The Ultimate Inner Chest Workout: 6 Inner Chest Exercises To Build Strength

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The chest is one of the big lift days when it comes to body part split routines.

While your chest workouts might work your entire chest, if you are interested in maximizing your strength gains and physique, you might want to further devote specific attention to doing an inner chest workout and middle chest workout.

But, what are the best inner chest exercises? What are the best middle chest exercises? What should workouts for mid chest muscles entail?

In this article, we will discuss how to program an inner chest workout and a middle chest workout, and will provide step-by-step instructions for the following inner chest exercises and middle chest exercises:

Dumbbell push up.

Let’s dive in! 

The Ultimate Inner Chest Workout

For strength gains, aim for 2-6 reps, 3-5 sets, and at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load for each exercise. The fewer reps you perform, the closer to 100% of your 1RM you should strive for.

The recommendations for hypertrophy (muscle growth) are to perform three sets of each exercise, using loads that are 70 to 85% of your 1RM for 8 to 12 reps.

#1: Dumbbell Chest Presses

Any solid workouts for mid chest rely on pressing exercises such as the barbell bench press. 

While the barbell bench press is great for mass and strength gains because the bilateral nature allows you to really load up the barbell with a lot of weight, if you want to work all of the muscle fibers in your pecs as evenly as possible, it is best to use dumbbells. 

The lack of stability will recruit additional muscle fibers to increase the effectiveness of your middle chest exercise.

Plus, the dumbbell chest press is easier for beginners to learn and master and potentially safer than trying the barbell bench press in your mid chest workouts.

Here are the steps:

  1. Lie on your back on a weight bench with your knees bent to 90 degrees and feet flat on the floor.
  2. Grip the dumbbells so that your palms are facing away from your body, and bring each one into a chest press position such that your fist is hovering roughly over the armpit on that side. Note that to make this more of an inner chest exercise, bring your hands closer together, and to make it a middle chest exercise, your hands should be roughly shoulder-width apart. 
  3. Exhale as you press the dumbbell straight up into the air above your body.
  4. Inhale as you slowly lower them back down to your chest without fully touching them down.

#2: Deep Weighted Push-Ups

One of the best exercises for inner chest and middle chest workouts is the push-up. This classic bodyweight pressing exercise works the pecs and triceps, along with the core, shoulders, and upper back.

You can increase the effectiveness of the bodyweight exercise by increasing the load (adding resistance) and increasing the range of motion.

This can be accomplished by wearing a weighted vest and performing the pushups with your hands up on yoga blocks, push-up handles, or hex dumbbells so you can go deeper in the exercise.

Here are the steps for this chest strengthening exercise:

  1. Grab onto the push-up handles or handles of hex dumbbells and plant them on the ground slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your palms facing one another. 
  2. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to just above the ground so that you’re sinking lower than you would be able to if your hands were flat on the ground.
  3. Press through your hands to raise your body back up until your elbows are extended but not fully locked out.
  4. Complete as many reps as possible.

#3: Incline Dumbbell Presses

This is a great middle chest exercise and inner chest exercise.

Although you can use any type of dumbbells, hex dumbbells or urethane dumbbells with a flat surface on the side are best.

This is because you want to be able to press the dumbbells together as hard as possible throughout the duration of the exercise. The sustained isometric contraction requires squeezing your inner pecs, which maximizes your time under tension.

Plus, the inward-directed squeeze really targets the middle and inner fibers of your pecs, making this a powerful sculptor to include in your inner chest workouts.

The inclined position also targets your upper chest, shoulders, and triceps.

Here is how to perform this inner chest exercise:

  1. Adjust the incline of the weight bench until the back is somewhere between 30 and 45° relative to the floor.
  2. Sit back on the bench, holding a dumbbell in each hand using an underhand grip so that your palms are facing the ceiling.
  3. Squeeze your pecs to press the dumbbells together as if trying to fuse them into a single barbell. Maintain this pressure throughout the duration of the exercise. 
  4. Explosively press the dumbbells up overhead straight up from your chest toward the ceiling and then slowly lower them back down.

#4: High-to-Low Cable Flyes

This is one of the best inner chest exercises and should be a staple move when you are trying to put together the best inner chest workout for strength and mass.

This move is also a good middle chest exercise, but because of the angle of pull up to the high position, you have a great opportunity to really squeeze your inner pecs at the end range of motion to target your inner chest.

Here are the steps for this inner chest exercise:

  1. Set the handles on a dual cable station just above shoulder height.
  2. Grab a handle with each hand, with your thumbs pointing upward as you make a fist. 
  3. Step into the center of the functional trainer or cable machine so that there is tension on both cables, lifting the weight stack. 
  4. Stagger your legs so that 1 foot is in front of the other. This is your starting position. There should be tension on the cables throughout the duration of your set.
  5. Keeping just a very slight bend in your elbows, sweep your arms relatively parallel to the floor but dip down slightly as they come across the front of your body and meet in the middle straight out in front of your chest.
  6. Pause and squeeze the end position for several seconds, focusing on contracting the inner portion of your pecs.
  7. Slowly return to the starting position, resisting the pull of the cables to control the movement yourself to maximize the eccentric strengthening phase of the exercise.

#5: Hex Presses

Similar to the incline chest press, where you are squeezing the two dumbbells together as you press upward, the hex press is a fantastic inner chest exercise that utilizes the pressing motion coupled with an isometric squeeze throughout the duration of the movement.

This makes it one of the best exercises for inner chest strength and mass gains.

However, for this inner chest exercise, you will want to use hex dumbbells specifically because you will press the dumbbells together along their long sides rather than end to end. It is easier to have the flat surface of the hex shape so that the weights can be squeezed together.

Here are the steps for this inner chest exercise:

  1. Lie flat on the weight bench holding a hex dumbbell in each hand with your arms extended straight up over your chest.
  2. Rotate your hands so that your palms are facing one another, lining up the dumbbells so that the flat side of the end cap weight on each dumbbell matches up.
  3. Press the dumbbells into one another and maintain this isometric squeeze for the duration of the exercise.
  4. Bend your elbows to lower the weights down to your sternum, and then press explosively upward to straighten your arms back up until they are locked out above your chest.

#6: Plate Presses

Sometimes called the Svend press, this is a good strengthening exercise for inner chest workouts and middle chest workouts. It also strengthens your shoulders and can improve grip strength.

You can perform the exercise with a single weight plate or with a dumbbell.

Here is how to do this exercise:

  1. Stand upright with good posture and your core and glutes engaged.
  2. Squeeze a weight plate between your two hands so that your palms are flat along either side of the plate, or hold a dumbbell vertically and stack your two hands on the handle.
  3. Begin with the weight in at your sternum and then press straight outward, holding the end position with your elbows locked out for several seconds before slowly bending your elbows to return to the starting position. 
  4. Make sure to keep the weight parallel to the floor. Do not let the load cause your arms to dip downward.

There you are, an inner chest workout you can try out on your next trip to the gym.

If you don’t have time to make it to the gym but still want to get a workout in, check out a no-equipment chest workout here.

A plate extension.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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