How To Get Pecs – Examining Upper Chest Exercises For A Full, Square And Masculine Upper Body
When it comes to building a masculine & strong physique it’s hard to argue against the impact a broad and squared chest has. I think that in order to look the best though, your pecs can’t just be big and bloated. So really, the question isn’t necessarily how to get pecs, but rather how to get strong, masculine pecs.
The best place to start is by doing upper chest exercises.
It’s almost instinctual for us guys to hit the flat bench as soon as we walk in the gym… It’s like we’re pulled that way without even thinking. But in reality, the flat bench probably isn’t the best place to start. Sure, it will help add size to your chest, but it would be much better to focus on the upper chest exercises first.
Upper Chest Exercises To Get Pecs
In addition to starting on your upper pecs first, I have found that it makes a big difference when you concentrate on form so that you can really contract your upper pecs as you lift while doing your chest workouts. You won’t be able to lift nearly as much as you are used to on the flat bench, so you’re going to have to set aside your ego… don’t worry, soon enough you won’t mind!
It can be surprisingly difficult to get a good contraction from your upper pecs but by doing so you will see a big difference in the amount of definition and size you get. It is even better to go with a slightly lighter weight at first until you can get a good squeeze.
My Favorite Upper Chest Exercises
Here are a few of my favorites. These are the exact exercises that I do but you can do whatever you feel works best for you. As long as they are done in an incline they will target the top portion of our pecs.
You’ll notice that I have actually eliminated the flat bench completely from my routine and this has made a big difference.
- Incline Barbell Press (video)
- Incline Dumbbell Fly (video)
- Incline Dumbbell Press (video) – There are different types of variations including rotating the palms inward as your press, that really hits the inner pecs nicely.
- Incline Squeeze Press (video) – This is by far one of my favorite upper chest exercises. The key to this is to squeeze the dumbbells together as tightly as you can throughout the entire movement.
- Decline Pushups (video) – To make these challenging, I like to elevate my feet and/or place a weight on my back… sometimes that being my daughter!
Here are some key takeaways to keep in mind while doing pushups and pressing exercises so that you can tailor the exercises to your needs.
- Keeping your hands close together while your elbows are wide (pigeon toed pushups & diamond pushups for example) focuses the tension on your inner pecs. However, keeping your hands close together while your elbows are also close to your body will take some of the tension off of your pecs and onto your arms.
- The wider your grip, the more the focus will be on your outer pecs. These could include traditional pushups with a wide grip and duck toed pushups.
How To Get Pecs That Look Solid
This is where your sets and reps really come into play. Generally, I like to do 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps on 2 different exercises. This gives your muscles a solid and dense look. This is not, however the most effective way to build size, but this is how to get your pecs to look solid.
In order to add some size to your upper pecs, you will need to do more total reps than that. When I am trying to add volume and gain muscle, I have been very pleased with the 5×5 approach as this will help your muscles maintain the dense look. If pure size is your goal, which isn’t too bad of an idea for the upper pecs specifically, then being in the rep range of 8-12 would be more beneficial.
But I don’t even do that for size… Here is a slightly different approach by Rusty Moore, the author of Visual Impact. He took a former Soviet special forces trainer’s mass building routine and slightly modified it for a very practical and effective routine.
A Routine to Put on Size
First off, we’ll be doing 2-3 exercises per body part to ensure that we fully develop the chest muscles. Here is an example of how to build your pecs fairly quickly with this routine – these are not necessarily the exact exercises you have to do, but this will at least give you an idea how to create the workout.
- Incline Dumbbell Press – 8 sets of 5 reps
- Incline Dumbbell Fly – 8 sets of 5 reps
- Incline Barbell Press – 8 sets of 5 reps
Rep one should be with a heavy amount of weights that you could only do 6 times (stop at 5 though). Rest 30-60 seconds and do 5 more reps at 80% of the original weight. Rest 30-60 seconds and then do 5 more reps at the same weight you did on your second set. Repeat this until you’ve done 8 total sets of each exercise.
If you decide to do only 2 exercises than you can do 12 sets of each exercise so that your total amount of sets ends up at 24 – doesn’t have to be exact, but that’s a good place to start.
Build Square Pecs, Not Pecs That Look Like Breasts!
By focusing your workouts on upper chest exercises instead of middle or lower pec exercises, you are ultimately going to build better a look. I wouldn’t say that completely neglecting the middle and lower pecs is the way to go, but by focusing on the harder to build, upper pecs, you will see a more drastic effect and then you can work in other exercises down the road.
Remember — it’s not just having pecs that’s important… it’s more important to focus on getting pecs that look full, masculine and square that really makes a difference!
Alykhan - Fitness Breakout
February 27, 2011 @ 7:41 am
Incline squeeze press is probably my favorite chest exercise also. You really feel this in the upper chest. I also like wide-grip pushups. Chest is always an area I’ve always struggled to build, so these days, I focus almost exclusively on these upper chest exercises and have given up on traditional chest exercises such as flat bench. Great post.
Kevin - Fitness B&W
February 28, 2011 @ 1:29 pm
Thanks Alykhan! It seems that developing the chest is either fairly easy or fairly difficult for a lot of people I know… not too many in between. Either way, sounds like you’re on track – wide-grip pushups are definitely awesome for targeting the pecs and teaching your body the mind to muscle connection.
The Underwear Body
March 13, 2011 @ 4:45 am
Way too many guys are flat bench addicts and this kind of thing can just make you look a bit bloated, and in t-shirts you can just look like a fat guy! It also takes away from the lean wide shouldered look that really turns heads. Since I started focusing on my upper and outer pecs I have a much better look
July 8, 2012 @ 3:32 pm
hey please help me!! 1st of all what is 80% of the original weight? Well i’m shahrukh from India. I’m doing gym past 1.5 yrs, the results are good but i get disappointed when i see my chest 🙁
My chest is very rounded (lower chest) not square as it should be, lots of muscle on lower chest, it looks absurd to me. My question is: what all sets should I do? I do 1. Incline Barbell press 2. Inc. DB press 3. Inc. DB rotating press 4. Inc. DB Fly 5. Decline Fly 6. Butterfly 7. Cable crossovers and sometimes pullover in the last. I do 3 sets of more than 10 reps each.
Note: I do chest once in a month
I want a perfect chest. Please do reply!!
December 19, 2012 @ 11:12 pm
I’m gonna focus on various incline movements for the next 2-3 months and compare pics from before and after. I’ll let you guys know about my chest progress. I used to f*** chest day now my progress has been declining lately I gotta get my chest game back up! It starts now. THB Train Hard Boys
January 19, 2013 @ 8:23 am
I started working out 3 months ago and I find it quite difficult to build that square looking chest. I heard people say that not everybody can achieve that line in the middle, when the right side and left side of your pecs actually meet. I see beginners in my gym that already have some muscle in that middle (inner) area, they only need to develope that muscle. However in my case I have a clear gap in that area, in the middle area I can fit my thumb in there. My question is, will I be able to develop that square chest, will my pecs start expanding towards the middle eventually? I am currently focusing on flyes (incline, decline) and peck decks. Any suggestions?
May 19, 2013 @ 7:40 am
Hey, I’ve been working out for many years now, and I have a big chest, not bad, but not square like I am starting to want. Actually, I haven’t done much cardio in all my time exercising. I get winded after a basketball game, whereas everybody else is only sweating.. Maybe I just have a bit too much body fat, and need to do some hardcore running along with the need to focus more on my upper chest exercises… Good post.
May 22, 2013 @ 1:45 pm
Thanks for this article! Been following your advice for a while now and I’m starting to see positive results in my pecs. Still got some man tits to get rid of, but getting there!
– Greetings from Norway
August 16, 2013 @ 8:38 am
Can somebody advise when to start increasing the weight on each exercise please