Chest day is a favorite day for many exercisers. You can tell by the fact that gyms are often overcrowded on Mondays since Monday is international chest day.

However, if you do the bench press, the dips, and one more exercise once a week, it probably won't be enough to round out your pectoral muscles.

Progress will be noticeable, but many gym-goers complain that they can’t develop the upper chest as much as they would like.

The reason is very simple. They do upper chest exercises without enough variations, and the key is to engage upper chest muscle fibers at different angles.

Keep reading, and I promise you'll be at least one step closer to a muscle-packed chest when you finish the article.

Some of my colleagues believe that discussing anatomy with clients is unnecessary. I do not share their opinion.

When you have a basic knowledge of anatomy, it will be much easier for you to perform the exercise correctly.

That's why I always explain to my clients at the beginning where the points of origin and insertion are, what the type of muscle is, and so on.

Of course, we don't need to go into details important to surgeons, but ignorance does not help in reaching fitness goals.

Chest Anatomy

When you look in the mirror, but also because of how we talk about the chest, it is easy to mistakenly conclude that the chest consists of only one muscle.

On the other hand, when you find exercises for the lower chest, mid, and upper, it's logical to think that they are three separate muscles, like the deltoids.

On top of everything, when targeting the upper chest, you can't leave out anterior deltoids, so all that can cause utter confusion regarding chest anatomy.

But don’t worry, now I’m going to analyze each muscle located in the upper chest region.

What Muscles Are In The Upper Chest?

There are three muscles in the upper portion of the chest.

Since we cannot count the front deltoid and upper arm as chest muscle groups, those three are pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and serratus anterior.

The pec major is a thick, superficial, fan-shaped muscle. It's the muscle we call "pecs," that we try so desperately to build. It makes up the majority of upper chest fibers.

It has two heads - clavicular and sternocostal. The clavicular head is located near the collarbone, as the name suggests, and that is why this head is more important for a rounded upper chest.

The clavicular head is smaller than the sternal head, so don't forget to work on the sternocostal head as well to avoid imbalances. The pectoralis major has numerous insertion points, including ones on the collarbone, ribs, humerus, and sternum.

Those multiple insertion points enable us to target different parts of the same muscle and thus achieve something called regional hypertrophy.[1]

The pectoralis minor is also a very important muscle in the upper chest region and is located below the pectoralis major. More precisely, it extends from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th ribs to the hook-shaped bone called the coracoid process of the scapula.

There are no isolation exercises for the pectoralis minor, but you will certainly engage it in most chest exercises I've mentioned. The serratus anterior is a muscle stretching from the 1st to the 8th rib. It goes around the rib cage and attaches to the shoulder blades.

Since it is so long, it has many essential functions for the upper body, such as overhead movements, reaching with arm forward, and moving the shoulder blade forward.

Upper Chest Anatomy

Tips For Building Bigger Upper Chest Muscles

For the first few months, you will feel fatigue in your chest after training, and you will notice progress practically every week.

But then the moment will come when the workout will become almost undemanding, and you will have the impression that the muscles are no longer growing. It means you hit a plateau.[2]

Then you need to start doing a few new things.

We usually stop exercising when we reach failure, but to get past the plateau, you need to incorporate drop sets and negatives into your routine.

During a drop set, when you can't do a single rep more, lower the weight and continue. Repeat this several times during one drop set.

Negatives and forced reps are also very useful.

Keep in mind that these advanced techniques are very taxing on your muscles and central nervous system, so give yourself more rest between two such workouts than usual.

12 Best Upper Chest Exercises To Add Into Your Routine

I always recommend the following best upper chest exercises to my clients as part of an upper chest workout.

They should ensure well-rounded upper chest muscles that look attractive when you put on a shirt.

1. Bench Press

Man Doing a Bench Press with a Spotter

You may be surprised to see the traditional bench press at the beginning because it is not considered an exercise that primarily targets the upper chest.

Still, the bench press is an indispensable part of every workout and the movement that best engages the complete chest.

You won't find a single bodybuilder who skips the bench press, which speaks volumes.

There are two primary reasons why I decided to start with the traditional bench press, including the wide-grip bench press and dumbbell bench press. 

The first reason is that this exercise is one of the prime exercises for improving the strength of your chest, front deltoids, triceps, and wrists.

This will later help you do exercises that target the upper chest specifically more successfully.

Another reason is the activation of the clavicular head (upper pec fibers), which is not significantly behind the incline bench press.[3]

Some exercisers can improve upper chest development when doing an underhand (reverse) grip bench press, but be careful to try it with 50% of the usual weight.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids, serratus anterior


  • It's a compound exercise.
  • You can overload the chest muscles.
  • Uses a wide range of motion.

How To Do It:

  1. Lie down on your back and grab the bar using an overhand grip a bit wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pull your shoulder blades together.
  3. Inhale and unrack the bar.
  4. Lower the bar to mid-chest in a controlled manner until the bar reaches your chest.
  5. Push the bar up to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try out the guillotine press (it's similar to the bench press but it uses a different positioning). It's an amazing exercise for building the upper chest. I recommend advanced exercisers include it in their routine after the bench press. Keep in mind that the guillotine press is very dangerous without a spotter. 

2. Incline Bench Press

Man Doing Incline Bench Press Exercise

When you think of upper pectoral muscles, the incline barbell bench press is probably the first thing that comes to mind.

Higher tension on the upper chest during incline bench pressing compared to a flat bench press and the incline body position that makes upper muscle fibers directly involved in the whole movement make this one so useful.

The best angle is 30 degrees from flat or even lower, while you should avoid 45 degrees on the adjustable bench.

The possibility of shoulder injury is greater when benching at 45 degrees, and the muscle activation is not better in that position, so there is no point in risking.

I prefer dumbbells and Swiss-bar over an incline barbell press. The incline dumbbell press is good for increasing the range of motion, while Swiss-bar can take away some of the strain placed on the wrists.

If you don't have a bench at home, jump over to our guide on the best incline bench press alternative exercises.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids


  • Develops your upper pecs. 
  • Suitable for most abilities.
  • You can overload the muscles.

How To Do It:

  1. Get into starting position on the incline bench.
  2. Grab the barbell, Swiss bar, or take dumbbells and place them on the chest.
  3. Retract your shoulder blades.
  4. Start lowering the weight towards your chest.
  5. When you touch your chest (with dumbbells you can go deeper), press the weight up.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try using a variation of grips with this exercise. I love using a wide grip, narrow, and regular grip (which I perform a few sets of each grip type). By doing so, you'll hit your chest in places you never knew existed.  

3. Incline Hex Press

Man Doing Incline Hex Press Exercise In The Gym

For some reason, the hex press is an underrated exercise, even though it is one of the best for inner chest activation.

When you do it on the incline press, you activate your inner pecs and upper pecs, getting perfectly rounded muscles.

And you will feel your triceps burning as well.

Choose lighter dumbbells than for the incline bench press, especially if you are not familiar with the motion.

If you recently had a shoulder injury, the hex press can be a substitute for the bench press because the entire movement is free of external rotation.

I'm a huge fan of this movement and often give it to some of my bodybuilding clients who're looking to add mass to their inner chest. It works wonders if you do it correctly.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, biceps brachii, anterior deltoids


  • It builds your inner pecs.
  • Great for adding chest mass. 

How To Do It:

  1. Take dumbbells (hex dumbbells are better for this exercise compared to round ones) and lie on an incline bench.
  2. Hold them with a neutral grip and press them together until you feel the tension from pressing.
  3. Push them up while maintaining tension.

Tips From A Trainer!

The plate pinch press is a relatively similar exercise you can do together with the hex press in a superset to maximize middle chest growth. 

Related Article - Best Inner Chest Exercises

4. Machine Incline Chest Press

Man Doing Machine Incline Chest Press Exercise

Machines are great for beginners because they are safe. It is almost impossible to execute the exercise improperly on the machine, and you can always stop in the middle of the repetition.

Also, if you have recently experienced a chest or shoulder injury, the machine is the right way to get back into shape slowly.

I always add the machine incline press to the end of my workout to add volume. I always find that this exercise is perfect to use as a finisher and it always leave me walking out of the gym with a HUGE pump.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids


  • Great for beginners. 
  • Doesn't require a spotter.
  • Gives you a huge pump.

How To Do It:

  1. Start by adjusting the weight and seat.
  2. Sit and grab handles. If you are not comfortable, readjust the seat.
  3. Press the handles forward until your arms are fully extended.

Tips From A Trainer!

Try this finisher out: Perform 6 double arm presses, followed by alternating press (6 each arm) and then finish with 6 double arm press. Do this without a rest in between and watch all of your blood rush to your chest. 

Suggested Equipment - Best Chest Press Machines

5. Incline Dumbbell Front Raise

Woman Doing Incline Dumbbell Front Raises

While it might not be a direct chest exercise, if you want to have a wider looking chest, you need to have bigger shoulders.

The incline dumbbell front raise can be quite taxing on your shoulders, especially if you use an overhand grip, so forget about ego lifting.

You can injure yourself, and you will certainly not perform the exercise properly, but you will rather jerk weights which is useless. You must control shoulder flexion.

Start with dumbbells lighter than 15 lbs. Overhand grip is better if you want to emphasize the upper chest and anterior deltoids, while an underhand grip is more for the lower chest.

Doing this exercise on an incline makes it an excellent substitute for regular dumbbell front raises. Both variations should be part of your workout routine. 

I enjoy giving this exercise to my clients as they don't need to use a lot of weight and can still get an excellent workout.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, anterior deltoids, biceps brachii


  • Develops your upper body.
  • Suitable for all abilities. 

How To Do It:

  1. Lie on an incline bench.
  2. Take dumbbells with an overhand grip, put your arms next to your body and keep your elbows bent.
  3. Raise the dumbbells forward and upward to above the height of your shoulders, but not too high.
  4. Slowly lower the weight.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't choose dumbbells that are too heavy. If you find that you're swinging the weights too much, you need to lower the weight down.  

6. Landmine Press

Man Doing Man in Blue Tank Top Doing Kneeling Landmine Press

There are many different variations of the landmine press, and some of them are even suitable for plyometric training.

A half-kneeling one-arm landmine press is great for shoulders, and the upper pec is a secondary muscle in that movement, but since we want to emphasize the chest and not the shoulders, a kneeling landmine press with both arms is a preferred choice.

A neutral grip will once again reduce the stress on the shoulders.

I like this movement as it works your core and improves your stability and coordination, making it a great exercise for sports specific training.

This exercise requires a barbell and a tight corner at minimum. If you don't have access to these, check out our article on the best landmine press alternatives.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids, trapezius


  • Trains one arm at a time.
  • Great for sports specific training.
  • Works your upper pecs.

How To Do It:

  1. Set a landmine bar, kneel, and grab it with both using a neutral grip.
  2. Place the bar in the middle of the chest, and keep the elbows in front.
  3. Engage the core to help you keep the spine straight.
  4. Press forward and upward until your arms are fully extended.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can do this exercise even if you don't have a landmine bar. A classic barbell will serve the purpose; you just have to put it in the corner. 

7. Incline Dumbbell Fly

Man Doing Incline Dumbbell Flys

The incline dumbbell fly is an isolation exercise, which you can perform on an incline bench to target your upper pecs.

Incline dumbbell fly will set every muscle fiber in your pecs on fire if you perform the exercise correctly.

However, I recommend that you keep the dumbbells relatively light as this exercise doesn't require you to lift heavily. Plus, if you lift too heavy, you risk injuring yourself. 

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, biceps brachii, core


  • Doesn't need a lot of weight. 
  • Isolates your pecs.

How To Do It:

  1. Set up the bench and lie on it.
  2. Hold dumbbells with a neutral grip, place them over your chest, with a slight bend in the elbows.
  3. Lower the dumbbells until you reach shoulder level.
  4. Bring the weights to the starting position and squeeze the pecs.

Tips From A Trainer!

Turn your wrists inwards at the top of the movement to generate an additional muscle contraction. 

8. Dumbbell Around The World

Man Doing Dumbbell Around The World Exercise

No other chest exercise takes you through a complete range of motion like this one. Once again, I advise you to give priority to technique over weight.

When it comes to doing around the world, I recommend doing it first on a flat bench, and then move onto the incline bench as it's slightly more difficult.

I'd class this as an advanced movement and I don't recommend it for beginners. It requires a lot of controlled movement, so you NEED to use the correct form, otherwise you're at a high risk of injury.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, deltoids, core, lattisimus dorsi


  • Uses a large range of motion. 
  • Great for more advanced lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Take a dumbbell in each arm and lie on a flat or incline bench.
  2. Place the dumbbells on your thighs, just under your hips, and hold them with an underhand grip.
  3. Keep elbows slightly bent as you make a circular motion to touch the dumbbells above your head, keeping them all the time in the same plane as at the beginning (parallel to the floor).
  4. Return them to the starting position by doing the same movement in reverse.

Tips From A Trainer!

Only perform this movement if you're an advanced lifter. If you're a beginner, there are better exercises that you can perform, like the dumbbell fly.  

9. Low To High Cable Flys

Man Doing Low To High Cable Flys

A cable machine is the most practical option for low to high cable flys. However, dumbbells and resistance bands are almost equally good.

Because of the angle, but even more, to maintain the tension throughout the entire movement, my recommendation is to stick with the cable machine every time you have a chance.

Low to high cable flys are an isolation exercise for the pecs, especially the upper muscle fibers and front delts.

Target: Pectoralis major, biceps brachii, anterior deltoids, lattisimus dorsi


  • Constant tension on your chest muscles. 
  • Isolates your pecs.

How To Do It:

  1. Set the cable cross to the lowest position, take the handles, and step forward.
  2. Lean slightly forward and bend your arms.
  3. Engage your core.
  4. Push the handles forward until you touch them at chest height.

Tips From A Trainer!

To utilize different angles, alternate low to high cable flys with a chest fly machine and cable crossover. 

10. Dumbbell Pullover

Man Doing Dumbbell Pullover Exercises

You've probably seen the photo of Arnold Schwarzenegger doing a pullover using a gigantic dumbbell.

He's always emphasized that it's one of his favorite chest exercises, and I can see why. It uses a HUGE range of motion and places a lot of force through your pecs. 

It was one of the staple exercises during the golden era of bodybuilding, so there's no reason to leave it out of your workout plan.

Despite the fact that a pullover machine is present in many gyms, I always advise my clients to use a dumbbell instead of a machine unless I'm working with a gym newbie.

Target: Pectoralis major, triceps brachii, lattisimus dorsi, teres major, obliques


  • Uses a full range of motion. 
  • Allows you to overload your chest muscles. 

How To Do It:

  1. Position the middle of your back on a flat bench leaving your head hanging.
  2. Lower your hips and stand hip-width apart.
  3. Connect your thumbs and index fingers to create a diamond shape and grab a dumbbell.
  4. Bent your elbows, place a dumbbell over your chest, and start lowering the dumbbell over your head in a controlled manner.
  5. Contract your pecs to initiate the return of the dumbbell to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't perform this exercise the day after a strenuous back workout because the latissimus dorsi is significantly involved in the movement, albeit not as much as the pectoralis.[4

11. Resistance Band Pushup

Man Doing Resistance Band Push Up

There are many ways to train your upper chest at home, and the resistance band push-up is probably the best.

Numerous push-up variations allow you to build an enviable chest and other muscles using only your body weight.

Resistance bands are the single piece of equipment you need. Bands will make push-ups more challenging, and therefore you will build muscles faster.

AND, best of all... you can take your resistance band with you almost anywhere. So you can perform this exercise in your hotel room if you're travelling, in the local park, or even in your office.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids, core, lattisimus dorsi


  • You can do it anywhere. 
  • Doesn't require a lot of equipment.

How To Do It:

  1. Wrap the band around your back and anchor it with your hands.
  2. Keep hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart if you are performing basic push-ups.
  3. Lower your chest until you are a few inches away from the floor. The body should be in a straight line all the time, and you will do that by engaging the core.
  4. Push your hands into the floor and contract your chest to return to the starting position.

Tips From A Trainer!

Decline push-ups are especially useful for the growth of upper pecs, so once you are strong enough, start placing your feet higher to perform this advanced variation of the basic push-up. 

12. Weighted Dip

Man Doing Weighted Dips

Dips are an exercise equally popular among gym-goers, bodybuilders, and calisthenics athletes.

There is no doubt that it is one of the supreme exercises for pecs and triceps, but it is not for beginners (unless you use an assisted dip machine).

Logically, weighted dips are even harder. Therefore, you must be fully warmed up and ready to avoid injuries but also to execute this exercise properly.

Since chest muscles are our focus today, I recommend that you lean forward slightly during the movement as it will place more emphasis on your chest.

Target: Pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, anterior deltoids, forearms, core


  • Overloads your pecs.
  • Uses a full range of movement.
  • Perfect for advanced lifters.

How To Do It:

  1. Fasten a chain or weight belt.
  2. Grab a dip station and get into the starting position.
  3. Engage your core and depress your scapula.
  4. Lower yourself until your shoulders are below your elbows.
  5. Press yourself back up.

Tips From A Trainer!

Never go deeper than you are comfortable, even if it means that the shoulders will remain above the elbows. 

Benefits Of Training Your Upper Chest Muscles

Any kind of regular physical activity is beneficial for our body and mind. These are just a few benefits of training your upper chest once or twice a week.


Many will say that joint health and performance are more important than aesthetics. I can't deny that.

But let's be honest. More than 50% of people go to the gym to look nice. And that's just fine.

A good-looking body is almost always a healthy body because you cannot be fit without a proper diet and regular workouts.

If you fail to build the upper chest, that region will look empty in a shirt. On the contrary, big and strong upper pecs contribute to an attractive look both in clothes and on the beach.

This does not only apply to men. The upper chest is equally important for women. Training this part will make your breasts look firmer.

You can also fix saggy breasts, which is a common problem for all women as they age, especially those with larger breasts.

Joint Health & Longevity

Well-trained upper pecs will certainly reduce the likelihood of pectoralis injuries. However, that's not all. It has been proven that strong upper pecs "protect" the shoulders.

Shoulder injuries are one of the most common in most sports, including football, basketball, and tennis. You must have heard at least once that an athlete suffered a rotator cuff tear.[6]

Healthy shoulder joint and longevity should be a priority.

Power & Performance

Strong upper pecs will translate to improved performance not just in sports like weightlifting but in almost all sports activities.

Primarily, the powerful upper part of the pectoralis major will enable you to lift heavier weights and train with higher intensity, so your progress will be comprehensive.

It will also only improve results in sports where you need to throw or swing.

Man Doing Cable Chest Flys

How To Stretch Out Your Upper Chest

You should start the workout with a warm-up and active stretching, such as a dynamic chest opener, and finish it with passive stretching.

The combination of active and static stretching will increase the range of motion and prevent injuries.

Chest Smash

Chest smash will help you kill two birds with one stone. Chest smash is great for stretching pecs, but also as one of the prehab shoulder exercises.

You need a foam roller, tennis ball, or something similar, which can create tension.

  1. Lie facedown on the floor and place a foam roller under one of your pecs.
  2. Rest your whole weight on a foam roller, but you should not feel pain or discomfort.
  3. Now raise your arm, and it should be the arm where the foam roller is.
  4. Start simultaneously moving the raised hand away from the head toward the hip while rotating the palm.
  5. Reverse the motion.
  6. Repeat with the other arm.

Banded Shoulder Circles

Banded shoulder circles might look easy but don't be surprised if you can't pull it off on the first try.

It is important to go behind your head as far as possible, but only while maintaining arms straight and without pain.

Do not ask for assistance during circles because this is not a passive stretch; if you push too hard, an injury can cut your training short.

  1. Take an elastic band with both hands (if you don’t have an elastic band, a towel is a good alternative for upper chest workout at home.)
  2. Hold the bend wider than the shoulder width.
  3. Engage your core.
  4. Raise the band over and behind your head.
  5. Reverse the motion.
Woman in White and Black Sports Bra Doing Banded Shoulder Circles

Common Upper Chest Workout Questions

What are some bodyweight upper-chest exercise alternatives?

Dips and push-up variations are good for a bodyweight workout. You can also try burpees, which is a cardio exercise, not one for strength and muscle growth.

How many times should I work out my upper chest per week?

The optimal number of upper chest workouts weekly is two, but once per week is also fine for most exercisers.

Does the upper chest make your entire chest look bigger?

Yes, upper pecs are most visible, especially when you are not naked but in a shirt or sweater.

How much time does it take to build chest muscles?

That is highly individual since nutrition, number, and intensity of workouts, as well as genetics, have a big influence. Still, in general, you need to give the muscles about 3 months to notice significant results.

What is better – Arnold or AthleanX upper chest program?

Arnold Schwarzenegger is a bodybuilder, while Jeff Cavaliere (AthleanX) is a physical therapist and strength coach, so their approaches and thus programs are different, but both are fantastic. You can learn many exercises for upper pecs from them.


Every man who goes to the gym wants a great-looking chest, arms, and upper body muscles in general.

If you are a beginner, follow the directions you've found in this article, eat enough macros, and give your body time. Progress is imminent.

Increased blood flow and muscle pump are a natural consequence of the adaptation of your cardiovascular system to effort. We can even call it a side effect if you want. That's why you shouldn't chase pumps during chest or any other day and confuse it with muscle growth.

If you are a seasoned gym-goer who does not have a well-developed, rounded chest, then it is time to change something.

You certainly won't get any different results if you keep doing the same upper chest training. I hope I explained to you how to hit upper chest and thus help you maximize your results.


Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.