10 Best Upper Chest Exercises for Mass and strength

You are in the right place if you want to build your upper pec muscles and find the best upper chest exercises that you can do in your chest workout.

Building the upper chest can be difficult if you don’t do the right exercises. It requires exercises that target it correctly because of the different angles of its muscles.

To effectively train the upper chest, first we need to take a closer look at the chest anatomy and how to train it. Then well see the best upper chest exercises and how to do them properly and also see chest workout plans.

Chest Anatomy and How Upper Chest Worked

The muscles of the chest consist of the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor.

The pectoralis major is a large, fan-shaped muscle with a wide origin. It is generally divided into two parts:

  1. The sternocostal part is the larger, lower part that mainly comes from your sternum (and to a small degree from your upper abdominal sheath and ribs) This is your middle and lower chest.
  2. The clavicular part is the smaller, upper portion, which originates from the first half of your clavicle. This is what we usually mean by upper chest.

Muscle fibers from this whole range come together into one single tendon that inserts on the front of your upper arms.

The pectoralis minor is the triangle-shaped muscle located under the pectoralis major, a layer deeper, and draws the shoulder blades down and forward.

Cable fly Muscle Worked

How To Train Upper Chest

The chest muscle is commonly known as the pectoralis (pecs) muscle, which is divided into upper and lower sections. The upper region of the chest is the hardest area of the chest to build. If you focus on these variables while training your upper chest, it will help you build a bigger chest.

Pressing Position

The pectoral muscles work differently depending on the angle at which you bring your arm forward.

  • The upper chest muscle fibers are the target of Incline pressing.
  • The lower chest muscle fibers are the target of decline pressing.
  • It is possible to target your complete chest muscle with a flat pressing.

An incline bench press will work the upper chest more than a flat or decline bench press. If you want to increase the stimulation of the upper chest, you should aim for an angle of at least 30 degrees. If you go beyond 50 degrees, you will be transferring the emphasis from your upper chest to your front delts.

Body Position

With a standard push up, you lift about 70% of your own bodyweight. When you perform push-ups with your feet high, as in decline push-ups, you actually push up even more of your weight, which makes the decline variation more efficient and harder than the standard push up variation. The decline Push Up works the upper chest and front shoulders (delts) more than the regular or incline variation.

Grip Position

Changing your grip from overhand to underhand has a profound effect on upper chest muscle activation. By changing your grip, you can get up to 30% more upper chest activation.

Best Upper Chest Exercises and Workout

If you’re looking to build more thickness, muscle, and strength in your upper pecs, here are the best upper chest exercises and workout that you need to add to your training regime. Having a well-developed upper chest contributes to the fullness of the upper body and has functional benefits.

Here is the list of 10 best upper chest exercises which help to build well-developed chest and how you can put together an upper chest workout.

1. Incline Bench Press

Incline Bench Press is a variation of the traditional flat Bench Press, where the lifters body is fixed in an incline position.

Bench Incline Press exercise focuses on the upper chest more and therefore helps build massive upper pecs. It is the best exercise to develop muscle mass in the upper and middle Pectoral region.

You could even try the incline smith machine bench press for more stability. When an exercise is stable, you can use heavier weights, focus more on the muscles worked, and train closer to failure without as much risk of technique breakdowns.

Incline Bench Press

How To Do Incline Bench Press

  1. Lie on an Incline Bench set at about 30-45 degrees.
  2. Lift the weight off the rack and hold it above you at arm’s length.
  3. Lower the bar until it just touches above the nipple area.
  4. Raise your arms until they are nearly locked out.

Tips

  • Perform press in a controlled manner.
  • The bar should be lowered slowly until it has reached the upper chest, and take a pause for a moment.
  • Set a bench at about 30-45 degrees inclined. Do not go more upright as the stress shifts more to the shoulders rather than the chest area.

 2. Incline Dumbbell Press

Incline Dumbbell Press Exercise is an excellent way to develop the middle and the upper pec muscles. Just like the Incline Bench Press, the Incline.

Dumbbell press works mostly on the upper pecs, but dumbbells allow full range of motion, and therefore in some ways better than the bench press. Using dumbbells ensures that you are working both sides equally hard.

It adds an extra range of motion at the top for complete chest development. Furthermore, dumbbells demand better coordination, forcing the stabilizing muscles to assist as well.

Incline Dumbbell Press

How To Do Incline Dumbbell Press

  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells, and lie on an incline bench (30-degree inclined).
  2. Clean the dumbbells and lift them straight overhead. Feel a good chest squeeze at the upper pec.
  3. Lower the dumbbells and feel a good chest muscle stretch at the bottom.

Tips

  • Exhale whilst pushing dumbbells upwards and do in a controlled manner.
  • Set the bench at about 30-degrees inclined. Do not go more upright as the stress shifts more to shoulders rather than chest area.
  • Vary bench angles to hit different angles of the chest.

Read More: How To Do Incline Dumbbell Bench Press With Perfect Technique

3. Incline dumbbell fly

The incline dumbbell fly is a variation of the dumbbell fly. The incline dumbbell fly is an isolated strength exercise that targets the upper chest muscle.

Do not perform a basic flat bench fly because the incline bench position allows for the isolation of the harder-to-develop upper pec.

incline dumbbell fly

How To Do Incline dumbbell fly

  1. Set an incline bench at a 30-to 45-degree angle. Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your arms straight up from your shoulders and the dumbbells directly over your upper chest.
  3. Slowly lower your arms out to your sides until your wrists come to about shoulder level or slightly above
  4. Bring your arms back toward the midline of your body, focusing on using your pec muscles to draw them back together.

Tips

  • Perform press in a controlled manner.
  • Set the bench at about 30-45 degrees inclined. Do not go more upright as the stress shifts more to shoulders rather than chest area.

4. Incline Cable Fly

Incline Cable fly 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, which helps build Upper Chest fibers. This constant tension cannot be achieved with dumbbells.

Incline Cable Fly

How To Do Incline Cable Fly

  1. Set an incline bench at a 30-degree angle. Lie on the bench with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lift your arms straight up from your shoulders and hold the cable directly over your upper chest.
  3. Slowly lower your arms out to your sides until your wrists come to about shoulder level or slightly above.
  4. Bring your arms back toward the midline of your body, focusing on using your pec muscles to draw them back together.

Tips

  • Exhale while you exert.
  • Vary the position of the bench to hit different angles of the upper chest.
  • Hold and contract the chest muscles when hands are together.
  • Set the bench at about 30 degrees inclined. Do not go more upright as the stress shifts more to shoulders rather than chest area.

5. Low Pulley Cable Crossover

Low pulleys cable crossover exercise helps to build huge pectorals. The cable provides constant tension, helping build upper pecs. Standing cable crossovers exercise helps to develop and define upper and inner pec muscles.

The cable helps develop the upper and inner chest muscles and provides the stress and pecs that a bodybuilder craves. You can work your muscles to failure without worrying about balancing heavy weights such as a barbell or dumbbells over your head.

Low Pulley Cable Crossovers

How To Do Low Pulley Cable Crossover

  1. In a standing position, grab and hold the handles of overhead pulleys on both sides.
  2. Bend slightly forwards, and extend your arms, feeling a good stretch in your chest muscles.
  3. Now flex your arms with elbows slightly bent to get a good chest contraction.
  4. Unlike chest flies, you can crossover the center to get full Pec contraction.

Tip

  • To keep your balance, stand in a staggered stance.
  • Breathe out as you lift the handles up and together.
  • Control the weight as you bring your arms back down.

6. Decline Push-Ups

Push-Ups are one of the best bodyweight upper chest exercises that train your entire upper body, shoulder, chest, and arms. Push-Ups can be a real challenge if done from various angles. Intensity is the key here to Build Muscle and Strength.

Decline Push-ups are similar to normal push-ups but with your legs on a bench. Although this is called the Decline push-up, it focuses more on the upper pecs. Also, because your lower body is raised from the floor, the resistance your body provides is increased compared to doing the pushup on the floor. This makes the decline push-up harder than the standard push-up.

Decline Push Ups

How To Do Decline Push-Ups

  1. Your hands are placed firmly on the floor and spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Put Legs on the bench or the pad roller.
  2. Now raise yourself off the ground straightening your elbows and your arms. Keep your elbows close to your body.
  3. Raise until your elbows are almost near to locked, and pause for a moment at the top of the movement.
  4. Now lower your body under slow sustained motion, feeling the motion all the way down until your chest is very close to the ground.

Tips

  • Exhale while you exert.
  • Vary the position of the bench to hit different angles of the upper chest.

Read More for Bodyweight Upper Chest Exercises: Best Push Ups For Upper Chest

7. Incline Hammer Strength Machine

Incline Hammer Strength Machine allows for complete contraction of the Upper Chest. The machine is designed to only target the Upper Chest to makes it one of the great upper chest exercises. One can better isolate certain muscle groups with a machine due to its fixed movement pattern.

It also allows for less opportunity for form breakdown. If you are simply going to fail a repetition, you can lower the machine back down without any chance of injuring yourself.

Incline Hammer Strength Machine

How To Do Incline Hammer Strength Machine

  1. Sit on a Hammer Strength incline machine and adjust the seat to align the handles with your chest.
  2. Grasp handles and sits up straight with core tight and back pressed against the seat.
  3. Press handles up and out to a full arm’s length just before your elbow locks and then return to the chest.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Exhale whilst pushing dumbbells upwards and do in a controlled manner.
  • Change grip positioning to target different parts of the muscles.

8. The Landmine Chest Press

The Landmine Chest Press is not a popular exercise, yet it provides many benefits in regard to the upper chest.

It can be performed in kneeling position, which increases core involvement and can improve core stability and strength of the abdominal muscles.

Landmine Chest Press

How To Do Landmine Press

  1. Place a barbell in a landmine holder or set up a barbell in a corner. Then add weight plates to the free end of the barbell.
  2. Assume a half kneeling position with the knee under your hip, toes tucked, and rib cage down.
  3. Press the barbell up straight in front of you until your arms are extended, avoiding hyperextension at the elbows.
  4. Hold the weight for a second and focus on contracting your chest muscles.
  5. Slowly lower the weight back towards your chest and then repeat for the recommended reps

Tips

  • To secure the barbell, you can interlock your hands around the bar.
  • Lean your body forwards slightly and engage your core muscles to help with stabilization.
  • Exhale on pushing movement, inhale when returning to starting position.
  • Contract the chest muscle at the top of the movement.

9. Incline Reverse-grip bench press

Changing your grip from overhand to underhand has a profound effect on upper chest muscle activation. By changing your grip, you can get up to 30% more upper chest activation.

An Incline bench barbell press with a reverse grip actually shifts the most focus to the upper pecs. Start out light and make sure your thumbs are hooked around the bar for safety.

The reverse-grip bench press may not seem like an upper chest move, but it is absolutely an upper pec exercise as explained in this exercise anatomy.

Reverse-grip bench press

How To Do Incline Reverse-grip bench press

  1. Lying on a flat bench, grasp the bar with a supinated (reverse) grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and thumbs around the bar.
  2. With your elbows tucked in close to your sides, slowly lower the bar down to your lower pecs.
  3. Press the bar back up to the start position in a slight backward arc without letting your elbows flare out.
  4. Don’t lock out your elbows at the top of the rep; keep a bend in your arms, maintaining control of the weight at all times.

Tips

  1. Hold a neutral spine throughout the movement to prevent injury.
  2. Perform press in a controlled manner.
  3. Exhale on pushing movement, and inhale when returning to the starting position.
  4. Contract the chest muscles at the top of the movement.

10. Incline Bench Dumbbell Pullover

Incline Bench dumbbell Pullovers is the best exercise to build a strong rib cage and build serratus anterior muscle to build an upper chest and back.

The incline dumbbell pullover allows for a wide range of motion, thus providing a deep pectorals and lats stretch. This exercise is done lying across on an Incline bench with a heavy dumbbell.

Incline Bench dumbbell Pullovers

How To Do Incline Bench Dumbbell Pullover

  1. Set the bench position between 30-45 degrees. Now lie across on an Incline bench.
  2. Grasp a dumbbell with both hands, and get it straight over your chest.
  3. Lower the dumbbell in an arc slowly getting a good stretch in your rib cage.
  4. Lower the dumbbell as far as possible, and then raise it back to the starting position.

Tips

  • Maximum stretching ensures the greatest expansion of the rib cage.
  • Vary the position of the bench to hit different angles of the upper chest.

Related: Upper Chest Dumbbell Exercises For Building A Broad, Strong Pecs

Complete Chest Workout Plans

If you want to make your chest workout more balanced, you should add 1-2 of the following upper chest exercises to it. We recommend that you train your entire chest during your chest workouts because your upper chest muscles are a small part of your whole chest.

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.

Before you get started with a chest workout, make sure you warm up properly. Then do a few warm-up sets with lighter weight or just your bodyweight before doing the exercises with heavier weight.

Training Volume (Sets And Reps)

Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:

Sets

  • Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
  • Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
  • Advanced: ~20 sets per week.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 

Reps

The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • 6-8 reps with heavy load
  • 8-15 reps with moderate load
  • 15-20+ with light load

The load should bring you to or near failure within the given rep ranges for the exercise to be effective.

Find the workout that suits your experience level and goals.

Challenge Yourself

Don’t be afraid to challenge yourself if you want to see actual results. This could mean doing supersets or drop sets, which are a great way to work towards failure. Rest when needed between sets but keep going if you can to complete a superset. 

Beginner Chest Workout Plan

If you’re new to lifting weights, don’t worry. This beginner-friendly chest workout routine is a great place to start.

When this gets easy, choose a heavier free weight. After you’ve upped your weight several times and feel strong in the movements below, move on to the intermediate routine. Until then, you can follow this beginner chest workout plan.

  • Push-Ups: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Bench Press 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Intermediate Chest Workout

If you are an intermediate level or have outgrown the beginner routine, try the intermediate chest workout routine below.

Regardless of how many reps your programming is calling for, you should be unable to complete the last one with proper form.

  • Dumbbell Bench Press : 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Incline Barbell Press: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Decline Bench Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Dumbbell fly : 2 sets of 12-15 reps.

Advanced Chest Workout

If you are an advanced level athlete or have already completed the beginner and intermediate chest workouts, give the advanced routine a try.

Here, you’ll challenge more of your balance, stability, and strength.

  • Incline bench Press: 4 sets of 6-8 reps.
  • Dumbbell Bench Press 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Landmine Press: 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
    • Dumbbell Fly: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Frequently Asked Questions About Upper Chest Training

Do Push-Ups Build Upper Chest?

Decline Push-ups are an excellent bodyweight exercise for strengthening the upper chest, but decline push-ups on a stability ball take this routine to the next level.

Why Is My Upper Chest Not Growing?

It might be that you aren’t doing enough exercises that work the upper chest.

A good upper chest workout routine should use bench angles between 30 and 45 degrees and use both good rep range training. Pecs respond to these types of workouts.

How Do You Work Your Upper Chest Without Weights?

The decline push-up and the pike push-up are two of the best exercises for working the upper chest without weights. By placing your feet on an elevation (like a low bench or box) and performing decline push-ups, you can target your middle and upper chest instead.

Conclusion

If you want to work your upper chest, you can either target it with exercises like the incline bench press or work it all with exercises like the bench press.

This exercise is highly recommended for anyone interested in building upper body strength and gaining muscle size. It is easy to do and requires no more scientific details and fancy equipment.

If you do these upper chest exercises consistently, the results will speak for themselves.

References

  1. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Oct 8;17(19):7339. Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.
  2. Comparative Study Eur J Sport Sci. 2016;16(3):309-16. Epub 2015 Mar 23.
    Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise.
  3. Int J Exerc Sci. 2020 Aug 1;13(6):859-872. Effects of Horizontal and Incline Bench Press on Neuromuscular Adaptations in Untrained Young Men.

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Best Upper Chest Workout To Build Mass and Strength

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