The pectorals

For all bodybuilding aficionados, the day of the “pecs” is the session not to be missed under any circumstances. Often placed in priority in the program, this muscle group does not dislodge the Monday evening slot, this day when all the bench press benches are occupied.

Through this part dedicated to the pectorals, we are going to give you a brief rundown on the anatomy of this muscle group, on the different exercises to perform to develop it, but also on everything that can prevent them from progressing and finally, how avoid injuries, which can mark the end of your progress.

Anatomy of the pectorals: a muscle group composed of 2 bundles

Anatomy of the pectorals
The pectorals are made up of two major bundles and a secondary bundle, the subclavian muscle, located just below the collarbone.

The pectoralis minor (Pectoralis Minor)

It is located under the pectoralis major. We do not see him. However, it intervenes in everyday gestures and connects the shoulder girdle to the thorax.
It is a deep inspiratory muscle : it allows you to voluntarily increase the volume of the rib cage by forcing inspiration.
It is adductor, antepulsor, depressor and rotator of the scapula. : it allows to bring the shoulder and the arm forward, and to lower the scapula.

The pectoralis major (Pectoralis Major)

It is a powerful muscle that covers the rib cage, from the collarbones to the first ribs. It covers the small pectoral. Its fibers are divided into 3 bundles:
The clavicular bundle which is directed downward and outward

The sternal bundle which is directed horizontally outwards

The abdominal bundle which is directed upwards and outwards

Some authors divide the pectoralis major into 4 bundles, the sternal bundle being divided into two parts: lower and upper.
The pectoralis major is the internal rotator of the humerus, adductor and antepulsor of the arm. : it allows to raise the arm in the frontal plane (arm extended in front) and on the sagittal plane (arm extended to the side), to lower the arm in the frontal and sagittal plane (return of the arm to the anatomical position), rotation and adduction of the humerus (bringing the arm straight or flexed inwards).
It is, like the small pectoral, auxiliary to breathing (you can voluntarily inflate the chest).

Exercises for chest development

In bodybuilding, it is essentially a matter of developing the pectoralis major (visible), but also the pectoralis minor, although not visible. Its reinforcement allowsin addition to protecting against injuries, to increase the volume of the upper part of the pectoralis major.
For the development of the pectorals, we distinguish on the one hand the poly-articular exercises: the basic exercises which recruit the pectorals but also other agonist muscles (the triceps and the shoulders). On the other hand the isolation exercises. Also, some exercises will better stimulate the upper part of the pectorals and others will solicit the middle or lower part, outside or inside.

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Target the upper part of the pectorals (upper pecs)

Incline bench press

Incline barbell press

Dumbbell incline press

Dumbbell incline press

Dumbbell press with internal rotation

Dumbbell press with rotation

High grip bench press

High bar bench press

Incline flys with dumbbells or cables

Inclined dumbbell flyes

Target the middle portion of the pecs

Bench press

Bar bench press

Dumbbell bench press

Dumbbell bench press


Chest push-ups

Dumbbell Flyes on Flat Bench or Cables

Pectoral gaps


Pectoral sweater

Target the lower part of the pecs (lower pecs)

Developed declined at the bar

Decline bar

Developed decline with dumbbells

Decline chest dumbbells

Flyes declined with dumbbells or cables

Dumbbell decline fly

Strengthen the small pectoral (to be placed during the warm-up)

Take a pair of fairly light dumbbells and bring back, arms straight down, shoulders forward, forcing the internal rotation of the wrists. Do 3 sets of 12 repetitions before each pecs session.

Zoom on the “upper pecs”

Often, it is the upper part of the pectorals, the clavicular part, which is late. To make up for the delay and develop the “bulge” of the upper pecs, different options are available to you to expand your sessions. You can for example pre-activate the upper zone with a targeted warm-up, with rubber bands for example. Also, we advise you to pre-fatigue the upper pecs with an isolation exercise such as incline flys with dumbbells or cable vis-à-vis. The influx of blood caused by this pre-activation will allow this beam to be better recruited during the basic exercise such as lying or reclined.

An example of a training program for the pectorals

Chest program

What can prevent your pecs from growing

The importance of fast fibers

Muscles are made up of fibers. There are the slow, enduring fibers which hypertrophy quite little, then there are the fast fibers. It is they who interest us in this subject. Fast fibers are white, explosive fibers. If your pectorals have a high percentage of fast fibers, you have every chance of being able to develop them easily.. If it’s the other way around, you’ll have more difficulty developing them. But don’t panic since slow fibres, with suitable training, can become fast fibres. It will simply take longer for these fibers to grow.
NB: You should know that the shape of a muscle is determined by genetics. You can increase or decrease its volume and definition, but you can never change its shape..

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Excessive involvement of agonist muscles

During basic exercises such as presses (lying down and inclined), the shoulders and triceps are also recruited. If one of these two groups is powerful, it will allow you to develop a lot of strength in the movement. The bar rises easily and with good loads. Only, if for example the shoulders are too involved in the movement, they are the ones that will provide the first third of the effort: which means that the pectorals will provide only two thirds of the effort. The bar rises but the targeted muscle is not sufficiently stressed. The same for the triceps. Strong triceps will allow you to provide a lot of force in the bench press, especially in the second part of the movement. Again, the bar is rising but the pecs may not be recruited enough.
Getting strong on the bench press doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have big pecs.

Weak agonist muscles

Conversely, an agonist muscle that is too weak may prevent you from giving your all on a basic exercise. If you’re looking to increase your bench press performance, be sure to build strength in your shoulders and triceps as well.
Being “bad” at the bench press doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll never have big pecs.


It is not uncommon to see a member on the bench press on Monday, then Wednesday, then Friday for a final reminder. It’s a formula that can pay off in the first few weeks of training for a complete beginner, but it quickly becomes the best recipe for overtraining and injury. A muscle is not built during the workout but after. Until more than 72 hours after. If you don’t let the muscle recover and synthesize amino acids to rebuild, you’re dashing your hopes for progression. Only place pecs reminders in your routine for a few weeks and resume a rhythm of one group per week. Repeat this pattern three times a year.

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Chest injuries

Chest injuries

The tearing

Tearing the pectoralis major is a common accident in weight rooms. Most often, the muscle tears at the humeral insertion (the “outer” portion of the pectoral), which involves shortening of the entire muscle. This is a very serious injury that must be operated on as soon as possible if you want to hope to regain proper mobility.. But before the tear, the muscle (and the tendons) can suffer from various more or less disabling lesions.

muscle contracture

Contracture is when part of the muscle fibers remain contracted even after exercise. Muscle contracture normally resolves on its own within a few days, provided the muscle is rested. Alternate applications of ice and heat to speed healing.


It is an inflammation of the tendon but it will only rarely affect the pectoral itself. Usually it is tendonitis of the shoulder, elbow or wrist. In case of tendonitis, apply an anti-inflammatory cream and ice to the painful area, hydrate yourself more during your sessions and take at least 3g of vitamin C per day.

Our advice to avoid injuries

– Make cures of food supplements that protect your joints. Chondroitin, glucosamine and MSM, for example, will help you prevent and get rid of joint inflammation.

– Increase your intake by Omega 3

Gradually increase your loads and get someone to help you with bench presses.

Vary the angles and exercises as much as possible

– Immediately stop any exercise that causes pain other than muscle burn.

Also to read

Chest workout without equipment

How to get pecs fast?

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