Calves, forearms, obliques: These are all muscles that can be hard to build up, but the level of difficulty usually differs from person to person. Not just smaller muscles, but sometimes even certain parts of larger muscle-groups can also be harder to build. A prime example of this is the lower chest. More elusive than the upper and midline of the muscle (clavicular and sternocostal are the scientific terms), the lower chest muscles can thrive with a group of exercises, that are far removed from the ones we normally associate with a chest workout.
These exercises can be tough. In fact, one of the most recommended ones, the chest dip (done on the tricep dip machine) is a difficult one for most people. This dip, done like the tricep dip but with a host of angular changes to affect the lower chest area, is something you want to do slowly and not in a large number of reps. A fact often mentioned in the gym is that you push 70 percent of your bodyweight in a push-up, but you need to lift up 90 percent of your bodyweight (in a dip).
How wide your grip is, how far you go down, and what angle to use, all “emphasise the lower pecs” according to a Fitnessvolt.com article titled Chest Dips vs. Triceps Dips–What’s the Difference? Fitness blogger Jeff Nippard, who has 3.5 million subscribers, addresses all these differences and the right form in the YouTube video above.
Another popular tricep exercise, the cable pushdown, can also be turned into a lower chest move. Once again the angle is slightly leaning over the bar, and flaring the elbows behind the back, almost as if you are pushing down not using the triceps as much as the lower pecs. This is the jackhammer pushdown, and the video above has a quick guide on how to do it.
The third exercise is for those who like floor-work and bodyweight exercises. The dumbbell glute bridge floor press is an excellent multitasker of an exercise. It is a highly functional move, which has added benefits. You get into a glute bridge position on the floor on both feet. With a slightly elevated torso, you have now opened up more space for your elbows to shift back.
Barbend’s review of this exercise should be enough to make you want to try it: “You simulate a decline angle for your chest by performing a standard glute bridge. Here, you’ll train the lower chest muscle fibres while improving hip mobility and glute strength. Both of these have great carryover to create lower body drive with the regular bench press,” they write in an article titled Build Strong And Full Pecs With The Best Lower Chest Exercises. The exercise is shown in the video above.
We now come to the easiest exercise, but this can only be done in the gym. The high-to-low cable fly is the most popular lower chest exercise and yet, it somehow doesn’t always give the results one wants. The fault for that lies in the fact that most people do far too many quick reps of this move. On the other hand, chest muscles react to a slow and steady range of motion, and to squeeze the chest muscles at the end of the exercise for that extra stimulation to the pecs.
The cable fly moves that are specifically designed for the lower chest are high to low—which is the path the cables will take—as you pull the weight down from a higher angle. Some fitness experts recommend doing these flys on the knees as well, allowing for a favourable angle if you cannot find it on the feet.
“Training your lower chest isn't as straightforward as targeting other muscles, like your biceps. You won't find one exercise that directly isolates that exact area of the muscle group, like curls do for your arms. Your lower chest is different because of the musculature of the chest as a whole,” says a Men’s Healtharticle titled 5 Exercises That Can Help Build a Big, Strong Lower Chest.So, keep at it. Giving your lower chest consistent attention without getting frustrated will make a big difference.
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.