If you’ve been training for a while, you’ve probably noticed how your workouts have affected your body and that your muscles have started to get bigger and stronger. Initially, at least, muscle strength and size increases are very gratifying; your hard work is paying off!
But, as you start to move beyond beginner status, you may be less happy with the shape of your muscles, especially if you compare your appearance to competitive bodybuilders.
Unfortunately, muscle shape is primarily dictated by genetics. Things like tendon and muscle belly length and attachment sites are unmodifiable. That said, you can use exercises and training methods to emphasize individual muscles and regions to create a more pleasing shape.
In this article, we unleash our best inner chest workout to help you sculpt deeper, better-separated pecs.
Chest Anatomy 101
Your chest is made up of two main muscles. Knowing a little about the form and function of these muscles could help you get better results from your training.
Pectoralis major – known as your pecs for short, this is the largest chest muscle. Its main functions are horizontal flexion, adduction, and medial rotation of your shoulder joint. While the pecs are a single muscle, they are made up of several groups of fibers, often referred to as heads.
- Clavicular head– this is your upper chest. It’s more active during incline movements, such as incline bench press and incline flyes.
- Sternal head– the most prominent pec head, this region forms the bulk of your chest. It’s most active during flat pec exercises, such as flat bench presses and pec deck.
- Abdominal head– this is your lower chest. Exercises like dips and high-to-low cable crossovers emphasize this region of your pecs.
The inner pecs describe where the sternal head of the pecs attaches to your sternum – the origin point. While it is impossible to isolate the inner pecs, there are exercises that may emphasize this area. Typically, they’re movements that involve horizontal flexion, such as cable crossovers and flyes, and exercises done using a narrow grip.
Pectoralis minor – pec minor is a thin, flat muscle that lies underneath the pec major. It assists your pec major during most chest exercises and prevents your shoulders from lifting as you move them. Pec minor does not contribute much to chest size, but it’s still an important muscle.
The Best Inner Chest Workout
As previously stated, it’s impossible to isolate your inner chest. Still, you can emphasize it, which may help increase middle chest depth and separation. General chest size and getting leaner will also make the space between your left and right pecs more prominent.
Do this workout once a week for the next month or two to bring up your inner chest. You can do it instead of your usual pec workout or as well as if you like to train your chest twice a week. If you train your chest twice, do so on non-consecutive days, i.e., Monday and Thursday, to allow plenty of time for rest and recovery.
Before you start this or any other workout, prepare your body by warming up properly. Do 5-10 minutes of light cardio followed by dynamic mobility and flexibility exercises for your chest, shoulders, and lats. Finish off your warm-up with 50-100 reps of band pull-aparts to fully activate your upper back.
Inner Chest Workout
|1||Bear plank cable chest press||4||6-8 reps per arm||90 seconds|
|2||Dumbbell fly/narrow grip bench press combo||4||8-10||75 seconds|
|3a||Cable crossovers||3||10-12||60 seconds|
|4||Narrow grip Smith machine bench press||2||12-15||60 seconds|
Exercises 3a and 3b are to be done as a superset. Do exercise 3a and then, without resting, immediately do exercise 3b. Rest for the prescribed time and then repeat the pairing twice more to make three supersets.
AMRAP is short for As Many Reps as Possible. Just rep out until failure.
Get the most from this workout while keeping your risk of injury to a minimum by doing each exercise with the correct technique. If any of the exercises are new to you, use a light weight until you are confident you have mastered them.
1. Bear Plank Cable Chest Press
This highly unusual exercise really engages your pecs while emphasizing your inner chest. You’ll also feel it in your abs.
How to do it:
- Using a high cable crossover machine, take one handle in each hand and then get down on all fours between the weight stacks. Your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart, wrists straight.
- Lift your knees off the floor and brace your abs. Pull your shoulders down and back.
- Keeping one arm extended, knuckles resting on the floor, bend one arm and bring the handle into your shoulder and then press it back down to the floor.
- Repeat this movement with your other arm.
- Continue alternating arms for the duration of your set.
2. Dumbbell Fly/Narrow Grip Bench Press Combo
This exercise combines two separate movements to really hammer your pecs – dumbbell flyes and close grip dumbbell bench presses.
How to do it:
- Lie on your back with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms and hold the weights over your chest, palms facing inward. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and brace your abs. Pull your shoulders down and back.
- Open your arms and lower the weights down and out to the side to form a T-shape.
- Bring the dumbbells back together over your chest.
- Squeezing the dumbbells together, bend your arms and lower the weights to your sternum.
- Push the dumbbells back up and do another fly.
- Alternate between dumbbell flyes and close grip bench presses until you have completed the prescribed number of reps.
3a. Cable Crossovers
Cable crossovers are a common but effective inner chest exercise. Really focus on squeezing your arms together at the mid-point of each rep to get the most from cable crossovers.
How to do it:
- Attach two D-shaped handles to the top pulleys on a cable crossover machine. Hold one handle in each hand and stand in the middle of the weight stacks, arms outstretched and about shoulder height. Brace your abs and adopt a split stance for balance. Lean forward slightly from your hips. Your elbows should be a little bent but rigid.
- Without bending your elbows further, draw your arms forward and down, so they meet in front of your hips.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for the allotted number of reps.
- On completion, immediately move to the next exercise.
3b. Diamond Push-ups
All push-up variations work your chest, but bringing your hands closer together and doing diamond push-ups increases inner pec activation. This hand position also works your triceps harder than wider push-ups.
How to do it:
- Kneel down and place your hands flat on the floor so that your thumb and first finger form a diamond shape, which is where this exercise gets its name.
- Supporting your weight on your hands, walk your feet back, so your body is straight. Brace your abs.
- Bend your arms and lower your chest to lightly touch the back of your hands. Push yourself back up and repeat, continuing until you can no longer do any more reps.
- Rest a moment and then go back to the previous exercise. Repeat the pairing twice more to do three complete supersets.
4. Narrow Grip Smith Machine Bench Press
While you have probably used a Smith machine for bench presses before, you’ve probably never done it like this! Push your inner pecs to the limit in safety using the narrow grip Smith machine bench press.
How to do it:
- Place a flat bench crossways under the Smith machine bar. Lie on the bench, so the bar runs vertically down your body.
- Take a V-shaped lat pulldown bar and press it up and against the Smith machine barbell so you can use a narrow, parallel grip. The handle should be roughly level with the center of your chest.
- Pull your shoulders down and back, plant your feet on the floor, and brace your abs.
- Press the weight up and then bend your arms and lower the handle to just above your sternum. Push your hands inward as well as extending your arms upward to maximize inner pec engagement.
5. Svend Press
While we don’t know who Svend is or was, this exercise is an excellent way to finish off your inner pecs. Rather than doing several sets of Sven presses, your goal is to do 100 reps in as few sets as possible. So, rep out to failure, take a few deep breaths, and then go again. Continue until you’ve done all 100 reps and have a wicked chest pump!
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, core braced, and shoulders down and back.
- Hold two light weight plates between the palms of your hands. Raise the weights to your chest and press your palms together, fingers pointing forward. Raise your elbows, so they’re roughly chest level.
- Pressing inward as hard as you can, extend your arms out in front of you and then bring the weights back to your chest.
- That’s one rep; keep going!
Depending on your genetics, working more on your inner chest could add a lot to the appearance of your upper body. Deep, separated pecs are very appealing, and if you are lean enough, that could be the difference between having a big chest and picture-perfect pecs.
Remember, though, that muscle shape is primarily determined by genetics, and some people naturally have better pec separation than others. Some lucky lifters may never need to train for increased inner pec development.
But, before you start blaming your genes for your flat mono-chest, try this workout to see just what you are capable of. After all, you won’t know unless you try!