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Today I would like to talk about the chest muscles. These are the muscles that most men want to grow bigger, right after their arms are bigger! Luckily, the arms and the chest work together, so exercising the chest will exercise the arms.
Just look at those pecs! Huge!
There are four muscles in the pectoralis area: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior, and subclavius. I will discuss each group, where they are located, where they attach, what they do, and how to exercise them for growth.
Let’s get started!
This is the muscle that we want to be huge. Just look at Arnold’s chest! That is the pectoralis major that you see. He had to work very hard to get them to be that big. This muscle is named for its location (pectus is from the Latin for breast) and its size (major comes form the Latin meaning greater than).
The pectoralis major is attached to the inner half of the collar bone, the sternum, and the upper six ribs. From there, the two sections of the pectoralis major come together and insert on the biceptal groove, which is a groove at the top of the humerus (the major upper arm bone).
It is important to note the direction of the fibers. As you can see from the picture, the fibers run across the chest, they go from wide to narrow, and they attach to the arm. This means that the muscle assists the arm in a lot of its motions, including flexing the arm at the shoulder, extending the arm, rotating the arm, and abducting (lifting away from the body) the arm.
It is important to know this, as it will dictate the types of exercises we need to do to extend and contract the pectoralis major.
It is also important to remember that no muscle works in isolation. When we are exercising the pectoralis muscles, we are also using shoulder, back, arm, and core muscles. All these muscles are working together to perform the exercises we are asking them to do.
Some of the exercise that will increase growth of the pectoralis major are presses of various kinds, flies of various kinds, and dips.
More details in a minute.
On to the pectoralis minor!
The pectoralis minor is located behind the pectoralis major in the same area of the chest. As you can see from the diagram, it is attached to different parts of the skeleton than the pectoralis major. It originates on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ribs and extends up to the coracoid process (the top) of the shoulder blade (scapula). The muscle fibers are oriented in an almost vertical, though slightly tilted manner.
The pectoralis minor functions in stabilizing and moving the scapula in all directions. When you contract the muscle, it will pull the scapula forward.
The exercises that you would do for the pectoralis major will also work the pectoralis minor. The difference would be the dip. Again, more of the exercises in a minute.
Now on to the serratus anterior and subclavius.
Serratus Anterior and Subclavius
The serratis anterior is a muscle that originates on ribs 1 through 8 and attaches to the scapula. It functions to pull the scapula forward.
To specifically target this muscle, you could do some shoulder blade contraction against the wall, or some scapular push-ups.
The subclavius is the smallest of the four pectoral muscles. It originates on the first rib and then goes to the clavicle (shoulder blade), inserting into the subclavian groove in the clavicle. When this muscle contracts, it will move the shoulder blade in toward the ribs.
There are no exercises that specifically target this muscle. There are some stretches that you could perform.
All four of the pectoral muscles work together (with many other muscles) to provide fluid movement of the arms, and shoulders. They are all exercised when we perform chest exercises.
Exercises to Build the Chest
As I mentioned before, there are some specific exercises that you can perform to engage your pectoral muscles. If you do these exercises with progressive overload, then the muscles will grow, especially the pectoralis major. Since the pectoralis major is the muscle that is at the surface, it is the muscle in which you will see the most growth. The pectoralis minor, if exercised properly (pectoralis minor dip, for example), will enhance the pectoralis major by pushing it outward in certain poses.
The serratus anterior and the subclavius will be exercised by doing the chest exercise for the other two muscles, the major and the minor. Remember, the serratus anterior and the subclavicus are responsible for moving the scapula and the clavicle toward the rib cage (as well as stabilizing these motions). They will be engaged during all chest exercises.
So, what are the chest exercises? The press and the fly, for the most part. The bench press can be done with a barbell or dumbbells, and can be done flat, declined, or inclined. The press can also be done on a weight machine.
The fly can be done with dumbbells or on a machine.
I have included a chart of chest exercises. It includes barbell, dumbbell, and machine presses and flies. Also included is a dumbbell pullover, push-ups, and dips. Push ups remain one of the most overlooked and easiest exercises to perform for chest growth. And they can be done anywhere, without any equipment. If you vary the angle you hold your body during dips, it will work different part of your chest. You can choose the exercise that you can perform with the equipment you have available.
For myself, one workout, I perform three sets of 15 repetitions of the barbell bench press (choose a weight so that you are finding the last three reps of each set difficult), followed by three sets of fifteen repetitions of the incline dumbbell press (same idea for weight selection). I then do three sets of fifteen repetitions of the dumbbell pullover, as this is a great exercise to transition into my tricep workout which I do on the same day as my chest workout (both chest and tricep muscles are “push” muscles).
The next time I do chest exercises, I do a dumbbell bench press, followed by the barbell decline bench press and then the pullovers. As with the first routine, I do three sets of fifteen repetitions with a weight that causes me to struggle with the last few reps of each set.
These routines always precede my tricep routine.
On days that I am not working chest, I often use push-ups as a warm up exercise.
All there is to know about pectoral muscles. Hardly.
Please remember that I am not an expert in any of this. I am an avid weight-lifter and reader, and I am sharing with you my own ideas and information that has worked for me. That being said, I am sure that as I read and research more, I will change up the exercises and routines that I follow.
Weight lifting is as individual an activity as there is. You need to find the exercises that are comfortable for you and perform them with strict form and proper weight selection to avoid injury.
Also, if you have never lifted weights before (or it was a long time ago), or you feel you are really out of shape, always consult a doctor before beginning.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
Also, if you are a father (or mother) (or anyone for that matter) who would like an easy to follow program that includes a menu and work out information, check out this article from a few months ago.
Thanks for listening.
See you in the next post.
Have a great day!