(Sometimes a reader will email me a question that needs a full article to answer properly, and sometimes it’s an answer I think others will benefit from hearing. This is one of those times.)
QUESTION: I’ve successfully been using your workout and diet recommendations over the last year and have now reached a point where my body is finally starting to look good enough for me to show off. There’s only one thing stopping me… man boobs (aka moobs).
It’s weird. Even though I’ve built a noticeable amount of muscle mass everywhere (including my chest) and have lost a decent amount of fat from my stomach, my chest still isn’t flat or as lean as the rest of my body… especially the lower part of it around the nipple.
I was wondering what I need to do to lose this fat and get rid of my moobs? What are the best exercises? Should I do more decline presses and flyes? Should I do more cardio? Or do I need something else altogether?
ANSWER: I automatically like any question that involves a problem that has its own cute nickname. Moobs! It sounds like an adorable Disney character. Which I guess is kind of ironic considering that it’s probably the ugliest, least-adorable physical characteristic a guy can have.
And if you’re reading this right now, you probably know it all too well. Chest fat is not pretty. It’s the kind of thing that can make a guy’s body look bad no matter how lean, ripped, toned, jacked (or whatever other adjective you prefer) he is.
Let’s figure out how to get rid of it once and for all…
What Is Causing Your Man Boobs?
In order to figure out how to get rid of your man boobs, the first thing we need to do is figure out what exactly is causing them to exist in the first place.
There are 4 possible answers:
Cause #1: Chest Fat
Here’s what everyone automatically assumes the cause is, and in many (but far from all) cases they are correct. And that is simply fat. As in, body fat. As in, the same type of fat located on any other part of your body (e.g. your stomach).
In this case, it’s located on your chest which just so happens to be a really unsightly place for it due to the fact that the softer, rounder, puffier appearance it creates begins to take the shape of something more closely resembling a woman’s breast rather than a man’s chest, especially since the majority of that fat is stored on the lower portion around and below the nipple.
Cause #2: Loose Skin
Up next we have the unfortunate side effect of cause #1. See, when you have a significant amount of body fat on ANY part of your body, and you then successfully lose that fat (yay!), you’re going to be left with some degree of loose skin the majority of the time (boo!).
So, if you had a lot of chest fat at some point and then lost it, there’s a chance that the loose skin now left in that area has taken on the appearance of saggy looking breasts/moobs.
Cause #3: Gynecomastia
Next we have what can really be considered the official technical term for man boobs… gynecomastia. The main difference however is that gynecomastia is NOT fat or skin. It’s actual breast tissue that occurs in men as a result of testosterone and estrogen levels being a little (or a lot) off.
This is why gynecomastia most often occurs naturally (and commonly) in boys during puberty (when hormone levels are wacky) and in older men (when testosterone levels are declining). Similarly, gynecomastia is also a common side effect of steroid and drug use (and certain medications as well). And, least frequently but still possibly, gynecomastia can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious underlying health issue. In the other cases, it’s completely benign… except for its ugliness.
Cause #4: A Combination Of The Above
It’s certainly possible for your man boobs to be a combination of gynecomastia and fat. Or fat and loose skin. Or loose skin and gynecomastia. Or all three of them.
So, those are the 4 potential causes.
Now for the solutions…
There Are Only 2 Ways To Get Rid Of It
Despite there being 4 different potential causes, there are only 2 potential solutions to this problem:
- The Chest Fat Solution
If your moobs are caused by chest fat, you’re in luck. This is by far the easiest to fix. All it takes is… creating a caloric deficit and losing some body fat. That’s it. Our genetics predetermine the pattern in which we store fat on our bodies when we gain it, and where we burn it from when we lose it. This cannot be changed. So, to lose chest fat (or any other fat from any other body part), the one and only thing that will ever work is simply losing fat from your body as a whole. At some point, it will be lost from the specific area you want it to be lost from the most. Details here: How To Lose Fat and The Best Way To Lose Weight Fast
- The Loose Skin and Gynecomastia Solution
Surgery. Unfortunately, that’s it. Surgery is the one and only way to get rid of significant loose skin, and the one and only way to get rid of gynecomastia. (Note that in the rarer cases of gynecomastia being caused by some type of drug or medication, stopping it may sometimes be enough.)
But Wait!! What About Chest Exercises?!?!
Ohhh right, chest exercises! Of course! I knew I forgot something! Silly me. Okay! Are you ready?
The absolute best exercises for burning chest fat and losing your moobs as fast as possible are…
Yeah, that’s right, none.
That’s just not how it works.
You see, exercises like the bench press, flyes, push-ups and so on will target the pectoralis muscle, and that muscle is located underneath whatever fat, loose skin and/or gynecomastia you may have.
So if you want a bigger and/or stronger chest, weight training exercises like these (and countless others) will be lovely for that, assuming they are properly used within an intelligent overall workout routine and combined with a diet plan designed to support it (you know, like my Superior Muscle Growth program).
HOWEVER, they will do nothing whatsoever to the fat, skin and/or breast tissue covering it.
The idea that it will is a concept known as spot reduction. And by “concept,” I mean “myth.” Try as we might, it’s just not possible to target and burn specific areas of body fat (or skin, or breast tissue).
Which means, just like how all of the crunches and sit-ups in the world will have no effect on the belly fat covering your pretty six pack, all of the lower chest exercises in the world will only be targeting the chest muscle located under whatever is causing your man boobs. Not the cause itself.
Now, sure, gaining more muscle in that area may indeed improve the overall appearance of your chest, potentially more so for some than others. However, unless a caloric deficit exists, any fat in that area will remain just the same. And, unless surgery takes place, loose skin and gynecomastia will also remain just the same.
So, while weight training has the potential to make things look some degree better and/or make the problem some degree less noticeable, the problem itself will unfortunately still be there unless one of the aforementioned solutions take place.