What Exercise Works the Upper Chest and Neck?

Military presses will strengthen your chest and neck muscles.
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You don’t have to convince many exercisers about the need for a strong chest. From laborers who do plenty of lifting to golfers or tennis players looking for stronger swings, many people hit the gym to work on their chests. Neck exercises aren’t as popular, but they’re particularly important to help football players and wrestlers stabilize their heads and avoid injury. For others, neck exercises can help improve your posture and prevent pain from sitting in front of a computer for too long. If you select the right exercises, you can work out your neck and upper chest together.

Neck Flexion

Moving your head laterally against resistance targets the sternocleidomastoid muscles at the sides of your neck. Additionally, the splenius and upper trapezius muscles at the back of your neck assist your movements, while the pectoralis major muscles in your upper chest act as stabilizers. Perform the exercise by sitting in a neck machine and pressing the side of your head against the resistance pad. Do the exercise on both sides of your neck.

Neck Extension

Perform neck extensions by moving your head backward and forward against resistance. Neck extensions target the splenius while the upper trapezius and sternocleidomastoid assist. Your pecs are again engaged as stabilizing muscles. Sit in the machine with the back of your head against the resistance pad, extend your head backward as far as possible, then allow your head to come forward under control so your chin reaches your chest.

Standing Presses

Standing presses -- such as the military press or the shoulder press -- target the front deltoids in your shoulders, but the uppermost pectoralis muscles assist in your movements, while the upper trapezius muscles act as stabilizers. To perform a barbell military press, assume a wide stance and hold the barbell in front of your neck, using an overhand grip. Press the barbell straight above your head. You can also perform the military press on a lever machine or by attaching a bar to a high cable machine. Similar exercises that work your upper pecs and traps include the seated shoulder press and the handstand shoulder press.

Front Raises

Front raises also target your anterior deltoid muscles, while the pectoralis major assists and the upper trapezius helps to stabilize your movements. Perform front raises with a barbell, a pair of dumbbells or on various machines. To do the dumbbell version, stand straight with your arms extended, your palms facing the body and the dumbbells in front of each hip. Raise the dumbbells above your head while keeping your arms straight. At the top of your movement, your arms should be angled roughly 45 degrees to the floor. You can also perform dumbbell front raises using one arm at a time.


Consult a physician before starting a new exercise routine. Warm up before your workout by doing five to 10 minutes of light cardio activity. Perform six to 15 repetitions of each neck and chest exercise, using sufficient weight so your final reps are challenging. In general, use heavier weights and perform fewer reps to bulk up, or do more reps with lighter weights to develop muscular endurance.

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