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The Best Upper Chest Exercise – The Secret To Perfect Square Pec Development

by Garry Davidson

Best Upper Chest Exercise

Anyone can build a big chest, but most guys have no idea how to get the right proportions that will give you that truly unstoppable, masculine look.

Tell me something. Do you want to look drop-dead gorgeous with people turning their heads to check you out on the beach, or do you want to look like an overgrown freak that makes people wanna throw up when they look at you?

If you’re in the game to look great with stone-slabs for a chest that gets women weak at the knees, then today’s exercise is definitely one you should be doing.

See, most guys who work on their chest, end up getting a huge lower chest because the lower chest is just naturally wired to respond to exercise better than the upper chest.

The lower chest is naturally thicker and more responsive to growth. Guys with an overgrown lower chest end up looking like they have man boobs, even if they don’t have any breast tissue or fat on their chest.

The secret to getting the perfect look, is not to have a sloping chest that sticks out at the bottom, but to have a vertical drop – like a cliff-face – with the upper chest being almost as thick as the lower.

This is important for all guys who want to build a powerful-looking chest, and it’s especially important if you have man boobs, because a thick, muscular upper chest can make your man boobs almost invisible!

Now don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of guys who do understand this, because I see guys at the gym doing incline bench presses all the time, but the trouble with the regular old barbell incline bench press is it targets way too much of the anterior (front) deltoids of the shoulders.

Incline Bench Press Anterior Deltoid Activation

The traditional barbell incline bench press results in too much anterior deltoid involvement

See, EMG studies have shown that the more you incline the bench, the more you involve the anterior deltoids, and the less you involve the chest.

So what’s the solution? How do you work out the upper chest while minimizing the involvement of the shoulders? Well the secret is a powerful exercise that was used by the legendary Steve Reeves to carve out a truly thick set of upper pecs that all his competitors were jealous of.

Who was Steve Reeves? Steve Reeves was the bodybuilding superstar before Arnold. He was one of the biggest icons of modern bodybuilders that ever existed, and has long been considered the pinnacle of the male physique. Born in 1926, Reeves won every major title of his era, retiring from competitive bodybuilding in 1950.

Steve Reeves Chest

Steve Reeves had perfectly even chest development. He was more concerned about proportionality and looking great, than he was about size.

Now, back in those days, bodybuilding was all about proportionality and achieving the ideal masculine look. Unlike bodybuilding the way it is today, it wasn’t about taking steroids and getting as big as you possibly can. Face it, today’s competitive bodybuilders look like freaks and women and people in general are repulsed by them.

Even most of Reeve’s competitors at the time were open about the fact that Reeves had the perfect male physique. One of Reeves’ most envied body parts was his chest. He had very unique square pec development, with a particularly thick set of upper pecs.

Everyone at the time tried to duplicate Reeve’s results. After questioning him, they found that the secret to his success was the incline dumbbell press.

Steve Reeves Incline Dumbbell Press

Steve Reeves’ secret to his perfect chest proportions was the incline dumbbell press

Now hold on, isn’t the dumbbell incline press the same as the barbell incline press?

No, not at all. With the dumbbell incline press, not only can you get a greater stretch at the bottom of the movement, but EMG studies have shown that you can get a more intense contraction in your pecs at the top of the movement, especially if you bring the dumbbells in toward one another at the top.

By bringing the dumbbells in at the top, not only do you isolate the pecs (as opposed to the anterior deltoids) better than in the barbell incline press, but you also stimulate those inner fibers near the midline of your upper chest, to really bring out that pec separation line.

Being able to bring your hands together at the top of the movement using dumbbells, is the secret key that Steve Reeves used to develop a thick upper chest that was the envy of all of his competitors.

Although Reeves wasn’t the first guy to ever use dumbbells, he was one of the only guys of that era who was known to use the incline dumbbell press, at a time when everyone else was using barbells. Nobody else knew that dumbbells allow you to isolate the upper pecs better than a barbell ever could.

How To Perform The Incline Dumbbell Press

You can do the incline dumbbell press with your torso anywhere between a 30 and 45 degree angle to the floor.

If you go much lower than 30 degrees, then you won’t be putting enough emphasis on the upper chest. Go higher than 45 degrees, and you’ll be putting too much emphasis on the shoulders. Personally, I prefer 45 degrees :p

You will find that you can lift less on an incline press than you can on a flat bench press. This is because the upper portion of the pectoralis major muscle is naturally thinner and weaker than the lower portion.

1. Lie back on a bench inclined at 30-45 degrees with a dumbbell in each hand resting on your thighs.
2. Using your thighs to help push the dumbbells up, assume the starting position by lifting the dumbbells to your chest.

Use an overhand grip as you would with a barbell. Your elbows should be flared out, with your upper arms at 90° from your torso.

Here at the bottom of the movement, your hands should be wider than shoulder-width apart, allowing your elbows to go down below the level of your chest.

Incline Dumbbell Press Bottom

3. While breathing out, push the dumbbells up in a slight arch, so the inner bells of each dumbbell touch at the top.
4. Tense your pecs hard at the top, trying for a hard contraction.

 Incline Dumbbell Press Top

5. While breathing in, lower the weights back to the starting position, being sure to get a deep stretch at the bottom of the movement.
6. When you are done, place the dumbbells back on your thighs and then on the floor.

Incline Dumbbell Press Video

In case the instructions above aren’t clear enough, here’s a video of the incline dumbbell press in action. This stuff is much easier to see in a video, don’t ask why I bother with the above instructions… eaah ok, I suppose I do it because I have this sneaking suspicion that not everyone likes watching videos.

In this video, I got my chest sculpting expert buddy Mihailo, to do an incline dumbbell press. I did ask him to do it at 45 degrees, but he went ahead and did it at 30 degrees. If you can, I really do prefer that you go at it at 45 degrees.

Summary

Ok, so the key to a powerful set of pecs is to develop a thick upper chest, which gives you that square-cut appearance with a vertical drop.

Upper pec development is tough, and most guys get it wrong by either doing barbell incline work, or neglecting incline presses altogether.

The secret to ultimate upper pec development is to do incline dumbbell presses like good ol’ Steve Reeves back in the day when bodybuilding was all about proportionality and looking great as a man.

EMG studies have shown that bringing the dumbbells together at the top, helps not only to isolate the pecs, but also to contract those inner pec fibers, which give you that upper chest thickness.

Using The Incline Dumbbell Press For Losing Man Boobs

Developing your upper chest is an excellent way to improve the look of your chest if you have man boobs. Guys with man boobs usually have too much fat overlying their lower chest, making their lower chest seem bigger than it should. By developing your upper chest, you can really improve the way you look by making your lower chest look smaller.

To really lose man boobs though, as well as using exercises like the incline dumbbell press to develop the upper chest, you also need to lose the fat over that lower chest. When you lose your man boobs (by using the methods I reveal in this video) and develop your chest muscles the way Steve Reeves did, you’ll soon be able to take off your top and look good on the beach, at the pool, or in a t-shirt out in the summer sun.

Losing man boobs really isn’t that hard when you know the right way to go about it. When you discover the secrets I unveil in my video, you can feel comfortable in a t-shirt or topless just a few short weeks from now. The ideas in my video are somewhat unusual though, but if you see it through to the end, I promise you’ll never look at your man boobs in the same way again. You can watch it here:

Click here to watch my free video on how to lose man boobs



{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

martand naik August 15, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Hi Gary. I have a shoulder problem so I don’t prefer bringing my elbows too far down or flaring them while doing presses. In fact I only do floor dumbell presses. I don’t have access to an incline bench either. What would be a good upper chest exercise for me?
Martand india.

Reply

Garry Davidson August 16, 2014 at 9:43 am

Dumbbell pullovers from the edge of your bed. If you have a shoulder problem, then it might be best to avoid flaring your elbows. Flaring your elbows and bringing your elbows down, puts your shoulders is a weak position. This can be dangerous if you have a pre-existing shoulder injury/problem, or if you are overtraining or lifting too heavy. However, the fact that your shoulders are in a weak position, is a signal in itself to make your chest muscles work harder – since the chest muscles play a large role in stabilizing and moving the shoulder joint.

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Barry December 9, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Mate-I have a big chest (111cms) but not good upper chest development. Read your article on dumbbell presses re Steeve REES. HAVE BEEN TRAINING FOR YEARS BUT NOT GOOD UPPER CHEST. would LIKE VERY much to get it..
As well as the dumbbell presses should I also do:1.dumbell pullover on inclined bench 2.Dumbell pullover across horizontal bench 3. Cables from high level in the form of flies?
How many times a week should I train the upper chest and how many sets?
Many thanks Garry. I live in Australia
Barry

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Garry Davidson December 14, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Hi Barry

Yes, dumbbell pullovers are some of the best exercises for developing the upper chest. If you have access to an incline bench, then even better. There’s no need to do it both on a flat AND incline bench, either one will do. With cables, I would suggest you have the pulley in a LOW position, and pull upwards in the form of flys – this would target the upper chest.

I would suggest you train the chest three to four days a week, training on alternate days. In terms of sets and reps, if you want to increase the size of your chest muscles, there are many different hypertrophy protocols you can choose from. I’d do multiple sets of 8-15 reps. You might try 3 sets of 10 reps, or even Vince Gironda’s famous 8×8 protocol for example.

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Rohan December 18, 2014 at 10:18 am

Hello Sir,
I don’t have any access to gym. I mostly do free hand exercises at home including, incline and decline pushup, dips. But can you give me some idea how to do incline dumbbells at home? I am 18 years of age and i live in India.

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Garry Davidson December 18, 2014 at 11:27 am

Hi Rohan

One thing you can do is to get a stability ball. These are great for doing dumbbell incline presses on. They are low cost, easy to store (when I had one I used to tuck it away on top of my wardrobe), and can be used for many different exercises to replace the bench. The only downside is, on a stability ball, you can’t lift very heavy weights on a barbell.

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Attiq Rehman March 11, 2015 at 8:31 pm

HI David

Thanks so much for the article, truly helpful. It made me realise I need to ditch incline barbell and replace it with incline dumbbell press. The only question I have is where do fly’s come into this? As I’ve heard fly’s are very important in achieving the overall shape of the chest, I normally do these at the end of my routine.

Also what are your thoughts on decline bench exercises, if I already have decent mass on my lower chest do you think decline is a good idea.

Best Wishes
Attiq

Reply

Garry Davidson March 12, 2015 at 7:35 pm

Hi Attiq

Flys are a good isolation exercise for the outer pecs, but they are only necessary in the advanced stages, when you already have a good deal of mass in your chest and are looking to refine the shape of your chest.

Studies show that decline presses don’t isolate the lower pecs, but work the upper pecs just as much. You don’t need to do both flat bench presses and decline presses, just pick one or the other. You can look at dips as an extreme form of decline press, and I talk about the benefits of dips in this article.

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Mayur Choudhary April 5, 2015 at 8:07 am

How to get the lower chest in shape with a perfect line under them Or what to do for upper cheat at home

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Garry Davidson April 6, 2015 at 11:42 am

Hey Mayur. To get that perfect separation line between your lower chest and your abdomen, the most important thing is body fat reduction, you need to lose both chest fat and abdominal fat. The following article will help you do this, the info on losing chest fat through hormonal methods, will also help you lose abdominal fat:

http://chestsculpting.com/how-to-get-rid-of-your-man-boobs-fast/

If you have a bench at home, then the incline dumbbell press is an excellent exercise for the upper chest. If you don’t have a bench, then you can use an exercise ball instead of a bench, just put the ball against a wall and angle yourself at, say, 45 degrees and push up with a set of dumbbells.

Exercise balls are very cheap, but if you don’t have room for one at home, then the dumbbell pullover is a PHENOMENAL exercise for the upper chest! You can also do decline pushups with your feet elevated.

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Christian April 9, 2015 at 5:39 am

Hey Garry, I recently started using the incline dumbbell press (because of this great article) My question to you is what is the recommended number I should do to see results. I’m 6’3 300 pounds. I am currently doing 50 (5 sets of 10) starting with 20 pounds and than 25 etc., ending with 40 pound dumbells. What would you recommend?

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Garry Davidson April 9, 2015 at 10:14 pm

Hi Christian. Which rep and set scheme you use depends on what you want to achieve. Generally you should always be doing multiple sets, because studies show that multiple sets are better than single sets, whether you are after strength or muscle hypertrophy. With resistance training, there are generally 3 things you can achieve:

1. Strength – heavy weight and low reps
2. Hypertrophy – moderate weight and moderate reps
3. Endurance – light weight and high reps

If you want bigger upper chest muscles because you want to improve the appearance of your chest, then you want to stick to hypertrophy training to begin with. For hypertrophy, I generally recommend doing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 12 reps. This is just a general guide though, other rep schemes can work too, like the 5 sets of 10 you mention. There’s also Vince Gironda’s 8×8, which works really well for hypertrophy. Vince did mention though, not to stick to 8×8 for too long, as it would lead to overtraining. Though 5×10 can work, it’s a little too much volume, and falls more into the realm of endurance training rather than hypertrophy.

There’s little point in starting with a lighter weight and increasing the weight in subsequent sets. This is called pyramid training, and I really don’t see the benefit to it. Reverse pyramid training is better, where you start with a heavy weight and end with the lightest weight. This acts as a sort of hybrid training, where you train for a little bit of strength and a little bit of hypertrophy. But it’s better to stick to either strength training entirely or hypertrophy training entirely, that way you get in either a GOOD strength workout, or a GOOD hypertrophy workout. So it’s best to stick to the same weight throughout the sets – a moderately heavy weight that you can lift through 3 to 4 sets of 8-12 reps.

My favorite for hypertrophy is 3 sets of 10 reps, but this does depend on the muscle group involved. Some muscle groups in the body actually grow better with a lower rep range and heavier weight, and other muscle groups respond better to a slightly higher rep range and lower weight.

To find out about this in more detail, take a look at the Chest Sculpting Blueprint here:

http://chestsculpting.com/how-to-lose-chest-fat/

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Ray May 5, 2015 at 5:48 pm

Garry, thanks for the helpful article on this. What would be a good way to do this with a TRX and just bodyweight and even kettlebells?

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Garry Davidson May 6, 2015 at 3:16 pm

Hi Ray. TRX provides an excellent bodyweight alternative that simulates the incline dumbbell press. Simply use a ceiling suspension to do pushups, bringing your hands in as you push out – like this guy is doing in this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b4fUS7yITAw

Try to elevate your feet as well, so you target more of your upper pecs.

With kettlebells, you can use them on a bench. Use a couple of kettlebells in place of dumbbells.

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Tony May 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Hi Gary,

Good article pal, I’ve been training on and off since I was 16 I’m now 32, I have great front and side deltoid development and triceps are very strong, yet my upper chest isn’t great. I don’t do flat bench I haven’t for years my chest day incline dumbbell press 4 sets 10-12 at with 45kg dembells incline flys 25kg db’s and cables, then into incline session. I do fell that with my shoulders and tricep being very strong features that they are taking a lot of the strain of the weights and not my chest. Any ideas ??

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Garry Davidson May 6, 2015 at 3:24 pm

Hi Tony.

Do this, I promise you’ll get some amazing results in your upper chest:

– Do squats, 3 sets of 8 reps, with a 1.5-2 minute rest interval.
– Immediately after squats, do 3 sets of 8 dumbbell pullovers, being sure to use progressive loading over time (1-1.5 min rest interval)

I’ve found the testosterone boost you get form doing leg training, has the greatest effect on the exercise you do immediately after. The good thing about dumbbell pullovers is it isolates the upper chest, and bypasses both the shoulders and triceps.

An alternative unlikely exercise that builds the upper chest, while bypassing the triceps and shoulders, is the chinup. Both these exercises involve the movement of chest extension. The dumbbell pullover isolates the upper chest, while the chinup stimulates the entire chest.

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Aryan Arora May 14, 2015 at 2:15 pm

Hi Sir,
Actually I want to make a perfect square chest. I’m 20 years old and has shoulders 38 inch. And height of 5.7
Actually I want a proper exercise schedule so that I can make a perfect square chest. I have a bit bulky lower chest. I want exercise which don’t affect my height and also if possible other than square chest exercise. Please suggest some exercise or something which will boost my height. I’m from India

Reply

Garry Davidson May 14, 2015 at 2:52 pm

Hi Aryan. I don’t know about boosting your height, but I do go into detail about how to sculpt a square chest in my program, the Chest Sculpting Blueprint, which you can learn more about here:

http://chestsculpting.com/new-training-secrets/

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Harshad June 8, 2015 at 2:59 pm

hey Garry

i have bought ur programe “how to loose man boobs natuarally” , the first thing i want to tell u that book is superb and very very informative i dont know where the night was gone reading the book i couldnt stop myself reading the book whole night.

It has given a totally new look to make the physique.i have already started working on weight training as per the book but i am struggling with the diet especially with the protein intake since i am pure vegetarian. And u mentioned in the book that it gonna be very difficult as a vegetarian to loose chest fat.so is there any alternative for that??

And one more can i take pulses or it should be avoided??

Reply

Garry Davidson June 10, 2015 at 9:55 am

Hi Harshad. It’s more difficult as a vegetarian, but not impossible. One of the main issues is your reliance on grains as a vegetarian. I see a lot of vegetarians who are overweight and who have man boobs. Too much reliance on grains and low testosterone due to no animal fats are largely to blame. I would advise you to eat lots of eggs, get yourself some whey protein, and avoid grains as much as you can. Replace rice and pasta with vegetables, nuts, seeds, and eggs.

I generally advise non-vegetarians with man boobs to avoid pulses (legumes). Legumes are a bit of a grey area, since they have a good micronutrient and protein content, yet they are very carb dense. As a vegetarian though, legumes are good if you are using them to replace grains. But do moderate your intake.

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