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
One of the key components to successful weight training is using the “Activation before overload” principle.
That implies, doing a lighter, more isolated movement before the big lifts.
The close grip dumbbell press is a perfect activator of all 3 pushing muscle groups – The chest, shoulders and triceps.
- Grab a relatively heavy dumbbell and lie down on the horizontal bench press
- Hold the dumbbell with both hands and keep it above your chest
- Bend elbows slightly and puff the chest up
- Let the dumbbell go down to your lower chest without completely resting it at the bottom
- Push back up, contracting the chest up top
Note: 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.
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.
- Grab a plate, pinching it with your palms on both sides
- Raise the plate to chest level and keep it in touch with the chest muscles
- Push forward, contracting the chest
- Slowly return back to the chest
Note: 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.
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Exercise 3: Side Cable Press
Many people give too much credit to barbell bench presses, but do not realize that one of the primary chest functions is adduction.
That is, bringing the arm closer to the centerline of the body.
- Set up a bench between two cable pulleys
- Grab the left handle and sit down on the bench
- Keep the arm parallel to the ground with palm facing right
- Bend elbow slightly and in that static position, push towards the center of the body
- At the end of the motion, squeeze the chest hard
- Go back slowly, maintaining tension on the chest
Do 30 seconds time under tension per side 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 of the lower pulley, with palms facing each other
- Stand in the middle between both pulleys
- Bend over slightly
- Bring both arms to the centerline of the body and go across it, crossing the arms
- Go back down slowly and repeat the movement, alternating between arms – Left over right, right over left
Note: 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.
- Set up an incline, 45-degrees bench
- Grab a pair of dumbbells and lie down
- Hold both dumbbells above the chest, with palms facing each other and elbows slightly bent
- Let the dumbbells go down to the chest, slowly
- Without resting the dumbbells completely at the bottom, push up explosively, contracting the chest up top
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 flys 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.
- Grab a pair of dumbbells
- Lie down on the bench or ball
- Keep the arms above the chest with palms facing each other
- Bend elbows slightly and puff up the chest
- Open the arms with no movement at the elbow
- Stretch the chest well
- Go back up and right before the dumbbells touch, contract the chest
- Hold the dumbbells together, then let them go down to the chest
- Press up and contract the chest
- Repeat this fly to hex press transition
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.
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.
- Stand in the middle of the cable machine
- Grab both handles and raise the arms to chest level, keeping them straight
- Let the arms go back and stretch the chest (elbow bent slightly, static position)
- Close the arms and contract the chest
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.
- Place a bench in the middle of a double-sided cable machine
- Adjust the bench to an incline, 45-degree angle
- Grab both handles and lie down on the bench comfortably
- Keep the arms above the chest with elbows slightly bent
- Puff up the chest slightly, then open up the arms and stretch the pectoral muscles
- Explode on the way up, closing the arms and contracting the chest
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.
- Sit on a pec deck machine
- Grab the handles with both hands and keep the elbows as extended as possible
- Open the arms out, stretching the chest
- Close the arms in, contracting the chest
- Repeat steps 3 and 4 for 8 full repetitions
- Do the same but with a lesser range of motion for another 8 half reps.
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.
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.