The Larsen press takes your legs out of the bench press equation.
For many gym-goers, the bench press is the king of all barbell lifts, especially for the upper body. When performed correctly, the bench provides an excellent workout that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. But to continue getting your chest muscles to grow, mixing up your bench press is vital. Enter the Larsen press.
Larsen presses were invented by Adrian Larsen, an elite powerlifter and bench press specialist. He has achieved remarkable success in powerlifting, winning numerous events and holding the all-time bench press world record in the 220-lb category. In competition, Larsen relies on the Larsen press, which has played a significant role in his success. Let’s review this bench press variation below, how to do them, and the benefits and alternatives to keep your pecs growing.
How to & Muscles Worked
The Larsen press is a compound exercise that hits the chest, shoulders, and triceps like the standard barbell bench press, except without your legs for support. Below are the muscles this movement targets:
- Pectoralis Major: This muscle, commonly known as the pecs, is responsible for horizontal flexion, adduction, and medial rotation of the shoulder joint.
- Anterior Deltoid: Working hand in hand with the pecs, the front deltoid muscle helps with shoulder flexion.
- Triceps Brachii: The triceps are found on the back of your upper arms and play a crucial role in extending your elbow.
- Core: Because you don’t use your legs to press the weight, the Larsen press relies on your core muscles even more. Your midsection will work overtime to stabilize your lumbar spine and keep you steady throughout the exercise.
Here’s how to perform the exercise correctly to reduce your risk of injury and get the most out of the movement. Also, having a spotter or using a power rack with safety bars is recommended for safety when performing the movement.
- Lie on a flat bench with your eyes in line with the barbell.
- Grip the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, using a full grip for safety.
- Pull your shoulders back and down while engaging your core.
- Unrack the bar and hold it above your chest.
- Straighten your legs, lift your feet off the ground, or use a chair or second bench for support.
- Bend your arms, lowering the bar to your chest without bouncing.
- Drive the weight back up to full arm extension and repeat.
- Focus on maintaining balance, keeping your upper back tight, and ensuring the bar stays level throughout each repetition.
Below are the benefits you can expect to reap from this movement.
Stronger Bench Press
It offers a simple way to increase the challenge of the bench press without adding extra weight or employing additional equipment like bands or chains.
Powerlifters at the top level employ their legs while performing bench presses, which enables them to lift heavier weights. However, excluding leg drive from the bench press helps keep the focus on your pecs. Consequently, your bench press will explode once you reintegrate the leg drive back to the lift.
Stronger Back Stabilizers
Remember to consider the importance of your upper back when it comes to the bench press. While it’s commonly known as a chest exercise, the upper back is crucial in providing stability and support for your shoulders. You’ll strengthen your back stabilizers by incorporating Larsen presses into your routine, which will help you stabilize the load better on a conventional bench press.
Maximize Muscle Activation & Growth
Research shows that performing bench presses with your feet off the ground can increase activation in key muscle groups such as the pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, and triceps. (1) The Larsen press can be a game-changer when building muscle effectively.
Enhanced Control & Balance
By raising your feet during the bench press, you’ll need to focus on controlling and balancing the bar more than ever. This forces you to perform each rep smoothly, eliminating any bouncing of the bar off your chest. Not only will this improve your bench press technique, but it will also make your workouts safer.
Besides the Larsen press, here are a couple of other exercises to strengthen your chest and improve your bench press.
Floor presses can be performed with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor or with your legs extended straight. The latter variation closely resembles the Larsen press. The floor press with extended legs is particularly beneficial for powerlifters who experience shoulder pain during bench presses, as it is a joint-friendly exercise. Additionally, floor presses can also be carried out using dumbbells.
Banded/Chain Bench Press
Accommodating resistance is a training technique involving bands or chains with free weights. These tools progressively increase the load by extending your arms and approaching lockout. This method can effectively target your triceps, alleviate stress on your shoulders, and enhance explosive power during the upward movement of the barbell from your chest. Although gyms may have chains, bands provide a convenient, lightweight, portable, and cost-effective option for accommodating resistance into bench press exercises.
Guillotine Bench Press
Vince Gironda, a highly influential trainer in bodybuilding history, developed an alternative bench press variation called the Gironda guillotine press, which focused more on engaging the pec muscles than the bench press, requiring more shoulder involvement. It’s important to note that this exercise carries some risk due to the bar being lowered to the neck. Therefore, it’s recommended to always perform the Gironda guillotine press with a spotter or in a power rack for added safety.
What is the point of the Larsen press?
The Larsen press helps you mix up your bench press variation to help you break past bench press plateaus. In addition, it takes the leg drive out of the bench press equation, which activates your pecs and core more.
Who invented the Larsen Press?
Powerlifter Adrien Larsen invented it to help improve his bench pressing metrics.
- Muyor, J. M., Rodríguez-Ridao, D., Martín-Fuentes, I., & Antequera-Vique, J. A. (2019). Evaluation and comparison of electromyographic activity in bench press with feet on the ground and active hip flexion. PloS one, 14(6), e0218209. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0218209