By Brad Borland, MA, CSCS
As a common weak point for many trainees, upper chest development is a hard road to travel riddled with incline movements of all shapes and sizes. A little known secret is the reverse-grip bench press may be superior even to the incline bench press for more upper pec muscle activation. Need proof?
Scientists found that when performing the reverse-grip bench press, subject’s upper pec activation was 30% greater than when performing the standard overhand grip for the flat bench press. Further research concludes that the incline bench press only activates the upper pecs 5% more than the flat bench press. So, it is a no-brainer that one should at least TRY the reverse-grip bench press on for size!
The best place to start would be the Smith machine for safety reasons and you will need a spotter to unhook the weight as this can be slightly awkward at first.
- Place a flat bench inside and centered in a Smith machine with the bar positioned overhead as if starting from the top position.
- Take a reverse-grip on the bar (width will depend on comfort). Try a slightly wider than shoulder width to begin with.
- Unhook the bar and slowly descend to your lower pec/upper abdominal area. Your elbows will be a bit closer to your sides than normal.
- Once in the bottom position reverse the movement (do not bounce) and extend all the way up without locking your elbows.
Note: You will not need a lot of weight for this move to be effective. Some practice may be needed before perfecting your form and always use a spotter.
Three to five sets of 8-15 reps at the beginning of your chest program should be sufficient enough to stimulate new upper pec growth. Coupled with a few sets of incline dumbbell presses or any other upper pec move of your choice will round out that region for more development and proportion.