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How Do I Recruit More Upper Chest on Flat Bench?

I tend to recruit a lot of front delt on incline bench press, so I’m wondering what I can do to recruit more upper chest on the flat bench. Do things like grip width or pausing at the bottom make a difference here?

The whole grip width idea (wide spacing is more pecs and close spacing is more triceps) may get plenty of mileage in muscle and fitness magazines, but any physical therapist will tell you it’s bunk -lol.

I’ve found that hand angle can help a lot. When I started competing, my pecs were a huge weak point, and through tons of reading and picking the brains of folks more experienced than I, I eventually started holding my DBs with a neutral hand position. I felt a HUGE shift in the stress on my mid pecs! Eventually I read up on muscle imaging studies (“Muscle meets magnet”), and some of my brother’s DPT texts books, and found that a reverse hand position (this works great on machines or even doing your presses with standing cables!) will light up your upper chest fibers like you never would have expected!

Couple this with my old stand by of LOW incline cable flyes (set a bench at 15 degrees in the cable station) and I guarantee you’ll feel those deep fibers right under your collar bones like you haven’t before.



So, this is a problem that can’t be solved on the flat bench I guess.

Do you do the neutral grip db bench press on an incline or flat?

I’ve tried reverse-grip barbell bench press before, but couldn’t find my groove. I’ll play around with hand positions on db, cables and machines.


Idk where you got that from. There are a few studies on hand placement and pec and tricep activation. Researchers found that there’s more tricep activation with a narrow grip in Attentional Focus and Grip Width Influences on Bench Press Resistance Training and Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles.

Aside from the studies, you can feel a difference between the two when you bench with your index fingers close to the center of the knurling and with your index fingers on the rings.

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If I understand correctly, Mark Rippetoe says that doing a combination of bench and overhead press will increase the strength of your upper chest. I think that by increasing the strength of your upper chest, you will be able to better utilize it.

Just my two cents.

The agreement of several people with Doctorates in PT and CSCS certs. (A couple with pro cards to boot). Sure it blew apart my own regurgitating what i had read from muscle rags too, and I thought I was damn educated on the topic.


But the titles of the articles I posted earlier aren’t magazine articles lol. Those are studies done by doctors, doctoral students, and people with master degrees in physiology or something similar.
On a side note, if you look at pec tears on youtube you can see that everyone used a grip with there pinky fingers on the rings, or even wider. I’ve never seen anyone tear their pec while using a close grip.You don’t think that implies that there’s greater stress on the pectoralis major?

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Point, but stress doesn’t always mean maximum fiber recruitment in a target muscle. Exaggerated dumbbell flyes put plenty of stress on the pecs, but I wouldn’t do them in the pursuit of pec Mass.

Again, it went against what I had thought I knew as well.



Don’t arch (slightly arch for scapular retraction is ok but dont do powerlifting style benching), try to lower the bar as high as possible on your chest WITHOUT GETTING PAIN and grip width actually helps and its proven that the best width is 1.5 biacromial space, which is usually one that allows your forearms to stay on a 90° angle with the floor when the barbell is on your chest.

Sounds dangerous lol

You can get the effect mentioned going reverse grip on the flat bench. Anecdotal only but I felt a huge difference in recruitment. Same with Planche push-ups or ring push-ups with an undergand grip.

Please don’t try this without a spotter.

The Guillotine Press
Inside The Muscle

The Winners

Upper Pec
Peak: Dumbbell Incline Press, Guillotine Press, JC Band Press

Reverse Grip Bench Press

Kenny Croxdale


Ooh ja Id forgotten about guillptine press.

That works a treat.

In my experience, guillotine declines (not too steep; 15-30 degrees is fine) are far-and-away the best exercise for hitting the clavicular/manubrial portion of the pecs.

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Pretty obvious, but make sure to always keep your scapula retracted without shrugging your upper trapezius. Lower traps only. This will make sure your delts won’t take any work from the upper chest. Pair this with a 15-20° incline and you should be good already. At least that’s all I’ve ever needed so far.

Guillotine presses are fantastic, but if they bother your shoulders you can do the equivalent of a guillotine press, but do them as barbell push ups. Set up a barbell on a power rack, put your feet on a bench and do barbell push ups to the neck. You can change the height of the bar for more incline/decline. They’ll give you the benefit of the guillotine press type movement but with the shoulder benefits of doing push ups instead of bench press. You can load them several different ways:weight vest, weight on your back, having a buddy press down on your back. Those put some size on my upper pecs. Just another option I figured I’d toss out there.

Stick something under one end of the bench to make it decline/incline. Plates work fine, mats too.

My chest sucks ass but noticed some improvement by using DBs with a neutral grip, moving them close to each other at the top and squeezing for a second or two at the end of every rep.
Also, tried only once so far but a mild incline (around 30° max) and reverse grip DBs put quite a lot of stress on my upper chest last time. I lowered DBs with a reverse grip, and rotated them internally into a neutral grip at the top of the reps, squeezing them for a second of two.