T Nation

The So-Called Middle Chest


#1

Hey everyone.

The pectoralis major consists of two heads: the clavicular head and the sternocostal head.
Whenever I read articles about chest development, the author would typically suggest different exercises for the different parts of the chest, i.e. the upper, middle and lower. Incline dumbbell press, flat barbell bench press and chest dips, for example.

However, seeing as the chest consists of merely two heads, you cannot isolate (though emphasize) muscle fibers and that the chest works synergistically, isn't the myth, so to speak, of emphasizing the middle versus the lower chest false? Can you really emphasize the different fibers to such an extent?

The reason why I'm wondering is firstly, as I mentioned, the fact that the chest consists of two heads, but also because I personally have friends with well-developed chests that only do decline and incline movements, and lastly, I watched Dorian Yates' Blood & Guts in which he referred to the decline bench press as (probably) the most effective pec exercise, and that it works the whole chest, contrary to popular belief.

Furthermore, a study testing different chest exercises concluded that the most effective chest exercise for stimulating chest muscle fibers was decline dumbbell presses at an impressive 93%. Thoughts?

Thanks for reading.


#2

[quote]labean wrote:
Hey everyone.

The pectoralis major consists of two heads: the clavicular head and the sternocostal head.
Whenever I read articles about chest development, the author would typically suggest different exercises for the different parts of the chest, i.e. the upper, middle and lower. Incline dumbbell press, flat barbell bench press and chest dips, for example.

However, seeing as the chest consists of merely two heads, you cannot isolate (though emphasize) muscle fibers and that the chest works synergistically, isn’t the myth, so to speak, of emphasizing the middle versus the lower chest false? Can you really emphasize the different fibers to such an extent?

The reason why I’m wondering is firstly, as I mentioned, the fact that the chest consists of two heads, but also because I personally have friends with well-developed chests that only do decline and incline movements, and lastly, I watched Dorian Yates’ Blood & Guts in which he referred to the decline bench press as (probably) the most effective pec exercise, and that it works the whole chest, contrary to popular belief.

Furthermore, a study testing different chest exercises concluded that the most effective chest exercise for stimulating chest muscle fibers was decline dumbbell presses at an impressive 93%. Thoughts?

Thanks for reading.
[/quote]

I would be very interested to see what some of the vets have to say on this topic.

Although, I can tell you with great confidence that incline movements (incline bench, incline db flies) have made my upper chest explode in the past year. I never focused on them before, I always did flat and decline. Cut out the decline and started doing more incline movements, while still doing flat bench, and I noticed a big difference


#3

Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."


#4

Its not that your making the muscle work in a different fashion, its that different parts of the muscle are being put under varying degrees of stress.

For example, the ‘inner chest’ works harder on a cable cross over because that is a position where those fibers are put under more stress. But it doesn’t mean that the muscle itself is contracting in a different fashion or fulfilling a different function.


#5

[quote]zraw wrote:
Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."[/quote]
Well, that’s kind of a personal approach, and not really a scientific. Many would argue that you while you indeed can isolate the clavicular and sternocostal head, you cannot isolate/emphasize the inner or outer portion of the pecs. Dips, for example, may cause “tenderness” so to speak, but that may, in fact, not be the muscle. Many people have f***ed up their sternums by doing chest dips.


#6

First of all, pectoralis major is a muscle group, not a single muscle. You have independent innervation and separate compartments.

Also, both “heads” are innervated by multiple nerves.


#7

I copy pasted from one of John Meadows’ article, fwiw


#8

[quote]labean wrote:

[quote]zraw wrote:
Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."[/quote]
Well, that’s kind of a personal approach, and not really a scientific. Many would argue that you while you indeed can isolate the clavicular and sternocostal head, you cannot isolate/emphasize the inner or outer portion of the pecs. Dips, for example, may cause “tenderness” so to speak, but that may, in fact, not be the muscle. Many people have f***ed up their sternums by doing chest dips.
[/quote]

The world is not black and white, and these isolate arguments are based on people that can not see grey. Isolate implies that you completely de-activate the other muscles, and Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest so he only worked his lower chest. Both implications are false.

The primary target may have been lower chest and his chest is strong enough that the rest wasn’t sore but it doesn’t mean the other areas did not get trained. So no you can not completely isolate a muscle group, but you can train it with primary targets.

The better you can focus in on that muscle group the more likely you are to have a better MMC and likely better bodybuilder, but even then it’s not 100% thankfully otherwise you would get hurt in a 3d world.


#9

In my personal experience,i am weak in the upper chest and i believe that hold’s true for a lot of bodybuilder’s. The Flat bench as we know is done for the developement of the pectoral’s and moreover the Ego?? I think unless a person is gifted with a strong mind to muscle connection,the best we can hope for is to stimulate the pec as a whole.

The article by Dorian yates work’s for him,then again anything work’s for people that are genetic freak’s They say the pro’s grow,despite there training. john


#10

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

[quote]labean wrote:

[quote]zraw wrote:
Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."[/quote]
Well, that’s kind of a personal approach, and not really a scientific. Many would argue that you while you indeed can isolate the clavicular and sternocostal head, you cannot isolate/emphasize the inner or outer portion of the pecs. Dips, for example, may cause “tenderness” so to speak, but that may, in fact, not be the muscle. Many people have f***ed up their sternums by doing chest dips.
[/quote]

The world is not black and white, and these isolate arguments are based on people that can not see grey. Isolate implies that you completely de-activate the other muscles, and Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest so he only worked his lower chest. Both implications are false.

The primary target may have been lower chest and his chest is strong enough that the rest wasn’t sore but it doesn’t mean the other areas did not get trained. So no you can not completely isolate a muscle group, but you can train it with primary targets.

The better you can focus in on that muscle group the more likely you are to have a better MMC and likely better bodybuilder, but even then it’s not 100% thankfully otherwise you would get hurt in a 3d world.
[/quote]

I think you are misinterpreting Zraw/Meadow’s post. He/they are not suggesting that you can completely turn off other muscle groups (you can never do that, unless maybe using electro-stim), simply that different joint angles, lines of pull/force, and force curves will “isolate” (I agree, bad term, a better word might be emphasize or “focus on”) different muscle fibers/areas of the Pec Major muscle. His/theirs is a counter point to the line of thinking that states that you can only activate a muscle or not and EMG tests like the one Dorian cited which suggest that decline bench will better build the clavicular head of the pecs than incline movements.


#11

[quote]johnny k53 wrote:
The article by Dorian yates work’s for him,then again anything work’s for people that are genetic freak’s They say the pro’s grow,despite there training. john[/quote]

Whoever “they” are, you should not listen to them. Sure, anyone who wins a Sandow trophy has above average genetic potential for muscle growth and shape, but anyone who thinks they just haphazardly went about getting to that point or got their despite their training and not because of it (especially Yates!) is severely delusional or has an axe to grind.


#12

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

[quote]labean wrote:

[quote]zraw wrote:
Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."[/quote]
Well, that’s kind of a personal approach, and not really a scientific. Many would argue that you while you indeed can isolate the clavicular and sternocostal head, you cannot isolate/emphasize the inner or outer portion of the pecs. Dips, for example, may cause “tenderness” so to speak, but that may, in fact, not be the muscle. Many people have f***ed up their sternums by doing chest dips.
[/quote]

The world is not black and white, and these isolate arguments are based on people that can not see grey. Isolate implies that you completely de-activate the other muscles, and Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest so he only worked his lower chest. Both implications are false.

The primary target may have been lower chest and his chest is strong enough that the rest wasn’t sore but it doesn’t mean the other areas did not get trained. So no you can not completely isolate a muscle group, but you can train it with primary targets.

The better you can focus in on that muscle group the more likely you are to have a better MMC and likely better bodybuilder, but even then it’s not 100% thankfully otherwise you would get hurt in a 3d world.
[/quote]

I think you are misinterpreting Zraw/Meadow’s post. He/they are not suggesting that you can completely turn off other muscle groups (you can never do that, unless maybe using electro-stim), simply that different joint angles, lines of pull/force, and force curves will “isolate” (I agree, bad term, a better word might be emphasize or “focus on”) different muscle fibers/areas of the Pec Major muscle. His/theirs is a counter point to the line of thinking that states that you can only activate a muscle or not and EMG tests like the one Dorian cited which suggest that decline bench will better build the clavicular head of the pecs than incline movements.[/quote]

I never said that.

I said statements like the original post start because that is what is implied. I thought I clearly stated it is not the meaning of his statement.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest
[/quote]


#13

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

[quote]Sentoguy wrote:

[quote]Airtruth wrote:

[quote]labean wrote:

[quote]zraw wrote:
Just gonna copy paste, this sums it up

"So what about hitting the different heads of the chest? Can you isolate the clavicular and sternal portions for example? Great question. There are many really smart people who’d say no, that doing a flat bench barbell press, for example, works your entire chest equally. Their logic is sound, but here’s the thing: sometimes we overcomplicate, but we also sometimes oversimplify.

I know that when I do declines on the Smith, flat flyes, and barbell benches, my lower and outer pecs are much more sore the next day than my upper pecs. When I do tons of barbell and dumbbell inclines, my upper chest is very sore the next day, and when I do a lot of machine flyes with a good stretch and flex, my pec fibers by the sternum are extremely tender the next day.

So to me, in this simplistic way, I do believe that varying angles fatigues different portions of the muscle to a greater or lesser degree. I know, nothing groundbreaking there, but many of my colleagues would disagree."[/quote]
Well, that’s kind of a personal approach, and not really a scientific. Many would argue that you while you indeed can isolate the clavicular and sternocostal head, you cannot isolate/emphasize the inner or outer portion of the pecs. Dips, for example, may cause “tenderness” so to speak, but that may, in fact, not be the muscle. Many people have f***ed up their sternums by doing chest dips.
[/quote]

The world is not black and white, and these isolate arguments are based on people that can not see grey. Isolate implies that you completely de-activate the other muscles, and Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest so he only worked his lower chest. Both implications are false.

The primary target may have been lower chest and his chest is strong enough that the rest wasn’t sore but it doesn’t mean the other areas did not get trained. So no you can not completely isolate a muscle group, but you can train it with primary targets.

The better you can focus in on that muscle group the more likely you are to have a better MMC and likely better bodybuilder, but even then it’s not 100% thankfully otherwise you would get hurt in a 3d world.
[/quote]

I think you are misinterpreting Zraw/Meadow’s post. He/they are not suggesting that you can completely turn off other muscle groups (you can never do that, unless maybe using electro-stim), simply that different joint angles, lines of pull/force, and force curves will “isolate” (I agree, bad term, a better word might be emphasize or “focus on”) different muscle fibers/areas of the Pec Major muscle. His/theirs is a counter point to the line of thinking that states that you can only activate a muscle or not and EMG tests like the one Dorian cited which suggest that decline bench will better build the clavicular head of the pecs than incline movements.[/quote]

I never said that.

I said statements like the original post start because that is what is implied. I thought I clearly stated it is not the meaning of his statement.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
Z-Raws post while not meaning it implies that he(meadows) felt sore in his lower chest
[/quote][/quote]

Oops, my mistake. Carry on. :slight_smile:


#14

I wouldn’t worry about it. Just do incline and regular and see i it works, then maybe try decline as well and compare. Personally, my chest grows with any kind o pressing, one o the easiest muscles to develop imo,


#15

I don’t believe that there is a middle chest, at least on most people. There’s the large lower sternocostal head and the the small upper clavicular head. Yes you can somewhat isolate them. Over the past several months, adding in lots of incline work and cutting out lots of flat DB and dips has helped my chest tremendously in terms of having that “certain shape.” This is well known among many bodybuilders.

I would speculate, however, that some people are better at using the upper chest on flat and decline movements, kind of like using the VMO on squats as opposed to using the vastus inermedius, vastus lateralis, or glutes.