How To Build The Upper Chest With Specific Workouts And Exercises: An Open Discussion
Now that’s a great upper chest you see on the left there. You hear a lot of discussion about building parts of a muscle. Some of the most frequent are, how to build upper chest, lower biceps and the like. But can you actually change the look of PART of a muscle? Well I guess that depends on the muscle and it’s attachments. Well the groups that make up the muscle more than the attachment, but we’ll get into that.
Building The Upper Chest : My Opinion
Some people say that because the chest is a fan shaped muscle you cannot work the upper chest separately. Others swear that exercises such as the incline press, planche pushups and elbows high pec deck works them like crazy.
I think a couple different things about building the upper chest at this point in my training. I think that most lack of upper chest development (beside the fact that someone doesn’t train chest at all) is because of tight fascia and scar tissue. When people start stretching the chest more for example with incline presses, incline flyes or overhead squats, the upper chest is free to grow again. There is more blood flow and the fascia gets stretched out. That’s a part of the theory at any rate. I know after an A.R.T. session in any muscle group the pump I get there is fantastic. Since the pump is a result of blood flow and blood carries nutrients it’s not a far stretch to think that a lack of scar tissue and loosening up the fascia would have to be a great thing if you want to build your upper chest area. At the very least it certainly can’t hurt at all.
That is just my opinion at this point. Mind you it’s a great opinion (if you can’t agree with yourself then you got problems!). This reasoning has led me to only doing upper chest stretching (as part of my normal stretching routine) and to hit the 80/20 chest exercises when I work chest.
But What About Actually Building The Upper Chest Through Workouts And Exercises?
I guess the real question at this point though is: Can or will doing specific upper chest building exercises or workouts build the upper chest any faster than another say ‘flat’ chest movement?
What is the upper chest first of all?
The upper chest is the Pectoralis Major but more specifically you can see it is the clavicular head. One side attaches on the inside two-thirds of the front edge of your collar bone and the other ‘end’ just below the top of your arm bone, along the outside edge. Look at a picture of Franco Columbo for an outstanding example of upper chest or clavicular head development.
What does the upper chest do?
It adducts (pulls into the center of your body) the upper arm horizontally across the front of the chest and also assists in elevating the arm. The clavicular head works closely with the sternal head when the arm extends back in a dumbbell or cable fly. In the fully extended position the stress is primarily on the sternal head, as the arms begin flexing forward the stress begins to shift from the sternal head to the clavicular head. With the arms held in the front at the completion of the movement, the stress is shifted almost completely to the clavicular head.
Bottom Line On Upper Chest Development Through Workouts And Exercises?
There is a function of the upper chest, we’ve shown it. If there is a function then it can be trained through specific weight training exercises that can be put into an upper chest workout to build it up.
I found this information below on the IFPA website and it started to shed some light.
There is still an ongoing debate between the researchers performing MRI analysis and bodybuilders.
The MRI research shows you cannot move stress on the pectorals from the medial fibers (inner) by performing narrow grip chest presses, or to the lateral fibers (outer) by performing wide grip chest presses. The reason is that the pectoral fibers run from clavical to humerus as a single fiber. You can move stress upward, to the clavicular head with incline presses and lower, to the inferior sternal fibers, but research says you cannot move stress medially or laterally on the chest. However, many bodybuilders disagree, they have found that they can develop medial or lateral pectoral fibers.
Bodybuilders claim that the wide grip chest press works the lateral fibers and narrow grip chest presses, with the elbows flared at 45 degrees work the medial fibers. I would like to hear from the athletes performing these movements and see what results they get.
Here are a few of my favorite exercises for working the upper chest that fill all the criteria needed to build the upper chest.
1. Upper Chest Cable Cross-Overs
You will need either a cable-cross over machine or a single high pulley for this exercise.
Get into position standing between the two high cross-over pulleys then take a small step forward. This small step forward puts more tension on the upper pecs at the start of the movement by increasing the stretch.
Bend over at the waist up to about 90 degrees.
The movement itself is very similar to the normal crossover. However, as you bring the cables in, you should push your hands forward of your body in a wide arc rather than bringing them directly down under your torso.
Essentially, you will be trying to bring the cable handles under your face rather than under your chest. This is the key to activating the upper pectoral fibers.
Keep your back arched and your chest puffed out and be sure to come around and forward as though sweeping your fist far out and around
?2. Lying Cable “Y” Flyes
The reason I call these “Y” Flyes is from the position of your body and arms on the bench when you do them.
Set a flat bench in the middle of the cable cross-overs (this exercise can also be done one arm at a time on a single low pulley if you don’t have access to a full cross-over machine set-up). The end of the bench where your head will rest should be about 4 to 6 inches forward of an imaginary line between the two pulleys.
Use a moderate weight for this exercise as we’ll be focusing on the squeeze of the upper pecs and the feel of the exercise, not the amount of weight we’re using.
Grasp the cable handles then sit on the bench. Shift yourself forward on the bench so when you lay back onto the bench, your head is set a few inches forward of the pulleys.
You should notice that, at the bottom of the exercise, your arms are angled up and back, just like the “Y” I mentioned above.
Be sure to keep your elbows slightly bent but stiff during the movement. Also, don’t let your upper arms get pulled down past parallel. The real value of this exercise is at the contracted position at the top of the movement.
Do the cable flye movement from there, bringing your hands together directly ABOVE YOUR FOREHEAD. This is critical because the angle of your arms in this track will throw the vast majority of the tension directly onto your upper pec area.
Squeeze the pecs hard at the top, lower down slowly and repeat.
3. Side Lying Incline Dumbell Flyes
Lie on your side on an incline bench (if you can set the angle, use about 30 degrees). Your shoulder should be set just off the forward edge of the bench so you can move the arm freely up and down. Your feet should be set somewhat apart on the floor to provide greater stability and pushing power.
If you are lying on your right side hold a dumbell in your right hand and let it hang down. Don’t worry about losing tension here – the benefit of this exercise lies at the top of the movement.
Use a fairly light to moderate dumbell with this exercise. You don’t need much weight to get a full contraction and using too much could cause you to lose your balance on the bench.
Keeping your arm slightly bent and stiff, raise the dumbell in a flye type motion in front of you, around and up until your upper arm is as vertical as you can get it.
Squeeze hard at the top. You should feel a sharp burning sensation in your upper-midle pec area right on the cleavage between the two pecs. To really feel the movement working, place your non-working hand right on the upper, middle area of your chest as you do the exercise. You should be able to feel that area of the muscle contract solidly.
This exercise will really hit the inner pec area, bringing out separation between your two pectoral muscles.
One of my personal favorite upper chest building exercises is an incline fly done slightly differently.
- Start on an incline bench like you were going to do an incline curl. Not like the regular incline press or fly.
- From the bottom position of the ‘curl’ keep your arms straight and lift the dumbbells forward, up and together until they are above your eyes.
Conclusion On Building The Upper Chest Area:
My opinion is that the upper chest can be built with movements that adduct and elevate the humerus along with a good stretching routine to remove scar tissue and loosen up the fascia. What are you thoughts?
Suggested further reading: Building The Upper Chest With Anthony