A few years ago, I applied for a job as a personal trainer in a gym. Taking one look at my runner’s body, the owner of the gym said to me, “Go work out for a couple of months and then come back.”

Happy as I was with my runner’s body, I never went back. But it occurred to me that people like big muscles. And the muscles of the chest are at the top of the list. It’s been told to me by more than one woman that women like men with big, muscular chests. It makes them feel protected. I guess things haven’t changed much from the days of the caveman.

Have you ever wanted to run outside without a shirt but didn’t feel you had the chest for it?

Most men wish they could have a chest like a caveman, symbolic of their strength. There are three muscles that comprise the chest: pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior.

How to Acquire a Caveman ChestThe most prominent and observable is the pectoralis major, a thick, fan-shaped muscle that originates from the medial half of the clavicle (collar bone), the front of the sternum, the cartilages of the upper seven ribs, and the aponeurosis (tendon) of the external oblique abdominal muscle. The muscle fibers, which run downward from the clavicle and sweep out laterally, upward from the sternum and cartilages of the lower ribs and sweep out laterally, and horizontally from the middle of the sternum and middle ribs, insert into the crest of the greater tubercle of the humerus bone in your upper arm. It flexes, adducts, and medially rotates the arm.

The pectoralis minor is a thin, triangular muscle that sits beneath the pectoralis major. It originates from the upper parts of the third, fourth, and fifth ribs and the aponeuroses covering the intercostal muscles between the ribs and inserts into the medial border of the coracoid process (a thick, curved bump) of the scapula (shoulder blade). It draws the scapula downward and forward, adducts the arm, and raises the third, fourth, and fifth ribs in forced inspiration.  The serratus anterior, which originates from the borders of the upper eight or nine ribs and the aponeuroses covering the intercostal muscles between the ribs and inserts into the costal (rib-side) surface of the scapula, abducts, rotates, and draws the scapula forward.

You can train your chest forever and it still won’t look like a caveman’s unless you eliminate the fat covering your chest as well as your waistline. So there really are two parts to getting the chest you want—making the pectoralis major bigger and more defined through strength training and (here’s the more important part) decreasing your body fat percentage so you can see the muscle’s definition. Specific exercises for the chest are described below.

To make women swoon at the sight of your caveman chest that bulges from under your T-shirt, follow this training program. And if you train hard enough, maybe next time you’re out on the town, you’ll be able to attract anyone you want—because you’ve just acquired the body part that attracts women the most.

Sidebar: Caveman Chest Training Program

Bench Press:

Lay on your back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor and your chest directly underneath the barbell. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip and hands greater than shoulder-width apart. Lift the barbell from the rack and lower the weight to your chest. Push the barbell back up to the starting position until your arms are fully extended and repeat.

A study published in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that a wide grip (190 percent of shoulder width) elicits greater muscle activity than narrower grips (shoulder width and 130 percent of shoulder width). Moving from a wide to a narrow grip moves the emphasis from the pectoralis major to the triceps. For the best overall training stimulus, use a grip that is almost double your shoulder width.

Dumbbell Flys:

With a dumbbell in each hand, lay on your back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor. Hold dumbbells out to your sides with palms facing up and arms just slightly below the level of your chest (if using heavy weights, you may want to hold your arms in line with or slightly above the level of your chest). With elbows slightly bent, bring dumbbells together until they touch. Lower dumbbells back to the starting position and repeat.

Push-Ups:

Kneel on the floor with hands slightly less than shoulder-width apart and palms on the floor, legs lifted off the floor, and back straight and parallel to the floor. Lower yourself down until your chest touches the floor. Push yourself back up until your arms are straight and repeat. To make your abs work while doing push-ups, place your hands on a stability ball instead of on the floor.

While push-ups may seem like a similar exercise as a bench press, there seems to be differences when isolating specific muscles. Research has shown that the pectoralis major is more active with a narrow hand position for push-ups but a wide grip for bench press.

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dr jason karpBy John’s Special Guest: Dr. Jason Karp
Dr. Jason Karp is a nationally-recognized running and fitness expert, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year, and owner of Run-Fit. He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. A prolific writer, he has more than 200 articles published in international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including Running for Women and Running a Marathon For Dummies, is a frequent speaker at international fitness and coaching conferences, and won a team silver medal at the 2013 World Maccabiah Games in Israel. For his popular training programs and an autographed copy of his books, go to run-fit.com.