Tuesday, September 27, 2016


If you said barbell bench press, you’re wrong!

If you tell anyone you lift their first question will usually be “how much do you bench”?

There are several reasons for that question:

·        The bench press is the first lift they learned or the only one they know.
·        The bench press is one of the “Big Three” lifts used in many strength contests (along with the dead lift and squat) outside the Olympics.
·        They’ve been told they have to do the bench press.. It’s sort of like “you have to eat your spinach”

There is no doubt the bench press is a fantastic exercise and one you should be doing. But the barbell bench press is actually better for building strength than muscle mass.

But here are the reasons the barbell bench press is not the best exercise for building muscle on your scrawny chest:

1.     The barbell bench press is a compound exercise involving the pectoral  (chest muscle), anterior deltoids, triceps, forearms and, for some people ,even the back and legs.
This is about as wrong as wrong can get

It is impossible to isolate the pecs doing the barbell bench press.

2.     It’s impossible to get a full range of motion on the pecs doing a barbell bench press especially on the stretch(bottom)  portion of the lift.

3.     The other muscles involved with the bench press will exhaust before the pecs preventing the pecs from getting maximum stimulation.

4.     While the pectoral muscle is essentially one large muscle, it covers a lot of area and connects in several places. And it is possible to stimulate different portions of the pecs more than others. The bench press limits the areas and angles you can use to stimulate the pecs.

The best exercises to build the pecs: (in no particular order)

The first two exercises may surprise you. But they are excellent for building pec muscle.

1.     Pushup
The best variation to build the chest is the “triangle” hand position. Place you hands together flat on the floor with your fingers and thumbs forming a triangle between your hands. Keep your elbows in close to your sides.This moves most of the stimulation from your triceps to your chest.
For the best chest stimulation, do the pushup with you feet elevated above your hands and/or add weight. Use a weighted vest or have a training partner stabilize plates on your back
Progress by adding weight or increasing the height of your feet above your hands.

2.     Weighted Chest Dip
The Dip is normally associated with building triceps. But, instead of keeping your body upright as you would for triceps, lean forward as much as possible. Use a dip belt (made for the purpose) to add weight or just hold a dumbbell between your feet. Progress by adding weight.

3.     Fly’s
There are a lot of variations on the chest fly;
Cable Fly-standing high cables fly. Standing low cable fly, seated cable fly, incline bench cable fly, decline bench cable fly, flat bench cable fly.
Dumbbell Fly- incline, decline or flat
Pec Dec

All of the above will give you a longer range of motion and stretch than the standard bench press and produce more growth. Use them all. Mix them up. Use all the different angles,

The incline variations will stimulate the upper pecs more. The declines will stimulate the lower pecs more.

Crossovers, a variation of the cable flys, will help stimulate the inner portion of the pecs.  Cross your forearms over each other as far as possible and hold the squeeze.

While iso-stretches (holding the load in the stretch position) will stimulate the outer pecs better.

The dumbbell fly, whether incline, decline or flat will give you a much better range of motion than the barbell version.

Even a dumbbell flat bench press will give you a better range of motion than the barbell press.

4.     Machine Press
The only advantage to using a machine press occurs when you have a machine available that allows a longer range of motion than the standard barbell bench press. There are several brands that have this advantage.

5.     Incline and Decline Barbell Bench Press
Both the incline and decline bench press will give you a slightly better range of motion than the flat bench and it’s harder to cheat. Incline will hit the upper part of the pecs and decline will hit the lower part of the pecs.

Keep the flat barbell bench press in your program. But remember that it’s a strength exercise (and a very good one) but it’s not the best option of building chest muscle.
A wider grip will stimulate the pecs more than a standard or narrow grip and give you a slightly better range of motion on the eccentric.

How to do a proper barbell bench press
Follow these guidelines for the safest and most effective barbell bench press

1.     Your feet stay flat on the floor. It’s ok to pull the feet slightly back under you to get better traction and push through the floor.
2.     Your butt stays flat on the bench
3.     Don’t flare out your elbows when lowering the bar. Keep them no wider than 75 degrees. Flaring the elbows out to 90 degrees will result in shoulder impingement.
4.     Lower the bar to mid-chest and raise the bar on a diagonal line to directly above your shoulders
5.     Don’t try to raise your chest up to meet the bar by arching your back. There should be no more than a slight arch in the lower back.
6.     Find you most effective grip width. It will depend on the length of your arms and the health of your shoulders. Too wide and you will have shoulder problems. Too narrow and you are shifting the stimulus to your triceps.

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