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Many people do chest workouts and exercises in an attempt to target a specific area of their chest. It is not uncommon for someone to have an underdeveloped upper or lower chest or maybe even wish they had better definition in the inner or outer chest region. In this video, I’m going to break out the muscle markers and some science to help you once and for all to determine whether it is even possible to have an impact on the shape of your pecs and whether targeted chest training works at all.
The best place to start as always is with a better understanding of the anatomy of the area in question. When it comes to the pecs we are talking about the pectoralis major muscle. While we may point to four or five specific areas on the chest we really only have two heads (perhaps three) of the pec as defined anatomically. These are the clavicular head or upper chest and the sternal head or lower chest. Some have defined a subsection of the sternal head as the abdominal head, which is the area of the chest that forms the lower most border of the pec.
There are two separate nerve innervations of the upper and lower chest. This is important since it outlines the framework for the possibility of a separate control of each area – but ONLY in the lab not in the gym. The reason for this is simple. Any action of the upper arm that you would perform in order to complete a chest exercise is not going to be able to be accomplished without both nerves firing, therefore both heads of the pec contracting.
That said, it is important to understand that the differences don’t stop there. Within each head there lies muscle fibers that are oriented at slightly different angles as you make your way from the top to the bottom of the muscle belly. This gives us a chance to better stress certain areas of the chest (never isolate – as isolation of one from the other is never possible!) but influence based on the direction of the fibers.
If you do what I always tell you to do, and that is follow the fibers, then you will see that there are certain movements that can be done with cables, bands or even dumbbells that will allow you to better influence one area of the pec than another. This happens by simply putting those fibers in a better line of pull over others and making their recruitment more favorable.
Now when it comes to the inner and outer chest we have to get a little deeper into the science. It needs to be said that there are no separate nerves that innervate these areas of the chest. That said, there is the existence of non spanning muscle fibers and the force transmitting capabilities of fascia that surrounds the entire pec muscle that does at least bring in a new element to a once thought impossible concept of influencing these areas.
The muscle fibers that don’t span from tendon to tendon will attach on one side or the other and terminate shortly thereafter into the muscle belly. With no attachment on the other end it would seem impossible for these to contribute to contraction strength and development but that is not the case, thanks to the fascia. When muscles contract, a great deal of their force is transmitted and amplified through the fascia which can in fact recruit the contribution of these non-spanning fibers. So what does this mean? Simply to not short change your reps and perhaps now more than ever, make sure you are using a full range of motion to maximally contract the chest for best chest development.
When you put the science behind your training you will be amazed at how much more you can get from it. If you are looking for a complete program that does this for you step by step, head to and get the ATHLEAN-X Training System.
For more videos on how to build a bigger chest and the best chest exercises for getting a fuller, bigger set of pecs be sure to subscribe to our channel here on youtube at