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4 Exercises That Beat the Bench Press

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Impossible you say? Skip this article at your own risk, but if you want to build a bigger and stronger chest, here are four moves you’d be crazy to overlook.

Chained to the Bench

Bench Press with Chains

Can chains really make the bench press even better? I mean you don’t see a lot of guys using them at the gym, so what gives? First and foremost, the idea of chains isn’t merely about adding weight, though at first glance, it might appear to be. You may be thinking, “Why not simply add more plates?” That’s a good question. But with chains added to the ends of the bar, you actually vary the resistance during the bench move from the bottom of the rep to the top, unlike when you simply add a weight (which goes along for the rep all the way through the range of motion). When was the last time you were able to literally change the resistance of a free weight move mid rep? We’ll wait while you think about that one.

The truth is, you might be able to handle a certain weight at the top of the bench press, but you’re not quite strong enough to handle that same weight when the bar is an inch away from your chest. That’s why chains are so great. With your arms fully extended above you, more of the heavy chains are off the floor (the bar is at a farther distance from the floor). That’s the heaviest the bar will ever be during this set. But as you lower the bar toward your chest (entering the weakest portion of your lift), the bar gets lighter as the bar descends and more links begin to rest on the floor. Then as you press the bar up and off of your chest, more links are once again lifted off the floor, causing the bar to increase in weight toward the top.

So as the weight is getting heavier, you obviously have to recruit more muscle fibers. And, as with partials, you’re strongest toward the end of the range of motion (past your sticking point), which is ideal because in this case, that’s when you’re lifting the most weight. Chains cause the bar to get heavier the farther you press it away from your chest, which allows for maximal tension on the pecs when the muscle is at its strongest. That’s some chain reaction!

Unless your gym has chains readily available, you may have to invest in your own set and keep them in your trunk. Probably the most popular method of incorporating chains into your bench-press routine is to get two 3/8″ chains and two 5/8″ chains. The 3/8″ chain is used to wrap around the end of the bar and hold the 5/8″ chain. One 3/8″ chain (five pounds) plus one 5/8″ chain (20 pounds) weighs about 25 pounds. And during the bench press, when setting up the chains on the bar, it’s crucial that the 5/8″ chains rest completely on the floor in the bottom position. There will probably be some trial and error until you get it perfect.

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