It’s a true shame that more people don’t frequently take advantage of the decline barbell bench press.
Decline bench presses are terrific for training the lower pecs, especially when combined with medium to high reps.
The technique of holding the barbell close to your chest will provide a better stretch on the muscles as you press upwards.
So, instead of reaching out and holding it away from yourself, bring the bar towards your waistline so that it touches at least just above your nipple area.
Plus, there’s the added advantage that the bar actually has to travel a shorter distance, so you might find yourself able to really overload this movement.
Why Should You Do The Decline Bench Press?
Reduces pressure on the lower back, making it ideal for anyone who deals with discomfort when performing the standard press.
Also reduces the impact on front deltoids as is common with most presses. Perfect if you want to maintain size if struggling with a minor shoulder issue.
Ideal for stimulating the lower pectoralis muscles
Possibly the best lower chest workout
To perform this exercise it’s simple:
Lay back on a decline bench, being sure to lock your legs under the attachment
Take the barbell (medium to close grip) and press upwards while keeping your low back glued to the bench. Your arms should be bent at about 90 degrees, but not totally straight, or else you risk injury to your elbows or shoulders. Keep your chest up and look straight ahead of you for optimal form.
Lower the weight down, focusing on squeezing your chest muscles together as hard as possible for a few seconds before beginning the next repetition.
Aim to perform 15-20 repetitions; this is an exercise you don’t need to skimp on volume. Add 2-3 working sets towards the end of your workout.
Pro Tip: The decline dumbbell bench press can be substituted if you do not own a decline bench with a rack, or the smith machine decline press if you need to build more confidence with the technique.
Dips have to be one of the best chest exercises of all time, but sadly, they are underused simply because many trainees are unable to do them.
Chest dips are performed a bit differently from triceps dips, but it is easy to not spot these differences at first glance.
For instance, to effectively get the most out of chest dips, your torso should lean slightly forward, by bending at the knee and tilting your feet behind you.
This creates a bit of a necessary counterbalance with your upper body.
Plus, elbows are flared out more than when compared to triceps dips, because it’s more conducive to keeping your chest up.
Focus on squeezing your pecs hard once you reach the fully contracted portion of the lift!
Why Should You Do The Chest Dip?
One of the best exercises for sculpting your lower chest muscles.
Increases activation in all three heads of the pectoralis major.
If you are new to dips, it’s important to understand that this movement places your torso in a more horizontal position than triceps dips do, so you may have to use lighter weights.
Just like the decline barbell bench press, chest dips are straightforward.
However, there are some helpful techniques hinted here that will help ease the transition towards building an impressive set of pectoral muscles:
Use a narrow grip for this exercise to take the strain off your shoulders and elbows, particularly if you are accustomed to doing bench presses or dips with a wide grip; also, use the parallel handles that come on most dip bars and place your hands shoulder-width apart (or narrower).
Keep in mind that you will be leaning your torso forward at roughly a 45-degree angle when doing chest dips, so make sure your hips are angled back sufficiently to counterbalance this position.
Go down until your upper arms are parallel with the floor to maximize the activation of the lower pecs; keep them tight against your torso throughout the movement.
Keep your back flat and focus on contracting your pecs as you press yourself up again, trying to lift yourself higher than the first repetition for best results!
How To Perform:
Walk yourself into a dip station, hands gripping the bars at a position where you can feel a slight stretch in your chest muscles.
Bend your knees and bring them towards your butt until you feel a slight stretch in your chest muscles.
Slowly lower your hips and bend your elbows, dipping down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
Straighten to lift yourself back up and squeeze your chest muscles for a second before you repeat the movement again.
Perform as many reps as you can for two sets. It is ok to start with using bodyweight or doing assisted dips if you are unable to add weight in the beginning.
High cable flyes are an excellent exercise to train the lower pecs and really extend your range of motion by taking you past what you could safely perform with dumbbells.
The key to really stimulating your lower pec muscles relies on leaning forward throughout the movement.
If you’ve been observant, you would notice that like the dips, leaning forward helps to put greater emphasis on the lower pecs, but also has the side effect of added strain on the front deltoids.
Why Should You Perform The High Cable Flye?
Consistent tension and resistance throughout the entire range of motion to maximize the growth of this muscle group. This cannot be achieved with dumbbells or barbells keeping your arms at a 90-degree angle throughout.
The high cable machine flye takes this principle further because you are actually moving through two planes of movement, so it’s effective for even more muscle growth!
Can really add fine detail to the muscles near the sternum (breastbone) to aid with separation (the sternal head)
How To Perform:
Stand between two cable pulley machines with a D-handle in each hand. Use the highest attachment for this exercise.
With arms high and elbows slightly bent, lean forward at the waist so that your chest is stretched in front of yourself, elbows pointing down towards the floor. A staggered stance with one foot forward and one back might also be superior for balance.
From this position, squeeze your chest muscles hard while you simultaneously bring the cables down and in front of the abs- almost as if you are grabbing a barrel. Pull your arms straight in front of you.
Slowly retract your arms to the starting position and repeat for reps.
High reps and low resistance is preferred, so try to perform at least 12 reps for 3-4 sets.
Think of this as the lovechild between a triceps pushdown, upright row, and lat pulldown.
The easiest way to visualize this movement is to think of the triceps pushdown, but using a straight bar and a wider than shoulder-width grip.
Why Should You Perform The Jackhammer Pushdown?
The jackhammer pushdown takes a lot of the triceps recruitment out of the movement, making it a lower chest dominant movement.
Although some triceps involvement is still present, this lower chest workout really torches the pecs! Not to mention it’s also a great way to build up those lats and create the much sought after v-taper.
How To Perform:
Attach a lat pulldown bar to a high pulley cable station and bring the bar down to hip height.
Grasp the straight bar using a grip that is wider than shoulder-width with palms facing down at all times during this exercise.
Lean forward with the torso, bringing it down in front of your thighs in the contracted position.
Be sure to squeeze with your pecs as your press down as this exercise is not triceps dominant.
Slowly allow the bar to travel back to around lower chest level before contracting once more.
Repeat for 10-15 repetitions and 2-3 working sets.
If you work in construction with heavy-duty equipment and machinery, you’ll appreciate this lower chest exercise from the get-go!
Dumbbell pullovers, along with decline presses, have to form the underused exercise brigade, but not because of their ineffectiveness.
Rather, it is due to them not being fully understood for what they deliver.
Never will you see a weightlifting meet that tests decline press strength or how much you can do on a pullover, but they all bring unique things to the table that not many other exercises can accomplish.
In the case of the dumbbell pullover, it has a lot to do with the plane of movement it uses- the sagittal plane to be precise, which the chest and lats aren’t fully accustomed to.
And that’s what makes it unique.
If you’ve ever seen a true stomach vacuum, you might wonder how the ribcage expands so much while the abs seem to disappear completely.
The dumbbell pullover is one of the primary reasons for this. Most other chest or lat movements focus on the frontal plane.
Training a muscle through different planes of movement can elicit different results.
Combine that with the fact that you move the weight relatively slowly, and it’s easy to see why this is a unique exercise, possibly also making it one of my favorite exercises for chest growth- including the mid and upper chest regions.
Why Should You Perform Dumbbell Pullovers?
The main reason for this is the plane of movement, also known as a sagittal plane. It’s different from other chest movements where you’re in front or behind yourself, which means it incorporates a very different spectrum of muscle fibers.
In addition to that, slow-tempo reps are beneficial when training your core musculature because they help to build tension.
It is very effective for overall chest and latissimus development- in fact, it is the closest thing to a true isolation movement for the lats that exists.
It can help expand your ribcage. This was a major technique used by old-school lifters to give the illusion of a bigger chest and smaller waistline. It is sorely lacking from competitive bodybuilding today. You should train chest at least once every 5 days to take advantage of this expansion.
How To Perform:
Lay face up on a bench, either longways or with only the upper torso resting on the bench, with legs planted on the floor supporting your lower body.
It is best for a spotter to hand you a weighted dumbbell; one that is not too light or heavy for you to comfortably support
Grasp the dumbbell with both palms interlocking over one side of the dumbbell and slowly extend your arms overhead so that the dumbbell dangles over the edge of the bench (as far as is comfortable).
In one controlled movement, contract the muscles of the chest and lats simultaneously as you pull the dumbbell overhead and to the midchest position. It is important to keep a slight bend in your elbows and maintain the tension throughout the lats.
Lower the weight in a slow and controlled fashion to a full stretch position while keeping constant tension on the lats.
Repeat for 10-15 repetitions and 2-3 working sets.
Performed consistently, the dumbbell pullover can add significant lateral width to the chest and back (viewed from the side).
Putting It Together
The lower chest muscles will get some stimulation from your cookie-cutter chest exercises; that goes without saying.
But if you really want to fill out your t-shirts, you might want to look into incorporating some lower pec intensive movements into your repertoire.
You do not need to use all of the exercises mentioned at every training session, but follow programmed phases of periodization using them in your chest training regimen.
Just like all the other muscle groups in the body, your pecs need equal and sufficient stimulation to grow.
If you train them in a one-sided fashion or neglect them altogether, they will not look as impressive when shirtless.
Be sure to make use of these techniques over the next several months; you’ll be happy you did- rewarded with the ability to lift heavier weights and do so more easily.
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