Upper And Lower Pec Exercises

Upper Pec And Lower Pec Chest Exercises For Mass

Bodybuilder Upper Pec and Lower Pec

So what exercises work lower pecs and which work upper pecs. My standard answer to beginners is not to worry about it and just do a good all-around chest workout. But since you REALLY want to know, lets talk about it.   First thing to notice is that the upper pec is really small compared to the lower pec and the thing this immediately tells you is that for chest mass, you want to work the lower pecs.

The pec major is one muscle but it attaches at different points which leads to the upper and lower pecs. The part of the pec major that attaches at the collarbone is the upper pec and the part of the pec major that attaches to the sternum is the lower pecs. I’m completely ignoring the pec minor muscle in this discussion.

Upper Pec - Collarbone to ArmLower Pec - Sternum to Arm

Now there are three basic types of chest exercises:

  • Those where you exercise in the plane perpendicular to your body, that is, as your elbows move closer together their relative position between your head and feet doesn’t change.  Exercises like dumbbell flys and bench press are this type.
  • Those exercises where your elbows move upward toward your head as they get closer together.  Exercises like incline dumbbell press are of this type
  • Those exercises where your elbows move downward toward your feet as they get closer together. A decline press is a typical example of this.

So, which of these types of exercises is going to work out upper pecs and which is going to workout lower pecs.  Lets do some visualizing here.  Lets look at the upper pec again:

Upper Pec - Collarbone to Arm

Imagine the upper pec muscle here flexed and contracted, which way would that move the arm?  Up and toward the head!  So any exercise where your elbows move up toward your head as they get closer together will workout your upper chest.  Here are some exercises that do precisely this to work upper pecs:

  • incline dumbbell press
  • incline barbell press
  • incline fly
  • military press (if using backrest)
  • dumbbell shoulder press (if using backrest)
  • low cables
  • pushups with feet raised

So you work upper pec when you do an incline type motion, now lets look at what happens when you do a neutral motion like a bench press or a downward angle like in a decline press.
Lower Pec - Sternum to Arm

See how in the diagram of the lower pec above, the lower pec really fans out over quite an angle? Now imagine that the skeleton above is holding the arms out like an airplane ready to take off.  Pretend the bottom half of the green lower pec muscles contracted, what would happen to the arms?  They would pull the hands together down till your hands clapped at the knees.  So a decline motion works the lower part of the lower pec.  Here are the exercises that work the lowest part of the lower pec:

  • decline press
  • decline flys
  • high cables

Now lets look at the above green fan of lower pec muscles again.  The top half of the lower pec is really middle pec, so I’ll call it that.  What happens if your arms were spread out like an airplane and your mid pec contracted, which way would your hands fly?  Directly together without heading toward your head nor heading toward your feet but staying perpendicular to your body.  This is precisely the motion of a dumbbell fly.  So here are the exercises that work the upper part of the lower pec, what I call mid-pec:

  • flat dumbbell fly
  • flat dumbbell press
  • flat bench press
  • mid height cables
  • pushups

Now that you know how to work each part of the pec, please, completely forget about it!  Unless you have been lifting long enough that you are competing regularly in bodybuilding shows you should just be doing a good, well rounded chest workout without focusing on any particular aspect of your chest!!!  Do a workout that hits the chest from every angle in every way.  This is the reason that until now I have hesitated to let people know which exercise works what because I just wanted them to do a well rounded workout.   Alles Klar?  Click here for some great chest workouts.