There are many misconceptions around chest training, such as the mythical ‘inner chest’, so you could be forgiven for tuning out and turning off whenever you hear of upper and lower chest. But, the upper and lower chest do exist. The upper is the clavicular head of the pectoralis major, and is a relatively thin band of muscle in comparison to the lower area of the chest (sternal head of the pectoralis major).
While chest exercises such as flies and bench presses do work the clavicular head, they do so to a lesser extent than the sternal head. In order to better target the clavicular head, we need to take the sternal head out of the lift somewhat, by putting ourselves in a position which engages the clavicular head more.
Simply put, we train in an incline position. Excellent upper chest exercises include incline bench presses and incline dumbbell flys.
Because the clavicular head is so much smaller than the bigger, more powerful sternal head, you won’t be able to lift as much weight, so don’t be worried if you appear to be dropping strength when switching to incline; you’re not. You are simply targeting a different part of the muscle group you normally leave under worked.
Getting used to incline exercises can take some time, and takes a lot of concentration on good form, but you’ll get there, and you’ll be glad you did.
Here are some pointers…
It’s important to remember that when using incline exercises, you still need to finish your lifts with your arms pointing vertical at the top, as you always would, to keep control of the weight and to hit the muscles. Don’t incline bench or incline fly and finish with your arms pointing forwards because of the incline – it’s always up. Your chest may be in a different position, but the arms are always up. (You can’t fight gravity, so work with it!)
For incline bench pressing, I recommend using a wide grip as this puts less emphasis on the triceps and more on the chest, which is precisely where you want it. Also, bring the bar down to the clavicle bones or slightly below – the thin bones which runs below your throat and above your pectoral muscles. Just below the clavicle bones are the clavicular head of the pectoralis major; this is your target area, and where you need to bench from and above.