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Fitness & Health

28th Feb 2019

Three of the best gym exercises for building your upper chest

The upper chest is arguably one of the hardest muscle groups to grow - so which lifts are the best? These are the pick of the bunch, complete with form tips

Alex Roberts

The upper portion of your chest can be one of the hardest muscle groups to grow.

You need to approach training for the upper chest in a considered way. Simply performing a few sets of a flat bench press may not cut the mustard if you haven’t already built that area up.

Without getting too bogged down in human anatomy, your chest muscle fibres attach to different points on the body.

The fibres of the upper chest attach to your clavicle (collarbone), which makes them particularly difficult to recruit. Most standard pressing movements only tend to focus on the mid and lower portions of the chest.

Which lifts should you opt for to build a bigger upper chest?

Arnold Schwarzenegger was renowned for this particular muscle group, and he mostly swore by the incline bench press:

Clip via Cory Gregory

It ticks all the boxes, and is performed in a similar fashion to the flat bench press. Perform it like this:

  • Grip the bar with hands shoulder-width apart
  • Bring the bar down to the upper part of your chest
  • Press upwards, squeezing your chest muscles at the top of the lift
  • Slowly lower to the beginning

However, if you’re not as genetically gifted as the Austrian – and 95% of us aren’t – you’ll likely need to supplement your training with some extra lifts.

There are some great alternatives for building your upper chest. Here is the pick of the bunch…

Reverse Grip Bench Press

When most people think of hitting their upper chest, the incline bench press springs to mind. But this may not be the best lift when it comes to pumping up those upper pecs.

The reverse grip bench press can be performed on a flat bench, and it’s arguably going to recruit more fibres in the upper pecs.

Clip via Jim Stoppani

In the above clip, exercise scientist Dr. Jim Stoppani outlines the benefits of the reverse grip bench and also how to perform it optimally.

You won’t be able to max out with an extremely heavy weight, but it will spark new growth in your upper chest.

  • Take a grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Press in an upward curve motion
  • Pick a weight that you can manage for 10-15 reps

Low Pulley Cable Flyes

Clip via Tiger FitnessTiger Fitness

You typically see cable flyes performed from a high pulley, but this variation mainly recruits fibres in the mid-lower chest. From a low pulley, more emphasis is placed on the upper chest.

  • Move the handles inwards and upwards
  • Stop when the handles are in line with your chin
  • Squeeze your upper chest and then slowly lower to the beginning
  • Keep a slight bend at the elbow joint to avoid recruiting too much bicep muscle

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