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5 Barbell Bench Press Alternatives And Variations For Chest And Shoulders

5 Barbell Bench Press Alternatives And Variations For Chest And Shoulders

  1. Do you currently utilize the barbell bench press to pack on chest muscle? 
  2. Do you currently experience shoulder pain or discomfort from bench pressing? 
  3. Are you hitting plateaus on your bench press failing to make further strength gains? 
  4. Are you interested in other innovative bench press variations, or alternatives for massive chest gains and strength? 

If you’re currently rolling in on Monday’s to hit what the rest of the health club world refers to as National Chest day then today I want to present you with some slightly different exercises that you can incorporate on your chest days to help you to make strength and muscle gains while cutting down on shoulder pain. Give these bench press alternatives a try and give me your feedback!

Bench Press Alternatives And Variations

When it comes to the almighty bench press I don’t think we’re going to argue that it can be a great exercise for packing on upper body muscle and strength. However the barbell bench press exercise seems to be one of the most abused and misused movements in many gyms across the globe. Hell in some cases it’s the only movement misused because it’s one of the only exercises that some guys even do when they go to train at the gym, but digress.

Try incorporating these barbell bench press variations and alternatives for greater gains and optimal shoulder health.

1) Go To The Dumbbell Bench Press: Even though the barbell is more of a “free weight” the bar itself causes you to have to grip it at a fixed angle. In short, this means that the bar doesn’t bend which is why it might be a good idea for you to transition over to doing some dumbbell work as it allows for a freer moving range of motion (ROM) for your shoulder.

In addition to this the dumbbell bench press will trigger some different stabilizers throughout your arms and shoulders to challenge different muscle fibers producing some different strength gains.

2) Go To The Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press: I’m personally a huge proponent of the single arm dumbbell bench press. Loading the dumbbell in one arm allows for some tremendous core stability as you offset the load on one side of your body. This produces a diagonal line of tension that runs from your loaded hand with the dumbbell all the way down to your opposite hip.

This line of tension creates a tremendous amount of core and shoulder stability from having to handle the free weight throughout the press. I’m a big proponent of single limb training for this very reason and you can apply this to both the flat and incline bench press to play with the angle and ROM.

3) Go To A Close Grip On The Barbell: Moving your grip closer together on the barbell until it’s about even with your armpits will take a great deal of stress off your shoulders and transition much of that load stress onto your triceps. This is a great way to alleviate a lot of pressure on the shoulders while giving yourself a slightly bigger ROM.

4) Go To Push-ups: I’m an absolute huge fan of push-ups. Push ups will challenge your entire upper body and even more of your core foundation as the movement demands full body tension from you to execute it the way the movement is intended.

In addition to this the push up is a closed kinetic chain movement meaning that your limbs being stressed for the movement are fixed against an immovable surface…in this case being the ground. This definitely challenges your strength in a completely different way and integrates your muscular chain to perform for real world functional strength.

5) Go To A More Dynamic Crossover Push-up: This push-up variation demands a great deal more effort than you may think. In fact, whenever you start to change your hand position (particularly when elevating one hand) your push-up intensity will rapidly go up.

This particular crossover push-up using a kettlebell demands a great deal more stability at your shoulder and chest. It does this while also challenging you by redistributing your bodyweight on and off of each hand as you move them on and off of the kettlebell.

Bench Press Alternatives And Variations: The Takeaway

One of the keys to increasing your upper body strength and maintaining healthy shoulders is making sure to implement alternatives and variations of movement with and without the barbell. Getting stuck in doing the same pattern on the barbell over time may potentially cause you shoulder discomfort over the long haul.

Are you currently bench pressing more than twice per week? 

What alternatives and variations for the bench press are you using? 

Please post up and share here in the comments below. 

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Brandon

I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Well Coach it seems as if you have done it again. Taking a tried and true exercise and making it better and more functional. Being an old man (62) I have to look for ways to improve without being stupid and your programs are great for functionality. Thank you, Thank you!!!

    1. Brian this is awesome to hear my friend! I do enjoy more bench press variations myself these days. I’m so glad to hear about your progress and that you are crushing it everyday with my 120 Day Program! Let me know if I can be of any help! Stay strong!

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