6 TIPS FOR
UPPER CHEST GROWTH
If you’re a bodybuilding fanatic you will more than likely be dreaming of creating a thick dense chest with a hefty shelf like some of the greats such as Arnold, Franco, Coleman and Cutler. However creating that shelf is something many struggle to attain. Most people will recommended that for a big chest you just need to be a strong bench presser, which to some degree is true but what separates a good chest and a great chest is the ability to understand how to train the upper pecs correctly . Creating that full, shelf-like appearance.
Below I am going to give you 6 top tips on how you can maximize your upper chest growth and get on your way to creating the thick dense shelf you’ve always wanted!
1. Incline exercises first
Most people will head straight to the flat bench press to start their chest day, however to focus on bringing up that lagging upper chest I would prioritize your incline exercise FIRST!
The reason for this being simply that you are fresh and can really focus on giving these exercises 110% before fatigue sets in. We also focus on incline as it recruits more upper chest than flat or decline exercises, now this isn’t to say other areas of the pecs won’t be recruited because they will, it is near enough impossible to fully isolate a particular part of your chest but focusing more on a specific area is something we can do and that is why we start with incline.
2. VARY YOUR ANGLES
Following on from tip 1 you are probably wondering what sort of angle we are talking to maximally recruit upper pecs.
Now this will vary from person to person but a rough gauge is to vary the angle from 15-45 degree to prioritize the upper pecs. Focusing on the angle which you feel is most comfortable and where you can recruit the upper pec the most. For most people this will be 45 degrees however for some it may be slightly less.
Any higher than 45 degrees and you’ll start to recruit the front delts, removing some of the tension from the upper pec. This isn’t to say you can’t go above 45 degrees, because if you train chest and shoulders together, higher than 45 degrees would be a good way to stimulate both front delts and upper pecs. However I would prioritize below 45 degrees for upper pec growth before venturing above 45 degrees.
3. Retract your scapula
This may sound complex but all it means is to pull your shoulders back and tuck them in.
This is a mistake many make. By not retracting your scapula your chest is not doing all of the work and you will start to recruit your delts as your body naturally wants to be in the strongest position and recruit the largest amount of muscle as possible.
Imagine trying to bring your shoulder blades together, by doing this you should notice your chest push out more which when performed in your chest exercises will recruit and stimulate it more. Resulting in more growth!
4. Use both dumbbells and barbells
The next question I usually get regarding chest training is which are better barbells and dumbells?
My answer is always the same, why limit yourself to just one?
If I had to pick one or the other it would be dumbbells. My reasoning, you can get a better contract in the pecs as you are free to control the movement allowing you to bring the dumbbells across your chest which the barbell does not allow as it is straight up and down. This is not to say barbells are not effective as they are. They allow you to place a great deal of stress on the pecs by pushing from both sides. Dumbbells also have the benefit of working the stabiliser muscle more another reason I prefer them. I tend to do both, start with a higher incline on the barbell and then move onto lower incline on dumbbell and get the best of both worlds. No need to limit yourself!
5. Press Ups
An exercise I don’t see often as many think they serve no purpose as they are just body weight exercises.
However using press-ups to increase intensity is a great way to further stimulate your pecs. You can go to failure on a chest exercise such as the bench press and then instantly go to failure on press-ups and I guarantee you feel a burn you’ve not felt before!
Another benefit of press-ups is that you can alter the primary area of tension by adjusting your positioning. For example: Putting your feet up on a bench to create a decline press-up or press-ups from the bar on a smith machine, altering the height each time you reach failure. These are great ways to finish off your pecs leaving no stone unturned!
6. leave your ego at the door
I see too many ego lifters in gyms now that just want to lift as much weight as possible without actually fully contracting the pecs.
You may be strong with terrible form but that doesn’t mean your going to have a big chest! Focus on slowing down the negatives in your movements whilst keeping tension on the pecs at all time, pause for a second at the bottom and explode up squeezing the pecs as hard as possible.
The same can be said with the rep range, 1 rep maxes showing off in front of friends is not going to build a thick chest, focus on the 8-12 rep range with good form and get strong!
example chest session
1. 45 degrees Incline Barbell 4 sets 8-12
2. 30 degrees Incline DB Bench Press 3 sets 8-12
3. 30 degrees Incline DB Flys 3 sets 10-15
4. Flat Barbell Bench 3 sets 8-12
5. Pec Dec 3 sets 10-15
6. Press up finisher*** 2 sets to failure
(*** decline press-ups to failure, flat press-ups to failure, incline press-ups to failure)