Limited-Range Dumbbell Pullover

The pectoralis minor is a thin, flat muscle lying beneath the larger pectoralis major. It extends laterally and upward, originating from the sternal ends of the upper ribs (3rd-5th) and inserting onto the coracoid process of the scapula. The pec minor pulls the scapula forward and downward and can raise the ribs, thus aiding in forceful inhalation.

According to Fred Koch, author of several strength training books and former Ironman Magazine columnist, to increase chest size you have to train both the pec major and minor. The minor tends to get overlooked since it’s not as “glamorous” as the major. Koch notes that the great upper-chest development of swimmers is due to the pec minor, which is responsible for half of the freestyle stroke.

So how do you train the pec minor without getting wet?

Koch recommends the dumbbell pullover performed on a flat bench, but the key is to keep the elbows close to the head (within the lines of the shoulders) and to use a short range of motion (ROM).

Here’s how you do it…

Cup a dumbbell between both hands and lay back onto a flat bench. With your arms fully extended above your face, carefully lower the weight until your outstretched arms are in line with your body. Keep the small of your back pressed against the bench and brace the abdominals throughout to protect your lower back.

Make sure the elbows stay in, don’t let them flare out or else the lats will kick in. Your elbows should be directly beside your ears in the bottom position. Raise the dumbbell in an arcing motion only about 6-8 inches, or 45 degrees from horizontal. Again, keep your arms straight throughout and remember, this is a limited ROM exercise to emphasize the pec minor. You’ll actually feel the muscle contract under your chin.

I must reiterate: keep the abdominals tight! If you allow the back to arch excessively, it may lead to injury. The abs are recruited as heavy stabilizers in this movement – just another bonus!

If you’re still not convinced about the importance of training the pec minor, then listen up. According to Koch, there are feedback systems within the body to protect you from developing serious imbalances. Subsequently, the body may slow down or even halt the development of the pec major if the minor is underdeveloped.

Bottom Line: Training the pec minor will make a major difference!

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