You’re going to the gym, doing your upper chest exercises faithfully.
You’re eating right.
You’ve done some research on building a better chest.
But it’s not working like you want it to – especially your upper chest.
You might not be doing something exactly wrong. But it also may be that you’re not doing enough of the right things for your upper chest.
Check out these ultimate upper chest exercises:
The muscles you’re actually building
Table of Contents
- 1 The muscles you’re actually building
- 2 Free weights vs machines
- 3 Five of the best upper chest exercises
- 4 Common mistakes
- 5 Bonus tips
The pectoralis major and minor (or pecs) are the muscle group you’re targeting when you do upper chest exercises. However, depending on the incline of your workout, you may not be getting the results you want.
A flat set will target your middle chest. If you always start your chest workout on a flat bench, you may not be hitting your upper chest at all if you never change the incline.
You also might be waiting until later in your workout, when you’re more tired. That means you’re not giving your upper chest the attention it needs to develop the way you want it to.
To hit your upper chest, you’ll need to change the incline, to get the full development you’re looking for.
Free weights vs machines
According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), there are benefits to using free weights and/or machines, and will depend on factors like:
- Training alone or with a partner
- Budget and space (if you’re not going to a gym)
- Your preference and confidence level
Dumbbells and barbells have different advantages, as well. Dumbbells top out weight-wise, so a barbell can give you heavier weight options.
Free weights also more closely mimic normal body movements – picking up a heavy box in the garage isn’t at a precise 45-degree angle like a machine!
The bottom line is to use the equipment that’s right for your style and preference.
Five of the best upper chest exercises
The number of reps and weight we’re suggesting are just that: suggestions. Depending on where you are with your program, these may be too heavy, too light or just right. These are guidelines to give you an idea of where to start. Make sure to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise programs.
1. Incline barbell bench press
Research done by ACE shows that the pec major is most activated by the incline barbell press. There are several settings to vary the degree of the incline of the bench: make sure over the course of your workout program, you’re hitting them all.
2. Pec deck (or chest fly)
Following the barbell bench press in bang-for-your-buck effectiveness is the pec deck. You can do this one with or without a machine. If you use dumbbells, you need to watch your form to prevent injury. Using a machine, it may make keeping your form a bit easier, and can also allow you to lift heavier.
If you’re doing these on a machine, try partial movements. Don’t bring the pads all the way together, and don’t let them go all the way apart. It would look like this:
- Set 1: bring the pads only to the mid-point for 7 reps
- Set 2: bring the pads all the way together, but only release to the mid-point for 7 reps
- Set 3: take the pads through the full range of motion for 7 reps
3 buy gabapentin online. Incline dumbbell bench press
Like the barbell press, using dumbbells will help develop the upper chest you’re looking for. Make sure you’re changing the incline, and watching your shoulders and back as you lift.
A free weight set could look like this:
- 12 reps at 30 pounds
- 10 reps at 35
- 8 reps at 40
4. Reverse grip incline bench press
You might think of this as a way to build your triceps, but reversing your grip can give your upper chest exercises a serious boost. Make sure your elbows don’t flare out, and watch the line of your neck. If you’re just starting out with the RG, try going a little lighter on the weight until you lock in the proper form.
5. Cable cross-over, lower pulleys
There are several ways to do this exercise, but the best choice for targeting your upper chest is to use the lower pulleys.
Choose a weight that limits you to 8-12 reps for each position of the pulleys. Go until failure at each position, starting with the lowest setting first.
Here are some common things people do when lifting weights. Take a look at your own workout and see if you recognize these mistakes:
You’re in a hurry
You want a big chest now, not three months from now. While your pecs are one of the bigger muscle groups, they’re also some of the hardest to develop. If you’re consistent and above all patient, your chest will improve.
You’re not thinking of the muscle you’re trying to build when you’re lifting. Don’t think about the person next to you, or if you need to walk the dog later. Concentrate on activating the muscle you want to build.
Break it down
Do multiple sets instead of one massive set. You should be using heavier weights, too, not just a ton of reps at a weight you can easily handle.
Warm up, slow down
Before jumping into upper chest exercises, are you warming up your upper chest, along with the rest of your body? Include a set of decline push-ups to help activate your upper chest, before you pick up a dumbbell. It’s also important to do upper chest exercises slowly and intentionally – don’t use momentum to swing, use your muscles to consciously lift and move.
Injury prevention isn’t an occasional thing
Along with being in a hurry, or not focusing, you may not be giving injury awareness the proper attention. Warm up, pay attention and making sure you’re focused can help keep you on the weight bench and off the couch while you heal up from an injury.
Failure IS an option
If you’re doing sets of 10, but could easily do at least one more, you’re not doing a true set of 10. Consider either going heavier, and doing fewer reps, or doing a few extra. And while you don’t want to do it every workout, push to muscle failure. This will help build more muscle, but make sure you also cycle through lower-intensity sets.
Rest day then chest day
Try doing your upper chest exercises after a rest day. Make sure you’ve eaten well, had a proper rest and are in the right mindset to do some serious work. That way, your upper chest can really get the full benefit.
Check out our tips on the best chest workout for building your whole chest, and get the armor plate look you’re after!