Why One Bench Press Is Not Enough

Although the traditional Bench Press has long reigned king, try these variations to build a more well-rounded upper body.

The Bench Press has a mystique all its own. It's the one lift everybody always wants to improve. It's the one lift people constantly ask each other about (how much do you bench, bro?). Even people who've never stepped foot in a weight room know the Bench Press. And we all love those magical moments when you hit your next big benching goal (remember the first time you got 225 up? Two plates on both sides! That was awesome!)

But all this focus placed on the traditional Bench Press can leave other variations under appreciated—and underutilized. Simply adjusting the surface on which you perform the Bench Press can have a pronounced effect on the targeted muscle groups and your overall strength gains.

Although the traditional Bench Press has long reigned as king, give some of these other variations a try to build a more well-rounded upper body.

RELATED: 10 Bench Press Variations for a Bigger and Stronger Chest

Floor Press

For this variation, all you need is a barbell, a place to lie down and a spotter. What makes the Floor Press different from the Bench Press is that it limits your range of motion. Although a limited range of motion might sound like a bad thing, in this case it helps target specific muscle groups, prevents shoulder injuries and might translate to your sport better than the traditional Bench Press.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the bar until your triceps touch the ground.
  • Push the bar up and straighten your arms, keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Benefits: By limiting your range of motion, the Floor Press targets your triceps more than the Bench Press, greatly reducing the stress placed on your shoulders. By placing you flat on the floor, the Floor Press can help you avoid unnecessary movements that might occur during the traditional Bench Press (lifting legs, torquing back, etc.), and it also forces you to actually push the weight instead of bouncing it off your chest.

The Floor Press can even help you up your Bench Press max, since it works on what is usually referred to as the "sticking point." Finally, the Floor Press might translate better to your sport. In football, for example, you're more likely to be in a situation that requires pushing from a semi-extended position than from a position where your hands start at your chest.

Decline Bench Press

The Decline Bench Press is often ignored. The necessary equipment is usually in a dark, dank corner of the gym, where it is used more for Sit-Ups than the exercise for which it's intended. It may look a little odd at first—since it requires your feet to be higher than your head—but the Decline Press offers big benefits. The next time you hit the gym, dust the cobwebs off of the decline bench and knock out a few sets.

  • Lie on a decline bench and hook your feet into place.
  • Using an overhand grip with your hands shoulder-width apart, lower the bar slowly to the bottom of your chest.
  • Push the bar up and straighten your arms, keeping your lower body stationary.

Benefits: One immediate advantage of the Decline Bench Press is that it often allows you to lift a heavier load than you can on the traditional Bench Press. Not only is this fun, but it can help you build more muscle and overall strength. The Decline Bench Press also places less stress on your shoulders and lower back, two areas where frequent benchers often experience pain. But perhaps the biggest advantage of the Decline Bench Press is that it more effectively targets your pectoralis major, i.e., your "pecs," than does the traditional Bench Press. A bigger chest without sore shoulders? Sounds good. Learn more about the benefits of the Decline Bench Press.

Incline Bench Press

Simply jacking the bench up a couple of notches can deliver enormous benefits. The Incline Bench Press should be a part of any athlete's routine, because it heavily targets the upper chest and shoulders. Many gyms have incline benches or benches that can be adjusted. It's best to use an incline angle of about 45 degrees. Anything more than that and you'll basically be doing a Shoulder Press!

  • Lie on an incline bench and place your feet either on the ground or on the footrest.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip and your hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the bar until the bar touches your chest.
  • Push the bar and straighten your arms. When you're fully extended, the bar should be over your chin, not your chest.

Benefits: The Incline Bench Press blasts your upper pecs and anterior deltoids better than the traditional Bench Press. It also challenges your triceps. Although you probably won't be able to lift as much weight as you can with the traditional Bench Press, take solace in the fact that the Incline Bench Press is a more challenging exercise. That means you'll still build plenty of muscle even if you aren't hoisting quite as much weight. Learn more about the benefits of the Incline Bench Press.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | BENCH PRESS | BENCH | PRESS | RANGE OF MOTION | INCLINE BENCH PRESS | DECLINE BENCH