To gain more upper body strength and overall development of the Pectoral (chest) muscles, include Upper Chest exercises from an incline bench into your programming.

Incline DB Bench Press

THE SETUP

1. Lie back on an incline bench with a dumbbell in each hand atop your thighs. The palms of your hands will be facing each other.

2. Then, using your thighs to help push the dumbbells up, lift the dumbbells one at a time so that you can hold them at shoulder width.

3. Once you have the dumbbells raised to shoulder width, rotate your wrists forward so that the palms of your hands are facing away from you. This will be your starting position.

THE EXECUTION

4. Keeping full control of the dumbbells at all times, push the dumbbells up with your chest.

5. Slightly lock your arms at the top, hold for a second, and then start slowly lowering the weight. Tip Ideally, lowering the weights should take about twice as long as raising them.

6. Repeat the movement for desired amount of repetitions.

7. When you are done, place the dumbbells back on your thighs and then on the floor. This is the safest manner to release the dumbbells.

Variations: You can use several angles on the incline bench if the bench you are using is adjustable.

If you have minor shoulder issues or want to target the triceps more, perform this drill with the palms of the hands facing each other.

The DB Pull-Over is one of my favorite exercises and I attribute the growth of my chest the most to this exercise.

With that said, it also targets the lats, shoulders and core to a great extent so this is an awesome, full upper body movement.

THE SETUP

1. Sit on the Bench and place a dumbbell on your lap.

2. Ensuring that the dumbbell stays securely placed in your lap, lie perpendicular to the bench (torso across it as in forming a cross) with only your shoulders lying on the surface. Hips should be below the bench and legs bent with feet firmly on the floor. The head will be off the bench as well.

3. Flip the DB up onto its end, resting it on your upper chest / sternum as you prepare to take your grip.

4. Grasp the dumbbell with both hands using a diamond grip and hold it straight over your chest at arms length. Both palms should be pressing against the underside one of the sides of the dumbbell.

5. Enterally rotate your elbows as if they are trying to look at each other and squeeze your lats tight.  Maintain this position throughout the movement.  A common mistake is to allow the shoulders to be in a relaxed position.  This can cause injury.  This will be your starting position.

Caution: Always ensure that the dumbbell used for this exercise is secure. Using a dumbbell with loose plates can result in the dumbbell falling apart and falling on your face.

THE EXECUTION

 6. While keeping your arms straight, lower the weight slowly in an arc behind your head while breathing in until you feel a stretch on the chest.

7. At that point, bring the dumbbell back to the starting position using the arc through which the weight was lowered and exhale as you perform this movement.

8. Hold the weight on the initial position for a second and repeat the motion for the desired number of reps.

9. When you are finished, return the DB to your upper chest / sternum and control drop to the floor.  Do not just throw the DB to the floor.

If you want to build a strong back and upper body, pull-ups and chin-ups are typically the best bodyweight exercises you can do.

But if you’re not yet strong enough to do a complete pull-up or chin-up, lat pulldowns can help.

This exercise is done with a lat pulldown machine but as you can see in this video, I simply use a pulley system with Kettle-bell which is perfect for the home gym set up.

Lat Pull-Down

THE SETUP

NOTE: The setup is almost identical to the Pull-Up.

1. Sit down on a pull-down machine with a wide bar attached to the top pulley. Make sure that you adjust the knee pad of the machine to fit your height. These pads will prevent your body from being raised by the resistance attached to the bar.

2. Grab the bar with the palms facing forward using a slightly wider (1-2 inches) than shoulder width grip.  NOTE: Using an excessive wide grip adds no additional benefit to this exercise.

3. With a firm grip, act as if your bending the bar in half, trying to point your elbows towards each other.  This will “lock in” the lats and engage the serratus anterior muscles much more effectively.  Try and maintain this tightness throughout the movement of the exercise.

3. Bring your torso back around 30 degrees or so while creating a curvature on your lower back and sticking your chest out. This is your starting position.

THE MOVEMENT

4. Bring the bar down until towards your upper chest by drawing the shoulders and the upper arms down and back. Tip: Concentrate on squeezing the back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. The upper torso should remain stationary and only the arms should move. The forearms should do no other work except for holding the bar; therefore do not try to pull down the bar using the forearms.

5. After a second at the contracted position squeezing your shoulder blades together, slowly raise the bar back to the starting position when your arms are fully extended and the lats are fully stretched. DO NOT allow the shoulders to pull forward at the top of the movement.  Keep your lats and serratus anterior engaged as in step 3.

6. Repeat this motion for the prescribed amount of repetitions.

Variations: The behind the neck variation is not recommended as it can be hard on the rotator cuff due to the hyperextension created by bringing the bar behind the neck.

 

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