These are great weighted and non-weighted bench press alternative exercises.
The bench press is a staple in many of our routines as it is one of those big powerlifts that can really enhance chest growth and size. As a monster pushing exercise, the bench press is one to really improve many aspects of our lifts while still increasing our size for a massive physique. Aside from increasing benching power, it will work to assist more functional movements that will affect your everyday life in more ways than one.
Okay, so we’ve bragged on and on about the bench press and what it can do. But for many of us, we may not have access to a full bench set-up, therefore making the bench press quite difficult to do. Well, you’re in luck. Thankfully there are a host of bodyweight and weighted chest exercises that can be supplemented with or swapped in instead to really offer that growth you want to see most while being in the comfort of your own home. You aren’t sacrificing anything and you still get the many benefits of strength, size, and balance, among others.
Let’s dive right into these alternate exercises and see what they do for our gains today. A puffed out chest can increase confidence inside and out of the gym and those popping pecs are nothing to laugh at.
Bench Press Basics
People love to bench. It’s arguably the most common question you get asked when at the gym and for some reason, this lift has become what the mile is to the runner, sort of like a lifters calling card. The bench press targets your chest, arms, and shoulders and is designed to improve upper body strength while also enhancing grip strength for a host of other exercises (1). For more functional movements, the bench press can benefit you day in and day out.
Some of the benefits of this monster lift include increased upper body strength, better muscular endurance, and more balance and support for this lift as well as others. With its continued popularity and ability to seriously enhance your gains, this strength-based, power-inducing exercise is not one to ignore.
Best Bench Press Alternatives
As said before, sometimes we don’t have access to the bench press. While we’ve hyped this exercise up, the parallels to other chest exercises are quite similar and these alternative exercises can really work for your benefit when it comes to strength, size, support, and stability.
The push-up is a perfect bodyweight exercise that is simple and easy to learn with little to no hassle to you at all. It can be done anywhere at anytime and by changing your hand placement, you can create more intensity while increasing the challenge to really target your chest (2).
How to: With your feet together and hands shoulder width apart, make these the only points of contact on the floor. Gently lower to the ground, bending at the elbow until your chest is hovering about an inch or two off the ground. Drive through your hands and push back up to the starting position.
Dumbbell Chest Press
This is a perfect bench press alternative and one to offer you the same, if not very similar, benefits to the bench press. The only real difference is that you are using dumbbells as opposed to a barbell, and for beginners, this can be easier to deal with in terms of both grip and weight. With dumbbells, you engage other muscles as well.
How to: Lie on a bench with the dumbbells extended out in front of you. As you lower the dumbbells towards your chest, really think about engaging your core as you stay stable. Once at the bottom, drive through your feet and push that weight back to the starting position.
Cable Chest Press
This will force you to use the entire core, as well as upper and lower body muscles. Since this is done on the cable machine, working with different angles and focusing on certain areas of movement will allow the stabilizer muscles to get work done as well.
How to: Taking the handles in each hand, step one foot in front of the other with a bit wider of a stance. With your hands on either side of the chest, drive through with an embraced core until your arms are fully extended. Return to the starting position in a controlled way.
These may not be ones to expect on a bench press alternative list and while they aren’t necessary a direct correlation like some of these other exercises, dips are still great to know, especially for those of us still doing bodyweight exercises (3). While this is mainly a triceps focused movement, you do get some slight chest work done, but what you really benefit from is the utilization of your shoulders and triceps, both of which are essential in the bench press.
How to: With a neutral grip, set yourself up on the bar or whatever you are performing the dips on. Lower yourself, keeping your elbows tucked tight and not lowering too far. Once you’re at your lowest point, engage the pecs, brace your core, and lift yourself until your arms are fully straight.
The dumbbell fly is a nice way to get the most out of your chest while also providing for a good stretch. It can also target your shoulders and upper back but is of course a more chest focused exercise. Being smart with the weight is key for going to heavy can lead to unwanted pain.
How to: Lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand. Extend your arms so the weight is above your chest. Slowly fan out to either side, dropping your arms more horizontally until they form a 90-degree angle with your body. Once you reach your max level, bring the weights back in the same arc you lowered them in.
The bench press is staple exercise in many athletes’ routines, but for some, it is hard to find access. With this list of the best bench press alternative exercises, you will find a serious boost in all things related to strength, size, support, and stability, especially with those massive pecs you’ve been searching for. Try some of these alternatives and really see what they can do for you today.
*Images courtesy of Envato
- Tungate, Phil (2019). “The Bench Press: A Comparison Between Flat-Back and Arched-Back Techniques”. (source)
- Contreras, Bret; Schoenfeld, Brad; Mike, Jonathan; Tiryaki-Sonmez, Gul; et al. (2012). “The Biomechanics of the Push-up: Implications for Resistance Training Programs”. (source)
- Langton, Becky; King, John (2018). “Utilizing Body Weight Training With Your Personal Training Clients”. (source)