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 work the upper chest. Needless to mention, increased size and strength in the upper chest is not only going to improve your aesthetics – more importantly, it 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 fibers. 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 and 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 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.
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