A powerful and full upper chest is what really makes your body pop out from others. A big chest is the manliest muscle you can have, and in this article I’ll show you the best upper chest exercises and how to build a stronger upper chest.
Having a big chest is one thing, but having a well-developed upper chest that pops out is another.
We go to the gym to look good (most of us anyway), so why wouldn’t you workout a muscle that makes you look big?
Look how much wider a big upper chest makes you look!
Even going back to classic bodybuilders, you can see how round and full their chests are.
You’ve probably asked yourself why you haven’t heard of an upper chest muscle. That’s because it doesn’t exist. Your chest is a muscle group that includes the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.
Your pectoralis muscles are used mostly in pressing movements, such as bench pressing and overhead pressing for your shoulders. The pectoralis minor muscle is underneath the pectoralis major, and is used for muscle stabalization.
Notice how there are no multiple heads of your chest muscle, like your triceps or shoulders? When you have different muscle groups and fiber types, you can adapt your training to best grow that muscle.
The thing with chest training is that it is only two muscles, so how can we best target the upper chest? Flat presses work your chest but not entirely target your upper chest. That’s what we’re here to fix.
Growing Your Upper Chest
I know for myself I’ve always struggled with growing my chest. My shoulders and biceps grow like weeds, but my chest lags behind. What I found in my experience in the gym are the best exercises to grow and target your upper chest. Check out my progress pics at the end of the article to see how well these exercises work.
Best Exercises To Grow Your Upper Chest: Dumbbell Hex Press
I don’t know if I ever had a better pump from a chest exercise before. The pump from it was almost debilitating, it’s now a staple in my chest training. If your upper chest isn’t growing or lagging, this is the exercise to do.
Tips For Dumbbell Hex Press: Set up an incline bench to 15 degrees (any more and you’re hitting your front delts instead of your chest). This exercise uses a neutral grip, meaning your palms face each other. As the name implies, this exercises uses hexagon shaped dumbbells, but it still works with normal round dumbbells. Now press the weight up, squeezing your pecs on the way up and pushing the dumbbells together. Aim for 10-15 reps with 3 sets.
This is the ultimate exercise for the upper chest. By having the bench on an incline, you can better isolate and target your upper chest than you would if it was a flat bench.
Best Cable Exercise For Upper Chest: Low to High Cable Fly
I’ll admit it, I was doing this exercise wrong for too long. I wasn’t getting as much as I could out of it.
One of the best things about using a cable machine is that it has constant tension.
What does constant tention mean?
When you pull on a cable pulley, you’ll be moving the same amount of weight at the bottom of the exercise as you do at the top of the exercise. Think about dumbbell flys: when the dumbbells are at the top of the movement, there’s no tension. You should know by know that time under tension is one of the factors of growing lean muscle.
When you use a cable machine, your muscle has constant tension during the movement. This means optimal muscle activation, therefore increased muscle growth.
Cable Chest Flye Tips
Make sure to keep your chest up and pointed out. You will also want to keep your palms facing towards the ceiling. At the top of the movement, you want to create a V with your hands. See what I mean below:
Another important tip for cable chest flys is to squeeze your chest starting at the bottom, and keep squeezing as you raise your hands. As I mentioned earlier, this will create more time under tension and lead to more muscle growth.
For this exercise, pump it up and aim for 10-18 reps with at least 3 sets. Don’t go too heavy on this exercise and don’t go too fast either, you can wreak havoc on your shoulders if you’re not careful.
Best Bench Exercise For Upper Chest Mass: Incline Wide-Grip Press
Alternating your training is what is going to lead you to better gains. Your body gets used to certain movements, it becomes too easy for you and you don’t progress as quick as you should. What I love doing is using tried and true exercise, and modifying it to fall in love all over again.
A wide grip on the bench press is really going to open up your chest and allow a much greater range of motion. You probably won’t be able to go really heavy with this exercise but that’s okay. What we’re looking to do is pump your chest up using a moderate weight and achieve a full range of motion.
Incline on this exercise makes it even better as you can really nail your upper chest. It hits the clavicle head of your pec major, to really build upon that pec shelf!
Wide Grip Incline Bench Press Tips
Make sure to warm up your shoulders before you jump into this exercise. I’d recommend stretching your shoulders using band pull aparts. They’re an easy way to make sure you don’t injure yourself in the gym.
Read my other article on the best chest warm ups you can do.
Wrist pain? Use Wrist Wraps
Wrist wraps help stabilize your wrist to your forearm. The wrist wrap is wrapped around starting from the inner palm, then outwards top to bottom, wrapping the entire wrist. If you have any sort of wrist injury or inkling of pain, it may be a wise idea to wrap it (lol).
Check these out on Amazon:
How To Warm Up Your Upper Chest and Fix Tightness
For any chest exercise I always warm myself up using band pull aparts (read my article on it here). It’s a low impact exercise that mimics actual pressing movements. The best warm-up routines are the ones you enjoy and stick to. See below for a demonstration.
The resistance bands that I use are from Fit Simplify that I purchased on Amazon. The bands are durable and super affordable too. There’s different resistances so you can choose the amount of weight you’re pulling. I found they’re such a great tool that I wrote a review on the Fit Simplify Resistance Loop Exercise Bands.
What Incline Degree For Incline Bench Press?
Ideally you’ll want to set the incline bench to between 10-15 degrees. Any more than that and you’re hitting your front delts (shoulders) primarily. A lot of chest exercises overlap with shoulder exercises, due to how those muscles are used during pushing movements.
What Can I Do To Feel My Upper Chest?
For whatever exercise you’re doing, make sure to go slow and squeeze your pecs on the way down and up. For an exercise like incline bench press, lower the bar all the way to your chest and let the bar touch briefly, then press up. If you choose a weight that is too heavy, your front delts can take over instead.
Pushups? Try Pushup bars
If you have a wrist injury or wrist pain, or maybe you just want something new, check out push up bars. You perform these with a neutral grip (knuckles face the floor), resulting in less wrist extension.
My Progress for Building a Better Upper Chest
I always struggled with building my chest until I incorporated upper chest movements. It’s one thing to move a lot of weight, it’s another to have good looking muscles as well.
These pictures are 6 months apart, the older picture on the left and the most recent on the right. You can really see the difference in the way my upper chest is shaped and how much more square it is now. I have a long ways to go to build a physique I’m satisfied with but this is one way to get there.
If you add this three exercises into your chest training, I guarantee you will see results! Just as I started somewhere, you’re on the right path to grow your chest. Consistency is what is going to make or break your body, either it be training or your diet. Another problem I struggled with is my diet and having consistent meals. Check out my other article on Easy Bodybuilding Meal Prep, it helped me organize and time my meals properly.