For the past six months I have been working on my pecs using seated cable fly and machine fly. With the seated cable fly I push downward slightly on the cables to isolate the pecs from the delts. So far things have been very good, the pecs are growing nicely.

enter image description here

Is there such a thing as lower and upper pecs? If so, what are some ways to work the upper pecs without involving the delts and lats?

I know that the machine fly takes it partly there as it covers the pec entirely. But is there something to isolate the upper pecs?

All the research I've done suggests there is no such thing as lower, middle and upper pecs. Does anyone have any bodybuilding experience on this?

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    What's your reason for wanting to focus on one particular muscle group? – Ivo Flipse Mar 30 '11 at 17:17
  • The reason is that my pecs are very weak and everytime I've done bench presses of any major weight my delts and lats kick in and the pecs get no work out. So the plan is once I have some nice looking pecs I'd start working on the upper body as a whole to round everything out. – Salsero69 Mar 30 '11 at 17:33
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    I'm sure that if you do some exercise that focuses on the pecs, that it doesn't matter that some other groups get worked out as well. It's very hard to exclude any other muscle groups when you talk about such a complex joint as the shoulder. Either way, I would add that information to your question! – Ivo Flipse Mar 30 '11 at 17:42

I am a bodybuilder, and can give you some tips on form in the chest press movement that will help you to focus the work toward the pecs. Of course, in a pressing movement you cannot strictly isolate the chest, but these tips will help you to minimize the involvement of the shoulders and triceps and lats.

To isolate as a bodybuilder would, you want to do the opposite of what a powerlifter does. Powerlifters try to recruit as many muscle groups as possible to move the most weight possible.
Arching your back allows you to recruit your lats into the movement. To keep from using your back, keep it flat against the bench. If you have trouble doing this, raise your knees up and put your feet on the bench, and this will flatten the low back out. You can even lift your feet up and bring your knees toward your torso while doing the exercise. A narrow grip on the bar allows you to recruit your triceps. To keep your triceps involvement to a minimum widen your grip until your forearms are able to remain perpendicular to the ground through most of the movement. Slipping your shoulder blade out and Rolling your shoulder forward allows you to recruit your shoulder muscle more. To avoid this, you have to do two things. First, start each set by squeezing your shoulder blades together. Leave them together throughout the set, and keep your shoulder back. Do not push your shoulder forward as you extend your arm. The other thing you need to pay attention to is your elbow position. Your elbows should be tucked slightly toward your torso, more in line with your chest than your shoulder. This also keeps you from putting your rotators in a compromised position.

Another technique you can use is to pre-exhaust the chest with an isolation movement (machine flyes) before the compound movement (bench press). Do not be concerned with the amount of weight you are lifting rather pay attention to whether you feel the pecs working.

One exercise that is severely underutilized is dumbbell pullovers. Lie perpendicular to a bench with your rib cage supported by the bench, feet on the ground, and knees bent. You may slide down so that the edge of the bench supports part of your neck if you need to. Allow your hips to drop a few inches below your chest. Hold a dumbbell vertically by one end above your chest with arms extended. Move the dumbbell back over your face and toward the ground until your arms are parallel to the ground pivoting in the shoulder and keeping the elbows straight, then lift the dumbbell back to the starting position. The pullover targets the area of the chest that attach at the collarbone, highlighted in the second muscle picture. It also targets the pec minor, and the serratus.

  • Nice answer @Natalie! – Ivo Flipse Apr 7 '11 at 0:29
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    Very nice answer @Natalie. Thank you. Why can't I find a good book that describes exercises like this. – Salsero69 Apr 7 '11 at 5:27
  • +1 Great answer. I never really considered pre-exhausting a muscle region to isolate another. – Evan Plaice Jun 15 '11 at 16:27

An incline seat will put more emphasis on the upper chest.

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A decline seat will put more emphasis on the lower chest.

enter image description here

An upright machine fly will work both regions of the chest. It's also particularly good for inner chest because it has equal tension throughout the movement, unlike dumbbell flies which have almost no tension at the peak.

enter image description here

You are right that flies isolate the chest. Presses involve the deltoids and triceps. It's a good idea to do both. You will plateau with flies alone because of the lack of variety to stimulate the body.

  • Damn... too fast for me :) – Evan Plaice Mar 30 '11 at 17:22


The 'lower pec' and 'upper pec' are actually both sub-regions of the 'pectoralis major' muscle.

Lower Pec - Pectoralis Major (Sternal Head)

Pectoralis Major (Sternal Head)

Source: exrx.net.

This is the region that makes up the majority of the muscle mass in the Pectoralis Major. Adding a decline to a bench press or doing exercises that push forward in a manner that is angled toward your hips will emphasize this region.

Upper Pec - Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Head)

Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Head)

Source: exrx.net.

Workouts that emphasize your upper chest will be forward pushing motions angled in the direction of your head such as the 'incline bench press' or 'decline push-ups'.

Update: Corrected this answer. I was mistakenly calling the upper pec the 'pectoralis minor' when it's actually the clavicular sub-region of the 'pectoralis major'. Sorry about that.

  • The picture you posted for the "upper" pec doesn't really look like it's upper to me. It looks like the side. So there's no such thing as the actual upper pec? It's just a misnomer? – JoJo Mar 31 '11 at 6:20
  • @JoJo Good point... Turns out I was pinpointing the wrong regions for upper/lower chest isolation. The exercises were correct, the terminology wasn't. There is an upper and lower pec region but they're sub-regions of the pectoralis major. – Evan Plaice Mar 31 '11 at 12:05
  • (cont) The 'pectoralis minor' actually sits below the pec major and is virtually impossible to isolate from the major during exercise. The 'pectoralis major' is also made up of 4 different parts (has 4 distinct connection points). Check out anatomyatlases.org/AnatomicVariants/Images/0203.shtml and anatomyatlases.org/AnatomicVariants/Images/0242.shtml to see what I mean. – Evan Plaice Jun 10 '11 at 15:37

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