Fenix Fitness Hero Muscle of the Month – Pectoralis (The Pecs)

The reasons for training the Pectoralis muscles are different for everyone. Still, for both men and women, a developed Chest is one of the most universally acknowledged components of a complete, well-built physique.

For females, although not typically high up on the list of areas one would first like to improve, Chest training should be included for overall fitness and function. However, chances are you’ve been reluctant to train your Chest because someone told you it would negatively affect your breast size or that you’ll end up with a “masculine” physique (Spoiler: it doesn’t and won’t, read on below to find out why).

For males, a developed Chest builds out the upper body, defines a great shape, and is a strength centre used in everything from sports to daily living.

So if you’re new to the training game or a seasoned gym-goer wondering why you haven’t been able to get your Chest development where you want it to be, we’re here to help. Read on to find out all about the Pecs.

For men and women well defined pecs can help balance the body

Let’s look at 3 main aspects to this month’s Hero Muscle; the Pectoralis muscles – colloquially called as “the Pecs” or “the Chest”:

  1. Chest anatomy and workouts to use for greater results
  2. Chest training health benefits beyond the gym floor, and;
  3. Common misconceptions for all, including specific gender-based ones

1. Chest Anatomy and workouts to use for great results

Let’s start with the basics. The area we are looking at consists of two main muscle groups; the Pectoralis Major which is the main visible Chest muscle, and the Pectoralis Minor which sits underneath it.

So many believe that training the Chest is simply “training the Chest”. That’s not correct because there are many nuances to consider that improve your results. Firstly, the Pectoralis Minor’s primary roles include various shoulder movements and stabilisation of the shoulder blade, and plays a role in breathing in.

As the Pectoralis Minor lies underneath the Perctoralis Major, when it comes to Chest training, it’s best to focus our selection of exercises around the structure and function of the Pectoralis Major.

The truth is, the Pectoralis Major is not simply one big muscle, but consists of two major sections or ‘heads’:

  • The Clavicular head
  • The Sternocostal head

“Why does this matter?”, you rightly ask.

Well, because the muscle fibres of each of these two heads run at different angles across your body. To get the best results, each head needs to be exercised specifically for its own unique angle of orientation of those muscle fibres on your body.

For example, while a standard flat bench press is an excellent exercise for your Chest, it only targets one specific region of the Pectoralis Major – namely the sternocostal head.

If you want to maximise your chest development and your body’s full functional capabilities, you need to include exercises from three main categories to provide complete Chest training. Horizontal movements that target the whole Chest, incline movements that bias mostly the clavicular or upper chest fibres, and isolation movements that target the costal or lower chest areas.

Let’s turn this understanding of anatomy to our advantage.

Horizontal Movements

These are your first, go-to exercises to target your whole Chest because of the large volume of muscle fibres that will be involved. The fibres that mostly run perpendicular to the centre-line of your body will be best trained by movements that involve your upper arm moving horizontally toward the midline of your body.

Exercises such as:

  • Flat Bench Press (barbell and dumbbell variations)
  • Machine Chest Press
  • Horizontal Chest Flys
  • Push-ups

Incline Movements

Many males have an under-developed upper Chest. We need to target this upper area of the Pecs to increase pressing and lifting strength and control and to also give this important area a full and aesthetically pleasing look.

To specifically target the clavicular (upper chest) region, make sure to include incline press movements or exercises that involve your upper arm moving from a low to high in a diagonal path, inwards toward and across your body.

Exercises such as:

  • Incline Bench Press (barbell and dumbbell variations)
  • Incline Machine Chest Press
  • Low-to-High Cable Flys
  • Decline Push-ups
Inclined Bench Press

Isolation Movements

Although most of your Chest training should focus on exercises from the above two categories, isolation movements are useful to maximise Chest development and strength. For example, the muscle fibres that run at a descending angle from your shoulder down to the centre of your body are best targeted by movements that follow the direction of those muscle fibres.

Exercises that do this include:

  • Decline Bench Press (barbell and dumbbell variations)
  • Decline Machine Chest Press
  • Dips (assisted, bodyweight or weighted)
  • High-to-Lower Cable Flys
High-to-Low Cable Flys
The TL;DR is:   Your Pecs are not one big muscle. There are two – Pectoralis Minor and Major. The visible Pectoralis Major is made up of two main sections; the Clavicular head and the Sternocostal head. Understanding that anatomy and selecting exercises around horizontal, incline and isolation movements create the best results in developing a strong, well-formed Chest.

2. Chest Training Health Benefits: beyond the gym floor

Aesthetic benefits aside, there are important health and well-being benefits to training your Pectoralis Major and Minor:

  • Strength: Training your Chest will increase your upper body strength especially for movements that require lifting or pressing, such as pushing your body up off the floor, getting out of a swimming pool without the stairs, pushing a heavy door open or pulling it closed. Women especially benefit from the substantial improvements in upper body strength that Chest training can deliver.
  • Posture: Many of us spend a lot of time working at a desk, all too often in a hunched over, round-shouldered position. This poor posture often leads to the Pecs tightening up, pulling your shoulders further forward and causing mobility problems. Proper Chest training will restore proper function to these important muscles through movement and through stretching them when they are under load.
The TL;DR is:   Don’t overlook the health benefits to well-trained Pectoral muscles. Beyond the aesthetic appeal, proper and consistent training will significantly benefit your upper body strength and your posture, making everyday life activities a lot easier and safer for you.

3. Common Misconceptions: Truths you need to know

To complete our review of the Pecs, let’s look at the most common misconceptions about our Hero Muscle of the Month.

Myth for the Ladies: Breast Reduction

Contrary to popular belief, building your Pectoral muscles does not make your breasts smaller. In fact, because the Pecs underlie and support your breast tissue, well developed Pecs can uplift your breasts improving their appearance.

This concern amongst women stems from a misunderstanding that training your Chest muscles might lead to fat-loss in the one area of your body you don’t want to lose fat from – your breasts. The truth is that work-outs can not deliver spot reduction to any specific point on our bodies and we only lose fat by modifying our nutrition against the amount of exercise we get.

As one gets older, the Pecs which support one’s breasts are often underused or neglected. When this happens, they can atrophy which reduces the support to the breasts which can then appear to sag or lose their shape.

Women are particularly at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis (weakening of the bones) which can be prevented through weight training.

Myth for the Gentlemen: Lift Big to Get Big

Most men have probably dreamed at some point in their lives about what it would be like to have a Chest like Superman, that strains the seams of one’s shirt and which one can puff out with pride. Right?

The trouble is, so many men have gone about trying to get that Chest the wrong way by lifting weights that were far too heavy, compromising their range of motion and leading to poor technique. This is not just counterproductive against building your chest. In the long run, it can result in joint pains, muscular imbalance and serious injuries.

A common misconception, usually drive by ego, is that lifting heavier weights is better for muscle growth. Yes, progressive overload (through gradually increasing the weight, frequency or number of repetitions of an exercise) does lead to more gains, but the primary driver for these gains is tension placed on these muscles at the correct angles and using the appropriate technique and maintaining the right form.

The solution is simple, but requires the right approach:

  • Include horizontal, incline and some isolation movements in your workout program.
  • Avoid swapping out movements too often. Instead, focus on improving your technique and allow enough time to make steady progress.
  • Rather than exclusively focusing on lifting heavy weights, execute movements with full range of motion and proper technique to apply the right degree and angle of stimulus.
  • If you are always training to failure, it will hold you back from making the progress you desire and will probably result in injury. For the most part, leaving 2-3 reps in the tank (and at times pushing a little harder) will produce the best results for you.
The TL;DR is:   Some misconceptions may be holding you back. For Ladies, exercising your Pecs does not negatively impact your breast shape or size. Rather, it can improve their shape and counteract the effects of ageing by strengthening these underlying muscles which support & lift the breasts.   For Men, don’t be fooled into thinking that lifting heavier weights is the answer. Keep that ego in check and focus on movements that are based on the Chest anatomy, be consistent with your exercises, prioritise proper technique and train at the right intensity and loads. These factors will be the formula for a better looking, stronger and better functioning Chest.

Reach out to our Experts for the best results!

There is a lot to be gained by developing your Chest, from daily strength, general health and function or pleasing muscular aesthetics. There is no need to be shy about aspiring for a more attractive and stronger Chest. At FENIX, we are here to help with your Pecs and so much more.

Now that you know more about the importance of your Pecs and what it takes to develop them, reach out and we’ll teach you how. Our FENIX Expert Coaches use proven, evidence-based methods to guide you to healthy Pectoralis Perfection, safely and sustainably.

If you are ready to start your transformation, book a free consultation with a free state-of-the art non-invasive Fit3D body composition scan now!

This article was contributed by Co-Founders of FENIX; Tom Imanishi and Rohit Raj, and Nick Langton, winner of Manhunt Singapore 2018 and Best Model Singapore (Male).

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