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9 Exercises That Improve Your Bench Press

Written by Mark Johnson

bench press

One of the most important upper body exercises to be doing in your workout program is the bench press.  The bench press is going to primarily develop the chest, however while working this major muscle group, you’re also going to be working the shoulders, triceps, and the biceps to some degree as well as they act to stabilize the weight being lifted.

As such, it’s a compound exercise that allows you to lift a maximum amount of weight, making for great strength gains.

This said, you shouldn’t just perform bench press alone. There are plenty of other exercises to consider performing along with it that will help round out your workout routine and improve the overall strength gains that you experience.

Let’s go over what these exercises are so that you can start incorporating them into your workout routine if you aren’t already.

9. Dips

The first exercise to consider adding to your protocol are chest dips. This move is good for not only improving balance and agility, but it’ll also help to enhance chest and tricep strength.

When doing this exercise you’ll want to ensure you are leaning forward, adopting a proper position in order to call the chest into play.

If regular dips become too easy for you, you can then increase the intensity by adding some weighted plates to your body, increasing the overall resistance.

8. Wide Grip Bench Press

Moving along, in addition to doing the regular bench press, consider adjusting your grip pattern on occasion as well.  Utilizing a wide grip bench press is going to help target the chest muscle more, reducing the reliance on the shoulder muscles.

If you feel as though you need to bring up your chest muscles as they’re not experiencing strength gains themselves, this is a great way to do it.

The nice thing about this method is that you’ll be boosting chest strength, while still training in the movement pattern that you will use to do the standard bench press.

This will help you feel more comfortable when you do go to do your regular flat bench, which can then mean superior strength gains.

Alternatively, you can also add in a narrow grip bench press as well on occasion if you prefer to hit the triceps and shoulders more, taking stress away from the pectoral muscles.

Either is a great way to add more variety to your workout program and keep you mentally stimulated.

7. Incline Bench

Another move to get into place is the incline bench.  This movement is going to compliment the flat bench very nicely and you can alternate between the two as you go about your workout program.

The incline bench is going to place a little more emphasis on the top of the chest muscle along with the shoulders, gaining strength in these areas – both of which are also important when executing the flat bench.

The incline bench press can also be done with a relatively heavy weight – typically not quite as heavy as a flat bench, but quite similar. Use a lower rep range if doing this as a primary strength building exercise towards the beginning of your workout program.

6. Push-Ups

The second move to get into place is the push-up.  Often disregarded in many workout programs because it doesn’t involve weight, don’t overlook what this exercise has to offer.

The push-up is a great way to strengthen the chest muscle, especially after all your strength moves have been completed, bringing your muscles to the point of full fatigue.

The other great thing about the push-up is that with so many variations that can be done, there’s little risk of your muscles growing bored with time.  As soon as your muscles begin to get bored, that’s when you’re at a high risk of hitting a plateau, failing to see further progress.

You can try one arm push-ups or even weighted push-ups (wearing a weighted vest or placing weight plates on top of the body) to add more challenge to this movement.

Try a new push-up each workout to keep things interesting. Just do be sure that you’re using proper form while doing the push-up or results will elude you and you’ll only put yourself at a high risk for back pain.

5. Chest Fly’s

Moving along, chest fly’s are another go-to move to get into the program if you want to focus on boosting your bench.  This is an isolation movement, meaning it’ll target just the chest muscle, without bringing any others into play.

This can be helpful if you feel like your chest muscles themselves are quite weak and need something to help provide more of a boost.  Chest fly’s should be done after your heavy lifting is completed, or, if using the pre-fatigue principle, can be done prior to.

When doing chest fly’s, the primary point to note is the mind-muscle connection. You want to really feel like the two pectoral muscles are squeezing together as you bring the weight up and down. This will give you the best overall contraction, ensuring that you see maximum development.

Also be sure to watch your pattern of movement. Don’t’ let the arms go below parallel to the body or you’re going to find that you immediately place strain on the shoulder joint.

4. Overhead Tricep Extension

As mentioned earlier, the triceps are also going to be called into play whenever you’re doing a bench press set, so you want to be sure these aren’t the weakest link. If they aren’t providing much support as you execute the movement, you’ll find that you either can’t lift as much weight, or you fatigue much faster than you otherwise would.

The overhead tricep extension is an excellent tricep building move. It’ll isolate your triceps, ensuring they reach the point of fatigue where strength gains are experienced.

You can either do this move after you perform your bench press, or if you prefer, do it prior to doing the bench press. This can be a good protocol to utilize if you want to make sure that the chest is doing most of the work in each bench press set you do.  By tiring out your triceps, they won’t provide the help they otherwise would.  Doing a few workouts like this and then going back to the straight bench press again (without doing the tricep extension beforehand), will then have you seeing increased strength progress.

3. Shoulder Press

Another move to note and get into your workout program is the shoulder press.  Since your shoulders will also be a primary mover when doing the bench press, the stronger they are, the more weight you’ll be able to lift.

As the shoulder press is also one of the primary strength building exercises, you may want to place it on an entirely separate day from when you do your bench press. This will ensure there’s no lingering fatigue when doing either of these exercises.

The shoulder press can be done seated or standing, with either a barbell or a dumbbell, whichever you prefer.

When doing this move, the main point to know and remember is to make sure that you first doing hyperextend the elbows as that will place great strain on this joint and second, to ensure that you squeeze your abdominal core. By doing so, you’ll prevent the swayback that can otherwise occur, putting your low back at risk for injury.

2. Lateral Raise

Lateral raises are yet another good move to have in place to help boost your bench press. This one will work indirectly because here again, it’ll help strengthen the shoulder muscles, which will then give you more force production during the bench press.

Do your lateral raises after doing the shoulder press, taking the rep range up higher to get a good muscle pump going.

You might prefer doing these with just one arm at a time to help ensure that you don’t bring momentum into the equation at all. Often people will ‘swing’ the weights upward, really taking the stress off the muscles you’re targeting.

1. Barbell Curls

Finally, the barbell curl is the last move to get into your workout protocol.  Barbell curls are an excellent strength building movement and will provide transfer over benefits to the bench press, helping you stabilize the bar as you lower it downward.

Barbell curls should also be performed towards the end of the workout session as they are an isolation move as well and typically will be taken into a higher rep range.

If you have a tendency to experience shoulder or elbow pain, you may wish to do dumbbell curls instead, which will place less strain on these joints.

So there you have some of the best moves to do if you want to boost your bench.  Were you neglecting any of these in your workout routine? If you were, making a few changes so they’re now in your smart exercise line-up.

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