Critically reviewed by Nick Andrus, Professional Fitness Coach
The only vaguely comforting part of having man boobs is knowing that you’re not alone. You’re far from alone (very far). Two out of every five men in America are battling obesity, almost 21,000 men had gynecomastia surgery last year, up to 65% of men will get gynecomastia at some point in their lives, and in six decades, scientific studies on man boobs have increased 1,805%.
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Will pushups alone resolve them? Not a chance.
Can pushups help? Definitely.
Depending on what type of man boobs you have.
What Type of Man Boobs Do You Have?
Not all man boobs are created equally.
According to scientific literature and classification, there are two types of man boobs: Pseudogynecomastia, and Gynecomastia.
These two different classes of man boobs require two very different treatment methods.
The first class of man boobs, pseudo gynecomastia, can be handled by consistent exercise, changes in diet, and work on proper posture.
The second class of man boobs, gynecomastia, can’t be, but chest exercise still plays at least a small part in reducing its appearance for people with poorly defined pectoralis muscles (chest muscles).
Man Boobs Type #1: Pseudogynecomastia
“If it [male breast enlargement] is caused by increased fat deposition, it is defined as pseudogynecomastia.’ – Venkata Ratnam B. (2011)
The first class of man boobs occur in men who have excess fat, usually in more parts of their body than just their chest.
Fat on the male body naturally accumulates in some areas more than it does others, such as the love handles, belly, butt, and chest.
In this case, yes, push-ups consistently done as part of an exercise program should help build up the chest muscles.
But, please understand, you can not “spot reduce fat.”
That is, unlike weight training—where you can exercise a certain set of muscles to build them up and bulk them out—with fat, you can’t choose where you’ll lose it from.
You have to lose fat, period.
From all parts of the body.
So in order to see a reduction of fat in the male breasts, you would also need to cause a reduction of fat in other parts of the body.
Where push-ups come into play with pseudogynecomastia, is that push-ups are one of the many chest exercises you can do to bulk up your chest muscles so that fat is less obvious. There are better chest exercises for man boobs and we’ll cover those shortly.
It sounds counterintuitive since that added muscle would make the chest area larger, but the fact is it reduces the appearance of loose and sagging fat since the exercise builds up the chest muscles, adding volume to the top of the pecs.
Man Boobs Type #2: Gynecomastia
“If male breast enlargement is caused by glandular proliferation, it is defined as gynecomastia.”- Venkata Ratnam B. (2011)
The second class of man boobs occurs in men who have a hormonal imbalance. This can occur for a number of reasons on its own, or can also be a side effect of other physical conditions. The use of steroids and certain medications, prepubescent development, genetics, and other factors predispose a person to man boobs of this second type—gynecomastia, gyno, man boobs.
With gynecomastia, the body literally begins to develop female-like breasts. The best solution here is surgery, but surgery isn’t always advised for young people whose bodies are still developing since the gynecomastia will very likely go away on its own in a year or two. There are also some medications that can reduce gyno in men that you can obtain from your doctor but for some, it still won’t reduce the whole lump.
If you have gynecomastia, you may still want to exercise for its overall physical benefits. But understand that push-ups and other chest-building exercises won’t reduce it.
The reason push-ups are ineffective in tackling gyno has to do with the difference between our types of man boobs as covered above:
Pseudogynecomastia is excess fat in the male breasts.
Gynecomastia is a proliferation (rapid reproduction) of glandular tissue in the male breasts — and exercise doesn’t impact glandular tissue.
So do push-ups have any place in actual gynecomastia?
Yes, a small one. Chest exercises pushing weight will have a greater effect.
If you’re going to get a male breast reduction surgery—the solution of choice for millions of men who have the same condition you’re trying to tackle—push-ups and other chest exercises are good to do before your surgery.
Exercise isn’t required, though you’ll generally see better surgical results if you have some muscle mass beneath the excess fat and glandular tissue.
New York gynecomastia surgeon Dr. Elliot Jacobs says exercise is “not a necessary step in preparing for the procedure,” but across the country in Newport Beach, California, gynecomastia surgeon Jed Horowitz says studies show that obese patients have a higher complication rate and that “the healthier and closest to an ideal body weight, the better it is for your procedure.”
Both are board-certified plastic surgeons and both are right—exercise immediately before surgery isn’t called for nor even advised, but exercise, in general, is a go.
How to Get Rid of Man Boobs
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1. Create a calorie deficit to decrease overall body fat percentage. 2. Perform weight training to progressively overload the chest muscles. 3. Improve our posture. 4. Give it time (the exercises we've been doing).
Gynecomastia isn’t always the cause of additional chest fat or man boobs. Pseudogynecomastia is another and it’s simply the increased presence of fat deposits around your chest. You’ll most likely have excess fat in other parts of the body—the stomach, butt, and love handles, and other areas.
These are the broad strokes of how to fix this:
First, we need to decrease our overall body fat percentage. We do this by creating a calorie deficit for fat loss.
The exercises covered here help build muscle and improve the shape and definition of the male chest.
But spot reducing fat isn’t actually possible.
However, by burning enough body fat overall—from the whole body—you’ll burn enough to actually make a difference in the chest and man boob condition.
We need to burn more calories per day than we consume, to get our body to reach into and utilize the calories available in stored fat. That is the basic definition of a calorie deficit.
Eat fresh, whole foods with a decent amount of protein. These, since they’re nutrient-dense foods that actually rot if not consumed, are usually always found on the outer perimeter of your grocery store (where they’re easiest to restock).
These foods usually do not come in a box.
Things like grilled fish, lean meats, eggs, rice, almonds, cottage cheese, nuts, legumes, potatoes, quinoa, tuna, beans, asparagus, pistachios, chia seeds, etc.
Second, we need to perform weight training to progressively overload the chest muscles.
Do the exercises listed below to build the chest muscles.
Add more weight and/or do more reps to progressively overload the pectoralis muscles.
This not only builds actual muscle but just as importantly, it puts calories to good use which is called calorie partitioning. A greater percentage of your calories are used to build and repair lean tissue.
So instead of becoming additional body fat, they’re invested in building muscle.
This gets your chest tighter and more defined if you keep up your exercise routine.
And you should.
Third, we need to improve our posture.
No, this won’t burn chest fat, nor will it strengthen your chest muscles to any appreciable degree.
But it will definitely improve the appearance of your chest and any male breast fat you’re dealing with, while you work to get rid of it for good.
Shoulder protraction occurs from things like driving, sitting in front of computers all day, and slouching in general.
To fix this, stretch out the chest and upper back muscles—use a door frame to lean through, with your hands planted on the frame—strengthen the weak muscles, and practice good postures.
Another great stretch is for the lats. Hang off of a pull-up bar, and hold for at least 30 seconds, for 3 or 5 rounds.
Do these daily. Again, consistency is going to make the difference between progress and wasted motion.
Throughout your day, focus on keeping your sternum facing the ceiling. That’s the long flat bone running vertically down the center of your chest.
Working the back muscles with various weighted rowing motions can bring your shoulders back a bit giving one a better posture.
Fourth, we need to give it time. Keep at it. Don’t give up or go soft on your exercise plan.
Exercise releases endorphins that should help to get you hooked. But it isn’t an addictive drug and it takes some real determination to keep going.
Things will come up in life that distracts you from keeping at it, or worse, your own progress will deter you from doing it routinely.
“You’ve gotta have faith. Faith!” – George Michael (and Limp Bizkit when it comes to your gym playlist.)
You’ll likely feel more alive and alert, and have more energy simply by going to the gym (or staying home) and lifting weights and doing these exercises, but it’ll take some time before you actually see results.
Keep at it.
Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
Consistency pays the best dividends.
And your alternative is a male breast reduction surgery that costs $5,000 – $7,000.
You don’t want that. So if you want to ever be able to confidently bare your chest to the world, this is where that becomes a reality.
Give it time.
How Much Fat Do I Have To Lose To Get Rid of Man Boobs?
Losing visible man boobs is going to take a lot of exercise and dieting over the course of several weeks to a few months. The important point is that you don’t give up despite the temptation to try something easier. No other solution exists that isn’t going to cost you thousands of dollars—liposuction will cost at least $4,000.
But how much fat exactly do you need to lose to get rid of them?
To get rid of man boobs, aka pseudo gynecomastia, you need to reach a lean 10 percent body fat, says international bestselling fitness author, Founder, and CEO of Legion Athletics, Mike Matthews.
“To put a number to it: A guy who doesn’t have gynecomastia—who has pseudo gynecomastia, who just has a bit too much fat in his chest—if he gets down to 10% body fat, he is not going to have man boobs anymore, period.
“So at 20 percent body fat or higher — man boobs that just get bigger as the body fat percentage rises.
“At 15 percent — mini man boobs.
“At 10 percent — no more man boobs. Pecs.”
Best Exercises For Man Boobs
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1. Dumbbell Bench Press — Flat or Inclined 2. Barbell Bench Press — Flat or Inclined 3. Cable Chest Flyes 4. Dumbbell Chest Flyes 5. Dips 6. Push-Ups
Push-ups are a great exercise that you can do virtually anywhere. But they’re not the only chest exercise you can do to “burn chest fat” and build chest muscle.
In fact, they’re one of the least effective of the exercises that we’ll cover here.
Before we get into these, let’s establish something: Perfect form and doing an exact number of sets and reps does matter—at some point, to more serious bodybuilders.
But don’t let that distract you from just doing exercise.
Any exercise is better than no exercise and if you maintain any semblance of proper form, you’ll see good progress over time.
Don’t obsess over the details, just do the exercise as best as you know how to.
If you’d like to hire an instructor, go ahead and do so. For now, the videos with each of these should give you an idea of what the exercise is and how to do it.
Best Gym Exercises for Man Boobs
1. Dumbbell Bench Press: Flat or Inclined
Very similar to the barbell bench press (see No. 2), this uses a free weight in each hand, allowing for independent motion and helping to isolate each side.
2. Barbell Bench Press: Flat or Inclined
Retract your shoulder blades, lie under the bar and plant your feet on the ground. Spread your arms 6 – 12 inches beyond your shoulder width. Grip the bar, lift, and bring it down to touch your sternum. A level bench is best for building chest strength, size and shape in general. A slight incline of the bench will get the exercise to hone in better on the upper chest while putting the bench at a slight decline focuses on the lower chest. Some instructors will tell you the decline does little to nothing, but again, focus on just doing the exercise. Lift heavy things and put them back down again. Over and over.
3. Cable Chest Flyes
This is a better alternative to the dumbbell chest fly in that it works the chest muscle more efficiently, more thoroughly, and more safely. You can do this with a cable machine in a gym, or with a pressure band secured to something solid in your house.
4. Dumbbell Chest Flyes
Dumbbell chest flyes are a great chest exercise for man boobs. This is done with free weights. Retract shoulder blades, lay back on a bench with your hands and the weights extended up over your shoulders. Then slowly arch each arm out to the side, lowering your hands until there is a slight bend at the elbows. Bring the dumbbells down only to the chest level, then raise them back up to the starting position. Put your arms at about a 10-degree bend at the elbow and leave it at that throughout the exercise—the motion is being made from your shoulders. Lift the weights above your head, and then bring them out to the sides. You don’t need to (and shouldn’t) let your arms hang very low in the open position. Where dumbbell chest flyes are most effective is right about when the weights are above your chest.) Align your hands with your nipple line. Go slowly. Lift your legs up off the ground if you can so that all force is coming from your arms and upper body, not your legs pushing against the floor to assist.
Dips are one of the best chest exercises you can do for man boobs. Push your elbows out to the sides rather than to the back, and point your chest and head upward. If you can’t do a set of dips outright, use an assisted dip machine (which you can add counterweights to in order to reduce some of the weight you’re lugging up and down). As you continue, doing 4 sets of 10 or 20 dips, and that level gets easier to maintain, you can always add a weight belt or backpack. For an extra focus on the chest, while on parallel bars or between two dressers or similar pieces of stable and sturdy furniture, lean forward and then raise and lower (dip) your body until your elbows are even with your shoulders. As you progress and get stronger, add weights to it.
Best At-Home Exercises for Man Boobs
For the best possible chest targeting, push up off of two platforms of 8 to 12 inches high, but anything vaguely similar in height will help focus the burn and workout on your chest. Keep your body in as straight a line as possible, with your heels, but and the back of your head in a straight line, and plant your arms out a bit wider than shoulder-width. Your sore should be as tight as you can hold. Extend your hands out a bit wider to further hone in on your chest. Push-ups are also a perfect exercise to cap off any of the above chest exercises. Do them at the end of all rounds, or in between exercises.
How to Hide Man Boobs—While You Work Them Off
From the time you start working to burn off your man boobs to the point your chest is swole, you’re likely going to want to keep covering them up as you probably have been.
They’re understandably embarrassing and you need to create a bubble of protective space wherein you can work and burn undistracted. Here’s the best way to do that.
- Wear dark-colored clothing.
- Use a compression vest or garment. Works great in the gym.
- Wear fabrics that aren’t too thin. Thin fabrics accentuate man boob nipples.
- Layer clothing on the upper body, or wear tops with chest pockets.
10 Tips for Getting Rid of Man Boobs
- Establish a calorie deficit: Eat less than you expend daily.
- Improve your diet and eat healthier, more nourishing foods.
- Doing cardio can help burn calories to lose fat.
- There is no specific diet nor group of exercises you can do that will burn fat in the chest specifically.
- In order to burn male chest fat, you have to burn fat everywhere on the body.
- Do any exercise that activates your chest. You want your chest to be doing most of the work, and you’ll see and feel when it is.
- The bench press is the best possible exercise for developing the chest muscles.
- Do dumbbell pressing along with barbell pressing.
- Varying chest exercises can help by hitting the muscle through different angles.
- Don’t do all of one exercise and none of the others.
1. Journal Pediatrics, “Worldwide Secular Trends in Age at Pubertal Onset Assessed by Breast Development Among Girls, A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis”, 10 February 2020
2. In utero and childhood DDT, DDE, PBDE and PCBs exposure and sex hormones in adolescent boys: The CHAMACOS study
3. US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity Among Adults: United States, 2017–2018
5. Glenn D. Braunstein, M.D., and Bradley D. Anawalt, M.D., Gynecomastia (Beyond the Basics)
6. Venkata Ratnam B. How important is “pseudogynecomastia”?. Aesthetic Plast Surg. 2011;35(4):668-669. doi:10.1007/s00266-010-9629-0
This article is critically reviewed by professional fitness coach, Nick Andrus.