Exercises for the Lower Chest and Rib Cage
The lower chest and rib cage can be a difficult area to train. The inferior portion of the pectoralis major and your rib cage muscle, known as the serratus anterior, are both prime movers in horizontal arm movements such as pushing and punching. By incorporating exercises that mimic these actions you can strengthen and define your lower chest and rib cage. Always use a spotter when working with free weights, especially if you're using heavy resistance.
Decline Bench Press
The decline bench press is useful for creating muscle definition in the lower chest and rib cage. Lie on a decline bench with your head angled down and your feet fixed to prevent sliding. Grasp the barbell with an overhand shoulder-width grip. Stabilize your abdomen and back, then lower the bar to your lower chest in a slow, controlled movement. Extend your arms to push the bar away from your chest and return to the starting position.
Pushups require no special equipment and can be performed just about anywhere -- perfect for those without access to weights. By performing pushups with your chest higher than your feet, you are able to isolate the lower part of the pecs. The serratus anterior contracts during a pushup to hold the scapula against the rib cage. To perform a pushup, support yourself face down with your arms extended and your hands resting on a platform 12 to 36 inches off the floor. Your feet should be together and resting on the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles, straighten your back and hold your body in a straight line as you bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the platform. Extend your arms to return to the starting position.
Decline Dumbbell Fly
The decline dumbbell fly focuses the effort mainly on the lower chest and rib cage. This is an important exercise for developing thoracic expansion. Position yourself on a decline bench, hooking your legs over the top end of the bench. Press your back into the back rest and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Begin with your arms extended vertically, elbows slightly bent to prevent excess stress on your elbows and your palms facing inward. Slowly open your arms and lower the weights to horizontal. Contract your chest and rib cage muscles to bring the weights back up to the starting position, squeezing your pecs at the top of the movement.
This exercise develops the bulk of the chest muscles as well as the serratus anterior, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi and triceps. Lie on a flat exercise bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in the palms of both hands with your thumbs surrounding the handle. Begin with your arms extended above your head. Stabilize your abdominal muscles and lower the dumbbell behind your head, bending your elbows slightly. Contract your chest and rib cage muscles to pull the dumbbell back up and return to the starting position.
- "Strength Training Anatomy, Second Edition"; Frederic Delavier; 2006
- ShapeFit: Chest Exercises - Decline Dumbbell Flyes
Jen Weir writes for several websites, specializing in the health and fitness field. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Montana State University, is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist and maintains a personal trainer certification from the American College of Sports Medicine.