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.
Bench Press…In Reverse
Like the other techniques, this one starts on the standard bench press. The idea is to completely flip the bench press, which is exactly what a “reverse movement” does. To review, here’s how the typical rep goes: You unrack the bar and hold it above your chest. Next, inhale and slowly lower the bar toward your lower pecs (this isn’t a negative, just lower it under control as usual) before exploding the bar back up to the start position. That’s how you’ve done it a thousand times, but we’re going to completely reverse the protocol.
A reverse bench press has you begin each rep with the bar at your chest, completely eliminating that initial downward phase. Unless you’ve tried it, you may not realize that when you lower the bar to the chest, you’re actually building up negative energy (sometimes called elastic energy) inside the target muscles as well as the assisting delts and triceps. And when the bar reaches the chest and you explode upward, that built-up energy is used to press the bar back up to the start. (Ever wonder why the first rep in, say, dumbbell bench presses is so hard? The weights are in the down position and you have to build up the energy to assist in the lift.) If you didn’t have that built-up energy, as is the case with the reverse bench press, it’s much more difficult to bench press. And that’s precisely what reverse movements do. They eliminate the built-up negative energy that makes the positive (concentric) contraction easier to perform. Each and every rep starts from a full stop, making it much harder to complete.
For reverse movements to be the most effective, it’s important to let the bar settle on the safety bars (set at the bottom of the range of motion just above your chest) between each rep. In other words, each rep must begin and end in the bottom part of the bench press, where the bar is near your chest. But you physically have to allow the bar to rest on the safety bars for a split second, allowing the energy to release from your chest, arms and shoulders before pressing upward. If it helps, go ahead and count “one thousand one” between each rep to ensure you’re stopping long enough between reps.
Clearly this exercise is also done in the power rack because it’s the safest and most effective place to perform reverse-style bench presses (or anything reverse style for that matter). Just set a bench inside the rack, placing the safety bars at a point just above your chest. Begin loading the bar, warming up as you’d normally do if you were doing a standard bench press. Once you’re warm, you can begin your reverse bench presses. Each rep begins with the bar in the bottom position. After each set, rest about two minutes, then repeat. Just remember, you won’t be able to do as many reps as you can with your normal weight, but the focus here is on building strength out of the hole, so to speak, so that when you go back to conventional bench pressing, you’ll be far stronger and able to explode the weight up from the bottom. For advanced bodybuilders, you can even raise the safety bars (a few times) and train at a different angle incorporating the reverse technique.
So there you have it. Four techniques and in effect, four new exercises that you can add to your chest routine, all guaranteed to do more for you than a conventional bench press could. We’ve also included a sample workout plan (four weeks, four methods) so you can get an idea on how each should be included in your routine. You can try it or you can also use any one technique for up to four weeks before switching. Either way, take a week or two off after each month to make sure you don’t overtrain your chest (and overwork your joints). The great thing about these techniques is that once you perfect them for chest, the concepts can be applied to other bodyparts, so start thinking outside the box for bigger gains.
Hot to Use the Better-Than-Bench Techniques
Make the king of upper-body exercises reign supreme with these four workouts
Bench Press Partial Training: 4 Sets (3 angles) x 6-12 Reps (2 min Rest)
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 Sets x 10-12 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Decline Flye: 3 Sets x 10-12 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Push-Up: 2 Sets to failure (1 min Rest)
Bench Press with Chains: 4 Sets x 6-10 Reps (2 min Rest)
Smith-Machine Decline Press: 4 Sets x 10-12 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Incline Cable Flye: 3 Sets x 12-15 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Pec-Deck Machine: 2 Sets x 15 Reps (1 min Rest)
Bench Press with Isometrics: 4 Sets (3 angles) x 10 Reps (2 min Rest)
Flat-Bench Dumbbell Press: 4 Sets x 12 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Incline Dumbbell Press: 4 Sets x 15 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Dips: 3 Sets to failure (1 min Rest)
Reverse Bench Press**: 4 Sets x 8-10 Reps (2 min Rest)
Decline Cable Flye: 4 Sets x 12-15 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Incline Dumbbell Flye: 4 Sets x 12-15 Reps (1-2 min Rest)
Incline Dumbbell Pullover: 2 Sets x 12-15 Reps (1-2 min Rest)