The Upper region of the chest is by far the hardest area of the chest to build. The Middle and Lower chest are somewhat ‘easier’ to develop, due to being involved in more exercises – such as a Flat Bench Press or a Decline Press. You are more likely to be stronger in these exercises, due to the majority of the Chest muscle fibres being oriented in this direction.
There are much less muscle fibres of the Chest inserting into the Clavicle. Whilst these muscle fibres are also involved in humerus adduction, it is the angle at which the humerus is brought across the body that targets the Upper Chest.
Having a well-developed Upper chest not only contributes to the ‘fullness’ of the upper body, it also has functional benefits. Sufficient size and strength will contribute to greater strength in the Barbell Bench Press and Barbell Overhead Press.
The ideal goal is to build a bigger chest, but picking up a pair of weights without preparing your muscles for a vigorous Chest workout just won’t deliver the results you’re imagining will instantly happen.
Try a short warm-up routine:
– 1 x wide-grip flat push-ups
– 1 x neutral grip push ups
– (If possible) 1 x decline push ups to hit your chest from all angles:
#1 Incline Cable Fly
This is one of the most suitable exercises for isolating the upper chest muscles. Performing this exercise with cables instead of Dumbbells allows for constant tension to be placed directly onto the Upper Chest fibres.
I recommend this exercise after you have performed heavy Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press, as it is less fatiguing on the Central Nervous System.
✓ Position bench at around 45 degrees.
✓ Lower cables in an “arc” motion, ensure to feel the chest stretch.
✓ Vary the position of the bench to hit different angles of the upper chest.
✓ Hold and contract the chest muscles when hands are together.
#2 Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
In my opinion, the best compound exercise for adding mass to the Upper Chest is the Incline Dumbbell Bench Press.
Including a slight pause at the bottom of the movement allows for the most recruitment of the Upper Chest muscle fibres. You will have to use a lighter weight in order to get the benefits of the pause, but the muscle contraction is much greater.
I recommend performing this exercise during a workout with a lot of volume, and low-moderate weight, in order to get the most out of the exercise.
✓ Palms to face each other, arms positioned shoulder width – wrists rotated to face ceiling (see image.)
✓ Exhale whilst pushing dumbbells upwards – keep control at all times.
✓ Take your time lowering weights.
✓ Vary bench angles to hit different angles of the chest.
#3 Incline Barbell Bench Press
The Incline Barbell Bench Press is also a great, compound mass builder for the Upper Chest. An advantage that the Barbell Press has over the Dumbbell Press is the weight increments. Barbells allow for smaller increments to be added, thus making progress more linear – i.e. it is more realistic to be able to increase the weight of a Barbell by 1.25kg per side that it is to increase Dumbbell weight by 2.5kg each.
Whilst the Barbell allows for only a fixed range of motion, and less humerus adduction, including a pause at the bottom will again allow for more muscle fibre recruitment of the Upper Chest fibres.
I recommend performing this exercise during a workout with a lot of volume, and low-moderate weight, in order to get the most out of the exercise.Training Tips:
✓ Bench to be around 30 degrees – hands positioned slider wider than shoulder-width.
✓ Position bar straight in front of you, locking arms to secure starting position.
✓ The bar should be lowered slowly until it has reached upper chest – and pause.
✓ Power the bar up using your chest muscles – lock arms and squeeze, getting the contraction.
#4 Incline Hammer Strength Machine
Incline Hammer Strength Machine allows for complete contraction of the Upper Chest. Due to the machine being designed to only target the Upper Chest, this makes it a great exercise. It can also be useful to people with injuries, particularly in the shoulder, if they cannot perform the Incline Dumbbell or Barbell Bench Press pain-free.
The Incline Hammer Strength Machine also allows for less opportunity of form breakdown. If you are simply going to fail a repetition, you can lower the machine back down, without any chance of injuring yourself.
Again, I recommend performing this exercise as an accessory for the Barbell or Dumbbell Bench Press.
✓ Ensure to adjust the seat height to ensure the bar levels with your chest.
✓ Dig shoulder blades into the seat and ‘push out’ chest muscles.
✓ Exhale whilst pushing the bar forward, holding the contraction when stopped.
✓ Slowly return to starting position.
#5 The Landmine Chest Press
The Landmine Press is not a popular exercise, yet provides many benefits in regards to progressing your upper chest.
It can be performed standing, thus increasing core involvement, and can improve core stability and strength the abdominal muscles. It can also be performed using one-arm at a time – unilaterally. Whilst this is not always necessary, it can be used as a tool to increase the focus on each side of the Chest muscles.
It can also be easily incorporated into a cardiovascular circuit through high-repetitions and including a jump in the movement, or can be used as a strength and hypertrophy exercise using lower volume.
✓ Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
✓ Exhale on pushing movement, inhale when returning to starting position.
✓ Contract the pectoral muscle (pecs) at the top of the movement.
Sets & Reps
If your Upper Chest is considerably undeveloped, I suggest choosing 2 of these exercises, and performing 1 of them at the start of your Chest workout. If your Upper Chest is well-developed, but you’re looking to continue to add mass, then I would suggest choosing only 1 exercise.
My ideal sets and repetition ranges would be:
|Exercise||Sets and Reps|
|Incline Cable Flies||3-5 x 6-12 reps.|
|Incline Dumbbell Press||2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.|
|Incline Barbell Press||2-4 sets x 5-10 reps.|
|ncline Hammer Strength Machine||2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.|
|Landmine Chest Press||3-5 sets of 6-12 reps.|
For example, your choice may be Incline Dumbbell Press, followed by Incline Cable Flies. I suggest choosing either the Incline Dumbbell Press or Barbell Press, and performing these first, as they require the most energy.
Once the Upper Chest muscles are slightly fatigued, then the other exercises can be used in order to fully deplete the Upper Chest muscle fibres.
Thanks for reading, enjoy working your upper chest!