To get a well-defined chest, you need to do lower chest training that focuses on sculpting and strengthening the lower part of your pecs where your chest meets the top of your abs.
But what are the best lower chest exercises? Is there an ideal lower pec workout? How should you structure a lower chest workout for strength and hypertrophy?
In this article, we will discuss how to work the lower chest muscles to increase strength, size, and definition and provide step-by-step instructions for the best lower chest exercises to add to your lower chest workouts:
Let’s dive in!
How to Target and Strengthen the Lower Chest
The primary muscles of the chest are the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor1Solari, F., & Burns, B. (2020). Anatomy, Thorax, Pectoralis Major Major. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525991/.
The bilateral pectoralis major are fan-shaped muscles that have two heads or attachment points. The clavicular head attaches along the clavicle, and the sternal head attaches to the sternum, which is the breast bone.
How can you train the lower chest?
If you are a lifter who wants to build muscle in the lower pec, you want to primarily isolate the sternal head of the pecs.
The best way to do this is to perform lower chest exercises that change the angle2Lauver, J. D., Cayot, T. E., & Scheuermann, B. W. (2015). Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. European Journal of Sport Science, 16(3), 309–316. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605of pressing or pushing towards the lower region of your chest.
This can be achieved by using a decline bench or leaning forward rather than upright when performing exercises such as dips, push-ups, and pushdowns.
For lower chest workouts for strength gains, aim for 2-6 sets, 3-5 reps, and at least 85% of your one-repetition maximum (1RM) for the load. 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.
The Ultimate Lower Chest Workout
Here are some of the best lower chest exercises to add to your lower chest workout routine:
#1: Decline Chest Press
The flat and incline bench dumbbell chest press exercises tend to be more popular than the decline dumbbell bench press, but it is still a great exercise to add to any chest workout with dumbbells.
In the decline bench position, you will target your lower chest, helping sculpt the lower border of your pecs where your chest meets your abs.
How to perform decline dumbbell press?
Here are the steps for how to perform this lower chest exercise:
- Set up a weight bench at a decline of about 30°. Do not go more than this3Rodríguez-Ridao, D., Antequera-Vique, J. A., Martín-Fuentes, I., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(19), 7339. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197339
- Then, perform the standard dumbbell chest press or barbell bench press exercise, focusing on using the lower chest muscles as much as possible.
Note that you should sit up in between sets of this exercise to prevent too much blood pooling in your head. When you do sit up, do so slowly before getting up from the bench.
#2: Decline Dumbbell Chest Fly
As with the decline chest press, you can also perform the decline dumbbell chest fly to target the lower portion of the chest.
Use the same 30° decline bench angle for this exercise.
The path of the dumbbells should be just below the level of your chest or the tip of your sternum.
There is no need to do chest flyes with heavy weights due to the strain on the shoulder joint. Be sure to squeeze those pectoral muscles during adduction!
You can add dips to your lower chest workouts and make it an even more effective exercise for lower chest muscle fibers specifically by angling your body forward while you perform the exercise.
The one caveat here is that a forward torso lean when performing parallel bar dips places quite a bit of strain on the front of your shoulders, so if you deal with acute or chronic shoulder injuries or have shoulder instability, this is probably not the best lower chest exercise to incorporate into your workout routine.
If you still want to do chest dips but have a shoulder injury, contact a personal trainer. It is a great exercise to supplement a chest workout with compound muscle activation. You can try reducing the range of motion or use a machine assist to support some of your bodyweight.
Here are the steps for performing this exercise for lower chest muscles:
- Grip the dip bars with a neutral grip, palms facing one another, and press yourself upwards until your elbows are fully locked out.
- Once you are up at the top position, start the exercise by leaning forward with your torso by hinging at your hips. Do not round your back or hunch from the back.
- Slowly lower your body down until your elbows are bent 90°, remembering to keep that forward torso lean to target your lower chest. You should feel your shoulder blades contracting.
- Pause and hold the lowered position. Squeeze your lower pecs and triceps as you lift your body back up.
#4: Jackhammer Pushdown
Standard pushdowns primarily target the triceps, but you can modify this exercise for your lower chest workouts.
The jackhammer pushdown exercise moves your elbows outwards and has you angle your torso forward to target your lower chest muscles and reduce the involvement of the triceps.
Ultimately, this makes the jackhammer pulldown an effective lower chest exercise, and the constant tension provided by the cables makes this one of the best lower chest hypertrophy exercises.
Here are the steps for how to perform this lower chest workout exercise:
- Attach the short straight bar handle onto the cable pulley machine on a high setting as if performing a standard triceps pushdown.
- Stand facing the machine about one foot back.
- Keeping your legs firmly planted and vertical, hinge forward slightly at the hips so that your torso is leaning in towards the cable.
- Grip the handle with an overhand grip, palms facing down, with your elbows flared out wide to the sides. This elbow position will be different than you would use in a standard triceps pushdown.
- As you perform the pushdown and extend your elbows, allow them to come inward.
- Pause at the bottom of the hold when your elbows are fully locked out. Think about squeezing your lower pec muscle fibers.
- Slowly return to the starting position, resisting the fall of the weight stack on the cable, as you allow your elbows to flare back out.
#5: Dumbbell Hip Extension Floor Press
One of the best exercises to add to your lower chest workouts when you don’t have a decline bench is the dumbbell hip extension floor press.
This exercise essentially allows you to simulate the body positioning of using a decline bench4Coratella, G., Tornatore, G., Longo, S., Esposito, F., & Cè, E. (2019). Specific prime movers’ excitation during free-weight bench press variations and chest press machine in competitive bodybuilders. European Journal of Sport Science, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2019.1655101 by performing the movement while holding a glute bridge.
As such, not only is this a great lower chest exercise, but it will also improve your glute strength and hip stability.
Here are the steps for performing this exercise:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, holding a dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing one another.
- Position your elbows away from your torso as you press through your feet to lift your hips up into a strong glute bridge position. Your hips should be in line with your body from your knees down to your shoulders.
- Once you are in the bridge position, press the dumbbells straight up as if performing a chest press until your elbows are fully extended.
- Slowly drop the weights down towards your armpits until just before your elbows make contact with the floor.
- Pause for several seconds without allowing your elbows to fully touch down before pressing back up for the next rep.
#6: Stability Ball Push-Up
Decline push-ups target the lower chest and give you more gravity to contend with. Placing your feet on a stability ball further activates your core because the foundation is unstable.
It is a great workout for the anterior delts, too.
Here are the steps:
- Get in a push-up position with arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet up on a stability ball. Beginners can put their ankles and shins on the ball. However, if you are strong enough, roll out to your toes.
- Keeping your hips in line with your body, bend your elbows to lower your chest towards the floor.
- Pause when your sternum is hovering over the ground.
- Press through your feet to straighten your elbows again.
#7: High Cable Fly
The high cable fly is one of the best lower chest exercises because you can control the path of motion of the cables to target your lower pecs. The cable machine is a great tool for targeting your upper body, in particular, upper chest exercises and upper back exercises.
Here are the steps for how to perform this lower pec workout exercise:
- Set the handles on a dual cable station at the highest level and use a staggered stance.
- When performing this exercise in your lower chest workouts, you want to lean forward with your torso and allow a bend in your elbows to better isolate the lower chest.
- Keeping just a very slight bend in your elbows, sweep your arms down and across to the front of your body so that they meet in the middle, straight out in front of your chest.
- Pause and squeeze the end position for several seconds, focusing on contracting your pecs.
- 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.
Cable crossovers are a great exercise on the cable machine, too.
If you enjoyed this article and want to know more, check out: What are effective lower chest exercises without equipment?
- 3Rodríguez-Ridao, D., Antequera-Vique, J. A., Martín-Fuentes, I., & Muyor, J. M. (2020). Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(19), 7339. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17197339