Not-So-Gross Anatomy: Pectorals

Dig if you will the picture.....Monday at any traditional gym. The electricity of the weight room floor. The tension. The excitement. All the dudes. It must be.....

Duh, Duh, Duhhhhhhhhhhh - CHEST DAY!




"What do you bench, bro?"

-said by most dudes at one point in their life if they workout


There are copious amounts of stereotypes in the fitness industry and when it comes to lifting, over-training the pectorals is near the top of the list. The pectorals (pec major and minor) are also affectionately known as the chest. A large chest helps fill out a t-shirt but does it help with your functionality? Something to ponder....

The pectoral group has significant value in movement and functionality. The caveat is that symmetry is important. What I am getting at is that we tend to overtrain muscles simply by how we function. How we sit. How we work, drive, eat, and unwind. As long as we are working towards a symmetrical body, I am on board with training any muscle group. But lifting chest 3 to 5 days per week, legs once and back twice is a recipe for disaster.

(brief interruption as Don hops off his soapbox)

Notice the pull line from the clavicle,sternum and ribs.

Notice the pull line from the clavicle,sternum and ribs.

Let's look at the anatomy of the pectorals and then dive into mobility and training movements.

Pectoralis Major is a large fan-shaped muscle that originates along the ribs, the sternum, and the sternal aspect of the clavicle. The pectoralis major inserts along the bicipital groove of the humerus. The pec. major is located under the breast. The pec major's primary functions are:

1. Flexes the humerus

2. Adducts the humerus

3. Medial rotation of the humerus

4. Stabilization of the humerus in the GH joint

Located under the pec major is pectoralis minor.  Pec minor originates on the front of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ribs. It inserts at the coracoid process of the scapula. The function of pec minor is to protract the scapula and also helps with movement of the ribcage.

This is a very clean image of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rib origin

This is a very clean image of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th rib origin

The pec minor has a great deal to say when it comes to the efficiency of the shoulder and rotator cuff. An overly tight pec minor is going to pull the scapula out of the normal alignment and hinder range of motion and function of the shoulder. 

Assuming that we do not change the desk jobs, the driving of cars, the way we eat, etc. - we are likely to have tight pectorals and diminished shoulder range of motion, which could alter thoracic mobility, which alter pelvic tilt, the the hips/knees/ankles do not stack up correctly and the whole damn thing is out of whack!!!!

An all time favorite line from Anchorman. Thank you God for Will!

Alright where was I? Ahhhh, the theatrical depiction of your body collapsing because you are too concerned about being swole versus balanced. Totally kidding aside here, without some semblance of mobility, you are going to look big but function less than 100%.


So let's get to some mobility work....


There are a few patterns that we use to get the pectorals ready for some press work.

Now, on to some strength training.


Now we need to briefly talk about angles. I know, I know....damn science always getting in the way. From a flat position or decline position - the pec major is heavily in play. As you incline you position, the pec major becomes less involved and the pec minor and anterior delts pick up the slack.

The say, (who is THEY btw?) variety is the spice of life. Choose different angles to train and different modalities to utilize.

Yes, barbell bench and dips are players in all this as well.....but consider the blog a tapas versions of how we do it at b3!


See ya next week!


p.s. - Thanks as always to best gym in the DMV area - The Energy Club for the settings.