The upper chest can be a stubborn muscle group and is often an underdeveloped area in many lifters compared to the rest of the chest. Furthermore, training upper pecs in isolation — without activating the rest of the muscle isn’t possible. However, you can emphasize muscle recruitment near the clavicle area (located between the ribcage (sternum) and the shoulder blade (scapula)) with the four upper chest workouts and training techniques detailed in this article.
An experienced lifter knows the importance of using different angles and techniques, especially for bigger muscle groups. Now, keep in mind that your genetics will determine how big and full your chest looks. But anyone (literally anyone) can make improvements and bring up weak points.
So you’ll want to keep reading because we have the best exercises and workouts for the upper chest with our explanations as to why you should do them so you can apply this knowledge to your own training.
4 Best Upper Chest Workouts
Training the upper chest can be tricky. Although you might want to dedicate an entire session to an upper chest workout to bring up the lagging muscle group, it isn’t the most optimal way to approach pectoral training. Why is that, you ask?
Your upper chest is a relatively small muscle group, and performing five to six upper chest exercises in a training session will be nothing short of overkill. Devoting an entire workout to the upper pecs would be like doing five brachialis exercises in an arm workout in hopes of building thicker arms. You might see results, but you’ll be compromising on brachii and brachioradialis gains by sticking to neutral grip exercises.
To make the most of your upper chest workout, perform at least three exercises on an incline bench to target the upper pecs. Plus, two to three movements while standing (cable fly) or lying on a flat or declined bench.
Here are some of the most effective upper chest workouts you’ll ever do:
Upper Chest Workout #1
- Incline Barbell Bench Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Fly — 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Machine Chest Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Pec Deck Fly — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dips — 3 sets of 15-20 reps
In the first upper chest workout, you’ll be sticking to the basics. It is a great workout to build a solid foundation. While performing dips, if you feel the exercise is too easy, add resistance by using additional weights.
Upper Chest Workout #2
- Incline Dumbbell Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Single-Arm Low-to-High Cable Fly — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Cable Crossover — 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Decline Dumbbell Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Bench Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Pike Push-up — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
You’ll be starting and ending the second workout with upper chest exercises. The pike push-up is a great exercise to isolate your upper pecs and flush them with blood and lactic acid — to ignite new muscle growth — at the end of your chest workout.
Upper Chest Workout #3
- Smith Machine Incline Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Incline Cable Crossover — 3 sets of 12-15 reps
- Jammer Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Landmine Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell Floor Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Decline Dumbbell Press — 3 sets of 10-12 reps
The Smith machine is one of the most-underutilized chest training tools. It can help you focus on your upper pec stimulation by stabilizing the weight, fixing your range of motion, and improving your form.
So you’ve never heard of the jammer and landmine press before. Don’t worry. Head over to the next section to learn about them in detail.
Upper Chest Workout #4
- Guillotine Press — 5 sets of 10-12 reps
- Incline Hex Press — 5 sets of 10-12 reps
- Incline Hammer Press Machine — 5 sets of 10-12 reps
- Dumbbell Pullover — 5 sets of 10-12 reps
- Decline Push-up — 5 sets of 10-12 reps
The last upper chest workout on the list will be a high-intensity, high-volume session. You will be performing a total of 25 sets and should be running on fumes by the end of the workout.
Top 12 Upper Chest Exercises:
Here is how to perform the upper pec exercises mentioned above:
1. Incline Dumbbell Press
Incline dumbbell press is a part of our first upper chest workout. Why the incline dumbbell press? Isn’t it just an alternative to the incline barbell press?
It’s not just an alternative… In fact, the incline dumbbell press is preferred by many over the barbell version for a few reasons.
Using a barbell for the incline press can feel awkward and cause shoulder pain. That’s because when you’re at an incline, the bar path is usually near the upper or mid-chest. And when your shoulders are locked in, there isn’t as much room for the shoulder joint to move around as comfortably.
So that’s why we like the incline dumbbell press. Your shoulders/arms have a freer range of movement, not to mention you can vary your hand position which can ease the stress placed on the shoulders even more.
Incline chest exercises activate more of the front delts than the flat and decline bench press variations. To maximize chest activation and reduce delt dominance during incline presses, we recommend adjusting the bench to about a 30-degree angle.
This could also allow you to train heavier using dumbbells compared to a barbell while still maximizing chest engagement. Lastly, the adduction (bringing the arms toward the midline of the body) of the arms is an essential component of chest activation, which you can’t get by using a barbell.
2. Single-Arm Low-to-High Cable Fly
Again, because the upper chest area is typically more underdeveloped, it’s a good idea to try and get as much adduction of the arms as possible for optimal muscle fiber activation.
But something many exercisers are unaware of is that the fibers of the upper chest run somewhat diagonally from the armpit up to the middle of the clavicle. Therefore, it’s smart to design an upper chest workout that allows you to follow the direction of the fibers.
Hence, it is the reason why we’re proposing a low-to-high cable fly using one arm at a time for a maximum squeeze. You can also go heavy with this exercise but make sure to focus on the contraction of the muscles.
Bringing your arms low to high and across follows the fibers of the upper chest as shown in the video.
3. Pike Push-up — Upper Chest Workout
Pike push-ups are one of the most straightforward exercises for the upper chest that only require your body weight. But make no mistake, it’s still challenging for most people.
Another advantage is that it’s a closed-chain movement. This means your hands are fixed to an immovable surface (the ground) which engages more stabilizer muscles and forces your shoulders to prevent your body from moving in all directions. Movements like these make a good chest workout.
This is beneficial for overall upper body strength, stability, and performance.
To increase the difficulty of the pike push-up, elevate your feet up onto an object such as a box, chair, bench, etc.
4. Incline Cable Crossover
Cables are great for keeping constant tension on a muscle, but you can also cross your arms for even more chest contraction, something you can’t do with a barbell or dumbbells.
Not to mention, the fly/crossover increases strength in the pecs and associated muscles since the arms are more outstretched and less stable when compared to a press.
Each rep should involve crossing one arm over the other, alternating for each repetition.
5. Jammer Press
You may have never heard of this movement before, but it’s one we absolutely recommend. By performing the exercise, you will emphasize your upper pecs and will be able to do it more explosively. So if you’re an athlete or someone who desires to develop more power using your arms in an elevated position, then the jammer press is for you.
There are several ways to do this exercise. You could use a hammer strength machine, a landmine setup, or even a suspended barbell rack.
Here’s an example although, you don’t have to press as explosively as what’s shown in the video:
6. Landmine Press
Similar to the jammer press, the landmine press is also a very effective upper chest exercise. You’ll secure one end of a barbell to the corner of a wall or use a dedicated landmine setup made specifically for this exercise.
The landmine press is also a great way to build explosive function in addition to size and strength. Not to mention, you can fully take advantage of arm adduction for optimal contraction and muscle recruitment.
You can do this exercise using one or two arms.
Here’s a brief video with instructions…
7. Landmine Rainbow
While you’re already doing the landmine press, you might as well transition into the landmine rainbow, which is similar to a chest fly. So instead of pressing the barbell forward, you’ll start by holding the end of the barbell in a low position, and then you’ll pass the barbell back and forth from one hand to the other in an upward arching motion to follow the fibers of the upper chest.
It’s not a difficult variation to do and you’ll definitely hammer those upper pecs.
The resistance is felt when your arms move toward the midline of your body (adduction of the arms) before handing off the barbell to the other arm.
8. Incline Dumbbell Fly
A well-designed training program should contain movements that train all the anatomical functions that the muscle performs, and for the pecs, it includes pressing and fly movements.
Some experienced lifters do not include dips in their upper chest workouts as they consider it a beginner exercise and would rather do partial reps on the machine chest press to stroke their egos.
If you are one of these individuals, you can make the exercise harder by performing weighted dips. Dips arguably have the biggest range of motion of any chest exercise and should be a staple in your pec training regimen.
10. Guillotine Press
The guillotine press is probably the weirdest looking exercise on the upper chest workout program. To an untrained eye, the movement looks like a standard bench press performed incorrectly.
However, the guillotine press is an incredibly effective exercise for the upper chest as it provides an intense stretch in the clavicular pec head while limiting triceps engagement.
The guillotine press is performed with a barbell and includes lowering the bar to the neck (or even chin). Remember: Warm up your shoulders before performing the exercise as the extreme elbow flare can put high stress on both heads of the pectoralis muscle.
11. Incline Hex Press
The hex press involves holding a dumbbell in each hand and squeezing them together as hard as possible while performing presses. Performing the hex press on an incline bench puts more tension on your upper and middle pectoral muscles.
Here is how to perform them correctly:
12. Incline Hammer Press Machine
If you have trouble establishing a mind-muscle connection while performing upper chest workouts, you should add the incline hammer press machine to your exercise arsenal.
Here is how to perform the incline hammer press:
How To Make Most of Your Upper Chest Workout
Below are a few tips to make the most of your upper pec workouts:
1. Follow a Full-Range of Motion
Research suggests that going through a full range of motion (ROM) results in better muscle balance, joint stability, proper activation of the working muscles, and overall better movement quality. Additionally, following a full ROM can reduce your chances of injury while performing an exercise. 
While performing the pressing movements in your upper chest workout, your arms should be fully extended, and elbows almost locked out at the top. On the other hand, the barbell will be a few inches away from your chest at the bottom.
2. Use Advanced Training Techniques
According to a study, using advanced training techniques like accentuated eccentric loading can help lead to greater strength gains for experienced lifters and avoid hitting a plateau. 
Besides, following the same training routine over and over again can get redundant, which can further lead to a loss of motivation. Incorporating advanced training principles like supersets, dropsets, intraset stretching, and blood flow restriction (BFR) in your upper chest workout can take your pectoral gains to the next level.
3. Mind-Muscle Connection
Why is a mind-muscle connection so important, you ask? Per a study, a mind-muscle connection allows you to focus your effort on a specific muscle, which can help improve your workout intensity and performance. 
If you have trouble establishing a mind-muscle connection while performing the upper pec workout, you should try dropping the weights and slowing down your rep tempo. You could also pause at the top and bottom of the movement to maximize muscle contraction.
4. Add Variety To Your Workouts, But Not Too Much
While it is important to keep switching your exercises to avoid hitting a rut, many lifters make the mistake of changing their training regimen way too often. To get the best bang for your buck, you should stick to a workout regimen for at least three to four weeks.
Warm Up Your Chest Before Training
Now that you know everything there is to know about building a Superman-like chest, you shouldn’t try to hit a PR on your first working set. “Bench presser’s shoulders” are real and are a certainty if you do not spend 5-10 minutes warming up your shoulders and pecs before an upper chest workout.
You should perform a combination of a static and dynamic warm-up routine before every workout to minimize the chances of injury while optimizing your performance inside the weight room.
While a dynamic warm-up routine focuses on improving speed, agility, and acceleration, a static warm-up routine allows your muscles to loosen up while increasing your flexibility and range of motion.
If you’ve never performed a resistance-training-specific warm-up routine before, do not fret. Here is an exhaustive loosening-up routine that will get you ready for the hardest of workouts — Upper Body Warm-Up You Should Be Doing Before Every Workout.
By doing these unique and extremely effective upper chest workouts, we don’t see how you couldn’t benefit from more size, strength, and overall development.
We literally hand-picked these movements to offer you the best options possible. Of course, these exercises aren’t the only ones you can or should do, but each does have its own advantage. So, combine them and get your pecs that pop!
- Schoenfeld BJ, Grgic J. Effects of range of motion on muscle development during resistance training interventions: A systematic review. SAGE Open Medicine. 2020;8:205031212090155.
- Simon Walker, Anthony J. Blazevich, G. Gregory Haff, James J. Tufano, Robert U. Newton, Keijo Häkkinen. Greater Strength Gains after Training with Accentuated Eccentric than Traditional Isoinertial Loads in Already Strength-Trained Men. Frontiers in Physiology, 2016; 7 DOI: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00149.
- Calatayud J, Vinstrup J, Jakobsen MD, Sundstrup E, Brandt M, Jay K, Colado JC, Andersen LL. Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2016 Mar;116(3):527-33. doi: 10.1007/s00421-015-3305-7. Epub 2015 Dec 23. PMID: 26700744.