Upper Chest Exercises: 5 Movements for Massive Upper Pecs
by Justin Woltering
Need a few killer upper chest exercises? If you're like most lifters, your lower chest is coming along fine – but your upper pecs are barely there! Those top muscle fibers are hard to stimulate, and you've got to change up your routine if you ever want to get them to grow. To be honest, the best upper chest exercises are pretty humbling, too. Most guys just don't want to use less weight than they're throwing around on the flat bench!
Still, if you really want to develop that shelf-like upper chest, you're going to have to bite the bullet and try some new movements. Here are my top 5 exercises for this oft-neglected muscle group.
1. Incline Barbell Bench
The incline bench is the bread-and-butter movement for any good upper chest routine. In fact, the bodybuilders with the best, most fully-developed chests usually prioritize incline benching over flat benching. That may not be the best route to take if you want to be a powerlifter, but it WILL help you get a massive upper chest.
If you haven't been hitting this movement hard, you're in for quite a shock – you'll be WAY weaker than you are on the bench press! Rather than avoiding the exercise, look at this weakness as an opportunity to grow. You'll see some serious growth once you gain some respectable strength on the incline.
2. Incline Dumbbell Bench
Another humbling – but critical – movement, the incline dumbbell press is my second-favorite for the upper chest. Barbells seem to produce the most growth, but you'll always need a spotter when you go heavy. If you're training alone, or if you just don't trust anyone in your gym to give a good spot, this should be your main movement.
Make sure you don't cheat, though. A lot of guys don't bring the dumbbells all the way down, but the fully-stretched position is the best for maximal growth. Use a full range of motion, and only up the weight when you know you can keep good form. Also, keep your reps a little higher than you would with barbell presses. Getting the 'bells into position is an exercise unto itself, and you'll waste a lot of energy if you try to go super-heavy.
Flyes are great for getting a great pump, but they only stimulate your pecs during the first half of the movement. The fly-to-press, on the other hand, will allow you to use more weight AND torch your pecs more efficiently. Lye on a bench like you normally would for presses, but descend the weights with your arms flared, just like you're going to do a fly. On the way up, bring your hands in a bit and press, contracting your pecs as hard as possible. Once you get the feel for it, this should be one of your go-to upper chest exercises for shape and size.
4. Incline Smith Machine Press
I'm all about free weights, but machines can be great for hard-to-hit body parts. With the smith machine, you can use heavy weights on your presses WITHOUT having to worry about balance and technique. You're forced into the optimal position for pec growth!
For the smith incline press, set an adjustable bench at just a slight incline – no need to go really steep. Get into position so that the bar hits your chest right below your neck, the best position to hit the upper pecs. This can be a little tough on the shoulders, so don't go super-heavy. Instead, do this exercise later in your routine, when you've already done your heavy movements. Do 15 – 20 reps for a few sets, until you've got an awesome pump in your upper pecs. If you've never been able to feel your upper chest working, this exercise will help!
This isn't exactly an exercise, but supersetting different movements is one of my favorite techniques for upper chest training. It's always best to pair a “flex” movement with a press: incline bench with incline flyes, cable crossovers with incline smith press, etc. Do the press first to move some heavy weight, and follow it with the flex movement to get a killer pump!
Need more killer training tips on the hard-to-hit body parts? How about help with your nutrition and supplements? For the best info on muscle building, strength training, and fat loss, check out Bigger, Better, Faster Now!
Justin Woltering is a distinguished fitness expert, author, sponsored athlete, and top cover model. With five certifications and a life long commitment to fitness, Justin is guaranteed to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. He is an experienced fitness consultant who has helped thousands of workout enthusiasts transform their physiques with his exclusive books, videos, articles, and training tips.