Monday is National Bench Press Day in almost every gym around the world. Whether you are a bodybuilder, powerlifter, or just your average gym goer, the bench press is something that you will try at some point in your workout career.


Arguments about the benefits versus the dangers of bench press are best left to another time, but there is definitely a need for most of us to have some handy bench press alternatives for those days the bench press station is too crowded or, horror of horrors, you end up training in a gym with no bench press station. Many hotel gyms have no bench press station because they consider the bench press a high risk exercise.

Here are some effective and fun-to-do bench press alternatives that target the same muscles but without needing a bench press station.

Floor presses


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onJan 25, 2018 at 7:07pm PST

The floor press used to be a popular exercise before benches became so common. It’s still used by a few who understand its’ value as a triceps builder and shoulder saver. There are several different variations, all of which are worth your consideration.

Barbell floor press:

Set your barbell in a squat rack or blocks set to around knee-height. Lie under the bar with your legs bent or straight as preferred. Using whichever grip suits your goals (narrow, wide, regular, reverse), unrack the bar and then lower it toward the midpoint of your chest. Obviously, your upper arms/elbows will touch the floor before the bar reaches your chest. Push it back up and repeat.

Decline floor press:


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onJan 15, 2018 at 3:57pm PST

As above but, with bent legs, push your hips up so you are in a bridged position and your weight is on your feet and shoulders only. This will reduce the range of movement a little and allow for more lat activation. In short, you’ll be able to lift more weight. This variation targets the lower pecs a little more.

Dumbbell floor press:

Just like the barbell version(s) but performed using dumbbells instead. The extra instability means you’ll have to work harder to keep the weights in the right path.

Single dumbbell floor press:


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onJan 13, 2018 at 3:37pm PST

Using one arm at a time adds a nice anti-rotation element to the exercise which will challenge your core, especially your obliques.

Bottoms up kettlebell floor press:

Similar to the dumbbell version but using inverted kettlebells to challenge and develop your forearms and shoulder stability. Use two KBs together or one at a time as preferred.

TRX press-ups


A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 31, 2017 at 4:51pm PST

The TRX (or other suspension trainers) makes bodyweight exercises much more demanding which is good news if you are a strong enough bencher that finds the good old press-up is a little too easy for you.

The inherent instability combined with the potential for an increased range of motion means that the TRX press-up is an excellent chest and shoulder exercise that also works your core too.

Set the handles to about knee-height and take one in each hand. Walk your feet back until your body is straight. Keep your core tight to prevent your hips from dropping.

Bend your arms and lower your chest toward the floor. Descend as far as your mobility allows. Do not let the handles fall outward or inward. Push back up and repeat. Add a weighted vest for extra load if necessary but make sure your suspension trainer and anchor point are up to the task!



A post shared by EHPlabs (@ehplabs) onDec 30, 2017 at 5:40pm PST

Dips are a tremendous alternative to the bench press. Often written off as a triceps exercise, dips are actually one of the best chest exercises around. You just need to know how to do them right!

Most people do their dips with a very upright torso and shoulder-width grip which tends to emphasize the triceps and reduces the emphasis on the pecs.

To work your pecs more, choose a wider-than shoulder-width grip and push your legs and hips to the rear to produce a more inclined body position. This will work your chest more – especially the sternal lower/inner) fibres. Descend until your biceps and forearms meet. The deeper you can go, mobility and shoulder-health permitting, the better this exercise is for your chest.

If you can do ten or more reps, strap some weight around your waist. Start with around 10% of bodyweight. Do NOT hold a dumbbell between your ankles though; that will pull you into the upright position we’re trying to avoid.

Many people have a very emotional attachment to the bench press; the fact that everyone wants to know “how much can you bench” reinforces this. However, there is more to developing upper body strength and size than the bench press! Try these alternatives and you will not only find that they are enjoyable and rewarding but that they will actually improve your bench press too. Talk about a win-win situation!

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