Strengthening Exercise For Pectoralis Major

Strengthening Exercise For Pectoralis Major/Pectoralis major is the superior most and largest muscle of the anterior chest wall. It is a thick, fan-shaped muscle that lies underneath the breast tissue and forms the anterior wall of the axilla. Its origin lies anterior surface of the medial half of the clavicle, the anterior surface of the sternum, the first 7 costal cartilages, the sternal end of the sixth rib, and the aponeurosis of the external oblique of the anterior abdominal wall. The insertion of the pectoralis major is at the lateral lip of the intertubercular sulcus of the humerus. There are 2 heads of the pectoralis major, the clavicular and the sternocostal, which reference their area of origin. The sternocostal head is described as having between 2 to 7 distinct segments.

Strengthening Exercise For Pectoralis Major

Your chest muscles are responsible for four different movement patterns of the shoulder joint: flexion (side-arming a baseball), adduction (flapping your arms), internal rotation of the arm (think arm wrestling) and of course, keeping your arms attached to the trunk of your body. For men, a muscular chest is a badge of pride. However, women can also benefit from strengthening and training the muscles of their chests. Both men and women can use the following exercises to build a stronger, more defined upper body.

Anatomy of the Pectoralis Major

  • Origin – Clavicular head, anterior sternum, costal cartilages 1 to 7, the sternal end rib 6, aponeurosis of the external oblique
  • Insertion – Lateral lip intertubercular sulcus of the humerus
  • Nervous innervation – Medial and lateral pectoral nerves (clavicular head C5, sternocostal head C6/7/8, T1)
  • Function – Flexion, adduction, and medial rotation of the arm at the glenohumeral joint; clavicular head causes flexion of the extended arm; sternoclavicular head causes extension of the flexed arm
  • Arterial supply – Pectoral artery (thoracoacromial trunk, the second branch of the axillary artery)
  • Venous drainage – Pectoral vein (drains into the subclavian vein)

Strengthening Exercise For Pectoralis Major

180-Degree Twisting Dumbbell Bench Press

If you’re like me and have suffered a torn pec while benching, you’ll agree that the barbell bench press is not ideal for everyone. I also find that my shoulders take over when I’m doing the flat and incline bench, so I prefer to use the dumbbell chest press instead.

But I don’t just do any chest press. I add a twist literally in order to utilize the benefits of a supine or reverse grip. A study performed in my home town of Toronto determined that when subjects used a supinated grip during an isometric hold of the flat bench press, it resulted in increased activity for the upper portion of the pectoralis major as compared to a regular pronated grip.


180-Degree Twisting Dumbbell Bench Press

  • Lie back on a bench holding two dumbbells with a standard grip (palms forward) and arms extended over your chest.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbells to your outer chest, then press and rotate 180 degrees as you push back up to starting position. You should have a supine grip with your pinkies inward and palms facing your face at the top of the movement. Hold this peak contraction for 2 seconds before lowering it into the next rep.
  • Keep your shoulders back and down during the press to maximize pec involvement and minimize delt takeover.

Close-Grip Weighted Push-Up

The push-up is a great exercise, but you have to do it a certain way in order to maximize chest activity. Try using the close-grip weighted push-up as a finishing move after you’re done trashing your chest with the weights. The narrow hand position brings out the inner pecs and the added weight across the back elevates this from an everyday move to a pec destroyer.


Before the invention of barbells or dumbbells, push-ups were the best way to build a bigger chest. They also go a long way in building stronger shoulders and arms. To activate more of your pectoral muscles, change the position of your hands. The wider you place your hands, the more your pecs are activated. If you narrow your hands you’ll use more of your triceps.

Begin with hands directly under your shoulders with your legs straight behind you. Then slowly slide your hands out 2 to 3 inches further than shoulder width. Keep your back straight and slowly lower your chest to the ground. As you descend toward the ground, keep your arms at a 90-degree angle. Once your chest touches to ground or is slightly hovering above it, push your body back up. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

You can also add weight to push-ups by having a gym partner or friend place a moderate weight plate on your back before you start your set.

Dumbbell Flyes

This exercise works the upper portion of your chest. You’ll need two dumbbells for this exercise. Lie down on a bench with your feet flat on the floor.

Begin by placing a dumbbell in each hand and holding it above your shoulders. Keeping a slight bend in your arms, slowly lower the dumbbells down towards your side your arms should come to shoulder level or slightly below.

Raise your arms back to the starting position with your pinkies pointed toward each other — and squeeze your chest together at the top. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.

Bench Press

Compared to the flat bench press, the incline bench press is the best exercise for building three-dimensional chess. Like the incline dumbbell fly above, the incline bench press works the upper pectoral muscles near your collarbone.

Begin by lying on an incline bench set at 30 to 45 degrees — the higher the incline the more involved your shoulder muscles become. Grab the barbell with your hands, maintaining a shoulder-width distance.

Lower the bar until it touches your chest, inhaling as you lower it. Pause for a brief second and then press the weight off your chest, exhale as you press. Pause at the top for a moment, take a deep breath, and repeat the exercise. Perform three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.


Dips have become one of the lost treasures of building a stronger and more defined chest. Unlike grabbing a pair of dumbbells for bench presses, it’s not an easy exercise. And thanks to this, many people skip over dips, but they’re also missing out on one of the best ways to increase strength and size in their upper bodies.

Using either a dip station or two straight parallel bars, start by placing each hand on the bars. With your feet dangling below you and your arms fully extended a directly underneath your shoulders, begin the movement by bracing your core.

From this position, bend your elbow and slowly lower yourself until your chest dips below the plane of the handles you’re holding. You’ll feel a huge stretch in your chest. Once you feel that stretch, push through your wrists, triceps, and chest until you come back to the fully extended starting position.

Perform three to four sets of eight to 10 reps. Dips should always be the first exercise in your training block for the day. This will keep your chest muscles at their freshest and prevent you from using too much of your shoulder to get your body back up.

Dumbbell Pull-Over

The dumbbell pullover was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite chest building exercises. It targets the sternal portion of your chest and even requires a little work from your latissimus dorsi in your back.

Place a dumbbell on a flat bench, then sit down in front of a bench. Place your upper back on the bench, keeping your hips slightly flexed. With the dumbbell on the bench, beside your head, grab the dumbbell with both hands by placing them under the plate of the dumbbell.

Move the dumbbell over your chest and keep a slight bend in your elbows. This is your starting position. Keep your elbows slightly bent throughout, and lower the dumbbell behind your head, until upper arms are in-line with your torso. Then pull the dumbbell up and over your chest, back to the starting position. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.

Cable Crossover 21s

Cable work is a great addition to free weights.

  • It provides constant tension throughout the range of motion. But can it match the same level of muscle activation? Perhaps so, according to a recent study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise that investigated the EMG activity of nine common chest exercises. A team of researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that the bent-forward cable crossover produced nearly the same pectoralis major stimulation as the barbell bench press, which was rated the highest.
  • The beauty of the cable crossover is that you can adjust the pulleys to any height you want, which is why I recommend cable crossover 21s. You get the benefit of high, mid-level, and low crossovers in one triset, attacking your chest from all angles. Remember to keep the arms and body stationary so that you perform the exercise from the shoulders. This will help maximize the stretch and contraction of the chest during each rep.

Mid Cable Crossover

Second 7 reps (middle position)

  • Move the cables to chest height, grab the handles, and get into the base position.
  • Push the handles out and in front of your chest with the palms facing each other.
  • Resist the weight as you open up in a wide arc. Pause when you feel a slight stretch in your chest, then squeeze back to the center with the elbows slightly bent and locked in place. Perform 7 reps in this position.

High Cable Crossover

Final 7 reps (high position)

  • Move the cables just above your head, grab the handles, and move back into the base position.
  • Press the handles down and in front of your upper abdominals with palms facing inward.
  • Open your arms back and up until you feel a good stretch across the pecs, pause, and then squeeze back in and under your chest. Perform your last 7 reps in this position.

Kettlebell Fly

Kettlebells are harder to grip than dumbbells, which makes you work harder for each rep. Using kettlebells for chest flyes will cause your pecs to recruit more muscle fibers to fight the weight hanging below your palms. Start with kettlebells that are 10 pounds lighter than what you would use on a standard dumbbell fly.

If you find yourself bending your elbows during the lowering phase, choose a lighter weight to ensure proper form. You want this to be a full-range fly, not a half-fly, half-press.


Kettlebell Fly

  • Hold the kettlebells over your chest as you did in the press, but turn your palms to face each other.
  • Using a wide arc from the shoulders, lower your arms with elbows slightly bent until you feel a good stretch across the chest. Pause and contract the pecs against the extra resistance that the kettlebells provide at the bottom range.
  • Squeeze your pecs as you bring your arms back up in a wide hugging motion. Keep your shoulders back and squeeze your pecs together at the top of the motion.

Forward-Leaning Dip

  • The dip is no joke. It’s a tough compound exercise that makes great use of your bodyweight. However, dips are usually performed in an upright position to target the triceps. By simply adding a forward lean to this already-effective exercise, you’ll stimulate more chest activity.
  • You can attempt to do this on your own, but if you really want to get the proper angle you’ll need a training partner to help you get into the right position. You can easily make it more challenging by adding weight via chains or a belt.
  • A word of caution for people with any shoulder issues Start with a small range of motion and listen to your body to determine how deep you can go. I always advise getting a full range of motion, but not at the risk of injury.


Low Cable Crossover, First 7 reps (low position)

  • Starting with the cables in the lowest position, grab the handles and move into a staggered stance with one foot forward and one foot back. Lean forward slightly from the hip. This is your base position for all three movements.
  • With the handles out at your sides and an underhand grip, squeeze the cables up and in to eye level using a scooping motion. Perform 7 reps in this position.

Foward-Leaning Dip

  • Place your hands on the bars and push yourself up until your elbows are locked. Cross your legs back with your knees bent, core tight, and hamstrings and glutes braced.
  • Have your training partner hold and pull your legs back until you’re in a forward-leaning position, using just enough assistance to get you into the right angle. Your body should be at approximately a 30-degree angle to the ground.
  • Lower yourself until your shoulders are lower than your elbows, or you feel a good stretch across the chest. Listen to your body and don’t push through shoulder pain.
  • Push yourself up by extending your elbows to 180 degrees for a full range of motion. Visualize the pec squeeze as you drive up.


[bg_collapse view=”button-orange” color=”#4a4949″ expand_text=”Show More” collapse_text=”Show Less” ]


Strengthening Exercise For Pectoralis Major

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *