The Best Chest Exercise for Square Pecs


Why would a guy want to concentrate on building square pecs instead of rounded pecs?


The more rounded a guy’s chest muscles look, the more they look kind of droopy.

That probably isn’t the look most men are shooting for.

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Most men are after a thick, but flat square chest.

This creates what some call an armor plated chest.

The reason flat and square chest is a good look for men is because it differentiates you from women.

flat square chest

It creates a fit masculine appearance.

An ideal chest has somewhat even thickness from the lower pecs to the collar bone and even development on the inside going to the outer pecs.

There are several chest exercises to focus on to make this happen & some chest exercises you will probably want to avoid as well.

This can take some time.

The toughest part of chest to develop are the upper pecs and upper & inner pecs.

The big mistake beginners make is that they concentrate too much on the basic flat bench press.

how to get a square chest

The problem with the flat bench press is that although it is a great mass builder, it develops the lower chest quicker than the upper chest.

The key to developing square pecs is to focus on building the upper chest.

Exercises that Build the Upper Chest

  1. Incline Barbell Press
  2. Incline Dumbbell Press
  3. Incline Machine Press
  4. All variations of Incline Flyes

Do you notice any similarities between these exercises?

Obviously, these are all the incline lifts that will build up your upper pecs to help you get a square chest. 

Almost every guy you see in the gym starts their workout with the flat bench press.

The reason why is that you can lift the most weight on that exercise while you are fresh.

I would recommend the opposite approach…

Prioritize your chest workouts so that you do a few incline lifts before you ever hit the flat bench or drop the flat bench from your workout until your upper chest development catches up with your lower chest.

Here is a Great Upper Chest Workout for a Square Chest

upper chest workout

As I mentioned, you are going to want to put a heavy emphasis on various incline presses to build your upper chest.

Here’s a strategy I’ve seen work without fail over the years.

Pick 3 exercises, where the first upper chest exercise it the LEAST stable, the second upper pecs exercise is more stable, and the last exercise is very stable.

You can accomplish this by using dumbells (not stable) on the first exercise, barbells (more stable) on second exercise and machine (most stable) on the third exercise.

So a killer upper chest workout would look like this.

  • Dumbbell Incline Press
  • Barbell Incline Press
  • Hammer Strength Incline Press

By starting with dumbbells you will recruit all of the stabilizer muscles in the upper pecs.

This will give you full activation of your upper chest which is crucial for building square pecs.

The next exercise, barbell incline presses, don’t require as much balance as dumbbell incline presses.

incline barbell press to build upper chest

Because of this, you should be able to handle more weight.

Hammer strength machines require the least amount of balancing so hit the stabilizer muscles the least.

You don’t have to worry about balancing the weight and can just focus on maximum force.

Using all three of these slightly different types of resistance, will give full upper pec development and create a flat and square chest.

Don’t you need to include the flat bench press as well?

If your chest looks rounded and you don’t have square pecs, I would advise against flat bench presses until you balance that out. Once your chest is angular and square then you can reintroduce the flat barbell bench press.

These basic incline presses should form the basis of your upper chest workout, but at some point, you may want to switch up exercises for a novel stimulus to those muscle fibers.

What are the best upper chest exercises to use when you have hit a sticking point?

incline dumbbell fly exercise for upper chest

Before I get to the exercises I want to discuss a tip that I rarely hear anyone in the personal training world talk about.

If you are having a tough time feeling your upper chest contract in incline exercises, you need to increase the mind-to-muscle link in your upper chest.

The best way to do this is through a high volume of lifting for that lift.

You are going to want to lift a lighter weight and higher reps to really feel a burn in that muscle.

Over time you will be able to contract that muscle hard and then lift with heavier weights in a more traditional manner.

I believe the best exercises to accomplish this will be upper chest isolation exercises: incline flyes and cable crossovers performed in a particular way.

Let’s start with incline flyes.

I prefer to do incline flyes with light weight and higher reps because your shoulders are in a slightly vulnerable position.

Keep it simple.

  • Pick a weight you can use for 10-15 reps.
  • Stick with that weight for 4-5 sets.
  • Keep rest to 30-45 seconds, because you want to be slightly fatigued from the previous set.

What you will find is that you will naturally hit fewer reps each set. Sometimes I will continue to do sets until I can’t get 6 reps in good form.

Speaking of form here is a great video showing the proper way to perform dumbbell incline flyes.

The other isolation exercise that I recommend is low-to-high cable chest flyes.

Most people have just used typical chest flyes or cable crossovers when trying to target the chest.

To target the upper pecs, you will want to focus on the low-to-high version of the cable fly. Starting low and ending high seriously engages the upper pecs and shoulders.

The benefit that cables have over the dumbbell flyes is that you still have resistance at the end of the movement.

This will emphasize the inner part of the upper chest and will develop that line down the middle of your chest all the way up to the collar bone.

 Here’s how to perform the Low-to-High cable fly.

When specializing in a body part, you can drastically increase volume on that body part for a short period of time.

The key is that you have to decrease the volume of lifts on other body parts.

Pick a simple exercise you can do easily do at home to build the upper chest which requires no special equipment.

The best upper chest exercise to do at home is the decline pushup. This is where your feet are elevated on a chair or your couch and your hands are on the floor.

The thing that makes the name of this exercise is that “decline” bench presses work the lower chest.


Decline, as described in a pushup, works the upper chest.

Here’s a video describing the best way to do the decline pushup to thicken your upper pecs to help you create a flat square chest.

What I would recommend is to perform a set or two of these at home throughout the day.

I know it sounds like training this often will result in overtraining.

The key to avoiding overtraining, in this case, is to make sure the sets aren’t intense.

Workout frequency can be high when sets and intensity are kept low.

Other tips to get a square chest.

You are going to need to get your body fat down to a respectable level to get a square chest.

Fat is droopy.

To lose this excess body fat, without muscle loss, I recommend a bit of steady state cardio.

I believe the ideal intensity you are aiming for is a FAST walking pace.

I know people say that you should be able to hold a conversation, but that will barely move the needle on fat loss.

steady state cardio on treadmill

I recommend a pace that is as fast as you can walk without jogging. This works extremely well.

What about HIIT training?

I love HIIT for getting lean but would advise against it for this short period of time when you are trying to build up the upper chest.

Reintroduce it a couple of times per week AFTER you have built up the upper chest a bit.


You are going to want to create a calorie deficit through your diet.

I prefer a high carb low-fat diet because carbs only get converted to body fat if glycogen stores are full and this RARELY happens.


I know that the keto diet is super trendy right now.

Here’s a post I wrote about principles to lose fat regardless of what diet approach you prefer.

How to Lose Weight on ANY Diet

Summary of getting a flat, square chest.

Build up the upper pecs by focusing on incline and upper chest isolation exercises.

*NEW* Visual Impact Fat Loss Boost Diet
For 15 years I've helped fashion models get lean for photoshoots. Use my plan to Lose 5-10 pounds of PURE body fat in 14 days.

If body fat is excessive lose fat by creating a strong calorie deficit with steady state cardio and a strategic diet plan.


-Rusty Moore

As a former fitness coach to fashion models, I can teach you how to increase muscle definition without adding size.

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