It’s safe to say that “man boobs” typically aren’t desired by most men. The not-so-endearing term refers to an excessive amount of fat or lack of muscle tone around the chest area.
(Note: this differs from gynecomastia, a hormone-induced medical condition characterized by the presence of actual breast tissue in men.)
In the case of gynecomastia, the condition usually presents itself during male puberty as hormones fluctuate. According to a study published by Glenn Braunstein, M.D., this condition can happen to up to 70% of boys. Fortunately, it tends to resolve itself, usually within two years of starting puberty.
But hope is not lost if you’re looking to tighten, tone, and rid yourself of these pesky pockets of fat.
The number one way to get rid of man boobs is to shed fat. Unless you have gynecomastia, a medical condition that causes enlarged male breasts due to a hormonal imbalance, the cause of the jiggling in your chest area is excess body fat and lack of muscle.
For some men, it doesn’t go away, or it presents itself later in life. In addition to the hormone rollercoaster that occurs during puberty, which can result in elevated estrogen levels, other factors may also be at play. Taking drugs like testosterone can also cause gynecomastia.
You already know that a balanced diet and well-rounded exercise routine is going to help you lose weight and shed the unwanted flab. If you’re targeting a specific area, though, you’ll need to give that body part some extra TLC. We put together a list of the most effective exercises you can do to tone up those man boobs once and for all. Here, top trainers share their best-kept secrets for targeting man boobs. Yes, really.
This may be an oldie, but it’s a goodie that fitness pros still stand by. “Push-ups are one of the best ways to get a great chest and core workout without using weights, so [they] can be done anywhere—plus there are no excuses not to do them!” says Chris Ryan, CSCS, founder of Chris Ryan Fitness.
“Fully align yourself in the plank position. Then touch your chest to the ground while keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Forcefully push yourself away from the ground to the start position.”
He recommends repeating this for ten to 15 reps to increase growth hormone by 500+%.
You don’t need any equipment or a gym membership to do push-ups, and they give you an incredible workout. In addition to building up your chest muscles, Yujin Lim, a physiologist at Optimal Health Exercise and Physiology, says that you’ll also see benefits in your triceps, shoulders, and core.
The key to push-ups is proper form.
- Maintain a straight torso, separate your legs slightly, and place your hands parallel to your shoulders.
- With half-bent arms, lower yourself until your chest is barely off the ground.
- Return to the starting position.
- Aim for three to four sets of 10 to 20 reps each.
If you want some extra encouragement when you grind out those push-ups, use the Aaptiv app. You’ll have a trainer in your ear and upbeat music to motivate you to complete every rep.
Plank to Push-Up
If you’re looking to build upper-body strength and core endurance, few floor exercises are better than this one, according to Ben Boudro, CSCS, owner of Xceleration Fitness in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
“Start in a front plank position [with your forearms on the floor]. Your nose [should be] in line with your hands and your elbows bent at 90 degrees,” he says. Be sure to engage your abdominals and squeeze your glutes.
If you have a mirror nearby, check your body alignment. You should be flat and parallel to the floor. Don’t let your hips or back sag and avoid putting an arch in your back. In theory, someone should be able to put a glass of water (or a martini) on your back without it spilling.
“While maintaining a perfect position from head to toe, come up to your hands in a high plank position.” You should be placing your right hand on the floor under your left shoulder. Do the same with the left. Pause for a moment in push-up position to check your alignment. Continue pushing up and lowering back down on your elbows. He recommends three sets of 30 seconds each for beginners. Alternate your starting hand after each exercise. For example, if you came up first on your right hand on the first rep, make sure to come up on your left hand on the next rep.
For an extra burn, do one push-up between the Plank to Push-Up exercise.
Standing Cable Fly
Cables provide a natural resistance and allow you to target the entire chest area, building strength, and burning fat.
Though this move specifically targets your pec muscles, it’s great for burning fat all over your body, especially your core.
“The setup is easy, and it’s one of those moves that you instantly feel burning in your chest,” Boudro says. He recommends performing this move in front of a mirror. “Set up resistance bands or a cable fly machine with the handles low and near the ground.
Grab the handles in a staggered athletic stance. Make sure you are far enough away from the rig or machine that you are using, and there is tension on the cables (or bands),” he says.
“Start with your palms facing out. Bring your hands toward the center of your chest (sternum), squeeze for two seconds, then slowly bring your hands back down to your sides.” Repeat for three sets of ten reps each.
This exercise is commonly done incorrectly at the gym, and it can result in under-developed pecs and over-developed anterior deltoids. If you’re trying to move too much weight, it can result in improper form that targets the wrong muscle group.
To make sure you’re working the right muscle group, follow these three pro tips from VShred:
- Roll your shoulders back and down. This position automatically tightens the muscles at the outer edge of your chest instead of your shoulders.
- Squeeze your chest and lats during the exercise to feel those muscles working. As you pull the handles toward your chest, you should feel that your chest muscles are doing most of the work.
- As with any exercise, the act of shortening and lengthening the muscle is what causes it to build. Your goal should be to shorten the muscle as much as possible by brining your handles all the way together. If you are using too much weight, you won’t be able to get the full range of motion.
Sunny from My Bollywood Body trains serious bodybuilders, and he highly recommends the bench press to shred the man boobs.
The bench press is one of the most classic chest workouts in fitness. It’s a trusty move for building strength, burning fat, and getting that extra little cut in your pec muscles, Boudro says.
His preference is a slight twist on the regular dumbbell bench press, called the winding dumbbell bench press.
“First, set up like you would for a normal dumbbell bench press, with your hands turned upside down (palms up) and … nearly touching your chest,” he says.
“Press your hands toward the ceiling. As you press up, simultaneously turn your wrists over (palms down).” Bring the dumbbells down slowly, and then come back to the start position. He suggests three sets of ten reps each.
Just like any exercise, make sure you maintain control and use slow, deliberate movements. As you lower the weights after each rep, stretch the chest open, and then squeeze the muscles when you raise the weights back to the top.
Another way to squeeze more out of this exercise is to do a drop set at the end. For example, if you do three sets of ten reps with 145 pounds, do a fourth set at 95 pounds. Joe Baur, a certified personal trainer, says that drop sets work to increase muscle size and endurance. Even though your muscles are fatigued after three sets, by forcing them to work just a little bit harder (but with a lighter weight), you squeeze every last bit of effort out of them.
If you do drop sets, we recommend them for only once exercise per workout. It’s easy to overboard with drop sets, and they will shock your muscles.
Getting rid of man boobs isn’t just about lifting weights. There should be a cardio, fat-burning element to your routine as well. Celebrity trainer, Thomas DeLauer, recommends HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) as a way to accelerate fat loss and turn your body into a fat-burning machine.
There’s a reason most sprinters, not just joggers, are typically well-cut and toned. Sprinting utilizes serious muscle from both your upper and lower body.
To make sprinting work for your fitness goals—i.e., losing your man boobs—Ryan recommends aiming for a strong finish of six to ten 45-second to one-minute sprints on the treadmill or 100- to 200-meter sprints at the track or football field.
“Minimal rest of one to two-minutes max between each rep will keep your heart rate up as well,” he says. “Your effort should be 90 percent or more.”
Reverse Cable Pulls
“One of the big mistakes guys make when trying to get a better-looking chest is that they only work the chest,” Ryan says. Just like you need to have a strong core to have a healthy back, you also need to get your back muscles in shape to get the maximum benefit from a chest workout.
“By working your back muscles, you will help naturally ‘pull up’ your chest and back—think good posture here. [This] effectively negates the effects of loose skin and gravity pulling down on your pecs.”
From a bent-over position with your weight in your heels, start by facing the cable machine with the handles at the lowest point to the floor, he instructs.
Grab the left handle with an underhand grip with your right hand. Do the same with your left hand on the right handle.
“Do a back fist punch style of reverse pull with power, hold for a split second at full contraction, and then slowly lower back to the beginning position below the chest,” Ryan says.
He recommends repeating this for three to four sets of 12-15 reps each, working with light to moderate loads, concentrating mainly on form, and fully engaging the upper-back muscles. “You will be surprised at how hard this move actually is when done right.”
An added benefit of this exercise is that strengthens the muscles that help you do pull-ups. So, not only do you get to improve your chest, but you could end up improving your pull-up game!
Time to get started on toning those man boobs into oblivion!
If you’re looking for more guidance on toning up those man boobs, check out the strength training section of Aaptiv. You’ll find upper body and chest-specific workouts that will help you build muscle in your chest, stat.