upper chest workout incline bench press

Upper Chest Workout: How to Build a Bodybuilder Chest

Are you frustrated with your chest development (or lack of)? 

You already train your chest at least once a week. And you start every workout with bench press, because that’s the best exercise to build your chest, right? 

Not necessarily.

The reason why you lack chest development is that you’re neglecting your upper chest. But don’t worry. I’m going to show you the best ways to build your upper chest

You’re also going to get 3 chest workouts that will blow up your chest and build muscle mass.

Why Flat Bench Press Isn’t the Best Chest Exercise for Building Muscle

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises

Like me, you’ve been taught that if you want to build a huge chest, you have to bench press. There’s some truth to heavy benching building muscle, but it doesn’t stop there. 

Here’s the problem with relying on bench press to build your chest: 

  • Chest is only part of the equation…
  • When you do flat bench, you’re using many other muscles to push that weight up. 
  • This is why bench pressing is part of powerlifting.
  • Bench press is not just a chest exercise; it’s for building overall upper body strength.

Don’t get me wrong. Doing flat bench will certainly add mass to your frame. But it’s not the best exercise for building your chest.

If you want that fan-shaped chest like Arnold had, you must focus more on your upper chest. And that’s what we’re about to get into.

Do Incline Bench Press First

The first change I want you to make in your chest workout routine is to start your workouts with incline bench press.

Your Old Routine
Bench Press
Incline Bench Press
2-3 more chest exercises
Your New Routine
Incline Bench Press
Next chest exercise (doesn’t have to be bench press, but can be)
2-3 more chest exercises

See, if you start with flat bench you’re not going to have as much strength for your other exercises. This isn’t good if you want to focus on building your upper chest. 

If you start your chest workouts with incline bench press first, you’re going to be able to press more weight. And that’s going to help you build more upper chest muscle

Starting with an incline movement may feel a little weird at first if you’re used to starting every chest workout with flat bench. But trust me on this. And you’ll see your incline bench press numbers go up, fast!

**On a side note, if your goal is to increase your bench press you’ll want to read about Mike Westerdal’s Critical Bench 2.0 program.

Critical Bench 2.0 program review

3 New Upper Chest Workouts

Now I’m going to give you 3 different workouts that focus on upper chest. Each will start with an incline exercise.

You can alternate these workouts each week to keep shocking your muscles. I’ve found that doing the same chest workouts week after week will quickly stagnate your chest growth and development.

Upper Chest Workout 1

This first chest workout is going to look like many typical bodybuilding workouts you may have seen (and currently do!). The biggest difference is simply starting with incline bench press. 

Because you’re starting with incline, don’t expect to be as strong on the flat bench. But do not let that mess with your head!

Remember, your goal, for now, is to build your upper chest muscles

ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Bench Press5 x 10, 8, 8, 6, 6
Bench Press4 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Flyes4 x 12
Cable Crossovers4 x 12

Upper Chest Workout 2

This next chest workout is going to consist of all incline movements. And this would be perfect for doing a second chest workout that week. 

Here’s an example:

  • Monday: Regular chest workout
  • Thursday: Upper chest-only

Or you could just do this upper chest workout that week. 

*If your gym doesn’t have a Hammer Strength Incline Press machine, then use the Smith Machine by pulling an incline bench underneath the bar.

ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Bench Press4 x 6
Incline Dumbbell Press4 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Flyes4 x 12
Hammer Strength Incline Press4 x 15

Upper Chest Workout 3

Below is a chest workout you’ve probably never tried. This one will give you an awesome pump in your pecs!

Here’s why this chest workout is so unique…

  • You’re starting with flyes instead of a press. Why? This is going to pre-exhaust your upper chest muscles and help you concentrate more on forcing the muscle to work harder for each rep.
  • The dumbbell incline press is unilateral, and this is a tough exercise. You’ll bring one arm down while holding the other dumbbell up above your chest, and then alternate. This really targets your pecs. 
  • Lastly, you’ll do an old school exercise called dumbbell pullovers. This is a great exercise for bringing out those chest muscles.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Incline Dumbbell Flyes4 x 10
Incline Bench Press4 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press – Unilateral4 x 10
Dumbbell Pullovers4 x 10

What Do the Pros Have to Say About Upper Chest?

“The upper chest is a weak muscle group for most people. If you’re one of these people, you can make it even worse by not training it often. Incline dumbbell bench press is incredibly effective at targeting your upper pectoral muscles.”

Vidur Saini, How to Build a Chest Like Jay Cutler, Generation Iron

“Bodybuilders who follow the “flat bench first” approach usually have deficiencies in their upper and lower chest that start showing up over time.”

Bill Geiger, Chest Training: 7 Ways to Build Your Upper Pecs, Bodybuilding.com

“I wanted to target that upper pec, front delt tie in area. That was important to me as a bodybuilder because when you go to perform the side chest pose, that is the most prominent part of the pecs to see. So to have that area fully developed made the pose that much more beautiful and appealing.”

Roger ‘Rock’ Lockridge (quoting Lee Haney), Lee Haney’s Tips to Building an Enormous Chest, Muscle & Fitness

Are You Ready to Build a Huge and Ripped Chest?

heavy incline dumbbell press

It’s going to be tough changing your normal chest workout routine. You’re going to be tempted to start with flat bench press every time. Because you naturally won’t be able to lift as much on incline.

That’s your ego talking. Don’t listen to it! 

My challenge to you is to try starting with incline bench press (or any incline chest exercise) first for 6 weeks. 

You can rotate all 3 chest workout I gave you above:

  • Week 1: Upper Chest Workout 1
  • Week 2: Upper Chest Workout 2
  • Week 3: Upper Chest Workout 3
  • Repeat

Give those workouts 100%. You’ll see a ‘massive’ difference in your chest size and shape. And you’re incline bench will go up substantially too.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below. 

**If you do want to increase your bench press (and overall strength) check out Mike Westerdal’s Critical Bench 2.0.

Train with Passion,


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