Pectoralis major


Latin: M. pectoralis major
English: major pectoral muscle

Synergists: Pectoralis minor muscle, teres major muscle, subscapularis muscle
Antagonist: Trapezius muscle


The pectoralis major muscle takes up most of the anterior chest wall. The muscle has three original parts. The main part comes from the outer surface of the sternum, another part from the medial third of the clavicle and a smaller part from the anterior part of the rectus sheath. When the arm is hanging down, the pectoralis major assumes an approximately quadrangular shape, while when the arm is raised it has an almost triangular shape.

Illustration of the pectoralis major

Illustration of the large pectoral muscle (Musculus pectoralis major): rib cage seen from the front (A) and from the side (B).

Pectoralis major
Pectoralis major muscle

  1. Pectoralis major (1a. + 1b. + 1c.)
    Pectoralis major muscle
    1a. Collarbone portion -
    Pars clavicularis
    1b. Sternum-rib area -
    Pars sternocostalis
    1c. Abdominal area -
    Pars abdominalis
  2. Collarbone -
  3. Upper arm shaft -
    Corpus humeri
  4. 7th rib - Costa VII
  5. Costal cartilage -
    Cartilago costalis
  6. 2nd rib - Costa II
  7. Sternum - sternum

You can find an overview of all Dr-Gumpert images at: medical illustrations


Approach: Large humeral ridge of the humerus (Crista tuberculi majoris humeri)


  • Pars clavicularis: inner two-thirds of the collarbone
  • Pars sternocotalis: Sternum and 2nd - 7th costal cartilage
  • Pars abdomialis: anterior rectus sheath

Innervation: Nn. pectorales


The function of the pectoralis major is that of Adduction, anteversion and Internal rotation of the outstretched arm. We use the example Breaststroke clearly visible. In athletic throwing and pushing disciplines, well-developed chest muscles can also be seen in the athletes, which explains a strain on the large chest muscles.

Strengthening and stretching

To train the large pectoral muscle, several exercises have become established in weight training. In addition to the classic bench press, the following is a list of exercises for chest muscle training

  • Bench press
  • butterfly
  • Butterfly cable pull
  • Flying

You can find an overview of all relevant topics in the area of ​​strength training in the overview of strength training

How is the muscle stretched?

In order to set an optimal stretch stimulus for the large pectoral muscle, the athlete should stand against a wall. Forearms and upper arms form a right angle at shoulder level. The upper body is actively moved away from the arm.

For more information on this topic, see Stretching

Common illnesses

If the pectoralis major muscle is missing on one side, this is known as Poland Syndrome.

Overexertion while exercising can be a painful one Pectoral inflammation that are associated with restricted mobility. Other causes of pectoritis are bruises in the chest and a fractured rib.
In the case of pectoral muscle inflammation with pain, a doctor should always be consulted with whom further therapy options can be discussed.

If the chest muscle swells, bruising may occur.

Pectoralis major pain

If the large pectoral muscle or the pectoralis major muscle is tense or even inflamed, this can cause severe pain in the chest. However, since the muscle is very large and all parts of it are attached to the upper arm, the pain can also radiate into the shoulder and the entire arm (see also: Shoulder pain). Typical here are chest, shoulder, elbow, wrist and forearm pain. The pain in the chest area usually increases when pressure is applied locally to the muscle.

Due to the functions of the pectoralis major muscle, such as internal rotation, adduction and anteversion, it is still quite possible that lifting the arm to the side causes pain and the shoulder is balled inward. Furthermore, the pectoralis major functions as an auxiliary breathing muscle. This means that it makes it easier to inhale and exhale. Because of this, breathing in often causes pain when there is tension. For the first self-therapy, a massage ball can be used, which can be rolled around on the corresponding muscle.

Pectoral major muscle strain

If the pectoralis major muscle is pulled, it can cause severe pain. All movements that the muscle normally performs, i.e. turning the arm inward, lifting and moving the arm back to the side, are very painful and almost completely restricted. The cause of a strain usually lies in intensive strength training. The muscle was not warmed up properly and is therefore not stretched enough. In the case of high loads, this can lead to a strain or even to a ruptured muscle fiber.

As with any sport, it is therefore necessary to warm up the muscles sufficiently before exercising so that there is no torn muscle fiber, which must be treated directly. To prevent this and to counteract the strain, the training must be interrupted. The muscle needs time to regenerate and recover. Immediately after the strain, the muscle can be cooled briefly, approx. 20 minutes. Then it should only be spared. The training break must be kept until the pain subsides again. In order to prevent a re-emergence of a strain, it is first necessary to slowly and carefully load the muscle again.

You might also be interested in: Muscle strain