What Type of Pushup Works Your Upper Chest?


Your chest is made up of two main muscles. To get an overall well-developed chest, it’s important to use exercises that target all the different heads of these muscles. While the traditional pushup is an effective and convenient chest exercise, it does not strengthen all of your chest muscles equally. To specifically target your upper chest, you’ll have to use a pushup variety that puts more emphasis on your upper pectoral muscles.

Chest Anatomy

The two main muscles in the chest are the pectoralis major and the pectoralis minor. The biggest muscle is the pectoralis major, which is made up of two heads. The clavicular head is in the upper chest, and the sternal head is considered the lower or main chest area. The pectoralis minor has three heads and lies deep beneath the pectoralis major. This muscle is not visible and does not contribute to your chest size.

Decline Pushup

The decline pushup is an effective exercise for your upper chest because it puts more emphasis on your pectoralis major clavicular muscles. To perform the exercise, kneel on the floor with a bench behind you. Place your hands on the floor, slightly wider than shoulder width, and raise your feet, one at a time, resting them on the bench behind you. Slowly straighten your arms to push off the floor until your back and hips are in line with your legs. Pause briefly and bend your elbows to return to the starting position. This pushup position also puts more emphasis on your shoulders than the traditional flat pushup.


Several variations of the decline pushup exist. You can replace the bench with a stability ball; this will work your chest muscles the same way but will also strengthen your core muscles, since they have to stay engaged to keep you balanced on the ball. You can also put your feet in the stirrups of a suspension trainer and perform the exercise the same way. Once again, this exercise will also strengthen your core muscles in addition to your chest, arms and shoulders.

Other Exercises for the Upper Chest

If you are not strong enough to perform pushups, you can still strengthen your upper chest muscles. The incline barbell and dumbbell press exercises work the chest in the same way as the decline pushup, but they allow you to begin your training with lighter weights so that you can slowly build your muscular strength and endurance. Increasing the angle on the backrest of your bench also shifts the focus of the exercise progressively higher up the pectoral muscle. You can use an incline of anywhere between 30 to 60 degrees off the floor. Inclines steeper than 60 degrees will shift focus away from the chest and instead target the anterior deltoids or front shoulders.