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How To Build Up Your Upper Chest

I think everyone has some body parts they’re not happy with. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been training, there’s probably still some body part that just irritates you.

For me it’s shoulders and upper chest.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m VERY happy with my pecs overall. However, I would like to develop the upper portion a little more to enhance the separating line in the middle of the chest.

Now, obviously we all know that the incline bench press is a great way to go about developing the upper chest. However, I wanted to know if there was a faster, more direct way to hit the upper chest with enough intensity to stimulate faster growth

There are 2 REALLY fantastic ways of building up your upper chest…

  1. Partial incline close-grip bench press
  2. Incline dumbbell bench press (dumbbells touching at the top)

You’ve probably heard of number 2 so let’s focus on no.1 – Partial Incline close-grip bench press.

You might be thinking, Close grip bench press – that’s for the triceps”. You’d be right, but when you perform a PARTIAL movement it is most definitely a chest exercise.

  1. Have your bench slightly inclined
  2. Choose a lighter-than-normal weight for the bar than you would for regular incline barbell bench presses
  3. Grab the bar about 8 inches apart in the middle
  4. Lift off and lower the bar under smooth control
  5. You’ll feel the point at which your close grip allows you to go no further comfortably. If I had to estimate, I’d say you lower the bar only about 1/3 the way to your chest
  6. Now push back up under control and repeat.

If you’re skeptical about this hitting your upper chest, that’s fine, I was too. I could hardly believe how much direct stimulation these gave the upper portion of my pecs!

A quick note on the incline dumbbell bench press. Pushing the dumbbells straight up will NOT be as effective as having them meet (and touch) at the top of the rep.

Specifically, it’s the top of my RIGHT pec that I am unhappy with. What I am doing with this exercise is raising my left arm straight up and bringing my right arm over to meet it at the left side. This maximizes the intensity I can place on my right pec in particular.

At the top of the rep, the shape resembles the top of a right-angle triangle [does that create the right image for you? Can you visualize the form? If not, let me know and I’ll clarify in the comments below].

I’m very confident that I can now fill out my upper chest to match the bottom half (I’m more than happy with THAT part :) ).

If you are unsatisfied with your upper chest development, you MUST start to factor in one of these exercises into your chest workout.

Train Intelligently!


image credit: imdge1

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Mark McManus
Mark McManus
Mark is now available for 1-on-1 consultations to help you take your results to the next level. Click here for more details.
Mark McManus is a trainer & author from Ireland. His work has been featured in major publications all over the world. He is the creator of the free growth-promoting workout Targeted Hypertrophy Training' (THT) and author of the NEW fat-torching system Total Six Pack Abs.
He has also created the BREAKTHROUGH arm and chest maximizer programs The Arms Blast' and 'Chest Blast' workouts.
And if you're a fan of delicious high-protein recipes to fuel your muscle growth, check out his cook book 'Buff Baking' here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Keith D June 23, 2009, 9:36 pm

    You hit the mark for me with this post.

    For me it’s the top of my left pec that is less developed than my right… so I can just reverse your instructions.

    Thanks for the tip.

  • Bill June 23, 2009, 11:04 pm

    Great timing with this post. I was just wondering if I could find some better exercises for this body part. I will try them and let you know my results. Thanks!

  • iRobot June 23, 2009, 11:25 pm

    Great tips. I actually just got done working my chest. I did incline dumbbell presses, but haven’t been incorporating touching them at the top of the exercise. I will from now on. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Darrin_lean_muscle June 24, 2009, 11:34 am

    Cool. A recent paper in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning tested the value of incline vs close grip for “upper” pec development and they found that the narrow grip itself is more influential than the bench angle. A little counterintuitive, but it was a peer-reviewed article…

    They didn’t test the idea of “partial” reps, but that’s a great idea…

  • dave June 25, 2009, 2:56 am

    any chance you could post this again with a set of videos to demo the motions you’re describing?

    i’ve only used dumbbells for chest for years because i had surgery in one arm eons ago, still have a plate in there, and so physically that arm is stronger – the bells allow for me to balance and avoid shifting weight with a bar approach…byproduct is that my chest developed well because i was always focused on slow and steady reps with clean form over brute weight – meaning that i never bench above my body weight, typically focus instead on the “pinch” at the top of the incline reps – and never lower below my shoulders either…

  • Dustin June 25, 2009, 9:54 am

    Hey Mark, I was lookin at your proghurt and was wondering if the yogurt was artificially sweetened or what. Also how much do you use of each ingredient and what are the net carbs of that yoghurt. THanks

  • Sandeep June 25, 2009, 10:55 am

    Hey Mark, a small problem….the dumbells i have are quite wide so when im performing my incline dumbell press im unable to create a conventional A shape as the sides of the dumbells hit each other at about a straight armed position. is it advisable to twist my arms inwards at the end so that the dumbells meet parallel to one another creating an A shape?

    its either this or i buy some smaller dumbells!

    Hope you can help

  • Mark McManus June 25, 2009, 11:13 am

    @Sandeep. That sounds fine. Alternate which dumbbell goes in front at each rep OR if you want to prioritize one pec over the other, keep THAT arm to the back at each rep.
    @Dustin. It’s sweetened by the protein powder itself which is sweetened with sucralose.
    @Dave. If you are confused over the form, let me know which part and I’ll try to explain it better.
    @Darrin. Exactly. And I only incline the bench to the lowest point above flat that my bench will go. When you go higher you start to involve the shoulders more and more.
    @iRobot, Bill, Keith. Thanks guys!

  • Rick January 19, 2010, 8:02 pm

    Need my password, cannot get TA 2.0! Im freakin out! HELP!