Incline vs. Reverse Grip: which is better for building the upper chest?

5Defense Bodybuilders have been doing incline bench presses for decades to bring up the upper chest. Prosecution Research on incline and reverse-grip bench presses suggests that reverse-grip bench presses my be a better upper-pec builder.


  • Australian researchers reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that when weight-trained subjects performed incline bench presses, the muscle activity of their upper pecs was only about 5% more than the muscle activity of their upper pecs during the flat bench press.
  • Canadian scientists found that when trained lifters did the reverse-grip bench press, the muscle activity of their upper pecs was 30% greater than when they did the bench press with a standard overhand grip.

VERDICT: Reverse-Grip Bench Press

Since muscle activity is the measurement of how many muscle fibers are being used during an exercise, reverse-grip bench presses appear to be a better exercise for the upper chest than incline bench presses. To target the upper pecs, start your chest workout with 3 or 4 sets of reverse-grip bench presses. Then, move on to incline bench exercises, such as incline presses and flyes.

–Jim Stoppani, PhD
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