THE BEST LOWER CHEST WORKOUT
Did you know the lower chest is one of the two biggest problem areas for men?
Yep. Right up there with their abs!
It doesn’t have to be that way…at least not anymore!
Is your lower chest:
- Missing muscular definition
- Lacking ‘shape’ or ‘bottom line’
I’ll show you how to workout out your lower chest using exactly the right exercise selection.
In fact, I’m breaking out my 8 best lower chest exercises for exactly this purpose! Here’s a quick preview.
BEST EXERCISES FOR YOUR LOWER CHEST WORKOUT
- Dip Plus
- Straight Bar Dip
- Jackhammer Pushdown
- Standing Cable LC Press
- Kneeling X Press
- D2 Flexion Crossover
- Incline Twisting Pushup
- Decline Cable Dip
There’s a saying I use a lot, and it’s “Follow the Fibers”.
If you follow the direction of the fibers when training the chest, you can more effectively target specific regions of the pectoral muscles.
Before we get started, there’s an important factor I want to mention which has a huge effect on the visual appearance of your chest.
If you’re dealing with a high overall body fat level, it will be more difficult for you to see lower chest definition until you take care of that. You’ll need to focus heavily on nutrition to be able to lose fat and see what you’re really working with.
That being said, let’s take a quick look at the chest muscle anatomy, because it will help you see the direction of those fibers so you can ‘follow them’ to defined pecs!
CHEST MUSCLE ANATOMY
Taking a look at the anatomy of the major muscle of the chest will help you understand the preferred angle to build your lower chest.
I’ll break out the Muscle Markers once again to help you visualize this, and then I’ll demonstrate the correct movement type for targeting each area of the pecs.
AREAS OF THE PECTORAL MUSCLE (CHEST ANATOMY)
- Clavicular Head
- Sternal Head
- Abdominal Head of the Lower Chest
The pectoralis major is broken up into two main sections from an innervation standpoint: the clavicular or upper area, and the sternal or lower area.
The clavicular fibers are separately innervated from the sternal area, so they can be targeted a little bit differently because of that.
CLAVICULAR HEAD OF THE PECTORAL MUSCLE
These upper chest muscle fibers run diagonally down from the clavicle out toward the arm, which means that anytime you bring your arm up and across your body, you’re hitting those upper chest fibers preferentially.
The sternal area is the largest of the two main sections of the middle and lower pectoral muscle, and it’s what most people think of when they are talking about the pecs.
STERNAL HEAD OF THE PECTORAL MUSCLE
The lower sternal fibers of the pecs run horizontally from the sternum out toward the arm. So, when we do movements that bring the arm straight across our body in adduction we can preferentially hit this main, beefy area of the chest a bit more.
The serratus muscle likes to work together with the lower chest, and this will come into play on the first lower chest builder I’ll show you.
Finally, in the sternal area of your chest, you have an additional head of the pecs called the abdominal head. It’s a small area that creates a little break of the line of the lower pecs and then wraps underneath and around. It’s the lowest portion of the lower chest.
ABDOMINAL HEAD OF THE LOWER CHEST (STERNAL AREA)
The fibers in this abdominal head run up and out in an angle from bottom to top heading towards your humerus. In this case, we need to choose lower chest exercises that take our arm down and across the chest.
How can you train the lower chest?
The best lower chest workout will include exercises to target the abdominal head of the sternal area.
A good example of this is the decline bench press, the main barbell bench press variation that all you probably already use for building your lower chest.
Why is that?
It has to do with the position of your arms in relation to your torso when performing the decline press. If you take a bench press position with the arms without using any weight and then sit up without moving the arms, you see that your arms are not angled at 90 degrees perpendicular to your body, but downward instead.
It’s that same position that we’re looking to replicate in our exercise selection.
I’m not going to stop with the decline barbell bench press, guys!
I want to give you 8 other exercise options to hit this area hard, and get your lower chest looking better than ever!
8 BEST LOWER CHEST EXERCISES
Now that you know the angle we need to replicate to target the lower chest, let me show you eight great exercise options to help you hit it effectively.
You don’t have to do every single one of these exercises in one long lower chest workout. Just pick a couple based on what equipment you have available to you and add them into your regular chest day workout.
For even better results, switch up the lower chest exercises you’re doing from time to time.
First up is the dip, one of the classic exercises found in all good lower chest workouts.
It works the chest fibers in exactly the correct way to follow the fibers of that abdominal head. But we can make the chest dip exercise better by adding a plus push at the end of every rep.
This extra scapular protraction allows you to hit the serratus anterior muscle as well, which ties in perfectly with the function of the chest and helps to stabilize your shoulder during the exercise.
1.) DIP PLUS
HOW TO DO THE DIP PLUS:
- Starting position for these chest dips is angling your body forward on the dip apparatus, but not too much. If we angle too much, we almost turn this into a horizontal pushup, hitting more of the mid-chest area.
- Flex your elbows back as you dip down.
- To do the ‘plus’ movement, press away when you get to the top of the dip. When we perform the ‘plus’ at the end of every rep, we are working the serratus muscle which likes to work in concert with the lower chest.
Next, let’s stick with the theme of the dips and do an old-fashioned exercise called the Straight Bar Dip.
This is something I did in my basement as a kid when I had nowhere else to do dips in my house!
2.) STRAIGHT BAR DIP
HOW TO DO THE STRAIGHT BAR DIP:
- Set up a barbell loaded with heavy weights on a rack or bench press station high enough for you to be able to dip on it with your feet lifted off the ground.
- With a shoulder width grip, place your hands on the bar, lean forward and press up.
- Lower slowly and repeat.
Because you have to angle and hover your whole body forward over the bar during this exercise, you automatically end up placing your arms in the proper position to effectively target the lower chest.
The additional internal rotation of the arms during the exercise helps to create a more complete chest contraction at the top of every rep.
Next, I’m going to throw you a curveball, because people think this next exercise is for your tricep workout. It’s actually a poorly performed triceps pushdown, but it becomes a very effective lower chest exercise if you do it properly.
This is our Jackhammer Pushdown.
3.) JACKHAMMER PUSHDOWN
HOW TO DO THE JACKHAMMER PUSHDOWN:
- Starting position is standing next to a cable machine with a short straight bar attachment.
- Lean the upper body forward and open your chest by getting the elbows out to the side.
- Let them ride up as you return to the starting position.
The arms are following the same angle and direction of movement that we’ve been shooting for all along. But you need to make a couple of tweaks.
Don’t just stand there and bend and straighten the elbows, because that would be working the triceps more than the chest.
Instead, you need to open your chest up by getting your elbows out to the side and let them ride up. If they stay at the same level, you’re doing it wrong. If they go up and down, then you’re doing it right.
Then you angle just a little bit forward over the top of the bar so that when you press down, it becomes a close cousin to that Straight Bar Dip.
It’s another great exercise to include in your lower chest cable workout if you have that piece of equipment available to you.
The next exercise, the Standing Cable LC Press, is one that I love because it’s extremely effective.
4.) STANDING CABLE LC PRESS
HOW TO DO THE STANDING CABLE LC PRESS:
- Stand next to a cable cross machine with one arm gripping a handle.
- In this exercise you want to focus on the elbow riding high, going low, and trying to make contact with the sternum at the end of the exercise.
- When you get to the top, you want to twist a little bit to open up the shoulder to get it into external rotation, so when we come back and in, we get internal rotation as that elbow drives toward that lower chest.
In this exercise you want to focus on the elbow riding high, going low, and trying to make contact with the sternum at the end of the exercise.
When you get to the top, you want to twist a little bit to open up the shoulder to get it into external rotation, so when we come back and in, we get internal rotation as that elbow drives toward that lower chest.
Once again, we’re following the fibers. We’re using science and letting our anatomy dictate the exercise selection.
The next two exercises help you get more adduction for your lower chest. You can perform them with either one arm at a time or both. Focus on creating that mind muscle connection in these two exercises because it will carry over to help you get better muscle development and a defined lower chest in the long run.
For the Kneeling X Press you’ll need either a cable machine or a set of bands anchored to a pullup bar.
5.) KNEELING X PRESS
HOW TO DO THE KNEELING X PRESS:
- Kneel next to a cable cross machine and grab a handle with each arm.
- Position yourself down on your knees, start with handles at about chest level and focus on the angle of your arms because that is what dictates how effectively you can hit the lower chest and get it to respond.
- Lean the upper body slightly forward and push the handles down and in, crossing your hands over one another.
This exercise gives us two benefits: more adduction as we cross our body over and through midline, and a deep stretch because we can allow that arm to drift up even higher and get more of a separation on the entire chest muscle from origin to insertion.
Let me give you one more piece of advice.
You probably don’t have a good mind muscle connection with the lower chest area. In fact, you probably don’t have a good mind muscle connection with your chest in general.
You’re probably trying to just press, press, press with a lot of heavier weights.
Go with lighter loads here. Leave the ego aside and start aiming for great contractions, one after the next, after the next.
As I like to say, focus on doing 10 sets of 1 instead of 1 set of 10 crappy reps!
This next one is a great option if you don’t have access to a cable machine, but you DO have a single band at home.
Anchor it to something high, like a pullup bar and try this D2 Flexion Crossover, which provides constant tension throughout the movement.
6.) D2 FLEXION CROSSOVER
HOW TO DO THE D2 FLEXION CROSSOVER:
- In this cable crossovers exercise, you start with your arm up high, and you’re aiming for your opposite pocket.
- In order to get there, you have to start from an externally rotated position of your shoulder to an internally rotated position, as if you’re going to take a sword out of that opposite pocket.
- If you’re using a band and you think you don’t have enough resistance, you can increase the moment arm by keeping your arm out straight and you’ll make the band feel a lot more difficult.
- Take the arm all the way across the rib cage, keeping it nice and long, and turn it in. You’re getting adduction and that same downward and across angle that we’ve been going for.
- Slowly reverse the movement with control to return to start.
If you’re doing your lower chest workout at home, our next exercise is an Incline Twisting Pushup. You don’t need to use a bar for this exercise. You can do this body weight exercise to train lower chest at home using a piece of furniture or a counter top.
7.) INCLINE TWISTING PUSHUP
HOW TO DO THE INCLINE TWISTING PUSHUP:
- Position a barbell on a rack at a low angle, and assume a push-up position with your hands on the bar and your lower body oriented at a downward angle toward the ground.
- Because of the angle of the arm, the incline pushup is going to hit the lower chest preferentially. But we can make it a little bit harder by adding the extra twist. As you get toward the top of the pushup, twist your body away to create relative adduction of your arm across your chest under load. You still have gravity pushing down on you, so this creates a loaded adduction as you turn into every single rep.
Last, but not least is the Decline Cable Dip. We’re returning to that whole theme of the ‘dip’, because it puts us in the right position to hit the lower chest.
8.) DECLINE CABLE DIP
HOW TO DO THE DECLINE CABLE DIP:
- Start position is lying on a regular bench set to a slight decline angle and then and slide forward.
- Then as you grab the cables, you’ll see that you’ve automatically put yourself in the position you need to be in to hit the lower chest.
- Your elbows are up high like in the Jackhammer Pushdown. When you press, you’re trying to go right down along the line of your body.
By doing that you should get a really focused contraction and be able to feel it really intensely down in that lower chest area. You can try to bring your hands together if you’re able, to intensify that contraction with a little bit more adduction.
The main benefit of this exercise over the others is that you can load it up a little more.
I’ve shown you 8 awesome exercises to build the lower chest, but you don’t have to do them all. Pick a couple and add them to your chest training and you will see a difference in no time. Use that mind muscle connection to start seeing better development in this area. And remember that if chest fat is a factor for you, focusing on nutrition will be important to reduce excess body fat and improve body composition if you want to see muscle definition in the chest.
If you’re looking to change more than just your pecs and you want to build a ripped athletic body from head to toe, I can help you do that. All of our ATHLEAN-X programs guide you step by step through the science to help you develop muscle mass and strength in your entire body!
- After the abs, the lower chest is an area that many guys struggle to develop. There are some great exercises for lower chest training, but if you have excess body fat you may need to work on that first before you’re able to see chest development.
- The abdominal head of the sternal area of the pectoral muscles is the bottom-most part of the lower chest, and this is an important area to target to create lower chest development.
- When training the chest, it’s important to ‘follow the fibers’ and the correct direction of movement for targeting the lower chest is taking the arms down and across the chest in adduction.
- I’ve gone beyond the decline bench press and shown you 8 additional lower chest exercises that target the exact movement pattern we’re after, and given you some options for bodyweight exercises and with strength equipment such as cables and bands.
LOWER CHEST WORKOUTS FAQS
To build your lower chest, you need to follow the direction of the fibers of the lower portion of the pectoral muscle. The fibers of the abdominal head of the lower pectoral muscle run up and out in an angle from bottom to top heading towards your humerus. To target this portion of the lower chest and achieve muscle growth, we need to choose exercises that take our arm down and across the chest. This can include bench press variants, dips, cable chest exercises or even bodyweight movements.
The best exercises to work the lower part of the chest are:
- Dip Plus
- Straight Bar Dip
- Jackhammer Pushdown
- Standing Cable LC Press
- Kneeling X Press
- D2 Flexion Crossover
- Incline Twisting Pushup
- Decline Cable Dip
Add these to your complete chest workout to build a stronger chest and achieve chest muscle growth.
If your lower chest is not growing, is sagging or lacking shape, you are probably not choosing the right exercises to hit the lower chest fibers. To target this portion of the lower chest, we need to choose exercises that take our arm down and across the chest.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.