Building your lower chest gives you a full, buff appearance, but the area can be slow to respond to strength-training. While decline bench presses are ideal for developing this sternal region of your pectoralis major, you don't always have access to a gym with an adjustable bench and Olympic bar. Don't despair — you can do a lot at home to develop this portion of your chest.
Read more: At Home Chest Toning
The sternal region is the part of the pectoralis major muscle primarily targeted by the standard push-up. Doing multiple sets of this classic move trains the lower chest with no equipment necessary. Place something with a little weight on your back to increase the intensity — use a phone book or a box of detergent, for example.
Once you feel pretty comfortable cranking out standard push-ups, add variety to target the lower chest from different angles:
Incline Push-Ups: Although slightly easier than a standard push-up, you can use this variation to hone in on your lower pecs. Place your hands on a stair step or coffee table as you press up and down. Choose an unstable surface, like a stability ball, to create the incline and make the exercise harder. Bonus: instability increases your core activation.
Walking Push-Ups: This move functionally challenges your lower chest to fire to support you as you move. Get into a standard push-up position and do one push-up. Move your right hand a few inches to the right, then your left hand and push up. Move both hands back to their original position and push up. Finally move your left hand a few inches left and your right hand right to push up. It's four push-ups, but just one rep.
Remember, in all versions of the push-up, to keep your hips and lower back in a straight line. Hiking or sinking your hips means your core is deactivated and diminishes the benefits of the exercise. Aim for two to four sets of 10 to 15 reps of each exercise.
Dips are often considered a triceps exercise, but when done with a slight forward lean, the sternal portion of the pectoralis major is the primary muscle used. Most people don't have a set of dip bars installed in their home.
You might be lucky enough to have a playground nearby with a set, but, if not, use a set of bar stools to cobble together your own dip station at home.
Use stools that have a level seat — not padded — and are 24 to 29 inches off the floor. Make sure the stools are able to support your weight. You could also use two benches, but tucking your body up to a hover from a lower surface will be challenging.
HOW TO DO IT: Place the stools shoulder-distance apart. Place your hands on them and bend your knees to kick up your heels so you hover off of the ground.
Perform a dip by bending your elbows until you feel a stretch in your chest. Extend your elbows to return to the start. Hinge slightly forward from your hips as you dip to engage your chest. Work your way up to four sets of 12 repetitions.
Read more: The Best Chest Exercises Without Equipment