3 Supersets To Grow A Stubborn Upper Chest
I know for many guys including me, stubborn areas that simply don't want to grow. Calves are acommon example. The upper chest is another one.
Growing the upper upper chest is a task that requires time, dedication, and consistency. Assuming you're already in caloric surplus, all you really need to do is shift your focus towards your upper chest muscles for the majority of your chest or push workouts.
Exercises that target the upper pec muscle specifically are imperative to create the most amount of growth.
If you've been following me & this blog, you know that supersets are far superior for hypertrophy than traditional sets.
Perhaps, have you ever heard the term "time under tension"? Extended time of constant muscle tension during a slow movement tempo has a beneficial effect on muscle hypertrophy. You will greatly benefit from adding chest supersets to your workouts.
This article will provide you with video demonstrations of three excellent chest supersets to target your upper chest and finally make it grow.
Let's talk anatomy first.
UPPER CHEST ANATOMY
Your upper chest is the "clavicular head" of the pectoralis muscle. It begins at your clavicle (the origin) and is attached to the upper humerus (the insertion).
This means that your upper chest is involved in 3 main movements:
- Shoulder elevation (raising the arms forward)
- Shoulder adduction (bringing your arm towards your midline)
- Scapular protraction.
If you're not into science & anatomy, all you really need to do is implement the exercises below into your training.
If you pay attention, you'll notice the exercise below involve one of these motions, one way or another.
Two important facts in regards to chest training (according to science):
- Bench angles between 30 – 56 degrees appear to produce greater upper chest activation compared to angles either above or below that range.
- Multiple studies have shown the pectoralis muscle responds well to both low rep and high rep training.
What this means for this post:
- Most exercises shown below will be performed at an incline to increase upper chest activation.
- We get to knock off two birds with one stone; we mainly use the first exercise to target your powerful, explosive type-I muscle fibers with a low rep exercise. The second exercise is mostly used to target those slower, type-II muscle fibers with a higher rep count.
1. Incline DB Bench Press + DB Incline Push Press
Reps: 8-10 & 12-15
Rest: 2 minutes
This is my personal favourite of the 3 supersets.
Dumbbels allow you to work on each pec independently, leading to equal muscle activation and ultimately a well balanced upper body.
The push press afterwards serves as a "burnout" exercise. The chest is already tried, and you should feel it directly in your upper chest.
PROGRESSIONS (for the 1st exercise)
Half To Full Reps
This variation is amazing to increase time under tension. It's also a great variation if your gym has a lack of heavier dumbbells.
Alternating Incline DB Bench Press (Eccentric Hold)
Same as above; this variation is amazing to increase time under tension and for a gym with a lack of heavy dumbbells.
2. Low Cable Chest Fly + High Cable Chest Fly
Reps: 12-15 for each exercise.
Rest: 90 secs
I will usually perform this superset towards the end of my workouts. The low cable chest fly serves a low volume exercise to activate the upper chest. The high cable fly is where the work really happens.
Pointers: Make sure to set the cable height to your neck/chin and have a little bit of a forward lean to really stretch out your pec and create maximum muscle damage.
PROGRESSIONS (for the 1st exercise)
Supine Cable Chest Press
The supine cable chest press is extremely similar to the low cable chest fly but the arm is now bent. This allows you add more weight to the cable machine while still targeting your upper chest by humerus elevation.
Cable Incline Push Press
As an athlete, I prefer this variation over the supine cable chest press. It is much more athletic in nature and involves full body stability through the core and legs.
Pointers: Keep your back leg as straight as possible by squeezing your quad and keep the body in a 45 degree position. Press directly in front of your chest.
3. Incline Smith Machine Bench Press + Incline Push Ups
Reps: 6-8 & near failure
Rest: 2 mins
Don't be fooled: The Smith Machine will allow you to activate your chest musculature slightly. Using a barbell adds a stabilizing effect to the exercise.
The Smith Machine serves as a guide to the bar path and reduces the need for your stabilizing muscles to work hard. This means more chest activation.
As for the push ups, my hands are externally rotated. This allows you to get the full stretch on the eccentric portion of the exercise and destroy that upper chest.
Incline Barbell Guillotine Press
This exercise can be hit or miss. The guillotine press is a KILLER when it comes to building the upper chest.
It will also put you in a dangerous position due to your elbows flaring out and the bar coming down directly over your neck.
Bottom line effectiveness is only as good as the safety of the exercise, and injury prevention should always be treated as a primary concern in your workout plan.
Your ability to train hard and build ongoing muscle size and strength hinges on the fact that you’re healthy enough to do so in the first place.
Use this exercise sparringly & not before you have a very strong base.
Banded Push Ups
The band push up has shown superior upper chest activation over regular push up. It also serves as an easy way to load an exercise with very little use for advanced lifters.
Mind muscle connection.
Concentrate on feeling your upper chest working to create more muscle contraction.
Don't forget about the front delts.
A well developed upper chest will not be complete without well developed anterior delts. You know the front of your shoulder? Do not neglect it. Add a few anterior deltoid exercises during your push or shoulder workout such as the dumbbell front raise & free-weight front plate raise.
Reverse grip bench press?
Surprisingly, science says that a narrow grip activates more of the upper chest than a wide grip during the bench press.
It could be a double edged sword. One, the close grip doesn't allow you to leverage the large pectoralis muscle to press a high amount of weight (see push press above).
Two, the triceps are significantly more active when pressing with a narrow grip.
I'd recommend you stick to a wide grip. You can give the reverse bench or dumbbell press a try if you want to add variety to your program.
If you want the simplest of advice: you need to hit your upper chest with an above average amount of volume and stay in a caloric surplus. Is is really that simple? Yes.
Will it take time for your upper chest to grow? Yes.
Make upper chest training a priority, give yourself time, be consistent and you should see results.
Over training the anterior muscles of the upper body can also lead to upper crossed syndrome. Make sure to have a balanced training plan to keep your upper body well rounded and never neglect your back muscles.