3 Exercises to Build the Upper Chest
Seeing improvement in the upper chest can be one of the most frustrating tasks facing a bodybuilder. It is usually the area of the chest that develops last and takes extra attention to build. However, when you develop the upper chest it gives your entire chest the “square” look that is aesthetically appealing. If you are a bit shorter and/or have shorter collarbones, this may not be as daunting a task. Yes, I said short collarbones, some of you may have never payed attention to things like that but if you want to be a bodybuilder or at least improve your physique those seemingly minor details are critical. The reason shorter people, or people with narrower shoulders have an easier time filling out their upper chest is simply because they have less area to fill. For taller, broader shouldered people it can take a good bit of time to see improvement in this area. I fall into the second category and made things harder on myself by not realizing these points sooner. Starting out I didn’t focus as much on my upper chest, but it has been a focus of mine in the last year or so. Before I proceed to give you three of my favorite exercises to target the upper chest, I want to emphasize that all exercises that focus on the chest work the entire chest with some just being a little more effective at developing certain areas. These are just a few exercises that have helped me see improvement in my upper chest development.
The guillotine press is an incline bench variation. The difference is instead of bringing the bar down to the top of your chest as in a normal incline bench the guillotine press has you bring the bar to your neck. I warn anyone with shoulder problems to be extremely careful when attempting this exercise and you may want to avoid it altogether. The bar path forces your elbows to flare out much wider than a conventional press putting your shoulders in a vulnerable position. The irony is that this shoulder positon is the very thing that makes this an effective exercise to target the upper chest. This is not a strength building exercise so the weight is not the most important thing.
- Your grip may have to be wider than your conventional incline bench in order to flare your elbows effectively.
- Lower the bar to your neck. I aim for about an inch higher than my collarbone.
- Control the bar on the way down, feeling a stretching sensation across the bottom your collarbone, upper chest region.
- Press the bar back up in a straight path being careful not to bring it forward over your chest.
Again, this is not a strength exercise so the weight will not be the main priority although you do want to have enough weight to induce a “pump.” I stress to start with very low weight and work your way up from there. You will be nowhere near the weight you use for your conventional incline bench.
Video Here: Guillotine Press
Unilateral Incline Press Machine
Every gym should have a variation of an incline press machine. This exercise should work on most if not all variations. The word unilateral refers to the use of only side of the body. In this case we will be pressing one arm a time. The trick is to sit sideways on the machine. Yes, sometimes the best use of a machine is in no way how it was intended to be used. Finding more effective ways to use equipment is actually fairly common in bodybuilding. This exercise has been my favorite exercise for building my upper chest for the last year or so now and just like the guillotine press is strictly a bodybuilding exercise so focus on the pump instead of maxing out the weight.
- Position the seat so that the handles are at a height even with the top of your armpit.
- Sit sideways on the seat.
- Have the shoulder that is against the seat pressed into seat and don’t allow it to come off.
- Press up and across your body, without your shoulder leaving the seat.
- Return to the starting position without pausing being sure to keep the tension on the chest the entire time.
I like to take my opposite hand and place it on my upper chest to help me feel what I should be contracting. It may take a few sets and seat changes for you to position your body so that you feel the full effects of this exercise. Take the time to experiment with different seat heights etc.
Video Here: Incline Press
Out of the three exercises this is the one that most of you have done. I didn’t specify to use dumbbells or cables, because you should try it all. The important thing is to do the fly’s on an incline bench. Whether you use dumbbells or cables there are similarities:
- At the starting position the weight is going to be over your forehead.
- Lower the weight in the conventional way (Elbows slightly bent)
- Control the weight the entire way down. Don’t let it drop quickly.
- Bring the weight back up on the same path as on way down.
- At the top be sure to get a good contraction for a second or two before lowering the weight back down.
While performing the set tuck your chin into the top of your chest. I have found that this helps me feel the contraction in this specific area instead of my chest as a whole.
Also, be sure not to let your wrist “break” meaning keep them strict and in a straight line with the rest of your arm. I see people all the time let their wrist go limp not realizing that it takes some tension off your chest.
Video Here: flys
Slow it Down
These exercises have helped me improve a weak point in my physique. The mistake most people make when trying to bring up a weak point in bodybuilding is that they go too heavy. Going heavy is great but you have to realize why you are doing what you are doing. Going heavy and getting stronger doesn’t necessarily mean you will induce that certain area to gain mass or shape. Going heavy and rushing the reps usually causes more dominant muscle groups to take over. This was the mistake I made early on. I would go too heavy on the bodybuilding type exercises for my chest and my more dominant muscle groups, biceps and shoulders, would take over. Pretty soon my chest was lagging behind those other two muscle groups. So slow it down and maybe drop some weight and focus on feeling the contraction in your upper chest instead of just going through the motions.
As always, thanks for reading and be sure to comment and share any exercises that have helped you develop your chest and be sure to subscribe to the site.