upper chest - lower chest - muscle anatomy

7 Good Exercises to Work Out the Upper Chest


A well-rounded chest is often the epitome of a strong physique. While many individuals focus primarily on the mid and lower portions of the chest during their workouts, the upper chest is equally important for achieving symmetry and definition.

Developing the upper chest not only enhances the overall appearance of the chest but also contributes to improved strength and functionality in various upper body movements.

In this article, we delve into the importance of upper chest development and explore a variety of effective exercises to target this area.

What is the Upper Chest?

The chest muscle, scientifically known as the pectoralis major, comprises two main portions: the clavicular (upper) and sternal (lower) heads.

The upper chest, also referred to as the clavicular head, originates from the collarbone and inserts into the upper portion of the humerus (upper arm bone).

Targeting the upper chest is crucial for achieving a balanced and proportionate chest development. Neglecting this area may result in an imbalanced physique, with a lack of fullness and definition in the upper region.

Additionally, a strong upper chest contributes to improved shoulder stability and overall upper body strength.

Exercises to Work Out Upper Chest

Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is a fundamental exercise for targeting the upper chest. To execute this movement, adjust an incline bench to an angle of approximately 30 to 45 degrees.

Lie back on the bench with your feet planted firmly on the ground. Grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

As you lower the barbell towards your upper chest, ensure your elbows are slightly tucked and maintain control throughout the descent.

Push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

The incline bench press primarily targets the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, along with engaging the anterior deltoids and triceps. It allows for heavy loading, promoting muscle hypertrophy and strength gains in the upper chest region.

Incline Dumbbell Press

Similar to the incline bench press, the incline dumbbell press effectively targets the upper chest while also engaging stabilizer muscles.

Begin by adjusting an incline bench to a comfortable angle. Hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing forward.

Lower the dumbbells with control until your upper arms are parallel to the ground, maintaining a slight bend in your elbows.

Press the dumbbells back up to the starting position, focusing on squeezing your chest at the top of the movement.

This exercise offers a greater range of motion compared to the barbell press and allows for unilateral strength development. By incorporating incline dumbbell presses, individuals can address muscle imbalances and enhance overall chest development.

Incline Dumbbell Flyes

Incline dumbbell flyes are an isolation exercise that effectively targets the upper chest while also engaging the anterior deltoids and serratus anterior muscles.

To perform this movement, lie back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward.

With a slight bend in your elbows, lower the dumbbells out to the sides in a controlled motion.

Feel a stretch in your chest at the bottom of the movement, then squeeze your chest to bring the dumbbells back together.

Incline dumbbell flyes provide a deep stretch to the chest muscles, promoting muscle activation and hypertrophy. By incorporating this exercise into a workout routine, individuals can enhance chest definition and symmetry while improving muscle control and flexibility.

High Cable Crossover

The high cable crossover is a cable machine exercise that provides constant tension on the upper chest throughout the movement.

Begin by setting the cable pulleys to the highest position on each side of the machine.

Stand in the middle, facing away from the machine, with one foot forward for stability. Grasp the handles with an overhand grip, palms facing downward.

With a slight bend in your elbows, bring the handles down and together in front of your body, focusing on squeezing the chest at the bottom of the movement.

Slowly return to the starting position, controlling the weight throughout the entire range of motion.

The high cable crossover effectively isolates the upper chest muscles and helps develop chest width and definition.

Push-Ups with Elevated Feet

Push-ups with elevated feet are a bodyweight exercise variation that targets the upper chest and shoulders.

Begin in a traditional push-up position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet elevated on a bench or platform.

Lower your body towards the ground by bending your elbows, maintaining a straight line from your head to your heels.

Keep your elbows tucked close to your body as you descend. Push back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

Push-ups with elevated feet increase the difficulty of the exercise, placing more emphasis on the upper chest muscles while also engaging the core and stabilizer muscles.

Smith Machine Incline Press

The Smith machine incline press is a variation of the incline bench press that provides added stability and control.

Adjust the bench to an incline position within the Smith machine. Position yourself on the bench and grasp the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Lower the barbell towards your upper chest, maintaining control and stability throughout the movement. Press the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

The Smith machine allows for a guided range of motion, making it an excellent option for beginners or those with limited stability.

The incline press on the Smith machine effectively targets the upper chest while also engaging the shoulders and triceps.


Dips are a compound exercise that primarily targets the triceps and lower chest but also engages the upper chest as a secondary muscle group.

Begin by gripping parallel bars with your arms fully extended and your body suspended above the ground.

Lean slightly forward and lower your body by bending your elbows until your upper arms are parallel to the ground or at a comfortable depth.

Keep your elbows tucked close to your body throughout the movement. Push through your palms to return to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

Dips can be performed using dip bars, parallel bars, or assisted dip machines. By leaning forward during the movement, individuals can effectively target the upper chest while also developing strength and stability in the triceps and shoulders.

Tips for Optimal Upper Chest Development

  • Mind-Muscle Connection: Focus on establishing a strong mind-muscle connection during upper chest exercises. Visualize the targeted muscle contracting and exerting force throughout each repetition.
  • Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the resistance or intensity of your workouts to stimulate muscle growth and adaptation. Incorporate progressive overload techniques such as increasing weight, volume, or frequency over time.
  • Proper Form and Range of Motion: Maintain proper form and technique during upper chest exercises to minimize the risk of injury and maximize muscle activation. Focus on achieving a full range of motion while avoiding excessive momentum or swinging movements.
  • Variety and Adaptation: Incorporate a variety of upper chest exercises into your workout routine to prevent plateaus and stimulate muscle growth from different angles. Experiment with different grips, equipment, and rep ranges to keep your workouts challenging and effective.
  • Rest and Recovery: Allow adequate time for rest and recovery between upper chest workouts to facilitate muscle repair and growth. Aim for at least 48 hours of rest before targeting the same muscle group again.


Developing a well-defined upper chest is essential for achieving a balanced and aesthetically pleasing physique.

By incorporating a combination of compound and isolation exercises targeting the upper chest, individuals can enhance muscle definition, strength, and overall upper body functionality.

Consistency, proper form, and progressive overload are key principles for optimizing upper chest development.

Remember to prioritize rest and recovery to allow for optimal muscle repair and growth.

With dedication and perseverance, anyone can sculpt a strong and symmetrical upper chest that complements their overall physique and fitness goals.