Tired of lagging pecs? If you feel like you’ve built a back worth noticing, shoulders that command respect, and abs that turn heads but your chest still leaves much to be desired, it’s time to learn some of the best inner chest exercises you can be doing when you hit the gym.
Many guys make the mistake of taking a roundabout method to working their chest. They do a flat bench press, maybe incline it, and then do some fly’s and call it a day.
While all these chest exercises are good for working your pecs, the problem is they aren’t ideal alone. Meaning, you need variety and you must target the pecs from all angles. Plus, the standard bench press exercise actually takes a lot of activation away from the chest due to the hand position on the bar and the nature of the movement. Exercises that utilize a cross body motion and a closer grip are going to be key for making that inner chest pop.
These moves are what will get you over the plateau you’re in and onto seeing gains that will transform your body.
The following nine inner chest exercises are a game changer. Start doing these and then tell me you aren’t seeing better results.
Exercise 1: Close Grip Dumbbell Bench Press
The key with this move is maximum muscle activation. You want to do dumbbell presses slowly and in a very controlled manner, squeeze the chest together when you’re at the top of the movement and then slowly lower the weight back down to the body once you are finished.
This exercise will not deliver results if you just fly through it, so take your time and really feel those muscles working.
Also remember to avoid hyperextending the elbow at the top of the exercise as this will ensure that you aren’t placing extra stress on these joints and taking the tension off the muscles as well.
Do 12-15 reps on this exercise and use a dumbbell that is heavier than 100 if you are quite strong with your chest muscles. If you can’t find dumbbells that go this heavy, you can also use a barbell however place the hands much closer together than you would typically do.
Exercise 2: Pinch Press
A quick exercise to do to help you get that mind-muscle connection right off the start is simply placing your hands together and squeezing as hard as you possibly can. If you do this, with the arms extended, you’ll already feel the chest muscle being activated.
Now, hold the plate in between your hands and do that same squeeze, pressing together as hard as you can as you extend. This is what will deliver you an unreal pump like you’ve never had before.
Note that because of the ability to use such a strong mind-muscle connection with the squeeze, you don’t need to be using a heavy plate. Even a 10 lb. plate should be enough for most guys. The heavier the plate, the more total stress is placed on the shoulders and really, we’re primarily focused on the chest here anyway. You don’t want to do anything that takes focus away from that squeeze.
Exercise 3: Side Cable Press
Because one of the primary roles of the inner chest muscle is adducting and moving the arm across the body, any exercise that has you doing this movement pattern is going to be one that’s great for developing that center chest.
The side cable press helps you do just that. You can either start from a lower position or higher position at the hip while in a seated position.
After you get into the starting position, squeeze the chest and bring the cable across the body, squeezing at the top of the movement for at least 2 seconds. Slow and steady here is also going to ensure you get that pump you’re after
Once one side is worked, switch sides and repeat.
For this one, aim for 30 seconds time under tension using a weight that lets you get that squeeze. Don’t ego lift here – lighter is actually better for maximum development.
Exercise 4: Chest Scissors (Partial Reps)
Partial reps are a fantastic technique to use on the chest because it allows you to keep constant tension on the inner chest muscle in the exact range of motion it’s responsible for.
Grab the cables with the palms facing each other and then alternate between left over right and then right over left. Note that you can either use handles while you do this exercise or just grasp the cable itself and do the exercise from there if you prefer.
This exercise should not be done with a heavy weight as you are simply focusing on the squeeze and mind-muscle activation.
Exercise 5: Dumbbell Squeeze Press (Incline + Decline)
The dumbbell squeeze press will be quite similar to the close grip dumbbell bench press you did at the start of this exercise only this time you’re holding a dumbbell in each hand.
This can be done on both an incline and decline bench so you can adjust the angles in which you’re hitting the muscles with and really focus in on squeezing the hands together.
You’ll want to aim for 10-12 reps per set on this exercise and using a weight that lets you avoid too much muscle recruitment from the shoulders or lower chest muscle.
Exercise 6: Dumbbell Fly Into A Hex Press
The next exercise that’ll make your inner chest pop is a dumbbell fly into a hex press. Dumbbell fly’s are the traditional go-to of the inner chest exercises but this move is made even more intense by adding a hex press into the mix.
I like to do this exercise sequence on an exercise ball to further increase the activation on my chest muscles while also bringing my core into play as well.
You’ll move into a regular dumbbell fly, focusing on squeezing the chest on both the way down as well as the way up and then once you’re in the up position, you’ll bend the elbows as you lower the weight down into the chest, pause and then press up.
Now here’s the key, and I think you know what I’m already going to say here: you want to focus on pressing the hands together when doing that hex press.
This again helps to bring more activation to the inner chest muscle, getting you that time under tension you’re after.
Because of the destabilization factor of the exercise ball and the focus on the squeeze, you aren’t using a heavy weight with this move. Aim for 4 sets of 8-10 total reps.
Exercise 7: Inner Chest Cable Fly
The inner chest cable fly is one that takes a unique approach to the fly and keeps the elbows extended throughout the entire movement pattern. Why do this? Many guys will cheat on their chest cable fly’s and let their biceps do the brunt of the work. By keeping the arms in the extended position, this becomes impossible and it’s all about your chest now.
Start with the hands out to the sides of the body just below parallel to the shoulders and then crisscross them over the chest to execute the movement. I recommend keeping the hands open, palms facing each other on this exercise to further ensure it’s just your chest muscle doing the work.
Explode on the contraction phase of this exercise and then use a slow and controlled motion on the negative so your chest is controlling return of the weight the entire time.
Exercise 8: Incline Cable Fly
The great thing about using cables when doing your chest exercises is that you can keep greater muscle tension on that chest throughout the entire movement, thus eliciting better overall gains.
By using an incline bench, you’ll be adjust the angle in which the chest is being worked and help ensure maximum stress is placed on that inner chest muscle.
Focus on squeezing the cables together as you perform this movement and avoid taking the arms too far down on the decent or you’ll lose the tension being placed on the chest muscle.
Avoid going too heavy on this one or you’ll be calling your biceps and shoulders into play. We just want the focus to be on the chest muscle only. Aim for 15 reps per set.
Exercise 9: Pec Fly 8 By 8
This exercise serves as a perfect finisher and will help you maximize the total time under tension on the chest muscle, bringing it to the full point of fatigue.
You’ll sit in a pec deck machine, grasp the handles with both hands and keep the elbows as extended as possible.
Now you’ll perform 8 reps using a weight that is fully challenging to you and after that’s done, you’ll move into 8 half reps, performing on the last half portion of the exercise. Because your range of motion is reduced, you should feel stronger in this section and be able to squeeze out those 8 reps despite the muscles already being in that fatigued state.
This is going to give your pec region a crazy burn and you’ll leave the gym feeling like your chest is about to explode.
So keep these nine inner chest exercises in mind as you go about your next chest workout routine. As you can see, this takes a totally new approach than just hitting the gym and performing a series of push-ups and flat bench press.