Check out 4 science-based steps to blow up your upper chest and improve your strength and looks.
The chest, a prominent part of the upper body, is anatomically divided into three main sections: the upper chest, middle chest, and lower chest. Each section represents a different area of the pectoral muscles and can be selectively targeted through various exercises.
The upper chest, also known as the clavicular or upper pectorals, is located near the collarbone. Emphasizing this area often involves exercises with an inclined angle, such as an incline bench press. The incline places more stress on the upper fibres of the pectoral muscles, contributing to a well-rounded chest development.
The middle chest, often referred to as the sternal or mid-pectoral region, is worked through exercises like the traditional flat bench press. This compound movement engages the entire pectoral muscle, promoting overall chest strength and size. It forms the central portion of a well-defined chest.
The lower chest, also called the abdominal or lower pectorals, is targeted by exercises that involve a decline angle, such as a decline bench press. This movement directs the resistance towards the lower part of the chest muscles, contributing to a comprehensive and sculpted chest appearance. Balancing exercises for each section ensures a harmonious and aesthetically pleasing chest development.
But if you really want to focus on your upper chest, you could do worse than following Jeff Nippard’s 4 science-based steps to blow up your game. Jeff Nippard is a natural professional bodybuilder and fitness coach who shares tips and training programs on his YouTube channel.
See below what he had to say about how to increase your upper chest gains.
4 Science-Based Steps to Blow Up Your Upper Chest
Before getting into Nippard’s 4 specific strategies for growing the upper chest as quickly as possible, here are three chest prioritisation principles that you should keep in mind:
- Hit your chest early in the workout for better performance and more overload (you are strongest and rested at the beginning meaning you can lift more weight)
- Tally up your current chest sets per week à 12-20 sets per week is optimal; add 1-2 sets per week if you are not there yet, but stay within the 12-20 sets rule
- Hit chest more frequently – if you do 20 sets of chest training only once a week, you could see better results by doing 10 sets twice a week; same volume, but more frequency usually translates to better muscle stimulation
Okay, with that out of the way, Nippard’s 4 science-based steps to blow up your upper chest are, in a nutshell, these:
- Modify your bench press technique
- Use more incline presses
- Incorporate more non-traditional chest exercises
- Fill in further volume with isolation work
“If you can build up a strong bench press, it’s going to have strength carryover to all other exercises covered in this list,” Nippard says.
Although the flat bench press is usually done to target the middle chest, Nippard explains that you modify your flat bench press technique to improve your upper chest. The first modification would be to use lighter weights for higher reps. You can also use a closer grip which will hit the upper fibres of the chest better.
For step number 2, use more incline presses, Nippard suggests to use a push/pull/leg routine in which in the first push workout you use the “modify bench press technique” and in the second day of push exercises you add incline dumbbell presses to your workout.
Utilising a dumbbell for your incline presses will give you more stretch of the muscle at the bottom of the exercise compared to the barbell version. The muscle sees more stimulation when put under stress while it is stretched.
For step 3, some of the more non-traditional chest exercises, Jeff Nippard suggests the reverse grip bench press, band press, and banded push-ups. “Varying exercise selection matters for maximising muscle growth,” Nippard says.
Lastly, if you still have some sets available to hit the mark of 12-20 sets per week for maximum muscle growth, Nippard says you should focus on isolation moves to encourage better hypertrophy on your upper chest.
Nippard suggests the low-to-high cable flyes. Using the cable machine ensures that tension is constant throughout the movement, whereas if you opt for the dumbbell fly, you won’t get as much contraction when bringing the weights up.
You can opt to cross out your arms at the top of the cable flyes to max out upper pec contraction and range of motion.
Nippard finalises his science-based steps to blow up the upper chest by providing a free killer chest workout program:
- Bench press – 3 sets of 10-12 reps
- Low to high cable flyes – 3 sets of 15-20 reps
- Reverse grip bench press – 2 sets of 10-12 reps
- Incline dumbbell press – 3 sets of 8-10 reps
- JC band press or banded push-ups – 3 sets of 20 reps
For a full explanation from Nippard himself, watch the entire video below.
Training your chest can have a number of benefits for your overall fitness and physical health. Here are some reasons why you might want to train your chest:
- Strengthening your chest muscles: Chest exercises like bench press, push-ups, and dumbbell flyes can help you build stronger chest muscles. This can improve your overall upper body strength and make it easier to perform daily activities that require pushing or pulling.
- Aesthetics: A well-developed chest can enhance the appearance of your upper body, giving you a more balanced and proportional physique.
- Improved posture: A strong chest can also help improve your posture by pulling your shoulders back and helping you maintain a more upright position.
- Increased metabolism: Chest exercises can also help boost your metabolism, which can help you burn more calories throughout the day.
- Improved athletic performance: A strong chest can improve your performance in a variety of sports and activities that require upper body strength, such as basketball, football, and rock climbing.
Overall, training your chest can have numerous benefits for your physical health, appearance, and athletic performance. It’s important to incorporate a variety of exercises into your chest workout routine to ensure that you’re targeting all the muscles in your chest, as well as other muscles in your upper body.
How Often Should You Train the Chest?
The frequency at which you should train your chest depends on several factors such as your fitness goals, overall fitness level, and your training program.
In general, it is recommended that you train your chest muscles at least once per week to see improvements in strength and muscle growth. However, some individuals may benefit from training their chest more frequently, such as 2-3 times per week, especially if they are more experienced lifters and are looking to target specific areas of the chest.
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t train your chest muscles on consecutive days as this can lead to overtraining and increase the risk of injury. Additionally, it’s important to allow your muscles to rest and recover between workouts, so that they have time to repair and grow.
Overall, the frequency at which you should train your chest will depend on your individual goals and fitness level, so it’s best to consult with a certified fitness professional who can help you design a personalized workout plan that meets your needs.
How Heavy Should you Lift When Training for Muscle Growth?
When training for muscle growth (hypertrophy), the weight you lift, often referred to as the training load or intensity, is an important factor to consider. Here are some guidelines to help determine how heavy you should lift:
Use a weight that challenges you: To promote muscle growth, it’s important to use a weight that challenges your muscles. This means selecting a weight that allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions within the hypertrophy rep range (generally 8 to 12 reps) with proper form, while also feeling challenging towards the end of each set.
Choose a weight that elicits fatigue: The weight you select should cause fatigue in the target muscles by the end of each set. You should feel a sense of muscular burn or fatigue during the final few reps, indicating that the weight is appropriately challenging.
Progressive overload: To continue building muscle, it’s crucial to gradually increase the demands on your muscles over time. This can be achieved through progressive overload, which involves gradually increasing the weight you lift as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. Aim to progressively increase the weight as you become more comfortable with a certain weight range to continue stimulating muscle growth.
Form and technique: While it’s important to challenge yourself with heavier weights, it’s equally important to prioritize proper form and technique. Lifting weights that are too heavy and compromise your form can increase the risk of injury and reduce the effectiveness of the exercise. Focus on maintaining good form throughout each repetition, even when using challenging weights.
Individual capabilities: The appropriate weight will vary depending on your individual capabilities, strength level, and experience. What may be heavy for one person might be light for another. It’s important to listen to your body and select weights that are appropriate for your current fitness level.
Variation in training: Incorporating a variety of rep ranges and training modalities can be beneficial for overall muscle development. While the hypertrophy rep range (8-12 reps) is commonly associated with muscle growth, including both higher rep ranges (12-15+) and lower rep ranges (6-8) in your training can provide different stimuli and promote well-rounded muscle development.
Remember, finding the right weight is a process of trial and error. Start with a weight that challenges you within the recommended rep range, and adjust as needed based on your individual capabilities and progression. Consulting with a fitness professional or personal trainer can also provide guidance and help you determine the appropriate weight selection for your specific goals and needs.