Your chest or pectoralis major muscles are responsible for drawing your arms horizontally across your body and also drawing them down from shoulder height toward the midline of your body. Although the pectoralis major muscle is a single muscle located on the left and right side of your upper torso, it has fibers that run in different directions which can be targeted by selecting area-specific exercises. The upper chest is best worked with incline type exercises whereas the mid chest is best worked with horizontal exercises. There are a variety of exercises you can select to target the lower chest.
Traditional push-ups are an effective lower chest exercise. To perform push-ups, place your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width. Extend your legs behind you and, keeping your body straight, support your weight on your hands and toes. Without bending your spine, lower your body to the floor by bending your arms before pushing back up into the starting position. You can make push-ups more challenging by performing them very slowly and deliberately or by wearing a weighted vest.
Parallel Bar Dips
To perform parallel bar dips, place your hands on the bars with your hands facing inward. Support your weight on your arms and cross your feet, bending your legs behind you. Lean forward and bend your arms. Lower your body until your upper arms are parallel to the floor. Push back up into the starting position and repeat. If you lack sufficient strength to perform parallel bar dips with your full body weight, you can use an assisted chin up and dip machine which supports some of your body weight. You can make this exercise more challenging by wearing a weighted vest or securing weights around your waist.
Decline Bench Press
Performed with either dumbbells or a barbell, decline bench presses are an effective lower chest workout. Adjust an exercise bench so that your head is lower than your hips. Grasp your weight at arms’ length with your hands directly over your chest. Bend your elbows and lower the weight to your lower chest. Push the weight back up to arms' length and repeat. Because you are supporting a weight over your chest, for safety you should always use a spotter or training partner when performing this exercise.
High to Low Cable Cross-Over
This exercise will isolate your lower chest. Using a cable cross-over machine, stand between the two pulleys. Set the cables to head height and grasp a handle in each hand. Keep your elbows slightly bent but rigid throughout this exercise. Starting with your hands level with your shoulders, draw your arms inward and downward so that your hands meet in front of your hips. Hold this point of peak contraction for one to two seconds before slowly returning to the starting position and repeating.
- "Designing Resistance Training Programs"; Steven Fleck and William Kraemer; 2003
- "Bodybuilding Anatomy"; Nick Evans M.D; 2006