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Indirect Split and Best Upper-Chest Hit

Q: The direct/indirect split is awesome! I think my muscles have always needed more hits per week, but I followed the pros and trained each muscle only once a week. That never worked for me. The direct/indirect split [in the e-book The 4X Mass Workout] has already added new muscle to my arms, shoulders and back. My one problem area is upper chest. I’ve moved upper-chest work to the front of my direct-pec program. That’s helped some, but on indirect day, when I train triceps, close-grip bench presses is the indirect chest exercise. That doesn’t hit my upper chest. Should I do close-grip incline presses instead on triceps day?

A: Hmm, close-grip incline presses might be a solution, although I’ve never tried a close grip on inclines. That might be hard on the shoulder joints. Experiment with it using a light poundage to see if you feel your upper chest kick in on those as well as your triceps. I’ve tried another solution supported by recent research with almost immediate results.

A new EMG study shows that reverse-grip bench presses, performed on a flat bench, activate the upper-pec fibers even better than incline presses—yes, more upper-pec activation than inclines. The study reveals that incline presses rely more on the front delts. Interesting.

That means the reverse-grip, or undergrip, bench press is a better pure upper-pec exercise, so you may want to try that to lead off your triceps workout. Your tri’s will be heavily involved, and your upper chest will get a more direct hit than with standard close-grip bench presses. Plus, your lower chest will still get some residual work.

By the way, the undergrip bench press takes some getting used to, and you should have a spotter. If you don’t have a spotter, do the move in a Smith machine or power rack. Any way you slice it, it’s a great triceps-and-chest combo attack.

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 videos and Size Surge programs, visit for information on X-Rep and 3D POF methods and e-books.  IM

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