We are all looking to build our chest, right? Not many focus on the upper chest, but I am here to show you that you can build your upper chest naturally. In this article, I will explain the anatomy, how to follow the fiber, and the 5 best exercises to build a lean upper chest.
Disclaimer – Although I am a Certified Personal Trainer, I am not YOUR Personal Trainer. This article is for informational and educational purposes only and does not establish any kind of personal trainer-client relationship with me. I am not liable or responsible for any damages or injuries resulting from or related to your use of this information. You should consult a physician, a nutritionist, or a registered dietician prior to starting any workout or nutrition program.
You want to build your upper chest to make the chest really stand out, shirt on or shirt off!
Build your Upper Chest by Knowing the Anatomy
The chest muscle, or the pectoral, is made of many muscle fibers. Take a look at the chest in this illustration below. The pectoral muscles have two heads: the clavicular head and the sternal head. To understand how to get the upper portion of your pecs to really stand out, we will be discussing the clavicle head.
The origin point of the upper pec is at the collar bone or clavicale (kenhub)
The Insertion point is the same for the entire pectoral muscle at the humerus bone.
Follow The Fiber to Build Your Upper Chest
Pay attention to the direction of the muscle fibers. Notice in the illustration above that the fibers run from the upper arm bone to the top of the chest at the collar bone. I need you to remember this when working out. You will want to ALWAYS move in the direction of the fibers. So, you will want to move your arm from low to high when performing upper chest exercises.
Nutrition and Warmup
Nutrition is by far one the most important parts of any exercise regimen. So, If you want to build lean muscle naturally, then you HAVE to follow a proper nutrition structure. Check out my free fitness calculators page and blog page to help you on your journey.
Also, you need to always warm up the muscle prior to working out. Do some light sets of some chest flyes or an incline dumbbell press. This will get the blood moving through your muscle, and will probably help prevent muscle strains and pulls.
Now on to the Exercise…….
The 5 Best Exercises to Build your upper Chest
- The Incline Press
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Cable crossover from low to high
- Incline Bench Flyes
- Decline Push Up
THE INCLINE PRESS
This is a great compound exercise to use as your first exercise after you have warmed up. Follow the steps to perform this exercise:
Prepare the bench and weight set. Put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can use a smith machine or a regular bench. If you are using an unassisted barbell, please use a spotter. Start light with the weight selection if you are just beginning.
Sit on the bench and prepare for the sets! When sitting on the bench, make sure you “pack your shoulders,” meaning put your shoulder back and down. Your body needs to be positioned correctly as this will help you gain lean muscle. Keep your feet planted on the ground, as your planted feet act as a foundation for your to push the barbell up.
Perform the set – Put your hands slightly past shoulder-width apart, shoulders packed, tighten your core. Push the barbell off the hooks and lower weight to your chest. You should lower the weight to mid-chest and don’t lower the weight all the way to the chest. You should be able to get a fist between your chest and the barbell. Then, slowly push the weight up. Continue contracting the muscle and follow the fiber! Push the weight all the way up, but DO NOT lock out your elbows. You want to have continued resistance on the muscle. This is one of the keys to building lean muscle. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.
The machine shown in the illustration below is one of my personal favorite machines. You will be able to stabilize your back, and most times you do not need a spotter. Make sure you keep your shoulders back as you press the weight up, and don’t forget to follow the fibers and contract slowly!
THE INCLINE DUMBBELL PRESS
This is a great exercise to perform after a compound exercise like the Incline Press.
Prepare the bench and weight set. Put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can a regular incline bench. If you are using heavyweight, please use a spotter. Start light with the weight selection if you are just beginning.
Sit on the bench and prepare for the sets! When sitting on the bench, make sure you “pack your shoulders,” meaning put your shoulder back and down. Your body needs to be positioned correctly as this will help you gain lean muscle. Keep your feet planted on the ground as your planted feet act as a foundation for you to push the dumbbells up.
Perform the set! While seated on the bench, place both dumbells on your knees. If using heavyweight, pop each weight up in the air from your knees, or use the spotter. Pay attention to where you place your hands. Keep your hands at a 90-degree angle as you lower the weight. Bring the weights down to about chest level, then push up. Contract your hands up and together. Focus on following the fiber and contacting the upper chest muscle.
CABLE CROSSOVER FROM LOW TO HIGH
This is a great exercise to really contract the muscle. You will need a cable machine in order to perform this exercise.
Set the Weight and Prepare – Set the weight at a lower weight. I need you to do this so that you can feel the contraction. Put the handles on the cable machine and set the cable machine at the low height.
Stand between the cables and several feet ahead. Position one foot in front of the other and keep your torso slightly forward. Keep a slight bend in your elbows. The starting point is about an arm’s length from your body.
Perform the set! Now, focus on bringing the insertion point of the pec to its origin. Contract the muscle and bring the handle from a low position up to about head height. That is one rep. Lower the weight to your sides, then bring up again. Always follow the fiber of the upper chest muscle. Check out the photo above. This is the final position of this exercise.
The Incline flyes exercise is a great finishing exercise; an exercise that you help you get to muscle failure.
Prepare the bench and get a set of medium to light dumbbells. Put the incline bench at a 45-75 degree angle. You can use a regular bench.
Ly on the bench, put your shoulders back and down. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and put the weights out to your sides. Keep your elbows slightly bent through the exercise
Bring the weight together. Focus on contracting your upper chest muscle. Don’t bring the weight all the way together at the top. Go slow on the contraction and follow the fiber. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps or until failure
DECLINE PUSH UP
This exercise is great to do when you don’t have a gym membership or bench and weights. If you are doing regular push-ups in your routine, then you should be doing decline and incline pushups. The angle of the pushup works different parts of your chest muscle.
Grab a chair or a bench and a comfortable place to place your hands. Anything that you can put your feet on will suffice for this exercise.
Place your hands on the floor then put your feet up on the chair. Put you hands slightly outside of shoulder width on the floor.
Begin your pushup at a decline. This decline exercise is just like doing an incline press, only you are using your own weight instead of barbell weight. Perform 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
As a personal trainer, I have really figured out how to work the upper part of the chest muscle. My experience has really helped me understand the importance of proper nutrition, the execution of the exercise and human anatomy. The exercises I detailed in these are the 5 best exercises to build your upper chest. I also wrote an article about the lower chest, Check it out HERE. You can also check out the rest of my articles at fitmanfitness.com.