What are the best upper chest exercises?
The best upper chest exercises help you to develop a more rounded and broad chest.
By focusing on the upper pectoralis muscle, these chest exercises help you to open up these muscles in ways other chest exercises can’t.
This guide breaks down the best upper chest workouts and how they can benefit your training routines.
The Best Upper Chest Exercises
Our exercise lists are created by determining the best exercises for muscle growth, core strength, and overall health and well-being.
Here’s our list of the 10 best upper chest exercises:
10. Sunrises / Sunsets
Note: The illustration above shows the bar being held in a lower position, which focuses more on the abdominal muscles. Lift the bar higher to target the pectoral muscles when performing the exercise.
This simple but effective cable exercise gives your upper chest double the workout in each repetition.
Additionally, the rotational aspects of this workout help to develop greater flexibility in the shoulder joints.
How to do it:
Set the cable machine with the weight positioned around your back area, then:
- Take one cable grip in each hand, facing away from the cable machine
- Stretch your arms out to your sides with elbows slightly bent, then move both arms upwards in a curve as if drawing a circle around your body
- Bring your arms back down, maintaining the curving motion
The upper chest experiences great contraction when performing sunrises/sunsets, helping to build strength and control.
It also brings in your back, shoulders, and arms, making it a nice upper chest exercise with added benefits.
Include this workout as part of a general upper body routine, including it 2-3 times per week.
9. Decline Push-Ups
Push-ups are a popular and effective way to develop your pectoral muscles, and by adding a decline you’ll hit the upper portion of your chest.
Decline push-ups also impact your shoulders a little more than a conventional push-up, since you’re adding more bodyweight to this region.
How to do it:
To perform the decline press-up, grab a weight bench, then:
- Get on your hands and knees with the bench running parallel behind you
- Place your feet on the bench so you’re in a press-up starting position and your body is in a straight line
- Make sure your elbows are extended – this is your starting position
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest down, looking up slightly as you reach the floor to extend the full range of motion
- Push back up to the starting position
The added gravity and weight placed on your upper chest and shoulders make this exercise well worth including alongside traditional push-ups.
Back and arms are also worked in the decline push-up, and if you use a medicine ball to balance your feet on, you’ll get additional benefits to your core as well.
Try doing this workout 2-3 times per week as part of these sessions and you’ll notice upper chest growth over time.
8. One-Arm Landmine Press
One-arm landmine presses allow you to really push yourself in the upper body region while being able to angle the bar differently creates opportunities for additional muscle targeting.
Shoulder muscles, as well as biceps and triceps, are also engaged for added benefits.
How to do it:
- Place the non-weighted end of the barbell in a landmine holder or another sturdy base
- Pick up the barbell from the floor with your left hand, holding it over your shoulder with your arm bent into your body
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Tighten your core and lean slightly into the barbell
- Press the weight up, extending your elbow and keeping the weight in line with your shoulder
- Pause, then slowly bring the weight back down to your shoulder
- Once you’ve performed the designated reps, switch to the other arm and repeat
As well as building upper chest strength, one-arm landmine presses help with stability and balance.
Other overhead pressing exercises such as the military press will be easier to perform well if you include this exercise as part of your upper body sessions.
Include this exercise as part of your overall upper body gym sessions to help target your upper pectorals.
7. Incline Dumbbell Flyes
If you’re looking for the best upper chest exercise to open up your chest muscles, leading to a broader chest with a clearer definition, this is a great option.
Incline dumbbell flyes are perfect for achieving these results, as well as helping to increase your range of motion in the upper body.
How to do it:
Take a bench with the back lifted up into an inclined position, then:
- Sit on the bench with your feet straddled on the floor
- Rest the dumbbells just above your knees, maintaining a tight core
- Lift the dumbbells up over your chest with your back on the bench, with your elbows slightly bent and palms facing each other
- Lower the dumbbells out to your side in a smooth arc, keeping your elbows slightly bent as you do so
- When you feel a slight stretching in your chest, stop the arc motion and hold for a moment before slowly bringing the weights back to the starting position. Remember to keep your elbows slightly bent at all times
Opening up the muscles in the upper chest is crucial for developing a nice and well-rounded pectoral region.
Incline dumbbell flyes complement a range of other upper chest exercises and contribute to overall symmetry in this muscle region by opening up the pectoralis major.
Include a few sets of the incline dumbbell flyes as part of your chest day workout and you’ll notice the upper region of your pectorals taking on better definition and strength.
6. Weighted Chest Dips
Note: The illustration doesn’t show any additional weight. Add either a dip belt with plates or a weighted vest to increase the resistance.
Weighted chest dips are a great variation on tricep dips which shifts your body weight to emphasize the muscles in your upper chest.
They also help to strengthen your upper and lower back while giving your arms a workout as well.
How to do it:
After strapping your dip belt around your waist with the desired weight:
- Stand between the parallel dip bars and grip each bar with each hand
- Lift yourself up with your arms until they are locked
- Slowly lower your body, leaning slightly forward to emphasize your upper chest
- As your upper chest starts to stretch, pause then push back up to the starting position
While this exercise primarily targets your upper chest, it also helps to develop a stronger core through working out your abdominals.
Weighted chest dips also activate plenty of stabilizing muscles, aiding with the development of good posture and balance.
Try including weighted chest dips every two or three days in your gym sessions to see the benefits.
They’re an excellent addition to the general chest or upper body sessions too, so consider including these when you’re targeting these areas.
5. Incline Bench Press
This movement is a nice complementary exercise for the incline dumbbell flyes, focusing your efforts on the upper chest and building this region of the pectorals.
The incline also means your shoulders will be activated more than a traditional bench press.
How to do it:
After setting the back of the bench in an incline position between 30-45 degrees:
- Lie back on the bench, grasping the barbell on the rack with palms facing upwards, slightly wider than shoulder-width
- Lift the bar off the rack and press it upwards until your arms are extended
- Slowly lower the barbell down onto the upper portion of your chest
- Press it back up to the starting position in a smooth, controlled motion
Triceps, shoulders, and, of course, your chest all get a thorough workout with the incline bench press.
This is a great exercise if you want to enhance the upper chest and need something to add to your chest day sessions in the gym.
Include the incline bench press 2-3 times per week as part of your chest-focused sessions for additional strength and definition.
4. Low-To-High Cable Flyes
Low-to-high cable flyes activate the pectoralis major muscles, as well as muscles in your shoulder and back.
They also help develop core strength and posture, keeping you balanced as you perform each rep.
How to do it:
Go to the cable machine, then:
- Set both pulleys to the lowest position
- Grab both handles with palms facing forwards, then step slightly away from the machine
- Contract your chest muscles and pull your arms up and in front of you until your hands are positioned out in front of your face
- Lower the cables back down to the starting position, keeping your upper chest muscles engaged
Low-to-high cable flyes are another great upper chest exercise that works out your pecs through its controlled motion.
Consider using these to improve overall chest strength and definition.
Perform this exercise 2-3 times per week as part of your chest day routines, adding greater depth and flexibility to create better chest strength and aesthetics.
3. Reverse Grip Bench Press
A variation on the traditional barbell bench press, the reverse grip bench press does a lot more than just work the upper chest region.
Shoulders, arms, and forearms all come into play, making this exercise great for general upper body strength training.
How to do it:
Lie flat on a bench with the barbell ready on the rack:
- Grip the barbell with hands slightly wider than your shoulders and palms facing away from your head
- Press your feet into the ground and make sure your hips remain on the bench
- Slowly lift the bar off the bench and lower it onto your chest. Your elbows should be pointing out to your sides
- Slowly push the barbell back up to the starting position
- Once you have finished the reps, place the barbell back on the rack
In addition to building chest muscles and giving your shoulders and arms a workout, the reverse grip bench press also targets your triceps to a greater degree than a standard bench press.
Some fitness experts consider it a good way to work around injuries, too.
As with many of the other exercises in this guide, the reverse grip bench press can be included as part of your chest day gym session.
Aim to include these 2-3 times per week for optimal performance gains.
2. Incline Hex Press
Note: The Illustration above shows a flat bench position instead of an incline position.
This variation on the dumbbell bench press sees greater activation of the upper chest muscle region by bringing the motion of decline closer to the chest.
It also puts more pressure on the inner chest, leading to an all-around better definition of the pectoral muscles.
How to do it:
Set up a bench with an incline, then:
- Take two dumbbells and sit back on the bench, kneeing the weights up onto your upper chest
- With a neutral grip and palms facing inwards, press the dumbbells together and up into the air
- Lower the weights back down to above your chest, keeping them together as you do so
If you want to achieve that perfect Y-shaped split in your chest, the incline hex press is a great way to go about it.
Use a steeper angle if you want to activate the upper chest even more.
You should include these in your chest days at the gym 2-3 times per week, or as a chest exercise as part of a full body workout.
1. Incline Dumbbell Press
The incline dumbbell press is one of the best incline chest exercises for those looking to build strength and definition in the upper chest region.
The incline position means that the upper pectorals in particular take the brunt of the weight, so the workout focuses on this area.
How to do it:
Choose the dumbbells with your desired weights, then:
- Sit back on a bench set in an incline position
- Hold the weights up slightly over the top of your upper chest, stabilizing your body with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders
- Brace your core, pressing both dumbbells up into the air over your head
- Bring the weights slowly back down to the top of your chest
The clavicular head of the pectoralis major is the key beneficiary of incline dumbbell presses, so if building upper chest strength is your goal, it’s an essential addition to your routines.
Shoulders are also activated, adding additional benefits and improving the flexibility of your shoulder joints.
Perform incline dumbbell presses 2-3 times per week as part of your chest day routines, or as a chest exercise for full-body gym sessions.
FAQs About Upper Chest Exercises
If you still have questions about why the best upper pec exercises should be included in your gym routine, here’s a handy FAQ with the answers you’re looking for.
Q: Why should you train your upper chest?
Working your chest with different exercises helps to activate the various muscles throughout this region of the body.
Many chest exercises activate the pec minor, so including upper chest exercises makes sure the pec major is also engaged.
Q: How do I activate my upper chest?
This guide has outlined a range of great exercises to give your upper pecs a workout.
While some studies suggest the barbell bench press is the most effective overall for the chest, it’s worth mixing up the exercises you use to make your workouts varied.
Q: How many upper chest exercises should I do?
There’s no fixed answer for this, since some upper chest exercises are more impactful than others and require more rest and recovery time.
If you’re performing heavy resistance training you’ll need to factor in rest days into your training schedule.
Q: How often should I train my upper chest?
You should try to include an upper chest workout 2-3 times per week, as part of your scheduled chest days.
If you prefer full-body workouts, mix up these sessions with upper chest exercises.
Q: How do I build my upper chest?
Including a selection of the best upper chest exercises featured in this guide is a good place to start with building your upper chest.
If you’re new to training, try a few exercises out and work out which ones suit you best, then incorporate these regularly as part of your routine.
Upper chest exercises can help you to build upper body strength and create a more symmetrical look.
This guide should help you to choose the best pec exercise for your needs while improving strength and suppleness in your shoulders and arms.
Here’s a quick recap of the 10 best upper chest exercises:
- Incline Dumbbell Press
- Incline Hex Press
- Reverse Grip Bench Press
- Low-To-High Cable Flyes
- Incline Bench Press
- Weighted Chest Dips
- Incline Dumbbell Flyes
- One-Arm Landmine Press
- Decline Push-Ups
If you enjoyed this article, check out some of our other exercise lists:
- The 10 Best Lower Chest Exercises
- The 10 Best Lower Back Exercises
- The 10 Best Upper Back Exercises
- The 10 Best Scapular Exercises