Best Inner Chest Workout For Powerful Pecs

12 min read
a man is performing barbell press, inner chest workout
David J. Sautter post Reviewer
The article is verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist, BA in Professional Writing

Build your inner chest workout using the best exercises for sculpted pecs. Achieve a stronger chest and powerful upper body now!

Table of Contents

Besides the obvious aesthetics, building a strong chest is vital to improving posture while making it easier to perform rotational, lateral, and vertical movements. Well-developed chest muscles can also offer support to other muscle groups in the body.

In this article, we are going to take a look at chest anatomy, focusing on the inner chest muscles and how to build a strong and sculpted chest using the best movements and most effective chest-building workouts. 

The Anatomy of the Chest Muscles

There are three muscles that make up the chest area:

Chest muscle anatomy is shown on a male model, Pectoralis Major, Pectoralis Minor, Serratus Anterior, inner chest workout

Pectoralis Major

The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle that is the most superficial, which means it’s the most visible. The function of the pectoralis major is to adduct or move the arm toward the centerline of the body and medially rotate the arm.

Pectoralis Minor

Underneath the pectoralis major lies the pectoralis minor. The primary function of the pectoralis minor is to stabilize the shoulder blade.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior is a crucial stabilizer muscle that lies deep underneath the shoulder blade and the pectoral muscles. 

The primary function of the serratus anterior is to stabilize the shoulder blades against the rib cage during movement. Along with supporting proper shoulder blade function, the serratus anterior helps to lift the rib cage and support breathing. 

This muscle is also known as the boxer’s muscle since it allows for protraction of the scapula, which happens when throwing a punch.

Is It Possible to Isolate the Inner Chest Muscle?

The main reason people try to target their inner chest muscles is to highlight pec separation at the sternum. The goal is to develop two visibly distinct pectoralis major muscles. 

There’s good news and bad news concerning that endeavor.

Technically speaking, it is impossible to completely isolate the inner chest because all the above muscles work synergistically to press, rotate, and move the arms toward the body’s centerline during exercise. 

During exercises such as push-ups or flyes, several muscles work together to complete the movements. Whether you want to or not, you’re training the inner, middle, and upper chest with those exercises. Unfortunately, you can’t choose which muscles to turn on or off. 

However, it is possible to select some essential exercises that work the inner chest muscles more aggressively. Close-grip push-ups and plate press variations are prime examples. 

The best inner chest-building exercises and workouts will train all the chest muscles. 

The goal is to have as many muscle fibers contract during each exercise as possible. The best chest development will occur using various angles, incorporating incline, flat, and decline movements using different rep ranges and tempos. 

The tempo of a move can also influence pec development greatly, as slowing down the movement’s lowering phase (eccentric phase) increases the time under tension.

8 Exercises to Build Your Inner Pecs

While it’s not possible to totally isolate the inner chest muscles, you can choose exercises that target the area more than other muscles. Here are 8 exercises to build your inner pecs and get that much-wanted pec separation.

#1: Dumbbell Flyes

One of the most popular inner chest-building exercises is dumbbell flyes. While this exercise is considered basic and relatively simple, it can be challenging to control if you have yet to perform it. Few other exercises will build the pecs like flyes. 

Technique

  • Lie flat on the bench with arms extended overhead. 
  • Slowly open up the chest and allow the dumbbells to move to the sides. 
  • This motion will resemble a “hugging” movement. 
  • Lower the weight until a stretch is felt in the chest and near the armpits. This will be at or just below chest level.
  • Reverse the action back to the top position.

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions

Pro Tips

  • Start with light weight to encourage control and learn the movement. 
  • Lower down slowly!
  • Keep a slight bend in the elbows.

#2: Close Grip Push-Up

Push-ups are one of the most resourceful chest-building exercises. The close grip push-up emphasizes the inner chest muscles more than wider variations.

Technique

  • Get into a high plank position with elbows straight and palms spaced inside the shoulders.
  • Lower yourself to the floor slowly, keeping the elbows two inches away from the rib cage.
  • Press up to the top with power!

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions per side

Pro Tips

  • Prolong the lowering phase to 3-to-5 seconds to take advantage of the muscle-building benefits of time under tension.
  • Add weight to increase the difficulty using barbell weight plates or a weight vest.

Related article: How Many Push-ups Should You Do a Day to See Results?

#3: Kneeling Landmine Angled Press

The kneeling landmine angled press is a unique exercise that uses a barbell and weight plates. The angle of the press is what makes this exercise different from other pressing variations. The barbell travels at a 45-degree angle, both upward and forward.

Technique

  • Use a landmine attachment or position the barbell securely in the corner of the room.
  • Get into a half kneeling position, with the front knee up and the back knee down. 
  • Starting with the barbell at chest height, press the free end upward/forward until the elbow is fully extended. 
  • Slowly lower back to the starting position. 

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 8 repetitions per side

Pro Tips

  • Start light and get a feel for the mind-to-muscle connection of this exercise!
  • Feel free to add smaller weight plates until you feel like you’re barely able to complete the last two reps of a set. 
  • If you don’t have access to a landmine attachment, wrap the anchored end of the barbell in an old shirt or towel to protect the wall.

#4: Incline Dumbbell Press

By positioning the upper body at a 30-to-45-degree angle, the training stimulus is directed at the upper pecs. Changing body position yet still keeping the pressing motion vertical does wonders for working different areas of the chest. 

Technique

  • Set the weight bench to a 45-degree angle.
  • Starting with the dumbbells at the armpits, press vertically until the elbows are straight. 
  • Pause for a second, followed by a controlled lowering until the dumbbells make light contact with the armpits again. 

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Pro Tips

  • Select a weight you can press for two extra repetitions. For example, if the set calls for eight reps, you should be able to complete 10 reps, if needed.
  • Slow down during the lowering phase of the movement. 

#5: Plate Press

The plate press is a resourceful and simple exercise to learn. Plate presses train the entire chest muscles. This space-efficient exercise uses barbell weight plates as load (without the barbell), and it can be used for higher repetitions with light weight, or a heavier load with fewer reps when plates are stacked.

Technique

  • Lying flat on the bench, position a weight plate on the chest with hands gripping either side. 
  • Press the plate vertically until the elbows are extended. 
  • Lower back down until the plate lightly touches the chest.
  • Rinse and repeat. 

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 12-15+ repetitions

Pro Tips

  • Select either a 25-pound or 45-pound weight plate to start. 
  • If the weight is too light, add more plates to increase the loading.
  • Aim for higher reps to fatigue the chest muscles thoroughly. 
  • If stacking plates, be careful to maintain control of the weight. 

#6: Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

During the decline dumbbell bench press, the bench is set to a 30-to-45-degree downward decline, but the motion of the press remains vertical. The decline bench press variation, no matter what gym equipment you use, is fantastic for building lower pecs.

Technique

  • Position the weight bench at a 30-to-45-degree decline. 
  • Starting with the dumbbells at the armpits, press vertically until the elbows are straight. 
  • Pause for a second, followed by a controlled lowering until the dumbbells make light contact with the armpits again.

Sets/Reps

  • 3 sets of 8 repetitions

Pro Tips

  • Pressing from a decline position can be disorienting initially; start with light weight to get used to the movement. 
  • Changing the angle of the weight bench shifts the work to the lower pecs.

#7: Chest Dips

Dips are a vertical upper-body pressing exercise that delivers a potent training stimulus to the pectoralis minor, anterior deltoid, triceps, and rhomboids.

Technique:

  • Place your hands on parallel bars and straighten the arms while supporting your body weight. 
  • Slowly bend the elbows and lower your body until the elbows reach 90 degrees or below. 
  • Press back to the top until the elbows are straight. 

Reps:

  • 3 sets of 6-8 reps

Pro Tips:

  • Use your legs for assistance if needed. 
  • The dips work best using an extensive range of motion.

#8: Plate Pinch/Svend Press

The Svend Press is a deceivingly challenging chest isolation exercise that requires very little weight to create a stimulus. Squeezing together a couple of 5- or 10-pound weight plates with subtle arm movement is enough to light your chest on fire!

Technique:

  • Starting at chest height, take two 5-pound plates and pinch them together with both hands.
  • With shoulders pulled down and back, slowly push the plates out in front of the body, squeezing the hands together hard. 
  • Press upward and inward.
  • Pull the hands back in until the plates are against the chest, resetting for the next effort.

Sets/Reps:

  • 3 sets of 10-15 reps

Pro Tips:

  • A fantastic exercise to build the chest without overstressing the arms.
  • Start light!
  • Move slowly out and in.

Avoiding Injury During Chest Workouts

There are two simple strategies to ensure safety while attacking chest workouts:

Select the Right Exercises

Selecting exercises that move you closer to goals yet are appropriate for your current fitness level is critical. 

If the movement is too advanced, you’ll lack control and put yourself at risk for injury. On the flip side, if the exercise is too easy, you’ll need more stimulus to make noticeable gains. 

Experimenting with exercise selection will help identify the best exercises for building chest strength and muscle.

Use a Manageable Load

Assuming the chest exercise calls for external loading using a dumbbell, barbell, weight plate, etc., choose a manageable weight you can control through a full range of motion for the prescribed repetitions and the tempo. 

By using a challenging yet manageable weight, you avoid resorting to compensatory movements when the exercise gets difficult.

During challenging work sets, it’s common to resort to poor form to hit the targeted reps. Poor technique can result in unnecessary tweaks and strains.

Lastly, mitigating the chance of injury during any chest exercise begins and ends with offsetting pushing movements with an adequate ratio of pulling movements

Exercises like rows are essential to keep the body in balance. If you become too fixated on training the chest at the expense of bodily balance, posture can degrade as the chest muscles overpower the back muscles.

Inner Chest Workout for Sculpted Pecs

Designing an inner chest workout that’s effective for improving strength and adding aesthetic muscle is simple if you follow a solid recipe and stay consistent. The workout below leverages several chest-building exercises and incorporates active rest. 

This upper body workout can be completed once a week as an alternative to your existing chest workout routine. 

This workout uses tri-sets. That is when you have three exercises that you complete back-to-back-to-back with no rest (or very minimal rest) in between. Once you complete the reps for each of the three exercises, you’ve completed one tri-set.

Inner Chest Tri-Set Workout

Complete 3 sets of Tri-Set A and B below. Start with the A exercises, and once you finish three sets, you can move on to the B exercises to perform three sets.

A1) Close Grip Push-Ups x8 (3 to 5 seconds during eccentric lowering)

A1) Kneeling Landmine Angled Press x8

Core 1) Ab Wheel Rollouts x8

B1) Chest Dips x8

B2) Dumbbell Flyes x8-10

Core 2) Svend Press x6 

Finisher: 3 sets of Plate Press for max repetitions (go until muscle failure)

Inner Chest Workout With Dumbbells

Dumbbells allow you to perform some of the best chest-building exercises, such as flyes and pressing exercises at different angles (incline, decline, flat). 

The workout below is simple yet brutally effective. We’ll include three exercises to light up the chest muscles, using smart loading and specific rep schemes. 

The lowering phase of each exercise is slow and controlled to accumulate time under tension. The “lift” portion is designed to be explosive, moving the weight as fast as possible. 

Dumbbell Chest Workout

ExerciseIncline Dumbbell PressDumbbell FlyesDumbbell Decline Bench Press
Sets535
Reps8-108-108-10
TempoLower: 3 sec
Bottom: 1-sec pause
Lift: Explosive
Lower: 3 sec
Bottom: 1-sec pause
Lift: Explosive
Lower: 3 sec
Bottom: 1-sec pause
Lift: Explosive
RestMinimal RestMinimal RestMinimal Rest

Perform this workout once a week and never more than twice. After creating a stimulus, it’s critical to allow the body a chance to recover from the stress of the workout. Adequate recovery will enable you to hit the next workout harder, making progressive gains over time. 

Final Words

Building a muscular chest is straightforward as long as you leverage effective exercise variations, appropriately challenging weights, controlled tempo, and enough reps to maximize the training stimulus.

Proper rest in between workouts is critical to avoid overtraining and allow your body a chance to repair and rebuild itself.

Selecting exercises that target the inner chest most effectively is simply a matter of understanding the movements that involve the pec major/minor and serratus anterior the most. 

Ironically, the best exercises equally target the upper, lower, and inner chest muscles. Remember, muscular chest muscles extend beyond visual appeal; they contribute to posture and performance. 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!



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