Boost your Bench Press with these 5 Exercises
I’ll go as far to say as the Bench Press is the most popular exercise in the weight lifting world, even more popular than the bicep curl, bold claims I know! But why do we plateau so quickly, or not see the strength gains we expected? Sometimes, you have to look beyond the exercise itself and think about other exercises that could help you. In this article we’re going to look at 5 exercises that will have direct carry over to your bench press.
Anatomy used in the bench press
Let’s first take a look at what muscles are used in the bench press.
The main muscle used is the Pectoralis Major that is attached the sternal head. This is the main chunk of your chest muscle.
The secondary muscles used are the Pectoralis Major that is attached to the clavicular head (your upper chest), your triceps (all three heads) and also your anterior deltoids which are the muscles on the front part of your shoulders.
So with this in mind, it makes sense to strengthen the secondary muscles as much as possible so they won’t let you down during the movement. When performing most of the exercises below your chest will also get worked as a secondary muscle so you’re killing two birds with one stone.
- Military press
The military press is a type of overhead press but with much stricter form. The main muscles targeted are the anterior and medial deltoids but works the triceps and upper chest as secondary muscles. Whilst being able to add more weight to your bench press by carry over, it can also add a significant amount of muscle onto your shoulders too.
Load a barbell around chest height in a squat or power rack. Stand up straight and grab the barbell just outside of shoulder width apart with palms facing away from you. Unrack the bar and rest it on your chest.
Keep your glutes, quads and hamstrings tight. Push the barbell up and away from you until your arms are completely straight and above your head. Slowly bring the barbell back down into the rack position. Do not use your legs to drive up and make sure your back is straight and tight.
- Weighted Dips
If I had to order these exercises in order of importance for the Bench Press, I’d have weighted dips in the number one spot! Depending on how wide you go with your grip the dip will hit different muscles more or less. A narrow grip will primarily train your triceps with secondary muscles being all heads of the pec and your anterior deltoid and the wider you go, the more your pecs will come into play and can end up being the primary muscle used with triceps moving to a secondary muscle.
Start with bodyweight until you get the hang of the form, then you can use a belt (hyperlink) to attach weight onto.
With a neutral grip, grab hold of both sides of a dipping station and jump up to get yourself into the starting position that is arms straight and whole body down to your knees straight too, with your knees bent and legs tucked behind you at a 90 degree angle
Slowly lower your body, bending at the elbow until a 90 degree angle of your arm is achieved, push back up until you are back into the starting position being careful not to swing your body.
- Close Grip Bench Press
What’s better to carry over to a bench press than a variation of the bench press itself?? The close grip bench press works all of the muscles that a conventional bench press works but places more emphasis on the triceps. It also allows you to keep a very similar technique and also uses a lot of the same stabilising muscles that the conventional bench press uses so this makes it one of the perfect carry over and bench boosting exercises out there.
Lie down on your back on the bench and position yourself so your eyes are directly underneath the bar.
Grip the bar over hand, shoulder width apart and unrack the bar keeping your arms straight. Position the bar so it is in line with the bottom of your chest.
Brace your core, dig your shoulder blades into the bench and bend at the elbows whilst lowering the bar all the way down until it touches your chest.
Push up in a controlled motion until your arms are straight.
- DB Floor Press
Many people rely on too much body movement i.e. leg drive during the bench press and this removes a lot of the work from the muscles you should be targeting during the lift. Most people also have trouble with the mid point of the lift and struggle to lock the bar out after the initial push off your chest. Dumbbell Floor Presses cure both these problems and demands you to work harder. Targeting pretty much every muscle a conventional bench press uses whilst honing your form. Add this exercise into your routine and reap the benefits.
Lie down on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Grab two dumbbells in exactly the same position you would at the bottom of a normal dumbbell press, slightly on your chest.
Brace your core, dig your shoulder blades into the ground and push up explosively whilst exhaling until your arms are nearly locked out.
Slowly lower your arms back down into the starting position, pause briefly and repeat.
- Barbell Rows
Rows!? What are these doing here? Rows are a back exercise! Well, a big and strong back will help stabilise your whole body on the bench and make sure you are tight and sturdy whilst benching. It will also help rotator cuff health as you will be balancing out your muscles in your upper body and making sure nothing is imbalanced and having to take the brunt of the work.
Grab a barbell with an overhand grip making sure your palms are facing down. Lean forward, your back and bend your knees slightly with the barbell hanging in front of you.
Keeping everything tight and stationary, pull the barbell towards you until your elbows are past your body line, squeeze your muscles in your back.
Slowly bring the weight back in the same motion and return to the starting position
For most of the exercises above, you can work in the 4 sets of 8-10 rep range, adding in some or all of the exercises onto your upper body days. For real progression, replace your isolation movements with the exercises above and watch your bench explode! I really hope you’ve found this article informative, feel free to tweet us and leave a comment below with your thoughts and questions!