“What can I do to increase my chest size?”
“I want to lose weight, but not from my boobs.”
These are two of the most common phrases I hear from women starting a strength training or weight loss program.
To properly assess if a notable increase in chest size is possible, we first need to have a little chat about the tissues that make up our breasts and chest muscles, asses the actual payoff of chest hypertrophy exercises and then talk about the alternative solution that would really make the most difference. So let’s dive in!
The actual breast tissue we’re dealing with is adipose tissue. Aka: fat tissue. This is why
breasts tend to get smaller when we lose weight and get bigger when we gain weight. If someone invented a way (besides liposuction) to pick and choose where your fat loss came from, they would be clever and soon-to-be rich little innovator. But alas, biology decided that when women are in a state or caloric depletion the vital organs and womb would be protected with the highest priority. You’ll notice the vital organs and womb are around the midsection/hip/thigh area, explaining how the love handles, hips and thighs became our nemeses.
Okay, so boobs are made of fat tissue. But isn’t there some muscle around there?
Yes. There are two muscles underneath this adipose tissue: the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor. The pec minor, as it’s name suggests, is much smaller than the pec major and it’s location doesn’t really serve our goals. So don’t worry about it and we will focus on the pec major. When we increase the size of a muscle, we call it hypertrophy. The ideal total number of reps for hypertrophy is 36-50. Don’t worry, you don’t have to do these all at once. Great set/rep ranges to aim for are: 6 sets of 6, 4 sets of 12 or 5 sets of 10. And you’ll want to do this for 2-4 sessions per week.
This will take some time and commitment, and you may see some results. Most specifically if you are a smaller chested woman to begin with. And the results will most likely by slight increase in pec major size and slight increase in chest definition towards the midline of your body (think cleavage). Scroll to the end of this article for the best chest exercises to target this area.
Okay, so boobs are made of fat tissue and we can potentially increase the size of our pectoralis major for a slight boost in cleavage definition. Time for the real game changer to enter the ring: Posture.
First, a story: My fiance, a 6’4″ ravishing Canadian used to be frustrated about his perceived lack of chest size. After trying every chest exercise in the book to no avail, he asked me what he should do. I suggested that his chest might appear smaller because his shoulders often rounded slightly forward, thus decreasing the space from shoulder to shoulder. So instead, he switched to consciously thinking about his posture and strengthening the muscles in his upper back to pull his shoulders back. This approach had FAR more success on the way his body looked and how he felt about his chest size.
All though that story is about a man, the same principles apply to women. If you are hunched over or rounded at the shoulders, your chest is going to appear smaller. But it you pull your shoulders back (and strengthen your back muscles so you don’t have to think about it all the time) you can change the shape of your body much more quickly.
Just practice this in the mirror real quick and you will see what I mean.
So why not try both strategies? Add a few chest hypertrophy exercises to your workout routine, strengthen the muscles of your upper back and make a conscious effort to improve your posture.
Here are two workouts to accomplish each of those goals:
And remember, your body is beautiful, strong and capable of so many things. Be proud of what you’ve got!