Building a fully sculpted chest can often seem to be a willow-wisp dream, but there is a substantial ‘secret’ to make it reality.
The reason a fully scuplted chest is so hard to achieve (naturally, ahem) is that doing the standard exercises (bench press, incline press, dumbbell press) will only take you so far, because they fail to include the full range of motion of the chest muscles themselves.
Thus, even with consistent workouts, you can end up with a toned middle chest area, but flabby/minimally toned outside pecs and inner pecs.
The missing ingredient and secret here — you *must* include chest exercises that move your hands across the center line of your chest!
With that, you then must stress the three main chest fiber directions. That basically means cable cross-overs x3!
To fully activate/build all your chest fibers, you have to cross the center line of your chest…that’s part of the function of your chest muscles. Standard chest exercises that are the staple for most people at the gym today, fail to include that aspect.
To show the point — take your left hand, touch your right shoulder…that’s your pec muscle moving your arm well past the center line. Yet, all the common chest exercises fail to do that — even with flyes, you stop with your hands near the center but never actually cross the center line.
As a result, your chest can tone up in the middle zone, but fail to develop in the inner and outer areas. I had this very issue going on until I learned about this ‘cross the center line’ secret, and it was quite frustrating to see muscle growth but not aesthetics.
And to give credit, I learned this aspect of chest development from AthleanX via their videos (great youtube channel). Before learning this, I could not get my chest to where I wanted it to be even with consistent chest workouts using all the standard exercises.
The secret then boils down to this:
Use a standard exercise for all three zones (i.e. bench for middle, incline dumbell, dips or decline press for lower) for bulk growth stimulus of each main ‘zone’, but follow each one with an immediate set of cable cross overs emphasizing the same chest zone.
The standard exercises provide a bulk stimulus to the middle region, and the cables provide stimulus to the inner and outer aspects of the chest…resulting in a comprehensive stimulus to building a fully sculpted chest that standard exercises alone really can’t do.
Note: A quick anatomy breakout — your pec major, which forms the bulk of your chest muscle, has three heads that attach to different areas and thus create/require different angles for maximum stimulation:
1- clavicular (upper),
2- sternal (middle) and
3- abdominal (lowest)…hence the 3x directional aspect of a full chest workout. Look at the fiber breakout below:
How does this look in practice?
Here’s how I do my own workouts (and I use the 3/7 method for every set):
- Bench press →
- Horizontal cable crossover (hands crossing and going well past center line)
3. Incline dumbbell press (palms facing in to emphasize chest over delts!) →
4. Cable cross over with cable going low to high at 45 angle, hands crossing over center-line (think waist to opposite shoulder basically).
5. Dips (or decline press if body weight is too light) →
6. Cable cross from high to low (this one is key for lower chest development)
With that, you are using a bulk, heavy weight exercise stressing the middle region for each zone of upper/middle/lower, and then an immediate follow up with cables to prioritize inner/outer development of that zone…and thus a fully comprehensive chest building workout.
Note that I tested this myself before writing this article, so it’s not just exercise theory 🙂
After two months of the above, my chest has made a dramatic jump in sculpting and size, and looks the best it has in years…and that was after many years of standard bench/incline work that just didn’t provide the aesthetic appeal I had hoped for.
Summary: using a workout that hits all three angles, and uses exercises that cross the center line for each angle, is the secret to building a fully sculpted chest. It can have a dramatic effect on your chest because now you are stimulating all the fibers fully vs the less comprehensive, middle zone of regular staple exercises.
Try it for two months, leverage the 3/7 set structure to further accelerate your gains, and I think you’ll be very pleased with the improvement!
Your chest has fibers running in three directions — middle, up, and down.