The “Maximum Pump” Upper Chest Workout

“These five exercises will take your upper pecs from flat to jacked in no time and make chicken-chested guys green with envy”

Summer’s just around the corner and every guy wants to look his best on the beach or by the pool.

For most of us, that means ramping up chest-day workout intensity and getting a serious pump on at the gym.

But many men are missing a trick and ignoring their upper chest — losing the chance to sculpt that broad, wide super-hero torso.

Fortunately, we’re here to help.

The Science Bit

Your pectoralis major (pec major) is the main muscle in your chest.

It has two parts — the upper pec (clavicular head) and the lower pec (sternal head).

Your upper pecs run at a different angle to the rest of your chest muscles, which means they don’t get a significant workout during the most popular chest or upper body exercises — consequently they can be underdeveloped.

Our workout corrects that balance by shifting the focus to your upper chest while also working your other chest muscles and many other upper body areas.

The Upper Chest Exercises

Warm-up:

Start your chest day workout some warm up exercises.

They will get the blood flowing to your chest, back, shoulder and arm muscles — helping you to lift heavy (which is vital for a good chest day pump) and to prevent injury.

An additional 10 mins of light cardio to get the blood pumping when you first get to the gym will help too, if you have the time.

Perform all exercises at around 70% of your 1 rep max.

Warm Up:

  • 12 wide grip pushups
  • 12 diamond pushups
  • 12 explosive push-ups

Now let’s get to the real workout!

#1 Incline Barbell Bench Press

Although the flat barbell bench press won’t give you upper chest gains its close cousin, the incline barbell bench press, definitely will.

Set the bench at a 30-45 degree angle and you’ll force your upper pecs to literally do the heavy lifting.

You’ll have to experiment with different bench positions within that range as the optimum angle varies between guys.

Be sure not to set the angle too steep or you’ll end up targeting your front shoulders.

  • Lie down on the bench — your eyes should be just under the bar.
  • Grab the barbell with an overhand grip that’s roughly shoulder-width apart and hold it above your chest. Some guys find it more effective to raise their chest up and retract their shoulders at this point (as if you’re squeezing a pencil with your back).
  • Breathe in while lowering the bar. Don’t allow your elbows to flare out as this will reduce tension in your chest muscles and can cause injury.
  • Make sure that the bar actually touches your chest so that you have a full range of motion. Half reps won’t cut it with this exercise.
  • Breathe out with an explosive push and lift the bar into the air.
  • Lower and repeat.

Aim for: 4 sets of between 6-8 reps with 60 seconds rest between each set.

#2 Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

Chest day pump is one of the best feelings, right?

So we’ve included a second bench press in this workout.

You can thank us later. As with the incline barbell press, set your bench to a 30-45 degree angle and don’t go to steep.

  • Rest the dumbbells vertically on your thighs while sitting upright.
  • Lean backward so that your head is pressed against the bench. Bend your elbows and get the weights in position — they should pretty much level with your chest and shoulders.
  • Push the dumbbells upward and toward each other in an arcing motion, but stop when the weights are a few centimeters apart. Don’t smash the weights together as it will reduce the tension in your upper chest. You’ll also look like an idiot.
  • While the weights are in their highest position in the arc, squeeze your upper pecs so that you can feel the tension in them. Then slowly reverse the upward motion and lower the dumbbells.

Aim for: 4 sets of between 8-10 reps with 60 seconds rest between each set.

#3 Seated Incline Cable Fly

Flies are a central part of any chest day workout.

Performing them on an incline engages the upper chest while still working the mid- and lower-chest muscles.

Although some bros will argue that dumbbells are more effective, we’ve opted for the cable version for a couple of reasons.

First dumbbells only produce significant tension in the lower part of the motion range.

Second, if you’re working to overload (which you should be to get maximum gains), cables offer a degree of protection for your shoulders.

  • Take an adjustable bench over to a dual set of cables, put it between the pulleys and set it at a 30-45 degree angle. Drop the pulleys to their lowest level — ideally floor level if they go that low. Select the same weight on each pulley.
  • Lie down on the bench and take a pulley in each hand. Bring your hands together at arms length in front of your face. Now you’re ready to start.
  • While breathing in, lower your your arms out at both sides in an arc-shaped movement. They should be slightly bent so that you don’t over-stretch your biceps.
  • Return your arms back to the starting position as you squeeze your chest muscles and exhale. Concentrate on building the mind-muscle connection in your upper chest. Hold the contracted position for about a second.

Aim for: 4 sets of between 8-10 reps with 60 seconds rest between each set.

#4 Low to High Cable Crossovers

Low to high cable crossovers are one of the most effective upper chest isolation exercises. They’re a superb option for adding mass around the collarbone area to sculpt that extra definition and proportion.

  • Hold the handles roughly at hip level with your arms at your sides. They should be angled roughly 45 degrees to the floor and your your palms should be facing forward. If your gym has stirrup handles, they’re the best for this exercise — but all handles will work.
  • Breathing out, bring your hands to about eye level in a wide arc motion. Your hands should come together in front of your chest, and your palms should be facing upwards.
  • Squeeze your chest muscles for about a second, focussing on that upper chest mind-muscle connection.
  • Lower while breathing out and repeat

Aim for: 4 sets of between 10-12 reps with 60 seconds rest between each set.

#5 Chest Dips

We’re finishing with an old (but somewhat neglected) favorite.

Chest dips are a powerful compound exercise that target all your upper body.

If your gym has a weighted dip machine, you might find it easier to start on there and progress to bodyweight as your strength improves.

  • Position yourself between two parallel bars and take hold of them. Your body should dip and rise at an angle of about 35-40 degrees, with your chest out in front and your feet behind you.
  • With your feet off the ground, straighten your arms and lock your elbows.
  • Bend your elbows and lower your body slowly and with plenty of control. Don’t let your feet or knees touch the ground or you’ll lose the tension in your chest.
  • Breathe out and push yourself slowly back to the starting position.

Aim for: 4 sets completed to failure with 60 seconds rest between each set.

Perform this workout once a week for 6-8 weeks and you’ll experience a true chest transformation.

Remember to balance this workout with day of upper back exercises so that your upper body stays in proportion.

And don’t skip leg day — the best day for burning off that winter fat store and ensuring you don’t have skinny legs when the shorts come out.

See you on the beach, Superman!

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