5 Exercises To Build The Upper Chest

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5 Exercises To Build The Upper Chest
Last Updated: October 5, 2023

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The upper chest is the most stubborn chest area to grow, meaning that it needs plenty of extra stimulation, compared to the mid and lower pecs which get more action due to their involvement in many upper body exercises. Therefore, achieving a balanced, full look of the upper body, requires focusing a big part of your chest training on movement that effectively works the upper chest. Needless to mention, increased size and strength in the upper chest are not only going to improve your aesthetics – more importantly, they will translate to increased strength in all of your major lifts.

You’ve probably tried to push your upper pecs to grow with the help of incline barbell/dumbbell presses, incline cable flies and similar machine exercises, but since you’re reading this article, we can assume that you’re doing some wrong. The truth is that these basic movements are all you need for stellar chest growth, but you need to learn how to use them in a way that unlocks their full potential.

Here are the 5 best exercises for a complete upper chest attack and how to perform them for maximum gains!

#1. Incline cable fly

Cables provide something that dumbbells don’t: constant tension in the upper chest muscle fibres. That makes this exercise one of the greatest at isolating this particular muscle group. It’s highly recommended to perform incline cable flies after completing all sets of your heavy compound movements.

How to: Set the pulleys at the lowest level place an incline bench set at 45 degrees in between the pulleys and select a weight on each one. With a handle in each hand, lie on the incline bench and bring your hands together at arm’s length in front of you. Keeping a slight bend at the elbows, lower your arms out to both sides in a wide arc and feel the chest stretch. Keep in mind that the arms should remain stationary and the movement should occur at the shoulder joint. Squeeze your chest muscles and hold the contracted position for a second, then reverse the motion to return to the starting position. In order to hit all possible angles of the upper chest muscles, you can vary the position of the bench on each set.

Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.

#2. Incline dumbbell bench press

The incline dumbbell bench press is a great compound classic for building upper chest mass. The use of dumbbells instead of a barbell forces you to stabilize your core and shoulders all through the movement, thereby strengthening the smaller muscles that otherwise don’t get enough work. For best results, perform it during a workout that emphasizes volume and moderate weight.

How to: Lie on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand and place them on your thighs, palms facing each other. Lift the dumbbells to shoulder width and slightly above shoulder height on both sides, maintaining a 90-degree bend at the elbows, and rotate your wrists forward so that the palms are facing away from you. Exhale and push the dumbbells up in a controlled manner by generating force in your chest. At the top position, lock your arms and hold the contraction for a second, then slowly lower the weight down (this should take about twice as long as raising them).

Perform 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.

#3. Landmine chest press

Variety is crucial to sculpting great muscles, so every once in a while you should give the basic movements a day off and engage in something more unconventional. When it comes to the chest, that something is the landmine chest press, which is an incredibly versatile exercise that’s guaranteed to deliver superior results in the upper chest. The seated version can be used to improve core strength and stability, while the unilateral version is a great tool for improving muscular balance and addressing the weakest links in the chest area.

How to: Grab the bar with both hands right at the end and put your hands together to create a solid base. Lean slightly towards the bar and start pushing it away from you. Keep your chest tight, spine neutral and elbows tucked in all throughout the movement. At the top position, give your pecs a hard squeeze.

Perform 3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.

#4. Incline barbell bench press

Another highly efficient mass builder, the incline barbell bench press can make your chest burn like very few other exercises. One of the best things about using a barbell instead of dumbbells is that it allows you to increase the weight more gradually, thereby achieving a more linear progress. Again, if you want to get optimal results with this exercise, include it in workouts that deal with a lot of volume and moderate weight.

How to: Lay on an incline bench set at 30 degrees with your feet flat on the ground, back slightly arched and shoulder blades retracted. Grasp the bar with a pronated grip, positioning your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, and hold the weight above your chest with both arms extended. Flex your elbows and slowly lower the bar until it reaches your upper chest, but keep the movement under strict control and don’t let the bar bounce off of your chest. Pause for a second, then extend the elbows and use your chest muscles to power the bar up.

Perform 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.

#5. Incline hammer strength machine

Both free weights and machines have their unique set of advantages. When it comes to the incline hammer strength machine, which has been specifically designed to help you achieve complete contraction of the upper chest muscles, one of the coolest benefits it offers is the ability to adjust the height of the seat and attack your upper pecks from angles you can’t achieve on other inclines. Additionally, this movement leaves less room for form breakdown and can be safely performed by people with preexisting back and shoulder injuries.

How to: Position yourself on a hammer strength machine, adjust the seat height to an appropriate level and grasp the handles which should be in line with the middle of your chest. Sit up straight with a tight core and back pressed against the seat. Lift the weights slightly off the rests, then press the weight forward in a controlled manner. Make sure you don’t drop the chin because that will cause your chest to drop as well and the stress will be transferred to your front delts instead of upper pecs. Hold the contracted position for a second, then slowly reverse the motion to return to the starting position without allowing the weight to touch the rests and repeat.

Perform 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.

Ideally, you should start your chest workout with the exercises that require the most energy, such as the incline dumbbell press and incline barbell press. Once you reach a decent level of fatigue in the upper chest muscles, use the rest of the exercises to achieve optimal hypertrophy.


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