Pump Up Your Upper Pecs


By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT ProSource

Most of you reading this grew up in the “bench now or forever hold your peace” generation. How many pounds you could press was — and sometimes, still is — used as a measure of masculinity. But what separates blind pressers with amorphic pecs from true bodybuilders is upper chest development. That’s because those fully invested in the physique game know that pecs need top-to-bottom size and depth. But it takes a lot more than adjusting the angle on your adjustable bench. If you’re ready to take your chest to a “higher” level, try one of these two intensity techniques to help bring out the full potential in those upper pecs.

Why are you always strongest at the beginning of a set? Partly because your explosive power supply — phosphagen, which is a combination of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and CP (creatine phosphate) — has a short shelf life. After 10-20 seconds, this quick source of energy is depleted and your body starts relying more heavily on other energy pathways. Luckily, this fuel replenishes quickly. 

Do this: Select a weight that allows you to safely complete eight reps on the dumbbell incline press, but only do five. Do five reps and rest 20 seconds. Then, dive back into the set and perform another five reps. Repeat in this fashion until you’ve achieved 25 reps, then rest 1-2 minutes. This constitutes one full rest-pause set. Perform the entire sequence up to three times total.

This works because: By not training to failure, you are able to train with heavier weight for more total reps throughout the workout, adding much needed volume and intensity.


Learn this term: activation potentiation. In a nutshell, this is lab-speak for getting your muscles ready for harder work later. Since your central nervous system determines how forcefully your muscles will contract, you can “trick” it into recruiting more muscle by front-loading your workout with more aggressive movements. 

Do this: After a good warm-up, perform 3-5 sets of 5-6 plyometric push-ups with your feet elevated, resting 1-2 minutes between sets, even if you feel ready to dive back in. After 3-5 sets, head right into your standard incline presses — dumbbell or barbell — and perform 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps to near failure.

This works because: This movement mimics the incline press, firing up your upper pec fibers for the heavier work ahead. Since your fibers are more engaged to start the workout, you should be able to get more clean reps with your 6-8RM weight. Still, it’s a good idea to employ a spotter.

The main idea is that you need to implement a few off-the-beaten-track techniques to jump-start your upper pec growth. Once you start to achieve some symmetry between your upper and lower pecs, you can scale back on the intensity. Here are a few more tips to ensure consistent upper pec growth:

* Always start your routine with incline movements.
* Use a variety of angles — don’t just rely on the standard 30-degree bench for your presses.
* Try finishing your chest routine with high-rep sets of incline flyes, decline push-ups or low-pulley cable flyes to flush your upper pecs with blood, which may trigger new growth.





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