The main focus for fitness fanatics used to be looking for the best way to work the abs and biceps.
Now, it’s about the chest, or back.
Or any other body part or any combination thereof – depending on who you ask.
Back to the point at hand, though. The question today is, how to work out different parts of your pecs? And there is no single opinion here, there are plenty of opinions on this out there.
What is the best way to work your chest muscles?
Some people say that the chest is divided into lower, medium and upper parts that you can train separately.
Others claim that the chest is just pectoralis major that consists of two heads: sternal (lower and medium) and clavicular (upper), that cannot be trained separately.
What is a fitness enthusiast to do? Who to believe, and how to train?
Time for a brief reality check. Most likely, you can get away with working your chest as one single muscle (which it is), with exercises like flat bench press and flys being enough.
Isolating lower chest from the upper chest is pretty hard, if possible at all, and if lower chest seems bigger, it’s because fat deposits make it look bigger, not because lower chest muscle fibers are actually bigger.
Lose chest fat (those man boobs) and suddenly lower chest has the same thickness as the upper chest.
That said, there’s no harm in trying to work out all parts of the chest, even if there’s no solid proof it actually helps. As long as you aren’t training for, say, powerlifting, where all that matters is how much you flat bench, you might as well work on all parts of the chest.
You can’t isolate upper from lower or lower from medium or medium from upper, but you can put more emphasis on a certain part of the chest.
Will it result in a more balanced physique?
The jury is still out on that one, but it won’t hurt to try, provided you don’t lump everything into one single workout. That will just overwork your muscles, and unless you are taking, ahem, certain “natural” supplements, you will fail to recover.
Here are a few examples of a chest routine that will actually help you to progress:
Overall Chest Development
Flat bench press: 3×5
Weighted chest dips: 3×8
Lying/seated/standing dumbbell or cable flys: 3×12
Pushups: 3 sets to failure, supersetted with cable face pulls: 3×12
Incline bench press: 3×5
Incline bench/dumbbell press: 3×8
Incline dumbbell or cable fly: 3×12
Decline or pike pushups: 3 sets to failure, supersetted with cable face pulls: 3×12
Decline bench press: 3×5
Weighted chest dips: 3×8
Decline dumbbell or cable flys: 3×12
Pushups or bodyweight chest dips: 3 sets to failure, supersetted with cable face pulls: 3×12
The idea here is that you rotate through these three workouts. If you used to work chest twice a week, you do workouts A and B first week, C and A second week, and B and C third week. If you weren’t working chest separately at all before, as in Starting Strength or a similar whole-body routine, and find that you suddenly stall, drop the 3×8 section offered here altogether.
Keep the cable flys, though. They are the most important thing for chest growth here.
In fact, you can just drop everything and save flys and face pulls if you like your current routine, and just rotate the bench press with its incline and decline variations.
Flys are important here as they isolate your chest. When you bench or do dips, your shoulders and triceps inevitably tire out before chest, no matter how much you try to isolate the pecs.
Facepulls, on the other hand, are a must-do prehab for everyone who wants their shoulders to stay healthy. If you’re doing them already, those additional sets are not mandatory, but otherwise? Do your prehab, no excuses.
One Last Thought…
Remember it is important to stick to a routine and adjust the weights where appropriate.
Building your chest muscles will take time and patience and you will need to rest the chest area after a workout devoted to this area.
Control your diet and work towards your goals. Eat more and train harder.
You will work different parts of your pecs with the above routines, just keep the routines varied so your body doesn’t become used to doing the same thing.
Remember, the most effective chest workout hits all three areas of the chest: upper, middle and lower.
As long as you are effectively working the chest muscles, you can’t really go wrong.
Just don’t overdo it, otherwise, you risk the chances of picking up injuries.
Good luck in making your body look like a temple!