Bench presses, push-ups, chest flyes, and dips are fantastic movements to target the chest muscles.
However, you need upper chest exercises to truly emphasize the upper portion and build balanced pecs.
So, let’s dive in and explore five of the best options, including bodyweight, as well as cable and free-weight exercises.
Table of Contents
Primary Muscles Worked 💪
- Upper Chest
- Full Chest
Secondary Muscles Worked 💪
- Anterior Deltoids (Front Shoulder Muscle)
The 5 Best Upper Chest Exercises
1. Incline Press
The incline press emphasizes the upper chest, allows you to overload your muscles with increasingly more weight, and provides the opportunity to use various types of weights (e.g., dumbbells and barbells).
How to (dumbbell):
- Set the bench at an incline of around 45 degrees (midway between flat and upright).
- Grab a pair of dumbbells, sit down, and place them on top of your thighs.
- Tense your upper body and lie back as you kick the weights up and position them over your chest.
- Bring your shoulders back and inhale.
- Slowly lower the weights without flaring your elbows.
- Press the dumbbells to the top position as you exhale.
2. Incline Dumbbell Fly
Similar to incline pressing, the incline dumbbell fly emphasizes the upper chest without involving the triceps as much.
- Set the bench at an incline of around 45 degrees.
- Grab a pair of light dumbbells, sit down, and place them on top of your thighs.
- Lie back and position the dumbbells above your chest with your elbows bent slightly.
- Inhale and slowly lower the weights to your sides until you feel a stretch in your chest.
- Move the weights back up, tapping them lightly at the top as you exhale.
3. Low-to-High Cable Fly
Because of the direction of the movement, you can more effectively emphasize the upper portion of your chest compared to the rest of the muscle.
- Set the pulleys of a double cable machine to the lowest position, attach handles, and select the appropriate load.
- Grab both handles, stand in the middle of the machine, take a step forward to lift the weights off their stacks, and stagger your stance for balance. Your arms should be to your sides with the elbows bent slightly.
- Take a breath and bring your arms in, squeezing your chest.
- Hold for a moment and exhale as you slowly move your arms to your sides.
4. Decline Push-Up
Decline push-ups are one of the best bodyweight upper chest exercises you can do. While the overloading potential is somewhat limited, you can still add these as an accessory movement to your chest or ‘push’ routine.
- Stand facing away in front of a flat gym bench, plyo box, or chair.
- Lean forward and place your hands flat on the ground in a comfortable stance for push-ups. Your fingers should point forward to keep your elbows from flaring.
- Elevate your feet on the object.
- Bring your chest out and squeeze your abs to keep your lower back from hyperextending.
- Take a breath and lower yourself as much as possible. Look forward and up to avoid hitting your nose on the floor.
- Press back to the top position and exhale.
5. Reverse-Grip Bench Press
The reverse-grip bench press is arguably the least popular of all upper chest exercises, but it can work quite well, as it allows you to overload your muscles with more weight. (1)
- Set up the barbell as you would for a regular bench press. Start with an empty bar.
- Lie on the bench, reach up, and grab the bar with an underhand grip (palms facing back). Your hands should be shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
- Bring your shoulder blades back into the bench and dig the balls of your feet into the ground for balance.
- Take a breath and unrack the bar.
- Carefully position the bar over your chest and inhale.
- Bring the bar to your lower chest, pause momentarily, and press it back to the top as you exhale.
Upper Chest Workouts for Symmetry
Upper chest exercises are a must-have focus in your chest workout regimen. It’s important to target the upper, middle, and lower chest to ensure good symmetry.
I, like most people, naturally put focus and emphasis on the upper chest. It always seems like a natural extension of my chest workouts, and incline positions on the bench are quick and easy.
Where I find myself neglecting is the lower chest workout. So don’t forget these positions, and obviously they are the opposite of working the upper chest:
- Decline bench positions
- Incline push-up positions
And unless you’re a competitive bodybuilder, the exercises above are more than sufficient to give you a really great upper chest workout.
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Don’t know how to stretch your chest properly? Check out chest stretch to learn more. Do you want a compound lift to build strength and muscle for your chest? Compound chest exercises can help you with that. Only have cables for a workout? Check our cable chest workouts for effective chest gains. Is your lower chest lacking? Learn about lower chest exercises to have a fully symmetric chest. Do you want to prioritize your chest with minimal activation on your shoulder and triceps? Chest isolation exercises are great for that. Click for more ideas on how to build lean muscles. and also check our video library for chest exercises.
- Read, T. (2021, August 9). Reverse grip bench press: Benefits, muscles worked, and how-to. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness/reverse-grip-bench-press#:~:text=The%20reverse%20grip%20bench%20press%20is%20performed%20with%20a%20wider,set%20to%20the%20correct%20height.