If your upper chest exercises always ordered like this – flat bench press, incline press, lowering, flying – it offers all the requirements for a full chest workout. However, this does not mean that you have full breast development. If you always do a mid-chest movement first when your energy levels are at their highest, and you attack your upper and lower chest when you are tired, guess what region will start to lag at some point?
Bodybuilders who take the “Flat Bench First” approach generally have upper and lower chest imperfections that show up over time. And some bodybuilders have genetic deficits in a certain area, forcing them to redouble their efforts to lift the upper pectoral muscles.
If you want to build more upper chest girth, muscle, and strength, there are seven ways you can quickly restructure your workout to address your weakness.
1. Start with Multiple Joint Movements in the Upper Chest
The easiest and most obvious solution to highlighting your upper pectoral muscles is to target them on chest day first. So don’t start your training on the flat bench but with the incline bench press.
As you flip the exercises, you will find that you are significantly stronger and can lift a little more (or do a few more reps for a given weight) than you could if you did an upper chest movement later in your workout would perform. If you force the upper chest fibers to rise higher than they are used to, you are on your way to profit.
Of course, since you are a little stronger on slopes, don’t be afraid to use a slightly more demanding weight. Nothing stops progress more than choosing a weight that you can handle for just 3 sets of 10. If you typically do 8-10 sets of incline, do a set or two (after your warm-up) for 6-8 reps for those fibers to work. Even harder.
A barbell or dumbbell move has its advantages here, and both are good options. The following points can help you decide which to choose as your main exercise, but you want to stay away from any machine exercise. Your body has to work harder, and harder work means more muscle stimulation and growth with free weights.
2. Get Off the Fixed Bench
If you take a closer look at the incline bar bench press stations, you will find that the bench’s angle generally fixed, usually 45 degrees. (I’ve seen some banks that are even steeper and end up machining the delts rather than the top pecs.) No law in physics says the top pecs should always machine from the same angle. You will get better overall upper chest development using a variety of incline bench positions.
Now check out this adjustable incline bench. There are several various notches on the bench that you can use to work on low slopes, moderate slopes, and even steeper slopes. If you want to improve your upper pectoral muscles, this adjustable bench is your new best friend, and at some point, you’ll be using all of these positions in between.
The adjustable bench is best for dumbbells or the Smith machine. Begin using various incline positions, whether from set to set or from exercise to exercise, to target muscle fibers in slightly different ways.
3. Do a Second Upper Chest Exercise
One way to target a trailing body part is to do more exercises that target it. However, what you don’t want to do is repeat what you did on the first move.
For example, let’s say you did an angle bar press for sets of 8 reps in the first exercise, and now you’re doing another pull. Which of these would add another tension to the target muscle?
A: The Smith Machine Incline Press on a bench can set at the same angle as the Fixed Incline Bar Press for sets of 8 reps.
B: A dumbbell press with a lower incline than the fixed bench for sets of 10-12 reps.
I hope you chose B. Suppose you want to change the training stimulus to train a target muscle in multiple ways. In that case, you should consider switching equipment, changing the angle of the bench, and working at a different relative intensity. A second upper chest movement is not enough unless you consider all of these factors.
4. Don’t Stop when you fail
If you want to optimize your muscle growth, you can not fear muscle failure. If you lose weight after doing 10 reps but could have done 1 to 5 more reps, you will not do a true set of 10.
Exceeding your limits, which, by the way, should be alternated with periods of lower intensity, leads to the breakdown of the extra muscle fibers and stimulation of further growth, as long as you only need a few sets to overcome muscle failure. (Taking each set after a failure can result in acute overtraining.) The best advice is to do 1-2 sets of any particular exercise past failure, usually on the last or heaviest set.
Advanced Training Techniques
If you have a training partner, keep in mind:
- Forced reps: You do many reps as possible on your own, and then your partner will help you with enough help to keep the weight up for a few extra reps.
- Negative: When you reach failure, your partner will help you lift a weight, but it will take a full five seconds to drop it, focusing on the negative reduction. Do as reps as you can until you can’t control the negatives. This technique works better with the bar and most of the machine’s movements than with the dumbbells.
If you don’t have a training partner, try the following:
- Rest groups: Choose a weight that you can lift for 7-8 reps, but only do 3-4 reps and increase the weight. Rest for 20 seconds and do 3-4 more repetitions. Chain 4-5 segments of work, interrupted by 20 seconds of rest, and you get about 15 reps with a weight you can normally only lift for 7-8 reps. This best done with machines that allow you to get in and out of the starting position easily.
- Pulldowns: If you encounter muscle failure, instead of just dropping the weight, reduce the weight by approximately 25 percent and continue the game to the second point of failure. This best done with machines loaded with pins, cables, and dumbbells. Make sure you have all the correct weights installed before starting the kit.
5. Consider a Second Day with Chests
If you’re following an intermediate or advanced workout where you work every body part once every five days, you can add a second chest workout to your split as long as you are careful with how you introduce it.
For example, in the short term, no longer than 6 to 8 weeks, you can concentrate intensively on highlighting a lagging area on a second breastfeeding day. The idea here is not to repeat the same chest workout that you did a few days earlier but to provide some new and novel exercises and techniques. With this in mind, your second session may differ not only in terms of exercise choices but also in target rep ranges, intensity boosters, rest times, and other training factors.
If you follow this approach, the way you set up your layout becomes critical. You need to make sure that you are not exercising any of the “push” muscle groups on consecutive days to allow adequate recovery time. This is what a poorly constructed separation would look like: chest on day 1, shoulders and back on day 2, arms and legs on day 3, chest on day 4, and so on.
Build at least 48 hours between workouts that challenge your pressing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) to optimize growth better. An example split that includes a second chest workout might look like this: chest and biceps on day 1, back and triceps on day 2, rest on day 3, chest and shoulders on day 4, legs on day 5, rest on day 6, and so.
6. Try Out the “New” Upper Chest Movements
If new and novel upper chest movements are so important to hitting these upper chest fibers, we wouldn’t be giving you some ideas on where to start. Assuming you’re familiar with basic upper chest movements, consider the following:
- Semi-Incline Bench Press: Whether with dumbbells or the Smith machine, doing your medium-angle presses on an adjustable bench will bring new life to an old favorite.
- Inclined Machine Press – Use the machine you normally don’t prefer to hit instead of your normal machine. If your gym has a hammer-strength breast machine with each arm moving independently, sit down to the side of the machine, hold on with your free hand, and press along your body.
- Single-Joint Incline Flight: You probably already do some single-joint movement in your workout, but one that focuses on your upper pecs. Good choices are cable crossings with a lower pulley, cable flights with an incline bench, and dumbbell flights with an incline bench.
- Reverse Grip Bench Press: Flat backward grip bench presses shift focus to the upper pectoral muscles. Start with the light and make sure your thumbs hooked around the bar for safety.
- Incline Jerseys: Drop the flat bench for your jerseys and place it on an incline bench. Do 3 sets of 12 and hold the last rep isometric for five seconds to feel the burn.
7. Do Your Chest Workout After a Day of Rest
One final tip for a great workout, target the part of your body that remains after a day of rest where you’ve eaten clean, taken it easy, and prepared your mind to move some iron. If you’re tired when you hit the gym, you probably won’t have a cross-border workout.
Pre-workout cocktails are better for increasing your focus and intensity but don’t always rely on them alone. Getting enough sleep and eating right are probably the two most important factors in your ability to get a great workout.
Ultimately, if your upper pecs are faltering, it would be crazy to keep doing. What you do and expect different results? Follow these ideas, and you will be on your good way of building an increasingly full chest, starting with your next workout!