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How to Tone Your Chest and Stomach

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
A lean torso comes from watching what you eat and work at the gym.
A lean torso comes from watching what you eat and work at the gym. Photo Credit Zoonar RF/Zoonar/Getty Images

Besides looking good in the mirror, toned chest and stomach muscles contribute to a strong, balanced torso. You'll have trouble seeing the muscles, however, if you have extra fat covering them. To get the well-muscled look you're after, combine cardio exercise, a healthy diet and total-body strength training with a little extra emphasis on the chest and ab muscles.

Fat Loss First

Eating fewer calories than you burn helps with fat loss. It takes a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Attention to your diet helps create this deficit as does cardio exercise. Lose extra fat by watching your portion sizes and choosing mostly whole, unprocessed foods. Lay off desserts, alcohol, fancy coffee drinks, soda, refined grains and saturated fats. East primarily lean protein, whole grains and vegetables.

Aim to burn about 2,000 additional calories per week through physical activity to lose significant weight, advises the American College of Sports Medicine. Usually, this amounts to about 250 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, such as brisk walking.

Tone Your Chest

Pushing movements train your pectoralis major, the primary muscle of the chest wall. Work the chest from other angles too, so you target some of the smaller muscles, including the anterior deltoids and pectoralis minor.


The pushup is a classic exercise for a reason: It challenges chest strength in a functional way, but can be done just about anywhere. Do the classic variation by supporting your torso in a straight, rigid position on your hands and feet. Bend your elbows to a 90-degree angle so your body hovers above the floor, then return to the starting position to complete one set.

To spice up the pushup, prop your feet on a box, workout bench or even a coffee table and keep the hands on the floor for a decline variation that works the upper portion of the pecs and fronts of the shoulder. Alternatively, place your hands on the elevated surface to perform the pushup to put more emphasis on the lower chest wall.

Hug your belly in toward your spine to keep from sagging the hips.
Hug your belly in toward your spine to keep from sagging the hips. Photo Credit Ljupco/iStock/Getty Images

Read More: 10 Push-Up Variations for a Stronger Body

Chest Press

The chest press is another go-to chest toner. Hold dumbbells or a barbell with straight arms and an overhand grip above your shoulders as you lie back on an elevated bench. Bend your elbows to lower the weights to the sides of your chest until the joint forms a 90-degree angle; return to straight arms to complete one set.

Use a spotter when you lift heavy weights.
Use a spotter when you lift heavy weights. Photo Credit Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Lay on a bench set at a 35 to 45 percent incline or decline to perform the move to target the chest from different angles. The decline bench works more of the upper portion of the chest and shoulders; the incline bench press works the lower portion of the muscle.

Ab-Specific Moves

Your abs' appearance and function benefit from doing moves that train the front torso muscles, such as classic crunches, but also those that twist you and stabilize your spine.


Perform front plank by holding the top of your push-up position on your palms, or lower to your forearms, with a straight body. You hug your abdominal muscles into your spine using a deep belly muscle known as the transverse abdominis, which acts like a corset — making your middle tighter. Once you can easily hold the position for 60 seconds, add variety to continue to challenge your abdominal muscles and progress toward more stomach tone. Side planks have you propped on one hand or forearm facing sideways with your feet and hips stacked. Place your palms or forearms on an unstable surface, such as a half ball or stability ball. Lift one foot or hand as you hold the plank to develop greater stability, too.

Side plank challenges your balance.
Side plank challenges your balance. Photo Credit g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images


Target the obliques at the sides of your stomach with twisting exercises. Hold a medicine ball at your chest as you sit on a mat with your knees bent and feet planted in the floor. Twist side to side, keeping the ball from tilting to the floor to activate the abs. Twisting crunches also stimulate the obliques. Lay on your back with your knees bent, hands supporting the back of the head and neck. Contract your belly muscles as you lift your head and backs of the shoulders up off the floor, angling your right elbow toward your left knee. Repeat on the other side to complete one repetition.

Use your hands for support, not to tug.
Use your hands for support, not to tug. Photo Credit macniak/iStock/Getty Images

Don't Skip Your Other Muscles

Strength training builds definition and size in your chest and stomach, but you shouldn't limit your training to only these muscles. Strength training builds muscle, which uses more calories than fat tissue, and stimulates hormonal activity that also helps you lose fat. Plus, muscle makes you look firm and toned -- through your chest, abs and elsewhere. If you overdevelop the chest and stomach, you set yourself up for possible back pain and poor performance in sports or just daily life.

A comprehensive strength-training program develops a balanced body and helps you develop an overall leaner frame that looks and performs better. You may see the muscles of your front side more readily in the mirror, but that doesn't mean your back, arms, thighs and glutes aren't important to train as well.

Read More: Hurt So Good Workout

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