What Are Pecs?


The human body is a complex system of bones and muscles. Each muscle serves a particular function to ensure the body is functioning properly. "Pecs" is a popular name reserved to a particular set of muscles. Found in the upper body area, the pecs provide functionality and strength to the upper body and its extremities.


The official name for "pecs" is the pectoralis major muscle. Located on a person's chest, the pectoralis major muscle is wider spread in males than in females. The pectoralis minor muscle is a thin muscle that is situated under the pectoralis major. The pectoralis major consists of at least six different groups of muscle fibers. Each fiber can be independently used by the central nervous system.


The "pecs" are involved in four different major actions in the movement of arms and shoulders in the human body. The pectoralis major is responsible for flexing in the humerus, allowing people to throw objects and lift above their head. Additionally, the muscle rotates and adducts (draws the muscle inwardly toward the bone) the humerus. The pectoralis major muscle aids in taking in an abundance of oxygen during deep breaths. The pectoralis minor muscle is used to depress the shoulder after it is elevated due to shrugging or other actions.


Like other muscles in the body, the pectoralis major muscle can be trained to become stronger. By using resistance exercises or playing sports, the pectoralis major will increase in strength. Bench pressing exercises using dumbbells, barbells or machines can increase muscle mass. Using the dumbbells in a flat or inclined angle shapes the muscle as well. Participating in swimming is an effective way to increase both the anaerobic and aerobic work capacity of the pectoralis major and minor muscles.

Injury and Disease

The pectoralis major muscle is susceptible to injury like many other muscles. Commonly occurring in sports such as weightlifting, wrestling and football, an injury to the "pecs" will result in pain in the chest. Accompanying the pain is a loss in muscle strength, limited mobility and bruising. In extreme cases, the muscle will tear, often requiring surgery.

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