The upper chest/upper pec area just below the collar bones can be one of the toughest areas of the body to fully develop. The visual, proportional and functional benefits of building up this area are tremendous though!
Typcially, when you read about working the upper chest, you will hear a lot about incline exercises such as incline barbell or dumbell presses and incline flyes. While these exercises can be very effective, they don't work well for everybody.
If that sounds like you, these are the exercises that you've been looking for. These exercises are especially powerful when used in conjunction with or even supersetted with incline presses or flyes. They will help hit those hard-to-reach upper-pec muscle fibers that are generally not worked with standard incline movements.
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.
Give these three exercises a try in your next chest workout. That sharp squeeze in your upper chest will let you know EXACTLY how effective these exercises are!
Nick Nilsson is Vice-President of BetterU, Inc. and has been inventing new training techniques and exercises for 17+ years. To view pictures of all three of these exercises in action click here.