Today I’m going to share the best lower chest workout to blow up your pecs. These are all tried and tested exercises that I use regularly in my work as a personal trainer. They’re simple, effective and easy to integrate into your programming.
To build a well-rounded and impressive chest, it’s essential to target all areas.
While the upper chest often gets a lot of attention, the lower chest can be a tricky area to develop. However, with the right exercises and a solid workout routine, you can achieve a well-defined and balanced chest.
Perform this lower chest workout to help you blow up your pecs and achieve a great chest…
- 0.1 Parallel Bar Dips 3 x 10
- 0.2 Decline Barbell Bench Press 4 x 6-8
- 0.3 Incline Ring Push Ups 4 x 10
- 0.4 Decline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 x 8-10
- 0.5 Decline Dumbbell Fly 3 x 12
- 0.6 Incline Push-Ups on Dumbbells 3 x 15
- 0.7 Dumbbell Pullover 4 x 10
- 0.8 Decline Reverse Grip Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 8
- 1 Chest anatomy – how to target the lower chest
- 2 Tweaks to make the exercises more effective
- 3 What to expect with this workout
Parallel Bar Dips 3 x 10
I like the parallel bar dips for building upper body strength and muscle mass. It’s a simple exercise that can be tweaked to hit the pectoral muscles and tricep muscles equally. Thanks to the large range movement, chest dips are a great way to get a huge stretch in the chest muscle fibers and the shoulder muscles, improving their health. I prefer the dip station to a bench dip because it hits the chest muscles properly.
Decline Barbell Bench Press 4 x 6-8
The decline angle targets the lower chest more effectively than other pressing angles. The lower chest fibers are the first to engage when decline pressing, so they work for longer in the movement. The decline barbell bench press allows you to lift more than you could with dumbbells. For that reason, I use this as a strength movement for 6-8 reps.
Incline Ring Push Ups 4 x 10
This is a fantastic exercise for hitting all of the major chest muscles, but with an emphasis on the lower chest. The combination of range of motion, instability and constant tension is a way to engage most of the upper body pushing muscles. The incline ring push up is challenging enough that you can build functional strength without lifting heavy weights in the exercise.
Decline Dumbbell Bench Press 4 x 8-10
I love dumbbell chest exercises, because the range of motion is vastly increased relative to a barbell. You can also engage all of the major muscles in the chest, shoulder and tricep areas. If you work through a full range, you’ll achieve a deep stretch of the chest at the bottom of the movement. This simple exercise is a great way to build a strong chest, whilst emphasising the lower chest.
Decline Dumbbell Fly 3 x 12
Arnold Schwarzenegger loved to use the dumbbell fly in his workouts, and frankly if it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for the rest of us. The beauty of the decline fly is the eccentric nature of the exercise. As you open the arms, the entire chest controls the movement. This builds a lot of muscle, and is a great way to stretch as well. That’s a double win!
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Incline Push-Ups on Dumbbells 3 x 15
This is one of the simplest and best dumbbell chest exercises. It’s more advanced than a basic push up, and the push up position combined with a slight incline forces the sternal head of the pectorals major to fire up. The great thing with push ups is that the shoulder blades are able to move more freely than with a bench exercise. Thanks to the fact it’s a body weight exercise, I like to perform this as a high-rep exercise.
Dumbbell Pullover 4 x 10
Another Arnold favourite, the dumbbell pullover is an excellent way to train your entire chest muscle group. Starting overhead, as the dumbbell lowers overhead you stretch your chest and latissimus dorsi muscles. This activates the clavicular head of the pecs. It’s also a good idea to include this exercise in a lower chest workout because it will help improve shoulder health too. The overhead shoulder extension opens up the shoulder capsule and improve range of movement.
Decline Reverse Grip Dumbbell Bench Press 3 x 8
We already know about the effects that varying your grip has on muscle recruitment, so let’s take advantage here. A complete chest workout needs to switch the angles, mixing steep declines, slight decline, flat bench and even inclines. This will ensure a complete pec workout that will train all of the primary muscles and improve upper body strength. By taking the reverse grip and the decline position, you’ll provide the pec muscle fibers with a new challenge!
Chest anatomy – how to target the lower chest
To make sure we’re performing effective exercise in these workouts, we have to look at chest anatomy.
Our lower chest workout includes activation of both the clavicular head and the sternocostal head. This trains the entire chest.
We also include exercises to activate the pectoralis minor, which is a ‘deep muscle’, because it sits underneath the pectoralis major, which is the superficial muscle (sitting closer to the skin). This mixture of movements, grips, bench press variations and loads ensures we have a complete workout for the lower chest.
You’ll notice that we spend a lot of time in this workout using a decline bench. Here’s why…
In 1997 a study titled Electromyographical Activity of the Pectoralis Muscle During Incline and Decline Bench Presseswas performed. The researchers, Glass and Armstrong concluded…
Results showed significantly greater lower pectoral concentric activation during decline bench press. The same result was seen during the eccentric phase.
No significant differences were seen in upper pectoral activation between incline and decline bench press.
It is concluded there are variations in the activation of the lower pectoralis major with regard to the angle of bench press, while the upper pectoral portion is unchanged.
A later (2016) study by Lauver et al agreed with these results. Their study was titled ‘Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise’. They found that…
…‘the contraction of the lower pectoralis was greater during -15° bench press.
This shows the importance of the decline. When exercising the chest with a downward angle, you significantly change the activation of the muscle. If you want the lower pectorals to do more of the work, you absolutely have to work at a decline.
It’s still important to mix the angles, but including decline chest exercises are an absolute must if you want to hit the lower chest properly. We combine these with a mixture of grips, high rep exercises and low rep exercises to make the most of the program.
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Tweaks to make the exercises more effective
There’s a bunch of ways to change how an exercise impacts your progress. Your starting position is one. Your equipment choice – whether you use a cable machine, bodyweight, dumbbells or barbells is another. Your grip choice – overhand grip, underhand grip or neutral grip has an impact too.
Here’s a few others you may not have considered…
Range of movement
This is a huge part of how effective an exercise is. Lifting through a full range improves joint health. It develops strength across a whole movement. It increases the time under tension and finally, burns more calories.
The importance of range of motion is proven in the research too. In 2022, Martinez-Cava et al performed a study titled ‘Bench Press at Full Range of Motion Produces Greater Neuromuscular Adaptations Than Partial Executions After Prolonged Resistance Training’.
They concluded that…
Based on these findings, the full range bench press stands as the most effective exercise to maximize neuromuscular improvements in recreational and well-trained athletes compared with partial range of movement variations.
Seek to improve your range of motion at all times. Whether that’s through stretching, bench angle, equipment selection etc. Any improvement helps.
Angle of attack
The old school bodybuilders were on to something when they mixed up the angles of attack when it came to weight training.
Like many of the lessons learned from the gyms of yesteryear, the science eventually caught up. In a lower chest workout like this one, you might wonder if the sheer amount of variety is really necessary. The reason it’s in there is backed by the research.
A 2022 meta analysis titled ‘Does Varying Resistance Exercises Promote Superior Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gains? A Systematic Review‘ was performed by Kassiano et al. After assessing 241 studies, they found…
‘The available studies indicate that varying exercise selection can influence muscle hypertrophy and strength gains. Some degree of systematic variation seems to enhance regional hypertrophic adaptations and maximize dynamic strength…’
This means that the more variety you can include, the better (to a point).
Chest training frequency and structure
There’s definitely too much of a good thing. You can overdo when it comes to trying to get a body part to grow. If you’re going to use this workout as part of an overall split routine training program, I’d suggest you do it once in the week, on your chest day.
If you follow a different type of training program, feel free to split these 8 exercises into smaller groups. Here’s a couple of examples…
If you train your upper body twice per week for example (perhaps you follow an upper/lower split), maybe do 4 exercises on each of the workouts.
If you follow a full body approach across 4 workouts per week, maybe do 2 of them on each workout.
Ultimately just do whatever works for you.
What to expect with this workout
The chances are you’re following this workout because you’ve never really focussed much attention on your lower chest.
In the first workout you’ll feel your chest really work hard. You’ll possibly struggle with the movements, and you’ll be surprised at how hard some of the ‘easier’ exercises seem. Any new challenge is always hard at first.
Chances are you’ll get some serious DOMS. The kind you haven’t felt for years!
Persevere though, and that lower chest will be popping in no time. Even if you only follow the workout as it is for 12 weeks or so, you’ll be able to keep the exercises as part of your rotation for future programs.
This lower chest workout is going to change your chest game forever.