Pectoral muscles are just chest muscles. Formally known as the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, these muscles are located under the breast area in men and women. Pectoral muscles contribute to the effort exerted when we use our arms and shoulders.  Strengthening pectoral muscles is important for several reasons. Building muscle improves metabolism and reduces the likelihood of diabetes; makes every day lift and carry type tasks easier, and helps you look your best –even in swimsuit season. Try these exercises to build your pectoral muscles.


Pushups are the most obvious choice because they require no special equipment and can be done anywhere. In addition to your pectoral muscles, pushups work your upper body so they are worth adding to your routine, especially if your exercise is primarily lower body (think treadmill). Modified push-ups, such as with knees bent or on an incline, are also effective for building pectoral muscles.

How to:

Place your body stomach down on a towel or mat.

Place your hands, palms down, shoulder length apart. Your legs and feet should be extended straight behind you unless you are doing a modified push up (for example with knees bent).

Keeping your body perfectly straight use your arms to lift your body from the mat; your arms should be completely straight as you lift your body. Lower your body toward the mat until both elbows reach a 90-degree angle.

Remember to keep your head straight. Try for two sets of 15 to start.

Dumbbell press

Somewhat like a bench press the dumbbell press is another good choice for building pectoral muscles. Other areas that benefit include your triceps and shoulders. Choose weights that provide a challenge but are not so heavy that you cannot maintain proper form.

How to:

Keeping both feet flat on the floor, lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Be sure to grip the dumbbells with your fingers on the top.

Slowly extend both arms toward the ceiling. Your arms should be directly above your shoulders. Be sure to keep your abs tucked in and your chin down.

Bring both arms down toward your sides. Keeping elbows bent, stop as your arms come to just below your shoulders.

Repeat for three sets of 10 to start.

Bench press

The bench press works upper body muscles including the pectorals, triceps and biceps.

How to:

As with the dumbbell press you do a bench press with your feet flat on the floor and your back on the bench.

With your arms shoulder length apart, use an overhand grip to take firm hold of the bar.

Lift the barbell until your arms are fully extended above your chest. Keeping your eyes on the ceiling, bring the barbell down to your chest.  It is a good idea to start with less weight than you think you can handle to avoid injuries or accidents. If you are uncertain about trying a new weight consider asking someone to spot you.

Building your pectoral muscles is important even if you aren’t a tennis, boxing or swim enthusiast. Strong pectorals can help you avoid shoulder injuries, support good posture and even improve range of motion. These muscles also help you more easily pick up and push the things you use in your home and work life. Build upper body strength and keep your pectorals in top form with regular exercise.