

To build the best lower pec workout, make sure you include at least a couple of these exercises in your training. If your lower pecs need more attention, consider adding a lower pec day to your current workout split.

1. Decline dumbbell bench press

If we had to choose just one exercise for our best lower chest workout, this would probably be it. Using dumbbells means you can get a really good stretch, and that makes this exercise extra effective. Also, dumbbells tend to be a little easier on your shoulders than barbell exercises.

Decline dumbbell bench press

According to studies, the best bench angle for targeting the lower pecs is a decline of 15-degrees (1).

How to do it:

  1. Set the angle on an adjustable bench to 15 degrees. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on the bench with your head lower than your hips. Brace your legs to stop yourself sliding off the bench.
  2. Lift the weights and hold them over your shoulders. Turn your wrists, so your palms are facing away from you. Pull your shoulders down and back to stabilize and protect your shoulder joints.
  3. Bend your arms and lower the weights out and down to the outside of your chest. Keep your wrists straight and your elbows directly below your hands. Lower the weights as far as your flexibility, and joint health allows.
  4. Press the weights back up, stopping just short of locking out your elbows.
  5. Lower the weights and repeat for the prescribed number of reps.

Benefits:

  • Suitable for building strength and muscle size
  • Can help increase shoulder mobility and flexibility
  • Can be done reasonably safely without a spotter
  • Allows you to work both sides equally
  • Can be used to identify and fix left-to-right strength imbalances

Read more about decline dumbbell bench press

2. Parallel bar dips

A lot of exercisers are very quick to dismiss bodyweight exercises as being ineffective or only suitable for beginners. That’s a shame because many bodyweight exercises are every bit as useful as exercises that require equipment. Dips are an especially good lower pec exercise.

Parallel bar dips

How to do it:

  1. Place your hands on the parallel dip bars so that they are about shoulder-width apart. Your knuckles should be facing outward. Step or jump up, so you are supporting your weight on your arms. Bend your legs and cross your ankles. Pull your shoulders down and back.
  2. Bend your arms and descend until your upper arms are about parallel to the floor. You should feel a stretch in your chest and shoulders.
  3. Push yourself back up and repeat.

Benefits:

  • A useful alternative to exercises that require weights or equipment
  • An excellent triceps exercise
  • Can be made harder by using a weighted dipping belt
  • Can be done using two chair backs for home training
  • A good way to measure relative strength, i.e., performance relative to bodyweight

3. High to low cable crossovers

While there is no such thing as an exercise that completely isolates your lower pecs, this one comes pretty close. Because you won’t be actively bending your elbows, your triceps only play a small role in this exercise, leaving you free to focus on pumping up your lower pecs.

How to do it:

  1. Attach a D-shaped handle to the cables of a crossover machine. Take a handle in each hand and stand between the pulleys. Step forward and into a split stance for balance. Lean forward about 30 degrees at your hips and brace your abs. Your arms should be straight but not completely locked. Keep them rigid.
  2. Without bending your arms, draw your arms forward and down so that they meet in front of your hips. Pause and squeeze your pecs as hard as you can.
  3. Slowly raise your arms up and to the sides to stretch your pecs.
  4. Repeat for the prescribed number of repetitions.

Benefits:

  • Train your lower pecs without much triceps involvement
  • A good exercise for pre or post-exhaust training
  • Much easier on your elbows, wrists, and shoulders than most heavy pressing exercises

4. Decline barbell bench press

Most gyms have a dedicated decline bench press station. They usually have built-in leg pads to stop you sliding off the bench, and that makes lifting heavy weights safer. Many have weight catchers to you can train to failure in safety. Make this exercise safer still by training with a spotter.

Decline Barbell Bench Pres

How to do it:

  1. Lie on the bench with your head lower than your hips. Reach up and grab the barbell with an overhand, slightly wider than shoulder-width grip. Pull your shoulders down and back to stabilize and protect your joints. Unrack the bar and hold it over your chest.
  2. Bend your arms and lower the bar down to your sternum. Descend smoothly and under control, and do not bounce the bar off your chest.
  3. Press the weight back up and repeat.
  4. You can also do this exercise using a Smith machine and an adjustable bench.

Benefits:

  • Allows you to lift heavier weights
  • Less balance required than for dumbbell bench presses
  • Great for building muscle size and strength
  • Less chance of sliding off the bench than with dumbbells and a standard adjustable bench

5. Decline dumbbell flyes

High to low cable flyes are a great way to work your lower pecs, but not all gyms have the necessary equipment, and, if you train at home, you may not have space for a cable crossover machine. The good news is you can work your lower pecs with nothing more than your trusty adjustable bench and a pair of dumbbells.

Decline Dumbbell Fly (Chest) – Fitness Volt

How to do it:

  1. Set the angle on an adjustable bench to 15 degrees. With a dumbbell in each hand, lie on the bench with your head lower than your hips. Brace your legs to stop yourself sliding off the bench.
  2. Lift the weights and hold them over your shoulders. Turn your wrists, so your hands are facing inward. Pull your shoulders down and back to stabilize and protect your shoulder joints. Bend your arms slightly, and then keep them rigid.
  3. Open your arms and lower the weights out and down to your sides. Your upper arms should be perpendicular to your body.
  4. Get a good stretch and then lift the weights and bring them together over your chest.
  5. That’s one rep – keep going!

Benefits:

  • Suitable for home exercisers
  • A good way to identify and fix left-to-right imbalances
  • You can adjust the range of motion to suit your flexibility and shoulder health

Read more about decline dumbbell flyes

6. Dumbbell pullovers

Dumbbell pullovers are often thought of as a back exercise, and while they do involve the lats, they also work your lower pecs. If you train chest and back together in the same workout, this exercise is a great way to link body parts and transition from chest training to working your back.

Dumbbell Pullovers

How to do it:

  1. Holding a single dumbbell, lie on your back along a flat bench. Hold the weight over your chest with your palms against the inside of the plates. Your arms should be slightly bent but then held rigid.
  2. Lower the weight down behind your head until your biceps are next to your ears.
  3. Pull the weight up and back over your chest.
  4. Make this exercise a little more productive by setting your bench to a 10 to 15-degree decline.

Benefits: 

  • Minimal triceps involvement
  • A good exercise for pre or post-exhaust training
  • A useful shoulder mobility exercise
  • Provides the lats with a good stretch

7. Push-ups

If you look closely at the angle of your body during push-ups, you’ll notice that it is very similar to decline bench presses. That means the humble push-up is an effective bodyweight lower pec exercise. Place your hands on a bench or blocks to increase the angle.

Arnold Doing Push Ups

How to do it:

  1. Squat down and place your hands on the floor, a little over shoulder-width apart. Walk your feet back, so your shoulders, hips, and feet form a straight line. Brace your abs and pull your shoulders back and down.
  2. Bend your arms and lower your chest down to within an inch of the floor. Do not let your hips drop out of alignment.
  3. Extend your arms and repeat.
  4. Bend your legs and place your knees on the floor to make this exercise easier.

Benefits:

  • You can do push-ups almost anywhere and anytime
  • Easy on your shoulders
  • An excellent way to finish your gym-based lower chest exercise

Read also,13 Push-Up Variations For Mass, Strength, and Performance

The Best Lower Chest Workout Training Tips

Get more from your lower chest workouts with these handy, practical tips.

Arnold Cable Crossovers

Start your workout with a lower chest exercise – if building your lower chest is a training priority, start your workout with a lower chest exercise. That way, your energy levels will be highest, and you’ll be able to put more effort into your chosen lower pec exercise.

Use compound and isolation exercises – a lot of trainers recommend doing nothing but compound exercises. While that’s good advice for building strength, if you want to build muscle size, isolation exercises can help too. Do at least 1-2 isolation exercises in your lower pec workout to ensure that you provide this muscle group with the variety it needs to grow.

Use intensifying techniques – make your lower pec workouts even more effective by using intensifying methods like drop sets, supersets, cheat reps, forced reps, and pre and post exhaust. While these methods are hard, they’re just what you need to trigger fresh muscle growth and get you out of a training rut.

Change exercises from time to time – even the best lower pec workout will stop working after a month or two. Keep your workouts fresh and productive by changing exercises from time to time. Also, try different rep ranges too. Changing your workout from time to time will help keep your muscles growing.

Take care of your shoulders – decline chest exercises can be hard on your shoulders, especially if you descend too deep and overstretch your joints. Choose the most shoulder-friendly lower pec exercises you can find, and never use a range of motion or exercise that causes joint pain.

Train your lower chest after a rest day – if you are fresh and well-rested, you’ll be able to do more reps, lift more weight, and produce greater muscle growth. Rearrange your training split, so you always train your lower pecs after a day off.

Read also:

Wrapping Up

Even with the best lower chest workout, building the sternal part of your pecs won’t be easy. It’ll take time, effort, energy, and sweat. But, in terms of appearance and function, you’ll be rewarded. Show your lower pecs some love by building your workouts around these proven exercises. In just a few months, you’ll have lower pecs to be proud of!

References

  1. PubMed: Influence of Bench Angle on Upper Extremity Muscular Activation During Bench Press Exercise https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25799093/

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