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The Best Upper-chest Workout
The most effective upper-chest workout focuses on free-weight movements. Free-weight exercises place stress on your muscles throughout the full exercise range of motion. This continual workload optimizes your chest workouts, leading to increased muscle strength and size gains. Before starting a resistance training program, consult a physician.
The clavicular head of the pectoralis major muscle spans across the upper portion of your chest. The upper pecs are recruited when you flex your shoulder muscles or move your upper arms across your chest with elbows facing out to the sides. Barbell incline bench presses and dumbbell incline fly exercises mimic movements that stimulate the upper pecs, making each free-weight exercise a critical component of an effective upper-chest workout.
Barbell Incline Bench Press
Barbell incline bench presses build muscle mass and strength throughout the entire upper-chest area. The exercise involves pressing a weighted barbell upward from a supine position. Avoid using a grip wider than shoulder width to keep the emphasis on your upper pecs. Keep your back flat against the bench and avoid any swinging or jerking motion to reduce the risk of injury. Do four sets of 12 repetitions to increase upper pectoral muscle size and strength. Rest 45 seconds between sets.
Dumbbell Incline Fly
The dumbbell incline fly adds muscle strength and size to the inner portion of your upper chest. The exercise involves moving two dumbbells in an arc-like motion from your sides to above your chest while sitting on an incline bench. Set the bench to an incline of no more than 30 degrees to target your upper chest. Keep your feet flat on the floor to reduce stress on your lower back muscles. Do four sets of 12 repetitions to strengthen your upper chest, resting 45 seconds between sets.
Train your chest no more than twice per week to allow for optimal recovery time between workouts. Stretch for five minutes pre- and post-workout to increase chest flexibility and reduce risk of injury. Warm up with five minutes of light jogging before resistance-training sessions to bring blood into the chest muscles, optimizing your workouts.
- ExRx.net: Barbell Incline Bench Press
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Incline Fly
- Iron Man Magazine: Best Upper Chest
- Lauver J, Cayot T, Scheuermann B. Influence of bench angle on upper extremity muscular activation during bench press exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2015;16(3):309-316. doi:10.1080/17461391.2015.1022605
- Ferreira D, Ferreira-Júnior J, Soares S et al. Chest Press Exercises With Different Stability Requirements Result in Similar Muscle Damage Recovery in Resistance-Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(1):71-79. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000001453
- Saeterbakken A, Mo D, Scott S, Andersen V. The Effects of Bench Press Variations in Competitive Athletes on Muscle Activity and Performance. J Hum Kinet. 2017;57(1):61-71. doi:10.1515/hukin-2017-0047
- Senna GW, Willardson JM, Scudese E, et al. Multi- To Single-Joint or the Reverse Exercise Order Does Not Affect Pectoralis Major Workout Performance. J Hum Kinet. 2019;66:223–231. doi:10.2478/hukin-2018-0059
- Trebs A, Brandenburg J, Pitney W. An Electromyography Analysis of 3 Muscles Surrounding the Shoulder Joint During the Performance of a Chest Press Exercise at Several Angles. J Strength Cond Res. 2010;24(7):1925-1930. doi:10.1519/jsc.0b013e3181ddfae7
Based in New Jersey, Ryan Biddulph has been writing since 2010, with his articles appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM, among others. He has helped clients reach their personal fitness goals since 2001. He also runs an Internet marketing blog. He holds a Bachelor of Science in meteorology from Kean University and a certificate in Web development from the Cittone Institute.