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Chest Anatomy 101

The chest! It’s home to some of our vital organs and it’s essential we’re knowledgeable about our chest anatomy and how to look after it. Our chest, or the pectoral region contains four muscles- the pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, serratus anterior and subclavius. We’re going to take a closer look at these muscles and elaborate on their function and some key exercises for promoting strength and muscle growth.

Pectoralis Major

The pec major is the largest chest muscle and is usually the one we’re most interested in training. It is a large, fan-shaped muscle that spans from the armpit up to the collarbone, and down to the lower chest region on both sides. The pectoralis major keeps the arms attached to the body and is responsible for moving the shoulder joint. It’s made up of three sub-heads- the clavicular head, the sternal head and the abdominal head. All three heads can be specifically trained during your workout.

The three heads of the pec major work together to create internal rotation. Exercises such as the incline flye use horiztonal adduction by pulling across the body. The pec fibres elongate, then shorten and become tight. To specifically strengthen the clavicular, inclined presses work best as they raise the arm over the head and create shoulder flexion. For sternal and abdominal head focus, decline presses and dumbbell pull-overs are best.

Pectoralis Minor

The pec minor sits underneath the pec major and is a thin triangle shaped muscle that runs along ribs 3-5. The muscles are small and we often don’t dedicate a lot of time to developing these muscles. Its main function is to assist with breathing.

Serratus Anterior

The serratus anterior begins at the inside of the shoulder blade and wraps around the lateral wall of the chest, attaching to the front of the ribcage. A muscle that’s often overlooked, the serratus anterior is a fundamental for healthy shoulders. Exercises that protract the shoulders, predominately push-ups, are great for training the serratus. It’s one of the three muscles that rotate the shoulder blade upward alongside the lower and upper traps. By tucking your elbows in during push-ups and pushing your body as far away from the floor as possible, you can effectively engage the serratus.


The subclavius is a small triangular muscle located underneath the clavicle, which promotes stability during shoulder and arm movements.

While the chest muscles are the main focus during this training, it’s important to be mindful of your skeletal anatomy. This includes the shoulders, back and elbows. During chest training, always adjust your shoulders down and back, and squeeze your elbows towards the body to create a stable base and prevent injuries. The position of your shoulders can make a huge difference in which part of the chest you’re training!

By breaking down the muscles of the chest and ensuring you spend some one-on-one time with each, you’ll start to see muscle growth in new places! Understanding chest muscle anatomy is not only important for working out, but it’s vital for staying healthy and feeling stable in every day activities. Once you start to feel stronger from your core, you’ll improve all aspects of your training regime.

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