The Anatomy Of The Chest

Most people think that to develop the upper chest you need to focus on the incline bench press. A recent study however shows that muscle activity of the upper pectoralis during an incline press increased by only 5% as compared to the flat bench press. Muscle activity in the front deltoids increased by 85%. [1]

The Reverse-Grip Bench Press

The answer for increased muscle activity in the upper chest lies in the flat bench. Instead of a standard grip try using an underhand grip in an exercise called the reverse grip bench press. Be sure to use a wider than shoulder width grip. This will maximize the involvement of the upper chest and minimize the involvement of the triceps.

The reverse grip helps keep your elbows in and your upper arms parallel to your torso. Moving your arms in this manner increases the use of upper pec muscle fibers. The regular grip bench press uses more of the lower and middle pec muscle fibers. One study shows that muscle activity of the upper pectoralis increased by 30% when using the reverse grip as opposed to the regular overhand grip.[2]

Tips For The Reverse-Grip Bench Press:

  1. Use a spotter to un-rack the bar.
  2. If you're training by yourself, un-rack the bar with a normal grip. Then lower the bar to your chest and carefully change your grip to a reverse grip.
  3. Be sure to push the bar up in an arc above your head. This will ensure that you emphasize more of the upper pec.

Develop The Upper Chest

Watch The Video - 04:29

Reverse-grip bench press
3 sets, 8-12 reps
Barbell Bench Press - Medium Grip
2 sets, 8-12 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
3 sets, 8-12 reps
Incline Dumbbell Flyes
2 sets, 12-15 reps
Cable Crossover
3 sets, 12-15 reps
Barbell Incline Bench Press Medium-Grip
3 sets, 12-15 reps
  1. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.
  2. Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College, Toronto.

About the Author

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani, Ph.D.

Jim Stoppani holds a doctorate in exercise physiology from the University of Connecticut and has been the personal nutrition and health consultant to numerous celebrity clients, including...

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