This is the definite guide to help you build the upper chest. You will find the best Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout Plan for mass and strength.

Our chest consists of two major muscle groups. The first group is called pectoralis major which forms the bulk of our chest muscles. The second group which lies beneath the pectoralis major in the upper chest is called pectoralis minor.

Another common way of dividing the chest muscles is upper, middle and lower. The bench presses at various angles helps to stimulate different parts of the chest.

Let’s explore the best dumbbell exercises for upper chest.

Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout, Photo by Anastase Maragos

Also see: Biceps Workout for Mass

Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Exercises

Exercise #1 Incline Dumbbell Press

When it comes to gaining chest mass, no exercise comes close to the variations of bench press. No doubt that Incline Press is the first exercise on our list of Dumbell Upper Chest Workout.

How to Perform: 

  • Set your adjustable bench to an inclined angle of 45°. Grab a dumbbell in each hand and lie on the bench.
  • Keep the dumbbells at the level of your shoulder. Remember that you elbows shouldn’t be flaring out.
  • Exhale and press the dumbbell above your chest till the arms are almost straight.
  • Inhale while slowly lowering the weights.
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Press
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Press
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Press
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Press

Pro-Tip: Remember to keep your elbows tucked in. Also, do not fully extend the arms when pressing the weights up.

Pros: The risk of injury is lower in incline press as compared to bench press. It is kinder on your joints.

Cons: When you compare Incline Dumbbell Press with Incline Barbell Press, you will find that you can lift higher using the barbells. The main reason is that when using a barbell, you get support from both the arms to stabilize the barbell.

However, it doesn’t mean that using dumbbells will not give you chest mass gains. On the contrary, incline dumbbell presses gives more activation compared to a barbell due to wider range of motion.

Exercise #2 Incline Dumbbell Flyes

Flyes require no introduction. They are a big name in the world of chest workouts. You can include its variation in your upper chest workout schedule for gains.

How to Perform:

  • Use an incline bench set at 45° angle. Lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Bring the dumbbells directly above your chest, with arms almost straight. 
  • Now slowly lower the weights as if following an outward arch.
  • Repeat this motion to complete your motion.
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Flyes
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Flyes
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Flyes
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Incline Flyes

Pro-Tip: Do not rush in performing the exercise. While lowering the weights, keep a full control over them. DO not let gravity control the motion. In this way, your muscles are under tension at all times which will lead to far greater activation of upper chest muscles.

Pros: Incline Dumbbell Flyes are definitely both easy and effective. Even beginners can perform it easily.

Cons: Avoid completely locking your elbows. Remember not to overstretch. These are primary reasons behind injury during incline dumbbell flyes.

Exercise #3 Pullover

Pull over is an exercise which is both easy to perform and gives nice gains. If you wish to train your upper pecs more effectively, you must include pullovers in your chest training schedule.

How to Perform:

  • Grab a dumbbell and hold it using both hands.
  • Lie down on a flat bench with your feet firmly on ground.
  • Stretch your arms straight so that the dumbbell is directly above your chest. 
  • Start moving your arms backwards till your point of comfort. 
  • Slowly return to the initial position and repeat the motion.
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Pullover
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Pullover
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Pullover
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Pullover

Pro-Tip: Perform this exercise with slow pace. Remember to focus on negative tension for extra gains.

Pros: Pullover targets multiple muscles at once. Chest and triceps are effectively trained when you do triceps. You can include this exercise either in your chest or triceps training schedule. For more triceps related workouts, see Triceps Workout at Gym.

Cons: Remember to ego lifting. The exercise is fairly east so you may be tempted to use really high weight. Note that your elbow joints are in a slightly vulnerable position here. Do not fully extend them.

Exercise #4 Incline Pushups

Pushups are great for building chest muscles. They are easy to perform and require no equipment. If you are a fan of bodyweight exercises, pushups are certainly for you.

If you want to train your upper pecs using pushups, you can try incline pushups. The biggest advantage about this exercise is that you don’t require any fancy machines in your gyms. Also, the form is fairly easy to master.

Even if incline pushups are great, they suffer from a major disadvantage which is lack of weight progression. When you lift higher than your muscle ability, your muscle fibres get damaged. After the right nutrition and rest, your body will rebuild the muscle. In the process, it will create additional muscle. In this way your strength and mass increases.

However, pushups don’t provide any such facility. You cannot add additional weight unless you decide to use some additional equipment.

Remember that if you are new to lifting you may find doing even 5 pushups a daunting task. In such a scenario, you may perform other exercises in this list to first build your strength.

Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout : The Ultimate Plan

Incline Dumbbell Press

Well, no chest workout plan can be complete without inclusion of bench press. Perform this exercise first as your energy will be highest at this time.

Sets : 4-5, Repetitions : 12-15

Incline Dumbbell Flyes

Flyes will help in effectively training your upper chest for mass gains.

Sets : 3-4, Repetitions : 10-15


The exercise is fairly easy and efficient at activating the upper chest at same time.

Sets : 3-4 , Repetitions : 10-12

Remember that you still need to practice other parts of your chest. Middle and Lower chest muscles are important too. Your chest training schedule must include them too. For a complete training schedule see Dumbbell Workout for Chest.

Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout: Why use dumbbell over barbell

This question often pops in every lifter’s head. There are many exercises which can be done using both dumbbells and barbells. So which one should you use? Both of them have their own advantages and limitations.

Barbell is the winner when it comes to lifting really high. Since the weights are supported by both hands, the barbell is easily stabilized. However, there are many more reasons to perform exercises using dumbbells. Let us look at them.

Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout
Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout

Reason #1: Training using dumbbells will improve your stabilization. The entire falls on one hand, therefore it learns to stabilize weight better over time.

Reason #2: Dumbbells will provide higher activation to your muscles. When you perform press using a barbell, you can’t lower it as much as a dumbbell. This wider range of motion of dumbbells trains your muscles more leading to a higher activation.

Reason #3: You do not need to wait for the fancy machines at your gym to be free. Just grab a pair of dumbbells and get going. You have the liberty to train at your home too.

Reason #4: If you wish to perform isolation exercises, dumbbells will be more helpful to you. You can target a specific part of your muscle groups more effectively using a dumbbell.

How to Stimulate Upper Chest More

There are various methods using which you can further activate your muscles for upper chest mass gains. You can accommodate these changes in your training schedule for enhanced results.

Tip #1: Remember the Progression

Weight progression is the fundamental aspect of muscle building. Do not continue to train using similar weights. Increase the amount of challenge for your upper pecs. Remember to increase the weight of dumbbells you use to train over time.

Here is how I include this in my Dumbbell Upper Chest Workout. If I have to complete 4 sets, I will do the first 3 sets using the weight I am comfortable with. For the last set, I will slightly increase the weight. Over time, my muscles will become used to the heavier weight.

Tip #2: Increase the Reps

Some of the gymers have this weird theory that you need to do more reps to lose weight and to gain muscles, you need to increase the weight. The truth is more calories will be consumed in either case and you will lose weight.

Now coming to muscle building, you need to have a balance between the two. You must perform appropriate frequency(sets*reps*number of exercises of that part) of the muscle you wish to train.

You can increase the frequency for more activation. Remember not to do overtraining as it will have a negative impact on your muscle growth.

Tip #3: Change the Inclination

There is no fixed rule that the bench must be inclined at 40°-45°. You can try performing the same exercise at different angles. In this way, your muscles in upper pecs will feel different stress at different angles.

This will surely enhance the activation of your upper pec muscles.

Tip #4 Increase the number of Training session

This is definitely a great way to stimulate your upper chest muscle. If you are still doing your chest training only once a week, maybe it’s time for you to increase the number of sessions. However, you still need to avoid overtraining the muscles.

I think two sessions a week is the sweet spot here.

Do you wish to have a great back? Read Dumbbell Workout for Back

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