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Troubled by chest fat

How To Lose Chest Fat | Built With Science

by Jeremy Ethier - April 30, 2023

It protrudes. Jiggles. And makes buying shirts an absolute nightmare — anything white, “lightweight”, or soft is an instant no-go.

Also, let’s not forget the endless tugging of shirts (if you know, you know).

That’s right: we’re talking about man boobs.

How to lose chest fat cover

If you've been desperately searching for an answer to "How do I lose chest fat?" I've got you covered. 

First things first. Yes, exercise can help you lose chest fat. 

Now, at this point, chances are, you think that just doing a bunch of chest exercises (think barbell bench press and cable fly) would help blast the fat right off your chest. But it doesn't work that way.

Spot reduction is a myth; specific chest exercises will not preferentially target chest fat.

Instead, to lose chest fat, you’ll have to lose fat everywhere.

Meaning? You’ll need to get into a calorie deficit and stick to that consistently for at least a few months. 

Wait. So how does exercise come into play? Well, there are 2 parts to it:

  • Energy expenditure: Exercise increases your energy expenditure, which could help you better achieve and stick to a calorie deficit.
  • Builds muscle: While specific chest exercises cannot preferentially target chest fat, they can help build your pectoral muscles. The resulting chest growth (i.e., gains) could help “lift” and define your pecs, making your chest fat less noticeable — especially when paired with a consistent calorie deficit.

OK, sounds good. But which exercises should you do?

Before diving into that, let's first (very briefly) cover the anatomy of the chest muscles.

Your chest is divided into 2 main regions:

  1. Clavicular head of the pec major: Also known as the “upper chest”
  2. Sternal head of the pec major: Divides into both the middle chest and the lower chest

Although all regions of your chest will be activated during all chest exercises, certain parts can be emphasized.

This means you should try to distribute your pick of chest exercises relatively equally between those that emphasize the upper, middle, and lower chest — so you firm up your pecs evenly.

And … how would you know what those are?

Good news: I used a $12,000 EMG machine to discover the best chest exercises for each region in a past article. So, using that as a reference, here's a list of the top 10 chest exercises that could help you shed your man boobs.

#1: 15-Degree Incline Dumbbell Press

Equipment needed: Dumbbells and a bench

Preferentially targets: Upper and middle chest

What’s special about this exercise? Beyond activating both the upper and middle chest pretty well, using dumbbells also allows you to hit a deeper pec stretch at the bottom position; a handful of studies — including this, this, and this — have suggested that this could help you see more gains. Also, unlike bilateral exercises such as the barbell bench press, the 15-degree incline dumbbell press ensures you work both your right and left pec relatively evenly. This minimizes the chances of muscular imbalances.

How to perform the incline dumbbell bench press

#2: Incline Machine Press

Equipment needed: Incline machine

Preferentially targets: Upper chest

What’s special about this exercise? There's minimal set-up (well, OK, sometimes you may need to adjust the seat height), and it's incredibly easy to load. Just slide those weight plates on, and you're ready to go. Oh, and if you’re wondering: a 2022 systematic review has made it clear that training with free weights or machines results in similar rates of muscle growth. 

#3: Barbell Bench Press

Equipment needed: Barbell and a bench

Preferentially targets: Upper, middle, and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? It's often claimed as the G.O.A.T chest exercise for a reason. It's great at targeting all 3 areas of your chest, and it's relatively easy to progressively overload over time compared to dumbbells. Compared to kicking up a pair of heavy dumbbells into position, slapping on some weight to a barbell just feels way easier and safer to do.

Think about squeezing your biceps together on the ascent of the bench press

#4: Flat Dumbbell Press

Equipment needed: Dumbbells and a bench

Preferentially targets: Upper, middle, and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? Didn’t we just sing praises about the flat barbell bench press? Yes, that exercise is great, but it doesn’t mean its dumbbell alternative is useless. In fact, dumbbells have advantages over barbells. First: they allow you to get a deeper stretch on the chest (which is likely better for growth). Second: they can help prevent or fix a muscular imbalance between your pecs. Third: the flat dumbbell press often feels better for your joints and triceps than the flat barbell press.

Flat dumbbell chest press

#5: Seated Cable Fly

Equipment needed: Dual cable machine and a bench

Preferentially targets: Upper, middle, and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? So far, all the exercises we’ve discussed thus far have a resistance curve where a high degree of tension is exerted on the chest muscles only in the bottom to mid-half of the movement. These movements are likely the best for growth. However, research also suggests that incorporating cable movements as well — which provide constant tension, including at the top of the movement — may help you see more gains.

The best chest exercises mid chest exercises

#6: Slight Decline Dumbbell Press

Equipment needed: Dumbbells, a weight plate, and a bench

Preferentially targets: Middle and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? Note the keywords “slight decline”. This means we’re ditching the decline bench and, instead, creating the desired angle ourselves by sticking a weight plate, ideally a 45 lbs one, at the front of the bench. This exercise is particularly beneficial for minimizing the appearance of chest fat as it activates the lower chest (which is where most of the fat tends to be found) really well.

The best chest exercises decline dumbbell chest press

#7: Pec Deck Machine

Equipment needed: Pec deck machine

Preferentially targets: Middle and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? The pec deck is relatively easy to set up, load, and progressively overload. Oh, and let's not forget the constant tension it provides. Yep, that means potentially more gains.

Pec deck machine

#8: High To Low Cable Fly

Equipment needed: Dual cable machine

Preferentially targets: Middle and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? As with the seated cable fly, this exercise allows you to maintain constant tension on your mid and lower chest throughout the movement. This could help you see better muscular growth. Note: high to low cable fly on the left below.

High to low cable flyes

#9: Chest Dips

Equipment needed: Weight-assisted chin-dip machine

Preferentially targets: Lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? If you’re looking for a chest exercise that preferentially targets the lower chest, chest dips definitely fit the bill. A word of caution, though: your front delts could easily take over the movement even with the proper form (that's what happened to me!)

So, give it a go and see how it feels for you. And even if it doesn't work for you, simply pick any other exercise in this list that work your middle and lower chest.

#10: Push Ups

Equipment needed: None

Preferentially targets: Upper, middle, and lower chest

What’s special about this exercise? If you don't have access to a gym, you may wonder how you could lose that darned male chest fat at home — is there an exercise you could do? There is. And it’s none other than push ups. While they are more effective and suitable for beginner lifters, they could also work OK-ish for intermediate and advanced lifters in a pinch.

Sample Chest Workout Routines

Here are 2 ways you could put those exercises together for your chest workout in the gym.

Workout A

#1 Barbell Bench Press: 3 sets, 8 to 12 reps (all 3)

#2 Slight Decline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets, 8 to 12 reps (middle and lower chest)

#3 Incline Machine Press: 3 sets, 6 to 10 reps (upper and middle chest)

Workout B

#1 Flat Dumbbell Press: 3 sets, 8 to 12 reps (all 3)

#2 15-Degree Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets, 8 to 12 reps (upper and middle chest)

#3 High To Low Cable Fly: 3 sets, 10 to 15 reps (middle and lower chest)

What Causes Man Boobs?

Here’s an important disclaimer. Man boobs can be a result of 2 things:

  • Excess adipose tissue deposition in the chest region, also known as "pseudogynecomastia
  • Gynecomastia, the overdevelopment or enlargement of the breast tissue in men

While pseudogynecomastia is caused by excess fat, gynecomastia, on the other hand, is caused by hormonal imbalance.

For context: all men have breast tissue. This tissue is particularly sensitive to changes in the testosterone-estrogen balance. Since testosterone is the primary sex hormone in males (and estrogen in women), the breast tissue in men typically doesn’t enlarge.

However, that delicate estrogen-testosterone balance can be disrupted by the following:

  • Health conditions: Several conditions can cause gynecomastia by affecting the testosterone-estrogen balance. Examples include obesity, hypogonadism, aging, tumors, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, liver failure, cirrhosis, malnutrition, and starvation.
  • Medications: Examples include anti-androgens, androgens, AIDS medications, anti-anxiety medications, antibiotics, chemotherapy, and stomach-emptying medications.
  • Recreational drugs, illicit drugs, and alcohol: Substances that can cause gynecomastia include alcohol, anabolic steroids, amphetamines, marijuana, heroin, and methadone.

Chest Fat Vs Gyno

When it comes to how to cut chest fat, the pairing of exercise and a calorie deficit will only work if you're dealing with chest fat.

Unfortunately, since gynecomastia involves the enlargement of breast tissue, lowering your body fat percentage is unlikely to result in significant improvements in the appearance of your chest.

Do I Have Gynecomastia Or Chest Fat?

Look out for the following gynecomastia symptoms:

  • A soft, rubbery lump located directly behind the nipple in one or both breasts
  • Tenderness experienced around the breast and the nipple
  • Nipple discharge in one or both breasts

Still, you can't always be 100% sure until you check in with a licensed medical professional with the appropriate knowledge and expertise to assess your condition.

In most cases, your primary healthcare provider would order a variety of tests to rule out other diseases or conditions, including:

  • Blood tests, such as liver function tests and hormone studies
  • Urine tests
  • Mammogram (a low-dose X-ray of your breast)
  • Biopsy (the removal of a small breast tissue sample to check for cancer cells)

How To Get Rid Of Gynecomastia?

If you have a case of true gynecomastia (instead of chest fat), treatment usually involves targeting the underlying condition. Non-surgical treatments include:

  • Off-label medications: Medications used to treat breast cancer and other conditions, such as tamoxifen (Soltamox) and anastrozole (Arimidex), may be helpful.
  • Switching medications: If your doctor suspects that a drug you're taking may be causing your gynecomastia, they may change your medication or lower your dose.
  • Testosterone therapy: Testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can help bring your testosterone-estrogen levels back into balance.
  • Treating underlying health conditions: Treating an underlying health condition like cirrhosis or hyperthyroidism may improve symptoms of gynecomastia.

That said, moderate or severe gynecomastia may call for gynecomastia surgery, which usually involves liposuction (to remove soft, fatty tissue) and excision (to remove breast tissue).


When you have man boobs, it can seem like you’re stuck with:

  • Wearing thick, dark-colored, oversized tops
  • Feeling embarrassed about taking off your shirt at the beach
  • Looking “feminine” from the top up

Forever. But hopefully, this article has shown you plenty of things (e.g., lifestyle changes for chest fat and a medical treatment plan for gynecomastia) you could do to make those moobs go *poof*.

And if you’re looking for a step-by-step training plan that’ll show you exactly how to eat and train to transform excess chest fat into seriously impressive pecs, take the quiz below, and I’ll tell you which BWS shred program is best for you and your body:

Click the button below to take my analysis quiz to discover the best program for you:

How To Lose Chest Fat | Built With Science