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how to train outer chest


If your outer pecs lack size and definition, I have a fantastic outer chest workout you can add to your chest training today.

There’s no such thing as chest exercises that specifically target outer chest, but if your pec blends in with your rib cage like shown in this photo below, this can help.

This smooth outer chest region where the pectoralis major lacks definition is a really common chest problem. You may already have big chest muscles, but if your chest lacks definition, it can actually detract from the look of your upper body and even your entire body.

Even though we can’t target the outer pec major muscle fibers, we can develop the chest muscle fibers through more specific techniques in our training.

Even though we can’t target the outer pec major muscle fibers, we can develop the chest muscle fibers through more specific techniques in our training.

I don’t have the biggest pecs in the world, but I do have definition because I have good development of the insertion of the pectoralis major.

Follow the advice I’m about to give you, and you’ll begin to see differences in the outer pec at the insertion of the pec major muscle, which lies just beyond the shoulder joint.

underdeveloped outer chest


As usual, I’ve even broken out the muscle marker to show you what we’re talking about.

The pec muscle inserts all the way out on the top of the arm, and the origin is on the sternum.

The key to building the outer chest is increasing the range of motion and degree of tension through all your chest exercises.

Below are some exercise options showing how to apply added range of motion and tension when the pec muscle is in the stretched position. We’ll describe how to do this with some classic chest movements, beginning with the chest dip movement.

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pec major insertion


Even if you’re already doing dips for chest, one little change makes all the difference in the world in the effectiveness of the dip for outer chest development.

And that change is shoulder position.

Increase the range of motion by simply shifting the pec muscle origin (along the sternum) and the insertion (on the humerus) further away from each other by adapting your shoulder position.

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Outer Chest Workout

A lot of us will do a dip with a rounded shoulder, but that limits the range of motion, and also puts your shoulder in a pretty dangerous position. The muscles and tendons that run in front of the shoulder joint can get over-stretched, leading to shoulder pain or worse.

Move your shoulders back and kill two birds with one stone: better chest development and less injury risk.

When we do that we’re delivering more effective tension to that pec muscle. You can also see the involvement of the upper chest.

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roll shoulders back for chest dips

Rolling your shoulders back provides a lot more range for that muscle to contract and aligns chest fiber orientation with the direction of resistance for optimum muscle building effect.

Here’s a little pro tip using chest anatomy. Almost everyone’s pectoralis minor muscles are shortened and tight these days due to our desk jobs, electronics, and also training chest a lot. Tight pectoralis minor muscles keep the shoulders in internal rotation. Stretching the pectoralis minor muscles can loosen and lengthen them to allow better shoulder position for the chest dip movement.

Once you establish greater range of motion, start trying to hang out a little bit more and increase the time under tension while in the lowest position where the pec major muscle is optimally stretched.

You can apply this same method if using dip bar machines. Dip machines provide a pad that can help keep you lined up, which is a cool benefit of using the machine.

Don’t be in a hurry and bounce in and out of the bottom of your chest dips. Enjoy the stretch, keep the chest under load, and feel the associated burn. That healthy discomfort will condition you to be able to hold this tension more as you continue to train.

Caution: we are talking about the lactic acid burn and not the pain associated with injury or damage to the shoulder joint or muscle. Sharp, stabbing pain is not normal.



The 3D Cable Crossover movement lets you control the lowest position for that maximum stretch. I prefer them over traditional two-arm cable crossovers for this reason.

Using a cable machine, you can more safely train the pec muscle through the same range of motion as cable flyes or flat bench flyes without the added danger of that long moment arm unsupported on the bench. Whichever exercise you choose, the goal is the same: increase the stretch.

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Outer Chest Workout

Set the cables to chest height. Widen out the elbow and don’t let it travel close to your torso so you won’t limit the effective range of motion that the pec will travel.

Limiting your range of motion means you’re also limiting the tension and growth potential. As with our chest dip example, pause the exercise in the stretched starting position to maximize time under tension.

Hold for one to two seconds at the bottom of every rep for more tension and accumulated time under tension in that elongated chest muscle position.

This variation of the cable fly allows the arm to travel farther than it could with a classic cable fly. Cable flyes are great. This cable fly version is even better. This is a fantastic chest exercise.


You can get the most out of your push-ups if you focus on range of motion and holding the stretch.

To get the fullest range of motion when you do your push-ups, descend all the way to the ground from the starting push-up position, expand your chest, and get your elbows out as wide as you can.

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If you’re not already thinking hard about your elbows when you flat bench, you should be. Your elbows should be going apart, and then up, and together.

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dumbbell bench press

Don’t continue the habit of just pushing your hands up and down during the dumbbell bench press. Squeeze the chest muscles and let your elbows drift apart like you would when you do dumbbell flyes. Don’t rob your chest by using triceps to push the weights.

When your elbows drift away from one another with forearms perpendicular to the floor, you increase the range of motion, and the tension at the pectoralis major insertion, the outer pec.

Also, don’t “short arm” it through an abbreviated range of motion just to get out of that intense uncomfortable stretched position. Do the opposite. Learn to enjoy the stretch and the tension at the bottom of each chest exercise rep.

You may find that performing your presses this way allows you to get better results without necessarily using heavier weights.

If you use these tips to your advantage, your outer pecs will start looking a lot better just from focusing on shoulder position, elbow position, time under tension, and range of motion.

Once you understand the principle of aligning a muscle’s origin, insertion, and optimizing time under tension, you can apply those same principles to other classic exercises. You’ll be able find options on your own for outer chest exercises.

Finally, to make your hard pec major work evident and that new chest definition visible, your diet has to be in check. If your muscles are covered with body fat, your chest will still look smooth and blend into your rib cage.

If you’re looking for a training program that leaves no muscle or area behind, you’ve come to the right place. Check out our ATHLEAN-X programs to see which is the best fit for your goals and fitness level.


  1. Even people who lift weights regularly can have underdeveloped chest muscles that lack definition along their outer edges near the rib cage.
  2. The outer edge of the pectoralis major muscle is created by development of the muscle near its insertion on the humerus (the upper arm bone). The pec’s origin is along the sternum and clavicle.
  3. The remedy for lack of definition of the outer chest is to increase the stretch of the pectoralis major muscle from its origin to its insertion and then hold that stretch.
  4. Getting sufficient stretch in the pec major depends a lot on the position of the shoulder and the elbow, and how that’s done differs from exercise to exercise.
  5. Rolling the shoulders back and down with shoulder blades tight against the body increases the pec major stretch in the chest dip. Flaring the elbows produces more stretch in the 3D Cable Crossover, the Push-up, and the Bench Press.
  6. A one-to-two second pause in the stretched starting position loads the muscle in a way that stimulates growth. This may feel uncomfortable at first but you will adjust to the feeling. Don’t train through true pain, as this could signal injury.

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Jeff Cavaliere Headshot

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.

Read more about Jeff Cavaliere by clicking here

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