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The bench press is considered a cornerstone exercise for many gym-goers. It’s as essential as squats for your legs. Do you need it for a thick, well-muscled chest?
You can get away without this weight room staple, at least now and then. What if you want to add a bit of variety to your workout routine or push past a frustrating plateau? These moves can help. Here are eight bench press alternatives for chest day.
Pushups are perhaps the ultimate bench press alternative because you don’t need anything other than your body weight to get an effective workout.
However, if you’re already pushing up more than your body weight on the bench, you might find that these exercises won’t get you the bulk you desire. That’s okay — you can reserve them for cardiovascular training and getting those shapely cuts that make you look carved, not simply bull-thick.
If you’ve done your bulking and are looking to sculpt, try adding three or four sets of 10 to 12 repetitions into your chest day regimen. Best of all, you can complete this part of your workout at home in front of the television.
2. Floor Presses
Floor presses work your muscles differently, challenging you to keep your upper arms in alignment. It’s also fabulous for improving weaknesses in lockout strength, the final third of any press move that involves a heavy dose of triceps action.
To perform this move, get down on the floor on your back. It helps to use a Smith machine if you want to go heavy and don’t have a spotter. Take your typical bench press grip and lower until you feel your elbows brush the floor, pausing only for a second before pressing upward. This move might get you dusty, but it comes in handy when you arrive at the gym to see every flat bench taken.
3. Dumbbell Presses
Who said you needed a bar across your chest? Dumbbell presses have several advantages over the traditional bench press move. One, you can feel safer working without a squatter, knowing you can surrender the weights to the side and not end up pinned if you can’t push through that last rep. Secondly, you work your arms independently to balance out any deficiencies.
Take a dumbbell in both hands and lie back on a typical flat bench. Lower the weights until the bar portion nearly comes parallel with the top of your chest. Press forward to extend your arms. You can also alternate sides or do a single-arm press to address imbalances.
4. Chest Dips
Chest dips are a great way to burn your pecs. They also rip your triceps, that all-important muscle group for pushing through the final thrusts of many strongman competitions.
You’ll need to find a set of parallel dip bars. Keeping proper form is crucial to get the maximum benefit. Begin with your arms extended, lowering your body as you lean slightly forward until your shoulders drop below your elbows. Push back to straight arms. Keep your shoulders neutral and tucked back and down while repeating the move for as many reps as possible for a long, lean cut.
5. Standing Cable Press
Cable presses make a glorious bench press alternative. They also burn slightly more calories since you perform the move standing.
Take a cable in each hand, facing away from the machine. Step one leg forward with a slightly bent knee, bracing yourself in a modified karate horse stance to keep your lower body stationary. Press the cables away from you, keeping them in line with the midline of your chest and contract, bending your elbows and bringing them parallel to the front of your chest.
6. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press
Adding an incline is a fabulous bench press variation. This move helps you strengthen your upper pecs and deltoids, so don’t schedule this move the day before a heavy shoulder day.
Adjust your flat bench to a 15 to 30-degree angle and lie back. Use a shoulder-width grip to take the bar and lower it to an inch above your chest. Press back up and repeat.
7. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press
Just like incline presses work the top portion of your pectoralis muscles, decline presses hit the lower end. You also strengthen your rear delt, so the same shoulder-day caveat applies. For a little more variety, why not try this move with dumbbells?
Adjust your bench so that you have a declined angle of roughly 15°. Take a dumbbell in each hand and lie back with your arms extended over your chest’s midline. Bend your elbows, bringing the weights to an inch above your chest.
Want even more variety in this move? Try an underhanded variation where you reverse the grip. You’ll get a little more biceps work and even throw in some rotator cuff if you revolve your wrists back to a traditional grip.
8. Landmine Press
Your final bench press alternative for chest day is a landmine press. This move sounds intimidating, but it’s not. It is, however, fabulous for addressing imbalances.
You’ll need a standard bench press bar with one end bare and tucked against a corner or where the wall meets the floor. You might want to wrap it in a towel to avoid scraping up your walls unless your gym features a landmine attachment. Add weights to the other end.
To perform this movement with two hands, take the weighted end of the barbell to the midline of your chest. You should stand in a wide, braced stance with one leg forward and slightly bent. Hold the end of the bar in both hands and press upward. You can also perform this move with a single arm to address imbalances.
Bench Press Alternatives for Chest Day
The bench press is considered the cornerstone of many chest day workouts. However, you can still get an effective pump without it.
Consider some of these bench press alternatives for chest day to shake up your routine and push past plateaus. You’ll develop more even strength while carving sculpted muscles.