Think of the pec development of Arnold Schwarzennegger, Franco Columbo, and Lou Ferrigno in their prime…or modern day beasts Ronnie Coleman and Markus Ruhl. What do all of these incredible bodybuilders have in common? Each of them have displayed not only massive pecs, but also complete chest development, from outer to inner, and upper to lower.
In my experience, the upper chest is the most stubborn section to grow and thus needs even more stimulation than the mid and lower pecs. Personally, I feel that all trainees should spend 2/3 of their chest training on movements that target the upper chest in order to achieve a balanced look.
Most of you reading this article have likely utilized incline barbell/dumbbell presses, incline cable flyes, as well as various machines meant to target the upper pecs. However, if these movements are not getting the job done I would like to offer you four alternative exercises that hit the upper pec fibers hard, but are rarely used by most trainees. Please keep in mind that these movements are not meant to replace the basic incline exercises, but are to be used as an adjunct in a targeted upper chest attack!
Smith Bench Press to Clavicles
- Grab a flat bench and position it evenly within a Smith Machine. Lie down and line up your body so that the bar is directly over your clavicle bones.
- Your grip on the bar should be just outside shoulder width, and your upper arms should be completely perpendicular to your torso, so that your elbows will be flared out wide.
- Lower the bar slowly, under full control, until you feel a deep stretch along the entire upper chest. Hold it for a count of one, and then push the bar back to the top using pure pec power.
- This is not an exercise in which extremely heavy weights can be used, or you could risk injury to your shoulder joints. Stick with poundage that will allow you between 8 and 12 reps in good form.
Reverse Grip Bench Press
This is usually thought of as a triceps-builder but believe it or not, EMI studies show that the RG Bench Press activates the upper chest fibers as much as 40% more than standard incline presses! This movement can be done with free weights or on a Smith machine, whichever you prefer.
- Grip should be just wider than shoulder width, with the rest of the body set in the same position as it would for the regular bench press.
- Lower the bar carefully to mid-chest level and then powerfully press the bar up and slightly back (toward the eyes). Focus hard on the upper pecs to create the mind muscle connection.
- This movement can be a little awkward at first, so start with light weights and gradually increase as you perfect your form. Shoot for between 8 and 12 reps in good form.