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Everyone stores fat a little differently. Some people hold it all in their stomachs or hips, while others accumulate it all on their chests. And, for most men, chest fat is terribly frustrating. No one wants man boobs.
This is why having a shredded six-pack and a big muscular chest is at the top of every guy's wish list.
Although it is hard to target specific areas across the body to lose fat, there are some things you can do to help get rid of chest fat. A jacked chest is #gymgoals, and nothing makes a tank top look better than having a chiseled outer pec.
If chest fat has troubled you in the past, you have come to the right place.
In this post, we'll discuss:
Chest fat occurs and is stored the same way fat builds up in every other body part. It all comes down to energy balance: calories in vs. calories out.
When you consistently eat an abundance of calories, it results in stored body fat. It is hard to believe, but storing body fat is a survival mechanism. Food used to be scarce and hard to come by. For humans to survive extended periods with little food, having stored body fat was critical.
For the most part, body fat is stored energy. The problem is that we don't need to have body fat stored as readily in today's world. We have an abundance of food everywhere we look, and certainly plenty of it to help us prepare a 7-day meal plan for muscle gain.
The question remains: Why do men store fat on their chests vs. other areas?
There are genetic components to how we store fat. This is why everyone accumulates body fat a little differently. In addition to genetic factors, there are sex factors, too. Before menopause, women store fat mainly on the butt and thigh, making butt-lifting exercises more of a priority for them, while men primarily store fat in the trunk.
The predisposition to store fat in the core is why men can have lean limbs, but a layer of fat covering the abdominals and chest.
So far, we have talked about chest fat in general. However, a specific category of chest fat needs to be covered before going further: gynecomastia.
Gynecomastia, or gyno for short, is an increase in breast tissue (fat) caused by an imbalance of estrogen and testosterone hormones. It is usually visible as a firm lump underneath the nipple. Gyno occurs any time there is a decrease in testosterone compared to estrogen. It can be a result of too much estrogen or low testosterone.
For this reason, it is common in newborns, teenage boys going through puberty, men over 50, and men following steroid use.
Although it can be physically and psychologically uncomfortable, there are typically no significant medical complications. Most cases of gynecomastia improve over time without medical intervention. With that said, sometimes, the underlying cause needs to be addressed.
In some severe cases, surgery may be needed to remove the excess breast tissue. A mastectomy is a surgery to remove the breast gland tissue. This is pretty common in bodybuilders.
Some overweight people develop enlarged breasts due to excess fat tissue that looks like gyno. This is called pseudo-gynecomastia, and the only cause is being heavy. The good news is that this can be treated by simply losing weight through a diet like the Metabolic Confusion Plan or following a cutting workout and diet plan.
If you think you might have gynecomastia, see your healthcare provider. However, most men don't have gynecomastia or even pseudo-gynecomastia. They just have too much chest fat. If this is you, we will give you the tools to take care of it.
The idea of spot fat reduction has been around for decades. And if you think about it, it is easy to see why. We all have areas of our body we wish to be leaner. It would be nice if we could pick a spot and burn the fat off.
Most people, at least subconsciously, believe in spot reduction. This is evident in the abundance of ab training seen in most gyms. It's thought that with enough emphasis placed on sit-ups, planks, side bends, or dumbbell ab exercises, a shredded six-pack will poke through.
In theory, spot reduction makes sense. An active muscle should burn more fat than an in-active one. However, it does not work like that. Fat is not really burned off. Fat is oxidized.
Fat oxidation is a process in which stored fat is broken down into fatty acids and released into the blood. From there, the fatty acids circulate before being used for energy. This is why most research fails to show spot reduction is possible.
However, a study in 2017 found that upper and lower body strength training resulted in more fat loss for the upper and lower body, respectively1. Of course, this is only one study, but it at least opens the door.
If, and this is still a big if, spot reduction is possible, it would improve localized fat loss but slow down fat loss in other areas. So, emphasizing chest training may help shift some fat loss toward the chest. Since our primary goal is attacking chest fat, we can worry about other body parts at another time.
Keep in mind that a calorie deficit is still paramount.
What we're about to say isn't going to be something you haven't heard before. The best way to lose fat is through diet and exercise. It doesn't matter if we're talking about stomach fat, thigh fat, back fat, neck fat, or chest fat - it's all the same as far as fat loss is concerned.
As mentioned, fat loss comes down to calories in vs. calories out. The primary way to do this is through diet. Once the diet is set up, we can add cardio (we recommend steady state, but HIIT is also always a great fat burner) for a little extra bump in calorie burn.
In terms of fat loss, weight lifting is not as important. However, adding muscle to our pecs is a critical part of the process when talking about chest fat, eliminating body fat levels, and supporting your weight loss efforts.
Let’s start with nutrition. The first step in creating a fat-loss diet is figuring out your maintenance calories. As you would expect, maintenance calories are the amount of food your body requires to maintain weight.
There are many formulas and calculations to find maintenance calories, but the one below is simple and easy.
The number range within the parathesis accounts for physical activity. The number you use in the formula will change depending on how physically active you are. If you don't move around much, use 1.2. If you are always busy, use 2.2. The majority of people will fall somewhere in between.
Here is how it would break down for a moderately active 200-pound male: 200 pounds x 10 x 1.5 = 3,000.
This is his maintenance calories. Theoretically, if the 200-pound male ate 3000 calories daily, his body weight would stay the same. Once we determine our maintenance calories, it makes fat loss easy. We simply subtract calories to create a deficit. To do this, we need to do a little more math.
It is recognized that losing one pound of fat takes a deficit of 3500 calories. Since there are seven days a week, a 500 calorie deficit per day would result in a 3500 calorie deficit per week (500 x 7= 3500).
We recommend starting a fat loss phase to lose between .5-1% of body weight per week. For a 200-pound guy, that would be between 1-2 pounds per week or a 500 to 1000-calorie deficit per day.
As long as you sustain a calorie deficit, macronutrient distribution is not as critical. With that said, make sure you are consuming enough protein. Protein is crucial for building muscle and losing fat. High protein diets, filled with the best foods for muscles, have been shown to promote satiety, improve fat loss, and help build muscle mass2.
Step one here is figuring out how much protein you need per day. From there, fill in the rest of your diet with complex carbohydrates, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and a little healthy fat.
When trying to shed excess body fat and burn chest fat specifically, you'll want to utilize a combination of cardio and weights. Muscle hypertrophy combined with weight loss not only will lead to body recomposition, but it will lower your body fat percentage while losing chest fat.
Here's the exercise to focus on to help eliminate too much body fat.
The calorie deficit can come from a combination of diet and cardio. Start with three or four weekly cardio sessions for 30 minutes at a low to moderate intensity. During low to moderate intensity cardio, you should be able to carry on a conversation.
The benefits of stationary bikes are endless, and it's one great steady-state option to consider. With this cardio style, you burn between 50-100 calories every ten minutes3. Factor in the number of calories burned through cardio into the weekly deficit. Three 30-minute cardio sessions per week would be an additional 450-900 calories burned.
As mentioned, the research on spot reduction is spotty at best. It is unlikely that simply training your chest will result in more chest fat loss than other parts of the body. With that said, if we have nutrition and cardio in line, giving the chest extra attention through weight lifting won’t hurt.
And it could potentially help to burn fat. Plus, the more muscle you have, the better your chest will look. We like the moves listed below incorporated into a chest and shoulders workout for best results.
Okay, we can’t really target chest fat. But, some chest exercises are better than others. Here are the five chest exercises to focus on to help lose excess fat on the chest.
When doing the bench press, it is essential to have your form dialed in. Few lifters outside elite powerlifters understand all the variables and intricacies involved in a good bench press.
Any technique breakdown will quickly show up as excessive soreness, poor performance, or even injury. With that said, this movement is responsible for more chest growth than any other exercise, so if we can learn the proper technique, this exercise can be very beneficial for getting rid of man boobs.
How to do the Barbell Bench Press:
The dumbbell incline bench press is one of the best exercises to work the upper part of the chest and help you to lose chest fat fast. Since it is a dumbbell exercise, both sides of the chest get equal attention, eliminating muscle imbalance issues.
Dumbbells also allow for an extended range of motion more than a barbell. Adjust the bench angle to find what works best for you, but use an angle less than 45 degrees if available.
How to do the Incline Dumbbell Press:
The dumbbell pullover is an exercise that Arnold made famous in Pumping Iron. It is a shame this exercise fell out of style because it's a unique move for working the chest area and chest muscles, while activating the lats and serratus.
Don't forget to include chest stretches post-workout.
How to do the Dumbbell Pullover:
Dips are one of the simplest but most effective chest exercises. Most gyms have a set of parallel bars for doing dips. If your gym doesn't, you can make due by setting up two bars in a squat rack or the back of two chairs. This variation is great for targeting the lower chest in particular.
How to do Gironda Dips:
The pushup is one of the most underrated exercises and can be a valuable tool for any training program. Just because it is basic doesn't mean it is not effective. Looking to switch things up? Try a push up variation in your routine.
How to do Push Ups:
The following is a high volume (18 sets) chest workout. Do this routine while you are trying to lose chest fat.
The good news is that getting rid of chest fat is not a super aggressive fat loss goal. It's not the same as getting shredded 10-pack abs. You might want that too, but that is a different article.
How long it takes to reduce chest fat largely depends on your starting point and how much fat you have to lose.
As recommended, lose between .5-1% of your body weight per week. If you weigh 200 pounds, this is 1-2 pounds per week. Continue the diet until you reach an acceptable level of chest fat and have begun to also build muscle. Losing fat takes time. Expect at least ten to twelve weeks to see significant progress.
After you have done all of the hard work, there is one last thing you can do to help minimize chest fat: Improve your posture.
Sitting up straight is not a secret fat loss tool, but it can make your chest look better.
We sit all day in poor positions, typing away at our keyboards. It's no wonder so many people struggle with rounded shoulders. Even the best chests in the world look average when the shoulders are slouched forward.
So, make it a point to sit and stand up straight. Puff your chest out, and bring your shoulder blades together. Take the time to cure your stiff neck and shoulders. This is an instant poor posture fix to present your chest in the best possible way.
Having excess chest fat can be embarrassing as a man. After all, you wouldn't catch the best bodybuilders rocking excessive chest fat. No one wants to take their shirt off at the beach when they have man boobs.
Although it can be frustrating, with proper diet and exercise, chest fat can be lost like fat anywhere else on the body. The key is being patient and combining diet, cardio, and a high-volume chest-focused weight-lifting program. If you do those three things, chest fat will be a thing of the past.
At SET FOR SET, we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Our team of experts, including certified trainers, dietitians, and athletes, brings over a decade of industry expertise. Our goal is to be your primary resource for all fitness inquiries, guiding you toward a stronger and healthier life. Sign up to stay up-to-date!