You hit the gym floor and head to the bench press first. After all, it's the best chest exercise around for building size and strength. You then throw in a few decline push-ups and incline dumbbell flyes — you've got the hallmarks of a good, complete chest workout. Yet, your upper chest just isn't developing as fast as you'd like. What gives?
The order in which you do the exercises matters. Always start with an exercise to train the middle of your chest — that's the bench press — and development of your upper and lower chest will falter. You're not hitting these portions of your chest until they're already fatigued, so they can't give you their best in workouts and thus can't develop as you'd like.
The key to building upper chest muscles fast is to prioritize them in your chest workouts.
Start with an Upper Chest Exercise
Instead of heading straight for the flat bench press, do the incline bench press first. It still targets all of your chest, as well as your shoulders and triceps, but prioritizes the upper head of the pectoralis major more than a flat bench press.
Use a bench inclined to about 45 degrees. Press a barbell or dumbbells up and down from your chest for eight to 12 reps. Opt for a weight that brings you to failure for three to four sets and give yourself a minute or two break between sets. You'll notice that by starting with this move when you're fresh, you can push a little more weight than you can when you incorporate it later in your workout.
Then, Go for a Second Upper Chest Move
Don't stop targeting the upper chest just yet. Move on to another upper chest exercise such as presses on a lower incline or an incline fly. For example, if you did a barbell press at a 45-degree incline for your first exercise, now do a dumbbell press at a 35-degree incline or dumbbell flyes at a 35- to 45-degree incline. This changes the angle of attack slightly, while still emphasizing the upper chest.
Don't Neglect the Rest of Your Chest
A couple upper chest moves does not make for a complete chest workout. After you've done two upper chest-focused exercises, move on to your more traditional flat bench press, cable flyes and push-ups.
End your workout with a final upper chest exercise. And, it's a good time to try a move that's new to you. Chest dips, in which you mount a set of parallel bars, lean slightly forward from the hips and bend and extend your elbows to dip up and down, are a good choice.
Another option might be to hit a weight machine, especially if you usually shy away from them in favor of free weights. An incline press machine gives you the stability to push extra weight at the end of your workout when you might otherwise feel too spent to go hard.
Revise Your Training Days
Many advanced lifters target each body part just once per week. For example, legs on Monday, chest on Tuesday, back on Wednesday, shoulders on Thursday, abs on Friday and arms on Saturday and rest on Sunday. If this is your pattern, consider adding an extra day where you build chest.
So, if your workout pattern resembles the example, you might add a few upper chest lifts to your shoulder workout on Thursday or to your arm workout on Saturday. If you already train chest at least twice per week, you're in good shape. Just ask yourself if you give it your all at each of these workouts, or if you're holding back and not working to failure.
You might also consider giving your chest top billing: Work it earliest in the week after your rest day. This ensures you're at your peak and able to heave the most weight.
When you're thinking fast in terms of muscle development, know that means weeks or even months. Muscle takes time to build. Efforts in the gym break muscle down, but rest time is also essential in allowing the fibers to build back up thicker and stronger. You'll need at least 48 hours between chest workouts, and as much as 72 hours if you go really heavy.