When you are weight training and specifically working the pectorals, whatever move you enforce creates a full contraction of the entire muscle. In other words, you can’t do a pushup and only engage the inside of your pecs and leave the other areas disengaged. So it brings to mind the question, “Can you target your upper pecs?” If every chest exercise is creating a full pec contraction, then what’s the point of trying to focus on just the upper pecs? The truth is there are ways to target your upper pecs.

positive man at chest exercises machineThe upper portion of your pecs has a different nerve innervation than the lower part of the pecs. Therefore, it is possible to target that area, because the muscle in the upper pec, though part of the pectoralis major, acts like a separate muscle. You just have to focus on that area. But how?

 These exercises are designed to recruit and activate the upper pecs, because they need the upper chest muscles to perform the exercise properly. If you were doing an exercise that was better suited for the lower pecs to take over, like the decline bench press, then the lower pecs would be activated. It’s important, also, to train your brain for optimal upper pec activation. The upper pecs are responsible for flexion and adduction of the arm and shoulder, so to truly engage this muscle area, think of slightly shrugging your shoulders (lifting toward your ears) and slightly pulling your chest together (adducting). This will ensure you are really targeting your upper pecs.

Try these exercises below to target your upper pecs:

Incline Bench Press: Setting your bench at an incline helps initiate and target the upper pecs. Pack your shoulders as described above. Keep the incline to around 30-60 degrees, as anything steeper will allows the shoulders to do most of the work. You can use a barbell or dumbbell, but using dumbbells will allow you to eliminate a lot of the shoulder and focus on upper pec.

Hyght Flies. These flies can be performed on an inclined bench (30 to 60 degrees) with light dumbbells. Different from regular chest flies, the Hyght flies begin with your arms hanging down at your side. Your palms should face forward as you lift your arms up and adduct across your chest, keeping your arms relatively straight. Keep your palms pointing toward the sky and bring the bottom (pinkie side) of the dumbbells together to form a triangular path just above your nose.

Cable Fly Lift. Take one end of a cable fly machine or tube attached low on a door. Much like the Hyght flies, lift the arm and squeeze the weight across your body. This isolation exercise will really help you target the upper pecs.

Modified Standing Dumbbell Chest Press. Traditional shoulder presses start with the arms at 90 degrees out to the side of the body and a 90 degree bend at the elbow. To begin the modified version that focuses on the upper pec, bring the elbow close into your ribcage with a bend of the elbow as you hold a dumbbell close to your chest.  Instead of thinking “press the weight up”, think “lift with the upper pec” as the elbow raises and addicts to cross the nipple line. Return to the starting position and repeat.