These 4 Exercises Will Help to Banish Your Man Boobs
Definitions of masculinity and standards of what a man should look like might be more fluid concepts today than at any point in recent memory, but there are still plenty of conventions that make anyone who considers themselves to be a man squeamish if they can’t conform to the expected standard. These qualities can make some guys see themselves as a square peg attempting to fit into a round hole. Chief among these standards is that a man should look a certain way, with the ideal physique consisting of broad shoulders and a tapered torso, with plenty of muscle mass to go around. Big arms and visible abs are a must—along with a perfectly-shaped barrel chest.
But while some departures from this standard are still widely considered within the spectrum of normal masculinity—think large bellies, love handles, or the middle-ground of the “skinny fat” or “dad bod”—there’s one particular physical characteristic that causes men to feel shame. The “big chest” convention has its limits; when guys have large pecs that are bigger than the norm, they’re no longer lauded. They’re considered to have “man-boobs,” (or moobs for short), and find themselves the subject of derision from other men and sometimes women, too.
Man-boobs are stigmatized everywhere from locker rooms to dating apps, and guys worry about being perceived as too effeminate or grossly unhealthy. Fear of this stigma can push men to take sometimes drastic measures to change or mask their chests, with some refusing to remove their shirts in any public setting, slouching, or even gaining weight, while others go as far as seeking surgical procedures to change their body’s shape.
But really, the condition, known as gynemastia, is much more common than you might expect; up to 30 percent of men will be affected at some point in their lives, often during periods of life when the body undergoes hormonal changes, like puberty or between the ages of 50 to 69.
But this isn’t a one-size fits all condition. There are several factors to consider for guys with ‘man boobs’ in determining the cause of the enlargement. Some men might just carry excess fat in their breasts, so exercise can help to reduce the area down to a more proportional size. Thankfully, the fatty lumps aren’t necessarily dangerous (belly fat in the gut is what you should really worry about), but the condition could be caused by changes in hormone levels from a variety of natural or synthetic factors. Clinical gynecomastia is a hormonal imbalance or elevated levels of estrogen and lowered levels of testosterone. This could come naturally, or might be caused by medications, street drugs, or steroids.
Still, it’s usually not a serious problem and may go away on its own. However, if you think you have gynecomastia and it continues to persist or cause you discomfort, you should visit a doctor to find out if medication or surgery will help.
To get rid of their prominent breasts, men are increasingly opting for a surgical solution. Male breast reduction procedures rose by 32 percent from 2000 to 2017 according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and in 2019 was the fourth most common cosmetic surgery procedure for men.
For those who are dealing with excess fat stored in the chest, picking a more targeted workout plan might help. Using a routine that works to build muscle while burning fat can be a key path to success. Picking exercises that work your whole body to kickstart your metabolism will help along with hammering the chest, so get ready to work hard and fast.
You should also make sure that all of your training focus doesn’t go into your chest. Over-emphasizing what you perceive as your problem area might only cause new ones. To help create more symmetry, think about what’s behind you. “If you want a bigger chest, do back exercises,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. “Doing only pushups and bench presses will lead your chest muscle fibers to tighten, pulling your shoulders forward (especially if you have a desk job). Offset that with rows; stronger back muscles will pull your shoulders back, allowing your chest fibers to broaden out visually. “
With that in mind, check out this workout.
The Man Boob Eliminator Workout
Firm up your chest and shed your man boobs with these supersets.
DO THIS: Beginning with exercise 1A, do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds. Then rest for 30 seconds.
Next, do exercise 1B, completing as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, and then rest for 30 seconds. That’s 1 round. Complete 4 rounds of superset 1, then rest 2 minutes before moving on to superset 2 for 4 rounds.
Add these supersets to your workout routine 2 or 3 times a week.
1A. Inverted Row
Set up a barbell in a squat rack or find a bar at a height where you can hold it from underneath with your body almost parallel with the ground. Make sure to squeeze your glutes and engage your core, as if you were holding a plank, so that this becomes a full-body exercise. Squeeze your shoulder blades, then pull yourself up to the bar (imagine that you are pulling the bar down to your chest to help engage your back).
This basic exercise can help to shape your chest more than you might expect—but you might be missing out on some benefits if you’re not in the proper position. Like the inverted row, you should do your best to keep your plank position strong, with engaged glutes and core. For more great chest engagement, make sure that your hands aren’t too wide apart and your elbows don’t flare when you lower to the floor. Once you can push through 15 to 20 perfect reps, begin experiment with variations and half-rep schemes.
2A. Goblet Squat
Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell at chest height. Keep your chest and core engaged to keep the weight from tipping your torso forward—squeezing the back will also help with this. Take your time to lower down, keeping your knees wide apart. Press up from the ground to raise back up top.
The key here is that this is not a squat with a front raise. Instead, focus on your hip hinge and extension. Bend your knees slightly, bring the weight back through your legs, then stand up and squeeze your glutes powerfully to drive the weight up.
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