Sport-Functional Ways to Build Your Chest

Make your workouts more sport-functional by pressing resistance without a bench, using combo exercises that promote strength and power.

Clap Push-Up

Face it. In the world of sports, benches are generally reserved for sitting on the sidelines. So although it's good for  impressing teammates, bench-pressing huge amounts of poundage is not sport-specific. After all, no athlete wants to be on his back trying to lift an opponent off his chest—especially a wrestler on the verge of getting pinned or an offensive lineman knocked to the ground, looking up and unable to protect his quarterback from getting sacked.

As an athlete, you're wasting your time by simply bench-pressing day in and day out. Make your workouts more sport-functional by pressing away resistance without using a bench. Try these combo exercises to promote upper- and lower-body strength and power.

Strength/Power Sets

Supine Presses, Inverted Rows and Horizontal Pull-Ups

Sets/Reps: 3x3-5 at 80 to 90% RM

Pushing and pulling movements are used in several sports, whether from a supine, seated, upright or even a prone position, as in pushing up off the ground to rise and run downfield.

  • At the squat rack (or Smith Machine), set the pins about three to four inches below your full lockout reach during a Bench Press.
  • Load barbell on rack with moderate to heavy plates.
  • Lie on mat under the racked barbell with legs bent.
  • With hands at shoulder-width, press bar off rack and do three to five reps, holding for five to 10 seconds on the last rep. Bar is held about an inch off rack in near lockout position.
  • Lower to rack and while still holding barbell with overhand shoulder-width grip, pull yourself up toward bar (hips off floor, legs extended and feet upright on heels).
  • Slowly lower and explosively pull up 2 to 4 more times.
  • Hold on last rep 5 to 10 seconds with chest up near bar and arms bent.
  • Lower and return to start position for the presses.
  • Rest 60 seconds and repeat sequence twice more.

Hypertrophy Sets

Plyometric Push-Ups and Burpees

Sets/Reps: 3x10 to 12 at 70-80% RM

This is a great combo movement for adding mass to chest, deltoids, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes. The Push-Ups/Burpees sequence also mimics sports movements like rapidly pushing up from the ground and rising to get back on offense or defense while the play continues during football, hockey or basketball games.

  • Explosively perform 10 to 12 Push-Ups (hands leaving floor between reps).
  • Immediately follow with Burpees (thrust feet forward towards hands and back from push-up position).
  • Quickly stand up and jump.
  • Return to push-up stance and repeat nine to 11 more times.
  • Rest 60 seconds, drink water, and repeat sequence twice more.

Endurance Sets

Cable Squats and Press-Outs

Sets/Reps: 3x15 to 20 at 60 to 70% RM

This is an effective combo exercise for enhancing upper- and lower-body muscular endurance, a key attribute for many sports. Performing Press-Outs from an upright (vertical) stance rather than from a supine position (à la Bench Press) is more sports-functional, whether blocking in football, passing cross court in basketball, or pushing away a wrestling opponent.

  • Grab two cable handles at chest level (back facing away from machine, handles close to chest) and assume an athletic stance.
  • Squat and explosively press handles away from chest while arising from squat position.
  • Do 15 to 20 Squat/Press-Out reps.
  • Rest 30 seconds, hydrate and repeat twice more.

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