When seeking to build an exceptional physique, a strong chest serves as a rock-solid centerpiece that demands full attention.
Given their prominence (from both front and side), key role in enhancing the V-Taper, and complementing the shoulder/trap area, full pecs are an essential component of a complete physique.
While adding thickness to accentuate the lower and outer pecs comes easy for most, it’s the inner and particularly inner-upper (just below mid-clavicle) parts that are much more difficult to flesh-out.
Given the importance of the inner pec region to complete chest development, it’s crucial that it’s given due respect.
An otherwise impressive physique may be rendered incomplete should the inner pecs fail to pop.
With the following workout which includes three inner pec variations, this all-too-common training dilemma can finally be put to rest.
The Inner Chest Workout Overview
Now, pay close attention as Team ALLMAX athlete Dr. Brett Khan takes you through his own personal inner-pec blasting routine. Not genetically predisposed to building strong inner pecs, he’s worked hard and become creative for this area to match the rest of his physique.
By tweaking his training, he’s learned to rely less on his shoulders and more on his inner pecs to produce stage-worthy results. He’s now passing what he’s discovered on to you, so you may build impressive inners of your own.
|1. Incline Dumbbell Press||1||20|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||3||8-12|
|2a. Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8-12|
|2b. Dumbbell Crush Press||3||12-15|
|3. Incline Single Arm Chest Fly||3||12-15|
|4. Kneeling Incline Cross-Body Press||3||12-15|
Inner Chest Exercise 1: Crush Press
Set a bench to a 45 degree angle and grab a set of ‘comfortable’ dumbbells. As with all inner pec movements, Brett suggests picking a comfortable weight that is easy to control. All the emphasis is to be isolated on the inner pecs, not across larger pec regions as would be the case with other press variations. Your attention should focus on allowing the relevant muscles to do the work, not on excessively heavy weights.
Lean back on the bench and press the shoulder blades together while keeping the elbows back. Press, or ‘crush’, the dumbbells together with a neutral grip (palms facing in). Press the weights to just shy of full lockout while keeping tension focused on the inner pecs; do not relax at the top. Instead, maintain maximum tension on the inners as you slowly lower the weight to just below chin level.
When pressing again, continue to crush the weights together to full positive contraction and all the way down (the crushing action is what keeps the inner pecs stimulated).
Also, by crushing the weights together a phenomenon called muscular irradiation is achieved. This enhances shoulder stability while improving the firing potential of the inner pec fibers due to the combined innervations (nervous system activity) of the surrounding musculature.
When performing this movement, picture yourself simultaneously performing a fly and pressing motion, with the exception that more tension is isolated through the inner pec region. As with any fly or pressing motion, the shoulder blades are to be kept retracted to help limit shoulder activation. Finally, keep feet flat to the ground, lower body fixed in place, abs tight, and lower back slightly (not excessively) arched.
Inner Chest Exercise 2: Kneeling Incline Cross-Body Press
This movement specifically targets the upper/inner pec region, thus requiring that the cable be attached from a low position and pressed diagonally across the body toward the upper/inner pecs. Brett performs this movement one side at a time as this allows him to direct all his attention to one specific area, rather than having to balance two cables while dividing his attention across both pecs.
As with the crush press, this variation is a hybrid between a press and a fly, so keep the actions of these respective movements in mind as you bring the cable across the body (fly motion) and incrementally squeeze up for a full positive contraction (pressing motion).
Pick a weight that’s heavy enough to challenge the stubborn upper/inner pecs but not so heavy that muscle tension is lost as the reps become more and more difficult to achieve. Such an approach underscores an important principal of muscle hypertrophy training.
When seeking to develop a specific part of a muscle always pick a weight that keeps tension on and isolated to this region. Bodybuilding does not require ultra-heavy weights. In fact, more moderate weights used judiciously with good form and optimal time under tension work best for pure muscle gains. Adopt this mindset for each of these inner pec variations.
To begin, place one leg up and work unilaterally from the same side, grabbing the cable attachment, stabilizing the body, and placing the shoulders in a neutral position. From a low position, push the weight up, aiming for mid-face level and engaging the upper portion of the chest before lowering slowly and repeating.
Because it’s a relatively short range movement, be sure to keep the elbow from drifting too far behind the body and stop at the midline of the body (at nose level) to properly target the correct fibers. Going too far behind the body may cause the shoulder joint to become less stable and tension on the chest is thus likely to be compromised (injury may also occur).
For this movement, a limited range is best as such form assures that the specific fibers under attack stay contracted through all aspects of both the positive and negative phases of each rep.
Inner Chest Exercise 3: Incline Single-Arm Chest Fly
An incline bench set at a 45 degree angle is used for this variation. Like the cross-body press, this movement is performed unilaterally, with an emphasis on the upper-inner pec region. However, as opposed to the shorter-range cross-press an emphasis is to be placed on bringing the resistance further across the body and past the midline, thus extending the range of motion to force an intense peak contraction in more of the pec muscle.
A pure fly movement, this variation requires scapular retraction and a solid, though not excessive stretch on the eccentric phase. Rather than exploding the resistance upward, as might be done on a heavier mass-building movement such as a bench press, keep the concentric portion of this movement slow and controlled (flex the pecs to bring the weight across the body rather than pulling with the shoulder joint).
As you complete this movement, use the opposite hand to feel the inner fibers of the working pec contracting all the way up (a form of biofeedback that’ll inform you that the movement is having the desired effect). Always keep the elbows slightly bent for full inner pec activation through the desired range of motion. As soon as the elbows start to straighten, tension is instantly lost and intensity is diminished.
As with each of the variations featured in this article, a strong mind/muscle connection is imperative. A good way to keep your mind on the correct muscles is to imagine hugging a tree while maintaining a slightly loose grip on the cable attachment (using the hands as hooks and pressing inward with the palms).
While the tree-hugging action ensures correct elbow flexion through the entire range of motion, the ‘hook’ grip prevents the excessive squeezing that may over-recruit the forearms and biceps. Finally, keep the upper body tight and properly balanced with a slight lower back arch.
Get Specific for a Complete Chest
Of all the stubborn areas that hold our muscular development back, the inner pecs would have to be among the worst offenders. A big problem with chest training in general is that the bigger, stronger fibers of the lower and outer pecs tend to take most of the resistance when massive weights are pressed. This leaves the inner and upper pecs starved of proper stimulation, and resistant to growth.
This is why we must not strictly generalize with the usual heavy duty pressing movements. Doing so may give us bulging pecs but not the top to bottom and side to side detail we desire. By enlisting the above variations you’ll better stimulate growth through the typically stubborn inner/upper pecs.