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Amazing Workouts for Weak Upper Chest

Q: In many of your programs, like the Basic Power-Density Mass Workout, you use only the “ultimate exercise” for most -bodyparts—a few heavy sets, then a 4X sequence. For chest it’s decline presses. Can I add incline work? My upper chest is very weak.

A: The decline press is the best for chest because it hits the lower- and upper-pec segments, according to an EMG study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (11:163-167. 1997). That’s surprising to most but a fact nonetheless.

The scientists attached electrodes to the subjects’ upper and lower pectorals for decline and incline presses. Trainees used a 30 degree incline bench and a 15 degree decline bench. The study found that the incline and decline presses activated the upper-pec muscles equally. The lower pecs, however, are activated to a greater extent on the declines. That means declines are most efficient for getting development from top to bottom.

The researchers suggest that the decline press may involve greater activation of motor units and thus engage a greater portion of the pectoral mass than the incline movement. In other words, with greater muscle synergy and leverage on declines, you involve more pec mass.

So you see why I chose that as the ultimate chest exercise; however, if you want a bit more emphasis on your upper chest, you can insert some direct incline work into the Basic Power-Density Mass Workout, which, as it appears in the e-book of the same name, is this:

Decline presses

Pyramid: 3 x 9, 7, 5-6

4X style: 4 x 10

You could change it like this: At one chest workout start with declines for the heavy pyramid, but use an incline-press move for the 4X sequence.:

Decline presses (pyramid), 3 x 9, 7, 5-6

Incline presses (4X), 4 x 10

Then at your next chest workout reverse it:

Incline presses (pyramid), 3 x 9, 7, 5-6

Decline presses (4X), 4 x 10

Your next question may be, So what’s the best incline press exercise?

Researchers Lorenzo Cornacchia, Bill Mcilroy, Ph.D., and Tudor O. Bompa, Ph.D., did an EMG analysis of compound upper-chest moves a few years back and published the results in IRON MAN.

The winner was incline dumbbell presses, with 91 percent IEMG max, followed by incline barbell presses at 85 percent and incline Smith-machine presses at 81 percent.

So, if you can, use dumbbells for your inclines most of the time. Combined with a decline press, it’ll give you amazing chest-mass success.

Editor’s note: Steve Holman is the author of many bodybuilding best-sellers and the creator of Positions-of-Flexion muscle training. For information on the POF DVD and Size Surge programs, see the ad sections in this issue. Also visit  and
for info on X-Rep, 4X and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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