I’m gonna need you to take your hands and put them under your ass right now. Because what I’m about to say is going to make you want to slap the shit out of your computer and make you question why you even clicked on this link.
The barbell bench press is the most overrated exercise in the history of the universe.
What? Oh my God, did he just say that? Did this nerdy ginger douche-canoe just blaspheme the almighty bench press? Yes, yes I did. And if the Gods of Gains feel the need to smite me, may they do it swiftly.
Since they have not thrown lightning bolts at me as of hitting publish on this article, I’m gonna assume I’m safe. And now I shall enlighten you with the reasons as to why the bench press won’t give you that deity-esque chest you’ve always dreamed of.
When it comes to building a larger and stronger chest the barbell bench press is considered sacrosanct. And for decades, every bro who’s ever stepped foot in a gym undoubtedly heads to the bench press to prove to the rest of the pack that he’s worthy of being in their space. Unless you’re a competitive powerlifter, the barbell bench press is only useful as a dick measuring contest.
Now, if your goal isn’t to swing your dick around like some mindless Neanderthal and you want to build a chest that would make Captain America jealous, keep reading. Because here’re a handful of exercises that will make your chesticles pop off your chest and damn near out of your shirt.
The 5 Best Alternative Exercises for Bench Pressing
*Before we dive into the best exercises for your chest, do you even know how to feel your chest? And I don’t mean feeling it when you touch yourself. I mean, can you feel your pecs engage when do a bench press? Or do you feel it more in your shoulders?
So first up, make sure you understand how to isolate your chest while bench pressing. Toss a few of those exercises into your warm-up to engage more of your pecs. Because the more pecs you engage, the more muscle you’ll build long-term in yo’ titties. Now onto the fun stuff.
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
One of my online coaching clients asked me why I wasn’t programming flat barbell bench press in his program. One of my goals as an online coach is to educate my clients on what they’re doing so that someday in the future, like a little baby bird, they can fly off on their own. My client who happens to be a basketball player, and I explained to him that one of the biggest pitfalls of the barbell bench press is that it places a ton of strain on your shoulder.
Instead of the flat barbell bench press, I what I consider one of the best alternative exercises for bench pressing, the incline bench press. Here’s why you should prioritize incline bench pressing over flat:
- Superior Range of Motion – you get a better stretch on your pecs and thus more potential for gains.
- Better Upper Chest Development – Chris Evans made thousands of dudes rush to the gym after Captain America in hopes to build a body like Cap. And his physique dropped jaws due in part to his ridiculous upper chest development. Incline bench pressing is what creates that 3D-pop-off-your-clavicle look.
- Less Strain on Your Front Delts – this is the main problem with flat bench pressing: too much deltoid recruitment. And for an overhead athlete like my client, bench pressing isn’t always ideal as he already uses his shoulders more than most of us. But incline bench pressing helps you to lock your shoulders down and back and into the bench, thus allowing you more use of your pecs.
It seems so ridiculous that in an article about the best alternative exercises for bench pressing that the first option is, in fact, a bench press. But incline pressing helps to take more pressure off your shoulders and places that tension on your pecs. And if you want to build a 3D chest that damn near pops off your body, of all the alternative exercises for bench pressing you could choose, the incline bench press should be number one.
Dumbbell Floor Press
Shoulder injuries are the most common reported mishap with bench pressing. But the floor press damn near eliminates that issue. By laying on your back, you limit your range of motion and you place a bit more emphasis on your triceps with this variation. However, with a wee tweak to this exercise, you can hit more of your inner chest than you can with a barbell bench press.
Lie on the ground between two dumbbells. Your knees should remain bent with your feet flat on the floor. Grab the dumbbells and move them into the starting position, they should be shoulder width apart with your palms facing inward, and your elbows bent.
Now, extend your arms, pressing the weight over your chest. But as you get to the top of the motion, think about shoving your elbow join into your opposing armpit. You’ll feel a massive squeeze in your inner pecs. Pause for 1-2 seconds, and then slowly lower the weight back down until your triceps are flush with the floor.
Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of floor presses.
Ah, push-ups. For some, they’re a goal they work hard towards achieving. For others, hammering out 20 push-ups is as easy as walking to the mailbox. Push-ups are the original bench press. Except, in this case, the bench is the Earth. But push-ups are one of the best ways to build strength and size in your chest.
So if you’re looking for alternative exercises for bench pressing, don’t overlook the classic push-up. But there are a couple of tweaks you’ll want to make to your push-ups to make them more effective than the bench press.
Have you ever increased your range of motion with push-ups by using handles or dumbbells? Did you know you can do that one side at a time? Off-set push-ups will challenge your body in ways you’ve never imagined, mostly because you’ll be doing reps on each side. That means you’ll essentially be doubling up on your push-up reps. Did someone say DOMS?
The other minor tweak you can use to make push-ups harder is changing the positions of your hands. The wider your hand placement, the more you challenge your pecs. And the more narrow your hand placement, the more intense the movement is for your triceps.
Or you can change the angle of your push-ups. Decline push-ups will challenge even the most seasoned lifter. And if you can’t perform a regular push-up or even knee push-ups, incline push-ups are an excellent substitution for building upper body strength.
Crossbody Single Arm Chest Press
If your gym has a Hammer Strength Machine, you’ve got one of the best alternative exercises for bench pressing in the world. Hammer Strength Machines replicate the natural motion of your body. But they can also be used to isolate your pecs in a way that bench pressing can’t accomplish.
From a seated position, grab the machines handles with one hand. These handles may be angled or parallel. Whatever the angle of the handles, your hand should remain around chest height. From this position, press the handle across the midline of your body, extending your arms as far as you can. Once you’ve reached the end of your range of motion, slowly lower the weight stack back to the starting position.
Perform three to four sets of 8-10 reps per side.
If you are new to the gym or have not trained consistently for at least a year, you do not need to attempt dips. To perform them properly, you need sufficient scapular (shoulder blades) mobility, stability, and strength. Without it, you could be increasing your risk of injury.
That being said, my favorite bodybuilder of all time (sorry Arnold) is the legendary Vince Gironda. And Vince hated the bench press. So when it came to alternative exercises for bench pressing, Vince had one exercise he considered supreme above all: dips.
Vince was a stickler for how dips should be performed. Your gym probably has parallel dip bars. But that’s no how Vince performed them. Gironda wanted your hands 32 inches apart. He believed this was the best distance for engaging and recruiting the most of your pecs. And if you look at his barrel chest, I’d venture to say he had a point.
Dips are a phenomenal chest building exercise. And in regards to alternative exercises for bench pressing, dips are my second favorite behind incline pressing. And since dips also recruit your triceps and shoulders, this an all-around great exercise for building upper body strength and size.
To maximize this exercise, perform dips at the beginning of your workout and perform 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps. Don’t leave these for the end as you’ll want to be at your freshest for these.
If you’re a powerlifter, you need to bench. It’s a basic component of your sport. But if you’re goal is to build more upper body strength and add more lean muscle to your chesticles, leave the bench press alone. In fact, you could stop bench pressing entirely. Use the exercises above for the rest of your life and watch your shoulders stay happier and healthier, and see your chest grow to proportions you never thought possible.
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