The bench press may be the most popular strength move there is, but continue doing it the same way over and over, and your strength and muscle development will plateau fast. Use these six bench press alternatives to target your chest and arms in new ways, stimulate growth, and keep the gains coming.
Adding a one- to three-second pause at the bottom of the bench press will instantly make it more difficult. This cuts off the stretch reflex and prevents the transfer of energy — it becomes a pure lift. (This strategy works for any lift, and is one reason why powerlifters are so strong; they use the method often.) Without the option to bounce the bar off your ribcage, you might be surprised and humbled at how much harder the traditional bench press can be.
Using 1.5 reps, you can nearly double your workload and increase your chest stimulation. Lower the bar to the chest, then perform half a rep — only push the bar off the chest about six to eight inches. Freeze, then lower the bar slowly to the chest once more. Finally, on contact with the chest, drive the bar up for a full lockout at the top. That’s one rep. Aim for six reps per set.
Low Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Pressing dumbbells on a bench with a slight incline is one of the best moves to develop stronger, bigger muscles. This will give your elbows and wrists more freedom, reducing shoulder stress, since you’re not restricted by a bar as the rep progresses. Moreover, the low incline and dumbbells target each chest muscle individually as they stabilize the weights for a greater workload.
If strength is your goal, try getting more out of your three-rep max weight by adding short breaks between each rep. Rack the bar after your first rep, and rest for 10 seconds. Do the same thing after your second rep, and then attack your third rep. Using this method, there’s a good chance you’ll have just enough left in the tank to squeeze out another rep, or even two. This is a great way to expose muscles to more volume under heavy loads.
The floor press stops your range of motion at 90 degrees. Using dumbbells and a neutral grip, it’s a smart choice to improve lockout strength and boost the strength and size of your triceps — key players for a strong bench, and a well-rounded upper arm.
Barbell Pin Press
Set a barbell up in the squat cage, and position the bar to rest on the safety pins, a few inches below your chest. Set up on a bench under the bar, and drive the weight up. Lower the bar to the pins, and let it settle, then repeat. The good thing about pin pressing is that, similar to Olympic lifting, you don’t have to worry about the negative rep. You can let the weight crash down to the pins and save energy on each rep. And this differs from paused reps because you don’t have to worry about remaining tight through the negative rep.
This allows you to perform the exercise more frequently, and load up on volume in the process. You can also set the pins at any level above the chest that you want, to zero in on a greater or shorter range of motion. If your common sticking point is near the top of the press, set the pins high for a shorter rep. If your sticking point is usually off the chest, then setting the pins very close to chest level will create more absolute strength from the bottom.