The bench press may be one of the most popular exercises done at your gym, but most bodybuilders would be better served to concentrate on an upper pec workout. Increased upper pec development can build a more “squared off” chest, improve separation between the pecs and shoulders, and is often thought of as more aesthetic in general. Here is an upper pec workout you can use to upgrade your physique.
A Word on the Incline Press
Before diving into the upper pec workout, a few things need to be said about the incline press. Too many lifters just lie back on the bench, unrack the weight, and start pressing. This is not the right way to do things.
Instead, you need to retract your shoulder blades and arch your chest. This will create a sort of “shelf” with your shoulder girdle, putting more emphasis on the chest instead of the deltoids. It’s also much safer in general and minimizes the risk of injury. Also try to “tuck” your elbows as you lower the weight.
Speaking of the front deltoid, keep your bench at a 30 or 45-degree incline. Going higher than that will transfer too much of the emphasis from the upper pecs to the shoulders. Going lower than that will end up targeting too much of the middle and lower pecs.
A Sample Upper Pec Workout
Below is a sample upper pec workout you could do:
Incline barbell bench press – 4-5 sets x 5-6 reps*
Incline dumbbell press – 3-4 sets x 8-10 reps**
Incline flies – 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps**
*Perform this exercise on a bench set to 30-degree incline
**Perform these exercises on a bench set to 45-degree incline
This workout could be done as a separate, stand-alone chest workout or you could follow it up with triceps work. If taking the latter option, do 3 sets of unweighted parallel bar dips (keep body as vertical as possible) for max reps, then pushdowns for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps.
Upper Pec Workout Notes
You’ll want to start off this upper pec workout with incline press for sets of 5-6 reps, as that’s a solid strength-based hypertrophy approach. Using the barbell variation at a 30-degree incline will allow you to use the most weight, building the best mix of strength and mass. You then follow up with incline dumbbell press with sets of 8-10 reps to not only target the upper pecs more, but improve muscle quality. Use lighter weight, a slower tempo, and pause the contraction at the top of each rep.
You can then finish your workout off with incline flies. Like the incline dumbbell press, you’ll want to do these with your bench set to a 45-degree angle for maximal upper pec involvement. You could either use dumbbells or set your bench between two low pulleys in order to perform a cable-based variation. Either way, keep the tempo slow and controlled, focusing on the mind-muscle connection.
For quickest growth, try to do this workout twice per week or 2x every 3 weeks. This will give you plenty of stimulation, while still allowing for adequate recovery time between workouts. Push the weight hard while getting a serious mind-muscle connection going, and you should see a noticeable difference in just a few weeks.