Upper Chest Development Exercises

By | November 10, 2015

If there is any part of your chest that is underdeveloped it is probably the upper or inner chest, am I right?

In this article I want to provide you with some of what I consider to be the best upper chest development exercises that I have come across. These exercises are basic but extremely necessary to recruit muscle fibers in your upper chest and bring it up to size.

Incline bench press (barbell or dumbbell)

Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

Dumbbell Incline            Bench Press

incline bench press

Barbell Incline Bench                           Press

If there was only one exercise you should perform for the upper chest I would recommend incline bench press. Both a barbell or dumbbells will work although the range of motion can be greater for the dumbbells if you press the weight up and bring it in across your chest. The purpose of this movement is to really overload the upper chest muscle area, which can be done with either variation. Because it is a large compound movement you will be able to put a great amount of tension on the muscles without hurting yourself. You will be able to overload the muscles in the upper chest region with this exercise more than any other.

As I mentioned in another post (Single Best Exercise for Chest Muscle Growth) overloading the muscle is very important. Mechanical overload of the muscle can bring about increased protein synthesis as well as satellite cell activation.

Affect on Protein Synthesis

Increased protein synthesis you probably all ready understand. The signals from the heavy mechanical movement of the incline bench press are converted into biochemical processes. The specialized protein mTOR (mammalian Target Of Rapamycin) is then stimulated which leads to increased protein synthesis in order to rejuvenate and rebuild damaged cells.

Satellite Cell Activation

The heavy movement of the incline bench press activates satellite cells as they respond to the damage being done to the muscle. These satellite cells fuse with the myofibers of the muscle as well as form protein strands within the muscle.

Weight and Rep Range

And yes there is a sweet spot that you want to find for the amount of weight and reps to do with these exercises. Generally it seems that people get the best muscle development from doing between 6 to 12 reps with a heavy and large compound movement such as this. That is the reason bodybuilders tend to get the more hypertrophy although they lift lighter weights than power lifters (generally).

Ex: If you were doing 12 reps you should use a weight that you can do around 12-15 reps if you went to failure.

Incline Flyes (dumbell or cable)

Incline Dumbbell Flyes

    Incline Dumbbell                         Flyes

Incline Cable Flyes

                  Incline Cable Flyes

Incline flyes are another very important exercise that will help develop your upper chest muscles. The mechanical overload principle applies to this exercise as well although the effects (increased protein synthesis & satellite cell activation) will not be influenced as much as from the heavy incline bench press. One of the great benefits of this exercise if performed properly is the size of the stretch and contraction you can achieve, which will recruit more muscle fibers.

Range of Motion

The range of motion in this movement is larger than the incline bench press. In this movement you are bringing your hands (with dumbbells or cables) from near chest level (and extended out from body) the entire way up and in to the center of your body. At the top of the movement your humerus aka upper arm bone should be near perpendicular with the floor (straight up and down). The closer you bring your two humeri across your chest the more contracted your pectoral muscles are. So with this movement ending with hands touching above your chest you are getting about as good of a pectoral contraction as you can get with a weight bearing exercise.

-with cables you could even cross your hands passed one another and get an even tighter contraction.

Weight and Rep Range

With incline flyes I would advise you to use moderate weight although heavy weight (say 6-8 reps worth) can prove beneficial. Try using a weight that you can get about 10-12 reps with.

Remember to focus on range of motion, getting a good stretch and squeeze trying to activate all of the upper chest possible. The stretch with a full range of motion is the priority here, not the weight.

Incorporating Them Into Your Workouts

With each of these two exercises two different variations can be performed. For incline bench press you can use both a barbell or dumbbells and for the incline flyes you can use both dumbbells or cables. Although the movements with either variation are nearly the same it can be beneficial to switch between the two. Also feel free to use both variations during the same workout.

I would also suggest performing the incline bench press first when your muscles are most fresh. This way you can use more weight and apply the overload principle to a greater extent. Then with the incline flyes and the focus of really getting a good stretch and contraction, you can recruit as many muscle fibers as possible in the upper chest area.


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