The flat bench press can be a great chest builder, but it mainly targets the sternal head of the pec major – the mid/lower fibers of your chest. So if you never change your bench angle, the upper chest often stays flat.
So what do you do? Inclines of course. But some research shows an incline doesn't do all that much, and some lifters don't really feel their upper chests more on an incline.
Luckily, a recent study examined chest activation at various points within the performance of different angles of pressing. The researchers found significant upper chest activation with the incline bench particularly in the second quarter of the lift. (1)
So, to really hit the upper chest, not only is the angle important but the range of motion as well. You can do this by using the 1.5 method.
- Lower the bar to your chest.
- Push the bar halfway up and lower it back down.
- Now push the bar all the way up.
That's one rep. It's brutal and extremely effective.
Choose a weight you can incline press for 12-15 reps and do 8-10 one-and-a half reps with it. Three sets of these will be more than enough to recruit all those stubborn fibers and fatigue them. Don't be surprised how sore your chest is the next day.
Applying the 1.5 method to inclines allows you to perform a heavy multi-joint movement in its full range of motion while at the same time placing more tension in the range of motion where the upper pecs activate the most – the second quarter of the lift.
- Lauver JD et al. Influence of Bench Angle on Upper Extremity Muscular Activation during Bench Press Exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2016;16(3):309-16. PubMed.