The Best Chest Workouts to Build Upper Pecs

The chest is basically composed of two muscles (or pecs) – pectoralis minor and pectoralis major. The pectoralis minor is layered right beneath the pectoralis major. However, in the context of working out, the chest can be divided into three major focus groups – The top, the middle, and the lower chest. If you want to build those heavy “Armor-plate” pecs that make you look like a Greek God, then it is necessary to work equally on all three sections. However, the upper chest is the section where most people fail to gain mass and end up with a bulkier bottom. Unless your upper pecs aren’t well sculpted, you’ll never attain that massive chest that you have always wanted.

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Why are upper chest exercises important?

Most people workout while focusing majorly on the lower chest (or endure a bad workout pattern ) and end up having a smaller upper chest like this:

 

Although it is known that the entire chest is one single muscle group, the fibers inside it respond differently to different kinds of exercises. Well developed upper pecs make your chest look like an “Armor-plate” and give it the massive look. Without focusing on the upper pecs, one can simply not expect to attain those chiseled chest muscles.

Building a strong upper chest

The most common mistake people make during chest workouts is that they go for “size”. Of course, size is important but there needs to be a defined target! Mostly, people end up with chests that are bulkier at the bottom and smaller at the top and this doesn’t let them achieve their dream of having an “Armor-plate” chest. Well, this is something that you can definitely achieve with the right chest workout. What you need to do is start doing bench press – a fundamental exercise of a chest workout and a core part of every weightlifter’s routine.

Bench Press

Bench press – It is one of the most effective exercises that not only targets your chest (pectoralis) but also your shoulders (deltoids), triceps, back, and even legs, to some extent, along with other stabilizers like the rotator cuff, upper trapezius, and rhomboids. If this compound exercise is done right, it can bring amazing results to your body. Your main focus should be to work towards increasing your strength especially through low reps and heavy weight. Keeping all the above points in mind, we have laid out a time-tested routine that has done wonders to not only the ones new to bodybuilding but also to the ones who had been working out for a long time but weren’t seeing the results that they hoped to see. You can follow it for 4 weeks to start noticing the results. After that, you can either switch to your old routine and come back to this after few weeks, or can alternate between this routine and your own routine.

The Ultimate Chest Workout Routine

Exercise 1 – 3 sets, 4 to 6 reps (3 minutes rest) of Incline Barbell Bench Press –

Many great bodybuilders like Ron Coleman (7 times Mr. Olympia) begin their workout with 500 pounds on the incline bench. The most important benefit of doing an incline barbell press is to strengthen the upper portion of the pecs. Incline pressing focuses mainly on the upper and the middle pectoral regions, and front deltoids. This should always be involved in the beginning of the workout routine so that most focus and energy can be spent on building your upper pecs. As we discussed earlier, the way to building a thick, chiseled and armor-plated chest is through working on your upper delts which are the most stubborn muscles of our body and therefore, are difficult to build.

Position

  1. Position the bench at an angle of 30-45°.
  2. Lie down on the bench such that your eyes are under the bar.
  3. Raise your chest above the bench and squeeze your shoulder blades in. (This is also called “Arching” your shoulders.
  4. Grab the bar slightly wider than your shoulder width.
  5. Make sure that your feet touch the floor. If they don’t, then adjust the height of the bench or arrange a different bench altogether to accommodate for your height.Incline Barbell Bench Press

Motion

  1. Keep your wrist straight (overhand grip), and not bent in the direction of your head, and push the bar such that it moves closer to the chin and reaches the center of your collarbone.
  2. The motion should be exactly in a straight line.
  3. Keep your elbows tucked in.

Exercise 2 – 3 sets, 4 to 6 reps (3 minutes rest) of Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Dumbbell presses provide a larger range of motion than barbell presses and help build your stabilizer muscles. Doing this immediately after the Incline Barbell Bench Press will strengthen your upper pecs and the overall increase in the stability will be a huge advantage in the long run.

Position

  1. Position the bench at an angle of 30-45°.
  2. Raise your chest above the bench and squeeze your shoulder blades in. (Again, “Arching”)
  3. Just like the barbell press mentioned above, your feet must touch the floor.Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Motion

  1. Hold the dumbbells in an overhand grip and
  2. Bring the dumbbells to your shoulder level, and then push the dumbbells up until your hands are straight and directly above the chest.

Exercise 3 – 3 sets, 4 to 6 reps (3 minutes rest) of Flat Barbell Bench Press

Once you have spent enough focus and energy on the upper pecs, it’s time to focus on the overall development of a strong chest. A bench press is considered as a standard way to measure the overall upper body strength. The amount of weight you can “bench” defines your strength as a bodybuilder or a weight-lifter. During the flat bench, equal stress is given on the upper and the lower pecs, therefore this is considered as one of the best exercise forms for a balanced development of the chest. Apart from the pecs, this exercise engages several muscles of the body like the brachii triceps, and the front deltoids (shoulders). Being a compound exercise, it also engages secondary muscles like the traps and the back.

Position

  1. Lie down on the bench such that your eyes are under the bar.
  2. Raise your chest above the bench and squeeze your shoulder blades in. (This is also called “Arching” your shoulders).
  3. Grab the bar slightly wider than your shoulder width.
  4. As with all bench exercises, your feet should touch the floor.Flat Barbell Bench Press

Motion

  1. Holding the barbell slightly more than the shoulder width, unrack the barbell and bring it down such that it touches your nipple line.
  2. Push the barbell perpendicular to the nipple line till your hands become straight.
  3. Hold the position for a count of one.
  4. Then bring down the barbell to the previous position and repeat.

Exercise 4 – 3 sets, reps till failure (1-minute rest) of Dips (Chest Version)

Dips are the body weight exercise that allow you to add unlimited weight

  1. Using a dip belt
  2. Holding a dumbbell between your legs
  3. Wearing a backpack with weights in it

Dips also help you improve your lockout strength which is very much necessary while doing other exercises like the overhead press and the bench press.

Position

  1. Hold two of the dips bars and lift yourself upward with straight arms.
  2. Lean in the forward direction as much as possible because not doing so will only engage your triceps and not chest.Chest Dips

Motion

  1. Lift your body up using your torso till your arms are straight.
  2. Now bring your body down, leaning the chest forward, until you feel a slight stretch in the chest.
  3. Push your body upwards again and when you reach the top position, squeeze your chest a little and then repeat the cycle.

NOTE – Attempt the dips exercise only if you do not attain muscle failure in the first three sets and remember to increase the weight of those three exercises in the next session.

6 tips that will help you achieve greater results:

#1 Master your grip

Place the bar in the heel of your hand, and not closer to the base of your fingers. This helps you avoid the bending of your wrist and maintain a straighter wrist position.

#2 Bar above your eyes

It is important that you lie down in a position such that the bar is directly above your eyes. This helps in maintaining the arched position while unracking the bar and avoids the bar hitting the pins when you are about to reach the lockout position.

#3 Correct angle of arms

Tuck your elbows such that they make a 45° angle between your shoulders and your ribs. Not doing so may lead to a shoulder injury.

#4 Feet to the ground, ALWAYS!

It is something that seems quite obvious for most lifters but is ignored by many. Your bench should always be in a position that lets you keep your legs on the floor to get an upward push with your leg drive. And if you want to move a step further, do what many of the powerlifters do― pull your feet back (towards the hips) and keep only the balls of your feet on the floor. This position helps in maintaining the arched structure of the torso.

#5 Understand the motion

In the down position, the bar should be parallel to the nipple line, while in the top position, it should be above the collarbone. Take help from a trainer to understand this motion and develop your reps accordingly. The reason why most injuries occur is due to not understanding the path of the barbell properly.

#6 Raising the bar (Quite literally)

There are times during the workout when every individual reaches a sticking point, which is the point when the pressure on the chest becomes maximum, as you are about to hit muscle failure. Most people quit when they approach this point and that is one of the major reasons of lifters hitting plateaus. Don’t quit at those points! Make sure you have a spotter around, and then push through that. Although it might be a long and slow rep, DO NOT quit when you hit that point. This is when the body grows, and failing to do this will limit your progress.

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