If you want to build a big upper chest, then you need to make sure that you’re going to focus on it specifically. When you do a push up, especially as it’s bodyweight training, you won’t be isolating any part of your musculature and that means you’ll be involving all sorts of muscle groups including triceps, deltoids and abs.
If you only do this, then you’ll find that your lower pecs start to take over and this can result in a bottom-heavy look that’s a little too breast-like for most guys’ tastes (if that’s what you’re into, then go ahead!). Conversely, if you train the upper pecs then you can create that really great ‘shelf’ look along the top of your chest, just below your collar bone.
So you need to really isolate that upper chest. But how do you do this with bodyweight training?
The secret here is to change the angle of your press ups, just as you would change the angle of your bench press with an incline bench press. Ideally, you want your body to be at about 45 degrees so that you are essentially pointing diagonally downwards towards the floor. As you press up and down, you should be taking your face closer and further from the ground with each repetition.
This might sound like fairly obvious advice, but if you work out mainly at home ask yourself how often you do this. Many of us will sometimes work our shoulders with a steeper angle and of course we work the pecs generally with a flat angle… But how often do you do this diagonal pose?
This is important because if you were in the gym, you would be focussing on your upper chest in a lot of different moves. So you need to incorporate here!
Here are some moves you can use that will do just that.
Assisted handstand push up – This is simply a handstand push up, but with your legs leaning against something. Of course the higher you lean the legs, the more this will move onto the shoulders and vice versa. A great strategy is to gradually lower the legs each time you fail, creating a mechanical drop set as you do.
Hindu push up – This is a push that essentially goes straight from a downward position and then upwards into a salute to the sun style pose. Start in a press up position with your hands a little closer to your feet and head pointing down. Now dive down as though you’re going to face plant and then swoop up at the last minute. This works the upper chest but also the lower chest, isolating both and getting all those pushing muscles to work in coordination. It’s a great move and perfect for defining the pecs.
Lateral assisted handstand push up – These are handstand push ups except you’ll be coming down more on one side and then the other. This isolates one pec and makes the move much harder.