4 Exercises That Beat the Bench Press
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.
Try Not to Move
With so many guys trying to impress one another with how much weight they can bench, it seems out of place to consider a technique to bring up your pecs that instead focuses on zero visible movement. You naturally think that the bar needs to be moving for there to be any benefit. But indeed, in no other exercise can isometrics catapult you to the next level than on the bench press.
In way of review, an isometric contraction is one in which the muscular force equals the external resistance, producing no visible movement. A good example would be if you loaded up the bar with much, much more weight than you could possibly bench it doesn’t move an inch. While the bar may not be moving, that doesn’t mean nothing is going on inside your muscles. In fact, research confirms that you can increase both size and strength doing isometric contractions. The bottom line is you’re going to use more weight than your max lift, producing no movement whatsoever.
For that reason, we again look to the power rack for help because the standard bench press isn’t safe, nor is it practical, to try isometrics. With that said, there are a couple of ways you can approach the power rack with isometrics. You can either load a bar that’s resting atop the safety bars with more weight than you can possibly budge, or you can hold an empty bar underneath the safeties and press upward into the bars (which again will result in no movement). Both ways will have the same result of an incredible amount of force and zero movement, both vital to a successful isometric exercise.
But there’s a catch with isometric training: It’s angle specific, meaning you only gain strength and size at that particular angle. So let’s say you set the safety bars just above chest level. Your gains in strength will be realized solely at that angle. That’s where the power rack is so helpful because it offers so many angles to work within simply by changing the height of the safety bars. In the end, if you’re able to increase strength at multiple levels, you’ll be able to move more weight during normal bench pressing. More strength equals more mass. End of story.
But if the bar doesn’t move, what does an isometric set look like? Well, because there’s no movement of the bar, one way to account for a set is to view each second of pressing time as a single rep; one second equals one rep. So if your goal is 10 reps, you’d press against the bar with all your strength for 10 seconds. After a sufficient rest period, 1–2 minutes let’s say, you’d repeat that process. Then you can raise or lower the safety bars and repeat the process at a new angle. You can either do that in the same workout or even from week to week if you cared to focus only on a particular angle on a given day. After doing isometric bench presses, you’ll move to other exercises with varying angles to complete your daily workout.