Whether you workout at home or in the gym, you can do multiple upper chest exercises to build muscles and improve the definition of your pecs. I’ve shared an absolute upper chest workout list with step-by-step instructions to perform each exercise in this article.
You can do various upper pec exercises using your bodyweight, dumbbells, barbells, machines, and resistance. Depending on where you work out and what equipment you use, you can incorporate them into your workout program.
Here’s a quick list of upper chest exercises.
Bodyweight Upper Chest Exercises
The chest is one of the few muscles you can develop at home without weights because it works during the different pushups variations.
Here are some of the best upper chest bodyweight workouts to help you strengthen and build muscles at home.
- Incline Pushup
- Decline Pushup
- Incline Diamond Push-Ups
- Chest Dips
- Push away Push Up
Barbell Upper Pec Exercises
The barbell is great equipment for developing sizable pecs. It allows you to lift heavier weights compared to dumbbells and helps engage the chest muscles effectively. So, if you work out in the gym, you can do these workouts.
- Incline Bench Press
- Landmine Press
Dumbbell Exercises For Upper Chest
You can work on your upper chest efficiently with dumbbells at home and in the gym. The dumbbells provide a greater range of motion and help you target the chest deeply.
Here are three exercises you can incorporate into your workout routine to build a muscular chest.
- Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
- Incline Dumbbell Fly
- Dumbbell Pullover
- Incline Dumbbell Squeeze Press
Upper Chest Workouts with Machines
- Smith Machine Incline Bench Press
- Standing Incline Cable Fly
- Incline Bench Cable Fly
- Cable Crossover
- Incline Machine Chest Press
So if you want to add strength, size, and definition to your pecs, you can learn more about these exercises in this post.
The Chest Anatomy
The chest, also called pecs, is the larger muscle of the upper body located between the neck and the stomach. It is divided into two parts, pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.
The pectoralis major is the primary chest muscle. And it has three sub-muscles: clavicular head, sternal head, and abdominal head. 1Anatomy of Growth: How to Train Your Chest Muscles – Bodybuilding.com
The clavicular head is an upper chest muscle, and it does not fully engage while doing most of the flat presses or flyes, such as bench presses or cable flyes. And without working on your upper part, you won’t be able to build a thicker and sturdy chest.
Upper Chest Workout Technique
You can skip this part if you already know how to train the upper chest efficiently.
1. 30-degree Incline Bench
If you want to develop the upper chest faster, perform exercises at a 30-degree incline position. A study has shown doing bench presses at a 30-degree incline bench produces greater activation in the upper portion of the chest muscle. And setting the bench at more than the 45-degree incline reduces pecs involvement and works more on the anterior deltoid, the study further suggested.2 Rodríguez-Ridao, David et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,19 7339. 8 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339
2. a Combination of Various Exercises
Always try the combination of different exercises. If you don’t see your muscles growing, you should do different variations of the upper chest workouts with dumbbells, barbells, and machines.
3. Negative Reps Method.
Negative reps mean slowly lowering the weight down with complete focus. It puts your muscles under constant tension and helps grow mass.3Burd, Nicholas A et al. “Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men.” The Journal of physiology vol. 590,2 (2012): 351-62. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200
4. Appropriate Load
Lift as heavier weight as possible in the first couple of sets as your energy is at its peak during this time. So try to lift at 80-85% of your one-rep max (1RM) with an aim to complete 6 to 8 reps. Moreover, increase the loads over time to increase strength and muscle growth.
The 12 Best Upper Chest Exercises To Build Bigger Pecs
1. Incline Pushup
The incline pushup is suitable for all fitness levels and reinforces upper body muscles, primarily the chest. Moreover, it helps scale up for standard pushups.
How to do an incline pushup:
- Place your hands (shoulder-width apart) on a flat bench with your arms straight below your shoulders.
- Move back, stand on your toes and keep your body straight in line from head to heels. That’s the start.
- Now, lower your chest without flaring your elbows out to the sides.
- Pause for a moment and press back to the starting position. That’s one repetition.
- Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight during the movement.
- Do two sets of 15 to 30 reps each.
2. Decline Pushups
The decline pushup engages various muscles simultaneously, such as the front delt, upper chest, and triceps. However, it can be challenging for beginners.
Steps to do a decline pushup:
- Place your feet on the bench and your hands on the floor with your arms straight underneath your shoulder. Make sure your body is elevated and forms a straight line from heels to the head.
- Keep your core tight, back straight, lower your chest toward the floor, and push back to return to the start. That is your one repetition.
- Aim for a couple of sets of 10 to 15 reps.
Some tips for proper technique:
- Do not flare your elbows out to your sides during the movement.
- Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
3. Incline Diamond pushup
The diamond or triangle pushup is an excellent push-up variation that strengthens various muscles, such as the triceps, chest, and core. In the absence of workout equipment, such as dumbbells and barbells, it can work as an excellent alternative to upper chest workouts.
How to do a diamond pushup:
- Place a bench or table in front of you and put your hands on it. Keep your hands closer, forming a triangle shape. And kick your legs behind so your body forms a straight line from top to bottom.
- Now, lower your chest toward the floor, and push back to return to the start. That’s your one repetition.
- Do two sets of 15 to 20 reps each
4. Chest Dips
The dip is a compound bodyweight workout that works on multiple muscles simultaneously, primarily the chest and triceps. It also solidifies your core and helps develop a muscular upper body.
To target your chest more precisely, you should perform dips by slightly leaning forward.
The correct way to do chest dips on the parallel bar:
- Stand between the parallel bar, garb the bar firmly and lift yourself upward until your arms are straight and elbows are locked, and lightly bend your knees. That is your starting position.
- Now, bend your elbows, and lower your torso until you feel a stretch in your chest.
- Engaging your pecs, slowly extend your elbows until your arms are entirely straight. That’s one rep.
- Aim for three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
- Keep your elbows close to your body during the entire movement.
- Make sure you feel the work in your chest as you extend your arms to return to the start.
Related: How To Do Dips At Home (8 Exercises)
5. Pushaway Push up
The push-away pushup is another pushup variation you can do to strengthen your upper chest. It also works on the front shoulder and helps develop a sturdy upper body.
- Get on all fours, put your arms out in front of the body and keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Kick your legs behind you, lift your hips slightly up, and maintain a neutral spine. That is your starting position.
- Now, dive down with your elbows flared out, squeeze your pecs, and then push through your hands to return to the start. That’s your one repetition.
- Do two sets of 10 to 20 reps each.
6. Incline Bench Press
How to do an incline bench press with a barbell:
- Set the bench at a 30-degree incline height, insert an appropriate weight into the barbell and lie on the bench under the bar.
- Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, remove it from the rack and hold it over your upper chest with your elbows bent. That’s the start.
- Brace your core, breathe in, and press the bar with your full strength until your arms are straight over your pecs.
- Breathe out and lower the bar to the start. That’s one rep.
- Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.
- Keep your core tight, as it will give you power while pressing the weight.
- Increase load after each set and perform till the failure.
- Take your partner’s help, if possible, so that you can perform more reps.
- Do not set the bench more than a 45-degree incline as it will reduce pecs involvement and increase shoulder engagement.
7. Barbell Landmine Press
The barbell landline press works on the upper chest, front delt, and core. It is not as effective as a barbell incline bench press, but you can try it out to see if it is working for you or not.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place one end of the bar in the corner of the wall and insert the desired weight into the second end.
- Grab the second end of the bar firmly with your hands and sit on your knees and maintain a neutral spine position.
- Now, squeezing your pecs, press the bar upward until your arms are entirely straight. It’s your first rep.
- Shoot for three sets of eight to 12 reps each.
8. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press
The incline dumbbell bench press highly activates upper chest muscles and helps promote muscular growth. After the flat barbell bench press, you can do it to develop a thicker chest.
How to do incline DB bench press:
- Grab one dumbbell in each hand and lay down on a 30-degree incline bench with your feet flat on the floor.
- Hold the dumbbells over your chest with your elbows bent.
- Brace your core, breathe in and then press the dumbbells upward until your arms are straight over your upper chest.
- Pause for a moment at the top and then lower the weights to the start.
- Perform three to four sets of 8-12 reps.
9. Incline Dumbbell Fly
You can also do the incline dumbbell flyes to strengthen your upper pecs. However, you should avoid it if you’re new to weight training.
- Lie on an incline bench, holding one dumbbell in each hand with your palms facing away from you. Also, keep your feet firmly on the ground.
- Hold the dumbbells directly over your upper chest. That’s your starting position.
- Now, lower your arms out to the sides in a slow and controlled manner till they reach below your shoulder height.
- Pause for a moment, and again raise your arms straight over your upper chest. And complete eight to twelve repetitions.
- Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.
10. Dumbbell Pullover
- Grab the top of a dumbbell with your hands, lie on a flat bench and keep your feet firmly on the ground.
- Extend your arms behind your head in a slow and controlled range of motion.
- Slowly pull the dumbbell until your arms are directly over your chest. That’s one repetition.
- Maintain a soft bend in your elbows during the whole movement.
- Aim for three sets of eight to ten reps.
11. Cable Upward Chest Fly
- Set the rack at an appropriate height, grab the handles firmly and stand upright in the staggered stance.
- With your elbows slightly bent, pull the cable until your arms are together in front of your chest.
- Pause, squeeze your upper chest, and slowly lower your arms back to the starting position. That is your first rep.
- Do three sets of 10 to 12 reps each.
- Keep your back straight and core tight, and maintain a neutral wrist position during the entire movement.
- Keep your knees and elbows fractionally bent during the movement.
12. Incline Bench Cable Machine Fly
You can also do flyes on the bench with the cable to strengthen your pecs. The incline bench cable fly is worth trying out as it engages the upper chest efficiently.
How to do it:
- Position the cable handles at the lowest point and place a 30-degree incline bench between the cable machine.
- Grab the handles firmly, lay down on the bench on your back, and hold your feet firmly on the ground.
- Hold your arms straight with your palms upward. And maintain a slight bend in your elbows during the movement.
- Brace your core, inhale, squeeze your upper chest and raise your arms upward until your hands meet over your face. And then exhale.
- Pause for a count at the top, and then return your arms to the starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Suggested sets and reps: 3 x 8-12
- Maintain a proper form throughout the exercise.
- Keep your back nice and forth on the bench and look upward.
Here you’ve seen the complete list of upper chest exercises—Depending on where you work out and what equipment you ha, you can pick the ones.
Incorporate these exercises with other chest workouts to build muscles and defined pecs.
And do remember that the last few reps are significant for muscle growth. So, if you want to build bigger pecs and challenge yourself, then try to do more reps than you could do. You should also have to increase the loads over time to grow your muscles faster.
- 1Anatomy of Growth: How to Train Your Chest Muscles – Bodybuilding.com
- 2Rodríguez-Ridao, David et al. “Effect of Five Bench Inclinations on the Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major, Anterior Deltoid, and Triceps Brachii during the Bench Press Exercise.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 17,19 7339. 8 Oct. 2020, doi:10.3390/ijerph17197339
- 3Burd, Nicholas A et al. “Muscle time under tension during resistance exercise stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional synthetic responses in men.” The Journal of physiology vol. 590,2 (2012): 351-62. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200