The Best Bench Press Alternatives You Need to Be Training
The bench press has long been reserved for ripped guys at the community gym sweating through their muscle tanks, grunting loudly, and smacking each other on the back. In reality, though, the bench press is a phenomenal compound movement everyone should be practicing due to its many benefits.
Benching is excellent for:
- Building strength in the deltoids and triceps.
- Improving core and midline stability.
- Increasing overall strength.
- Improving power and explosiveness.
While training the classic bench press is always a good idea, there are many alternatives which give you a similar workout — with their own unique twists. Let's go over a few of them.
9 Bench Press Alternatives
1. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
This brings the bench press to a whole different level. Because you have to work even harder to stabilize heavy weight bearing down on one side only, your core is going to get an even spicier workout. Without a sturdy core (and quads and glutes), you'll tip in the direction of the side holding the dumbbell.
Plus, since it's a unilateral exercise, you'll discover weaknesses and imbalances you didn't know you have — such as one shoulder that's weaker or less mobile than the other. Bonus!
Side note: you can also try these using a kettlebell. Just note holding a kettlebell feels very different from holding a dumbbell, so you should start with light weight to first familiarize yourself with the movement.
2. Dumbbell Floor Press
In this case, there are two things making this movement extra challenging.
First, as in the previous alternative, you'll be introduced to a new kind of stabilization. A bar is one relatively stable object. Two dumbbells, however, must be stabilized overhead (as a barbell would) but also front to back and side to side. This means you have to engage yourself in a totally different way in order to keep the dumbbell on the proper path of travel.
Second, doing the press from the floor limits the range of motion in a way that forces your pecs to work even harder. You are on 100% tension, 100% of the time.
Combine these two things and you have one heck of a workout.
3. Dumbbell Squeeze Press
While this one is commonly used by athletes who don't have the shoulder mobility for a traditional bench press, it still deserves your attention.
In the dumbbell squeeze press, you have a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing inward toward each other. As you lower and push up on the dumbbells, you should also think of squeezing them together.
4. Diamond Push-ups
Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can be doing for yourself. Better yet, there are countless variations you can try that target your muscles in new ways.
One push-up variation, in particular, applies to your bench press.
Move your hands closer together so your fingers form a diamond (or maybe a triangle). This type of push-up especially engages your triceps — a benefit which will apply to many other movements, like other kinds of overhead presses.
5. Offset Push-Ups
A traditional push-up, however challenging it may (understandably) be, still has one benefit: you're doing it on a solid, unmoving surface.
Let's change that part up a bit.
Grab a medicine ball. For the exercise, one hand will be on the ground and the other will be on the ball. You might not be able to lower yourself as far as you normally would — and that's okay. Start small and just be sure to work both sides evenly.
Dips are great for targeting the triceps, which — as you know now — are needed for a multitude of exercises. Your lower pecs will also feel the burn with these.
You can do dips at body weight in a dip stand, on the gymnastics rings, or simply propped up on a bench.
Make them more challenging by adding weight! For dips in a dip stand, you might hold a dumbbell between your knees or wear a belt with small plates attached.
The same goes for dips on the rings.
When doing dips from a bench, simply put a plate in your lap to increase the difficulty.
7. Landmine Press
The landmine press is a favorite amongst athletes because of the number of muscles it targets in your pecs, shoulders, and core. If you lack the shoulder mobility to do it with both hands, try doing a single-arm landmine press. Either way, you're going to feel it.
To execute, start kneeling, clasp your hand(s) around a weighted barbell, and press overhead.
This exercise combines two fundamental movements. Start by performing a regular push-up, but at the top, lean back into child's pose. You'll notice this works your chest and core from all angles and also forces you to work on both hip and shoulder mobility.
9. Ring Push-Ups
The gymnastics rings are an underestimated gym tool. Lower them until they're almost touching the ground, with maybe a few inches to spare. They should be just outside shoulder-width apart — the same places your two hands would be for traditional push-ups.
Starting at the top of your push-up, situate yourself by holding on to the rings, making sure to keep your wrists straight. From here, perform a push-up.
Important note: these are tough and a killer workout for your entire upper body! If you don't yet have the strength, first focus on holding yourself in the rings as a timed plank. Next, practice just the negative of the push-up (the down phase).
In time, you'll be able to execute the full movement.
You know what they say: variety is the spice of life. You stand to gain a lot from bench presses. You stand to gain even more from changing it up and challenging your body to new things. Try these exercises in your programming this week!
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