The upper portion of your torso is what can make or break the look of your physique. Which is why you need a solid upper chest workout for mass.
Your side deltoids, upper chest and traps complete your frame and give a V-shaped look, which everyone is looking for.
In this article, we are going to take a look at the best upper chest workout for mass, since this body-part is more often than not, a lacking body part for most people.
Rest assured, all you need is a proper approach to training and patience, if you want to bring up your upper chest (no pun intended).
Before we get to the top upper chest exercises however, let’s briefly analyze the anatomy of the chest, in order to understand its functions and how it works.
The beloved chest, anatomically referred to as the “Pectoralis major”, is made up of two sections.
- Sternal head (middle and lower chest)
- Clavicular head (Upper chest)
The sternal head makes up the majority of the pectoralis major and can be further divided into a “middle” and “lower” portion.
This part of the pectoralis major is engaged during horizontal and decline pushing movements, but also adduction of the arm.
Did you know : Adduction is the movement of a limb, towards the midline of the body, while abduction is movement further from the midline.
On the flipside, we have the clavicular head, which is located, you guessed it, on the clavicle bones.
The upper chest is more and more involved, the more the arm goes up.
Think of the upper chest as a muscle that supports incline and overhead pressing movements.
And though this is not the topic of this article, it is good to know that adduction movements will help you bring out the inner portion of the chest!
Now without further ado, let’s get to the workout!
Best Upper Chest Workout For Mass
This workout is an upper chest-only blaster, which will certainly give you an advantage over your lacking muscle groups.
The workout revolves around bodyweight exercises for warm up and compound movements which we use for mass-builders, due to the nature of their intensity.
Let’s get to it!
Exercise #1 – Decline push-ups
Rest times: 90 seconds between sets
This first exercise of the top upper chest exercises is integrated into the workout with the single goal of warming up and activating your chest muscles.
For this reason, we are using a relatively light exercise, which also highly engages the chest’s synergistic working muscle groups – The triceps and shoulders.
- Setup a flat bench
- Get into a push-up position with arms wider than shoulder width and legs elevated on the bench
- Keep your torso straight (don’t let the hips hang!)
- Go down slowly, until you are close to the ground
- Push up explosively, without an elbow lockout
- Flex the chest up top and repeat
Exercise #2 – Incline barbell bench press
Rest times: 90-100 seconds between sets
This second exercise is pretty much the best and most classical upper chest builder.
Due to the fact it is a compound movement, the triceps and shoulders engage to ultimately help you lift a heavier weight.
A heavier weight is a better stimulus for growth, thus making compound movements the best mass builders!
- Setup a barbell on the incline bench
- Lie down on the bench comfortably
- Grab the bar wider than shoulder width
- Rest your head on the bench without lifting it up
- Un-rack the barbell and bend elbows slightly (no lockout)
- Let the bar go down to the upper portion of the chest, slowly
- Without resting the bar at the bottom, push up explosively
- Get to the initial position with elbows out of lockout
- Squeeze the chest up top and repeat
Exercise #3 – Reverse incline bench press
Rest times: 90 seconds between sets
This last exercise is a variation of the second one, which will activate slightly different zones of the chest musculature.
Remember that a slight change in grip, position or angle will change the specifics of an exercise, therefore, engaging different areas.
The best way to build a balanced physique is combining multiple exercises, angles, grips and positions.
For this movement, use a relatively lighter weight.
- Lie down on the incline bench
- Hold the bar wider than shoulder width with a reverse grip
- Un-rack the bar and bend elbows slightly – this is your initial position
- Let the bar go down slowly
- Without a rest at the bottom, push up to the initial position
Top 8 Upper Chest Exercises
If you do not like the workout above or need to make changes to it, we’ve got you covered!
Below is a list of our top 8 best upper chest exercises, which you can use to substitute for the workout above or even more so, create a workout on your own!
If you do the latter, we recommend including at least one heavy, compound movement to build mass in your upper chest.
Exercise #1 – Incline dumbbell bench press
The best workout for upper chest is nothing without a dumbbell movement.
This first exercise is a dumbbell variation of the incline bench press, which allows for single-sided work on the chest.
Using dumbbells is a good idea if you are looking to bring up one side, which is normally the case.
- Take a pair of dumbbells
- Lie down on the incline bench (45-degrees)
- Keep the dumbbells over your chest and bend elbows slightly
- Rest your head on the bench
- Let the dumbbells go down slowly, until they are past the line of the chest
- Push up explosively, contracting the chest with no elbow lockout
Exercise #2 – Incline dumbbell flys
As we mentioned early on, the chest does not only support pushing motions, but also ones that bring the arms closer to the midline of the body.
Such exercises that involve adduction, are very useful for a complete look of the upper chest, as they engage the inner portion of the pectoral muscles.
- Take a pair of dumbbells
- Lie down on the incline bench comfortably
- Keep the dumbbells above your chest with palms facing eachother
- With elbows slightly bend, open up the arms slowly, stretching the chest
- Pause briefly at the bottom, then close the arms back up
- Before the dumbbells touch, flex the chest and repeat
Exercise #3 – Handstand static hold
Though the handstand primarily activates the shoulder musculature, it also activates the upper chest.
This makes it one of the best upper chest exercises, if you’re trying to aid your pushing strength gains.
- Face a wall and stand a couple of feet in front of it
- Place your hands on the ground at shoulder width
- Kick off the floor with one leg and balance on the wall
- Hold that position for as long as comfortable
Exercise #4 – Incline cable flys
If you’ve been in the fitness game for some time, you should know that nothing gives pumps like cables do.
The cable fly variation is a perfect substitute for the dumbbell fly, if you do not feel the activation from it.
- Setup an incline bench between the two pulleys
- Grab both lower pulleys and lie down on the bench
- Keep your arms above your chest with elbows slightly bent
- Go down slowly, stretching the chest
- Close the arms up, flexing the chest before your hands meet
Exercise #5 – Incline dumbbell hammer press
As we mentioned, a slight change in grip can make all the difference and this is no exception!
The dumbbell hammer press will help you develop a bigger, stronger upper chest across all areas and especially the inner portion
- Grab two dumbbells and lie down comfortably on the incline bench
- Keep the dumbbells above the chest with palms facing one another
- Let the dumbbells go down slowly until they are on the sides of the chest
- Push up explosively
- With no elbow lockout up top, flex the chest
Exercise #6 – Dumbbell standing front raise
This next movement is another shoulder-dominant exercise, that also involves the upper chest and can be used as an auxiliary movement to boost strength and balance out the 3 synergistic muscle groups – Chest, shoulders and triceps.
Again, this should not be your main upper chest mass builder but rather, an auxiliary movement.
- Take two dumbbells and stand up straight
- Keep the dumbbells by your sides with palms facing the body
- Raise the left arm up and slightly towards the center of the body
- Flex the chest up top
- Alternate between both sides
Exercise #7 – Dumbbell pullover
The dumbbell pullover is an old-school exercise that highly engages the entire upper body and even stretches the abs.
We recommend using this as a finisher movement with relatively lighter weight and focus on a slow pace.
- Take a dumbbell and place it on the bench
- Sit on the ground next to the bench
- Lie on the side of the bench only on your upper back/shoulder line
- Take the dumbbbell with both arms and keep it above the chest
- Bend elbows slightly
- Place feet forward so that the hips can hang
- Let the dumbbell go back and behind your head slowly
- Pull the dumbbell back and stop shortly before the initial position
- Tense the chest and repeat
Exercise #8 – Low cable crossover
Finally, we have the lower cable crossover which will annihilate the upper chest with a mix of a front raise & adduction.
This is another great finisher, which can be used with a lighter weight and more repetitions to flush the chest with blood.
- Grab both cable pulleys and stand in the center
- Place one foot forward for balance
- Look forward and keep your torso straight
- Lift the arms up and towards the midline of the body
- Flex the chest up top
- Hold briefly and go back down slowly
Frequently Asked Questions
Training and nutrition encompass a vast variety of things, which is exactly why many questions may come up to mind!
Let’s answer the two most common questions regarding an upper chest workout.
What is the best exercise for your upper chest?
As we already learned, the upper chest is involved the more your arms go towards the head.
This means that incline movements are pretty much the best pick for any upper chest workout for mass.
It is important to remember that compound movements (Dumbbells & barbells) are your most adequate choice to bring up a weak upper chest.
This is simply because compound movements allow you to lift heavier, and as you may or may not know, heavy weights done with multiple repetitions, are the best growth stimulus for the musculature.
How do I bulk up my upper chest?
When it comes to bulking up ANY muscle group, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:
1. Total weekly volume
Generally, 10 challenging working sets, per muscle group, per week, is the bare minimum for effective growth.
That number can grow up to 20+ sets per week as you advance in your training.
Specifically for the chest, if the upper chest is lacking, make sure that at least 50% of your weekly volume for the chest, goes to the upper portion!
Check out THIS video of Dr. Layne Norton, where he goes in depth on why training volume matters.
2. Food, food, food!
A well-structured workout is nothing without the support of proper nutrition.
Remember that optimal muscle hypertrophy (growth) occurs in a surplus of calories.
This means, consuming more calories than you burn (200-300 above maintenance).
Can you bulk up if you are not in a surplus? Yes, but likely at a suboptimal rate.
The upper chest is a commonly lacking body part for many trainees, which imposes a change in the priorities of the workout.
If your goal is to develop an aesthetic, pleasing to look at physique, do put priority on your weaker points, be it the upper chest, calves or forearms.
Ultimately, besides making the best upper chest workout for mass, give the body enough rest, hydrate and eat well!
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