I’m having a hard time building the inner part of my chest. Compound moves like benching don’t seem to target that area. Do you have a better exercise alternative?
—R. Megenedy, Boston, MA

You are correct in starting with multi-joint exercises, which are best for building muscle mass. When more than one muscle group is lifting the load, you can handle more weight, and in turn encourage greater muscle growth. But barbell and dumbbell presses don’t do a good job of stimulating the fibers nearest your breastbone. That’s because one of the functions of the pectorals is to adduct the arms—or bring them toward the midline of the body—and this function isn’t required during a regular bench press.

So to really hit the inner part of the pecs, you need to perform exercises where the arms don’t just extend out in front of you, but where they cross the midline of the body. I developed an exercise with this in mind: the cross-body cable press.

To do it, stand in the middle of a cable crossover station and hold a D-handle attached to a low cable pulley in your right hand. Hold the handle using an underhand grip with your arm bent almost 90 degrees at the elbow and your upper arm out at a 45-degree angle to your torso. From there, extend your arm at the elbow to press the handle up and across your body so that your right hand is out in front of your left shoulder. Your arm should be almost fully extended in this position. Reverse the motion to return your arm to the start position.

The Inner Chest Workout

Excercise Sets Reps Rest
Reverse-Grip Bench Press 3 6-8 2 min
Dumbbell Press 3 8-10 2 min
Cross-body cable press 3 per side 8-10 2 min
Cable Crossover 3 12-15 1 min

Quick Chest Training Tip

You can also try this exercise bilaterally (two arms at a time) by crossing your arms at the top. Be sure to alternate which arm goes over and which goes under on each rep.