When it comes to upper-body lifting, the Bench Press is king. It allows for the most weight to be pressed, which provides the best way to gain both strength and size for the chest. In terms of accessible alternatives and accessory exercises for the Bench Press, cable machines provide a variety of options with the simplicity of only using one piece of equipment.
Single-arm kettlebell alternatives are an option, but kettlebells are not accessible as cable machines in many gyms, so using cables provides more opportunities to perform these presses in addition to or instead of the Bench Press. While all of the exercises mentioned below are single-arm unilateral exercises by nature, they can be adapted in many ways, including being performed as bilateral exercises.
Half-Kneeling Cable Chest Press
When it comes to adding a stability challenge, the Half-Kneeling position is a great way to use body weight to your advantage. To ensure the half-kneeling position will be performed correctly, Mike Robertson has 5 steps to get into and maintain the position properly.
Once in a solid half-kneeling position, it is simple, however not easy, to perform a Chest Press with cables. With the cable handle sitting at chest height for a kneeling subject, all one must do is press forward at chest level. Without a strong brace of the core, balance will be lost, and it will not be possible to perform this press.
With the opposite knee up of the arm that is pressing, the weight will always be trying to pull the person pressing off balance, especially when their pressing arm is fully extended. Although stability is challenged here, weight should still be heavy in this position. Unlike most Chest Presses, this press is horizontal rather than vertical and will have a different feel to it, which adds good variety.
Anti-Rotation Cable Chest Press
To perform this press, place a bench perpendicular to a cable machine. Using a setup that would look like it should be for a Chest Fly rather than Chest Press, this press will challenge rotational stability of the core, and either internal or external rotation of the humerus. This can be progressed using either a physio ball, an offset position on a bench, or a bridged position on a bench. It also can be performed bilaterally as well as unilaterally as is standard for it.
With a bench lined up perpendicular to a cable, the person pressing can either use their inside arm to perform an Anti-External Rotation Cable Press or their outside arm to perform an Anti-Internal Rotation Chest Press. The Anti-External Rotation Chest Press will allow for heavier weight to be pressed than the Anti-Internal Rotation Chest Press. Throughout the Anti-External Rotation movement, the person performing must adduct their chest muscle, which conducts adduction as a primary movement. With the Anti-Internal Rotation Chest Press, the chest must perform abduction, which is an antagonist movement, causing it to be weaker for this press.
When it comes to arm care, these presses are a great way to add arm care to a Chest Press along with extra core stability.
Anti-Flexion Cable Chest Press
Just like the Anti-Rotation Cable Press, this press can be progressed using either a physio ball, an offset position on a bench or a bridged position on a bench. It also can be performed either bilaterally or unilaterally. Rather than being perpendicular to the cable machine though, the person performing the press will line up with the bench as an extension of the cables. In doing so, this press will be performed similarly to Core Engaged Technique exercises.
Through resisting shoulder flexion, the lats work to engage more with this press than a standard press, and the core engages as well to prevent rib flare and help prevent shoulder flexion as the weight tries to pull the shoulder toward the pulley. This also provides a great way to teach and learn shoulder packing, as that is the only way to get into the proper position for this press making it a great option for younger lifters. The additional core engagement is also a great teaching tool for novice lifters making this a good advanced technique for them.
All three of these Chest Press variations provide great single-arm accessory options to the traditional Bench Press, and only require a cable and bench. All three place an extra emphasis on core engagement without taking away from the chest priority. In terms of progressing, all lifters can use the Half-Kneeling Cable Chest Press and the Anti-Flexion Cable Chest Press while younger lifters should take their time progressing to the Anti-Rotation Cable Chest Presses.
Use these to add good variety to your Chest Press options, and keep an eye on Instagram and Twitter to see more exercises you can add in to your regimen.