The upper chest is an area that many lifters tend to ignore in their quest for a bigger, thicker set of pecs. The flat bench, admittedly, is incredibly effective at bringing up your overall chest mass because you can handle more weight. But if you're looking for a complete, polished look, then dedicated upper pectoral work has to be a part of your program.
Gunter Schlierkamp is a big proponent of balanced pec training. While he will also admit that flat benching is crucial for overall chest development, he says that the only way to bring this area up is to attack it with the same ferocity as your other bodyparts. Here are his top six tips for blowing up that upper shelf of your torso.
1. Always Start With Inclines
"If your upper pecs are really lagging, the best way to bring them out is to always start with incline moves," he says. You can do this with a barbell, dumbbells or a Smith machine. Starting with incline moves will ensure that these underused fibers are fresh, allowing you move the most weight possible to trigger growth. From there you can move on to flat and decline moves, where you're likely naturally stronger.
2. Try Power Pressing
Think about this as you would the deadlift. With the deadlift, you work without the benefit of elasticity or momentum, pulling the bar from a complete rest on the floor. This builds strength and power quickly through the positive portion of the movement. Power presses are the same idea.
"Using a Smith machine or power rack, set the safeties to a point that only allows for a partial range of motion," he says. "As you come down, let the bar settle completely before pressing hard back to the top of the movement."
As you get stronger through each range of motion, lower the safety pins.
3. Use Dumbbells
"Using dumbbells will give you a completely different kind of tension and range of motion than a barbell," says Gunter. "Make sure that you don't get locked into using the barbell on inclines all the time, or any of your angles for that matter."
4. Tweak Your Flyes
Incline dumbbell flyes are a great way to not only add mass to your upper chest but to etch in freaky detail. Gunter does a variation where his palms remain pronated throughout the movement. This version involves the front delts a bit more but, according to Gunter, " "Facing the palm forward, it gives you even better tension in your upper chest and it stretches the upper pecs."
5. Stay High on the Pec Deck
The pec deck - and similar flye machines - allow you to really bombard your inner chest and get a great stretch on your entire pectoral complex. But, Gunter says, keeping your elbows high and parallel to the floor will allow you to bring the upper pecs into play as well.
6. Stretch for Size
It's not just lip service: stretching after your workout will absolutely assist with muscle growth and recovery. Gunter says that this is especially critical after a grueling chest day. Giving your upper pecs a good stretch, particularly if they've been undertrained, will help to create an environment for much-needed growth.
For more on Gunter Schlierkamp, visit him at www.gunters.net.