August 27th, 2010
08:12 AM ET

How can I get rid of 'man boobs'?

Every weekday, a CNNHealth expert doctor answers a viewer question. On Fridays, it's physician nutrition specialist Dr. Melina Jampolis.

Question asked by Michael, Michigan: I have a question regarding for lack of a better word, "man boobs." I've been trying to get rid of them for quite some time. They've been a problem since I was in high school. The rest of my body was not extremely overweight– 175 pounds and 6 feet tall.

Expert Answer: Hi Michael. This is a great question that I'm sure a lot of men out there want to know the answer to. First of all, even though you say you are not "extremely overweight" and your BMI (body mass index) is in the normal range (23.7), this does not mean that your body composition (ratio of muscle to fat) is optimal. This is one of the limitations of BMI, as it only reflects weight relative to height, not the amount of muscle vs. fat. So someone could have a normal BMI and still have excess fat and inadequate muscle, which may be the case with you. So first and foremost, I recommend cleaning up your diet by limiting refined, sugary carbohydrates and focusing on lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, fruits and vegetables to lean down while maintaining, or building, lean body mass.

To answer your question from a workout standpoint, I turned to best-selling author and celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak, M.Sc., whose answer may surprise you. He explains that the key to great pecs is actually having a strong back! If you're already slightly kyphotic (shoulder sloped forward), then continued chest (and bicep) work can actually make your "man boobs" droop even more. Focus on training your rhomboids (back rows) and triceps (the long head of the triceps actually originates from your scapula) with far more frequency and volume than their antagonists, the pecs and biceps.

In addition, don't forget to get regular cardiovascular exercise in addition to strength training to help get, or keep body fat levels down.

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