10 Bench Press Variations for a Bigger and Stronger Chest

Andrew Meyers
STACK
Bench Press
Bench Press

The Bench Press is a great exercise to strengthen an athlete's pushing force by developing his or her chest, triceps, back and deltoid muscles. However, performing the same old standard Bench Press can become boring and cause you to plateau. Here are 10 Bench Press variations to incorporate into your routine to build chest strength and improve your athletic performance.

Bench Press Variations

Incline Bench Press

Forces you to push the bar at an angle, which requires more muscle activation, primarily in your middle and anterior deltoids, making it harder to lift more weight.

  • Set up a bench press station by adjusting the bench to a 45-degree incline, or use an incline bench station.
  • Grasp the bar with a overhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it down to chest level in a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Push the bar straight up, driving your feet into the ground and activating your chest, core, triceps, and back muscles.
  • Resist the tendency for the bar to move forward due to the incline.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

WATCH: The Guide to Building a Bigger Bench Press

Decline Bench Press

Targets the chest muscles—primarily the lower chest muscles—more than a regular Bench Press. Unlike the Incline Bench Press, you are forced to push the bar forward because of the decline. With this exercise, you should be able to lift more weight.

  • Set up a bench press station by adjusting a bench to a 45-degree decline or use a decline bench station.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Hook the tops of your feet under the pads at the end of the bench.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it down to chest level in a smooth and controlled motion.
  • Push the bar straight up, resisting the tendency for the bar to move backwards due to the decline.

Sets/Reps: 3x12

3-Count Eccentric Bench Press

Focuses on the eccentric, or lowering, stage of the Bench Press. Will increase muscle endurance, strengthen your stabilizer muscles and keep you strong late in the game when you start to fatigue.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower the bar for three seconds before it touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up in one second like you normally would.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Floor Press

Targets the triceps by decreasing range of motion. With reduced range of motion, your chest muscles will not fully activate, leaving most of the work to your triceps. This is beneficial for football players (blocking) and basketball players (shooting and dribbling)—athletes whose triceps muscles are engaged during extension.

  • Lie on your back on a mat in the middle of a free weight rack with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Adjust the height of the bar to where you usually perform a Bench Press.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands about shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and then lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until your triceps touch the ground.
  • Push the bar straight up, keeping your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

Sets/Reps: 3x12

RELATED: 3 Reasons Your Bench is Weak

Close-Grip Bench Press

This variation also focuses on building the triceps. Grasp the bar with your hands close together. Just like with the Floor Press, your chest muscles are not fully activated, requiring your triceps to work harder. Because your triceps are smaller than your chest muscles, you will not be able to lift as much weight.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands close together.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until the bar almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up while trying to keep the bar level.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Reverse-Grip Bench Press

Targets the upper chest more than a regular Bench Press because your wrists and arms are rotated. You can also reverse your grip on the Decline Bench Press to target your entire chest. Because your arms are rotated though, you will not be able to lift as much weight.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Grasp the bar with an underhand grip, hands a little closer than shoulder-width.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until it almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up, resisting the tendency to flair your elbows out.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Mixed-Grip Bench Press

These challenge your muscles in a different way because your hands have different grips. This will increase your coordination by recruiting more muscles to activate together to perform the movement.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Grasp the bar with an underhand grip with one hand and an overhand grip with the other, about shoulder-width apart.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until it almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up, keeping it from rotating to one side.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Resistance Band Bench Press

Adds extra resistance throughout the entire movement to place your muscles under constant tension. After you perform variation, a regular Bench Press will feel much lighter, allowing you to increase the amount of weight you can lift.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Add the amount of weighted plates you would use for 12 repetitions.
  • Attach one handle of a resistance band to one side of the bar, bring it under the bench and attach the other handle to the opposite side of the bar
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until it almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up with explosive power.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Chains Bench Press

Adds heavy weight at the bottom that gets progressively harder the higher you push it up. Resistance builds to a maximum at the top of the motion. Like the Resistance Band Bench Press, this variation builds explosive power.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Add the amount of weighted plates you would use for 12 repetitions.
  • Attach a weighted chain to one end of the bar and another on the opposite end of the bar.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until it almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up with explosive power.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

Kettlebell Bench Press

Strengthens the stabilizer muscles. With this variation, you have to balance the bar while the kettlebells move. You won't be able to lift as much weight, so try it with no weighted plates to start.

  • Set up a bench press station with a flat bench.
  • Add kettlebells instead of weighted plates to both ends of the bar.
  • Lift the bar off the rack and lower it in a smooth and controlled motion until it almost touches your chest.
  • Push the bar straight up, focusing on keeping it level and resisting the kettlebell movement.

Sets/Reps: 3x10

RELATED: Build Your Chest Without the Bench Press


This article originally appeared on STACK.com: 10 Bench Press Variations for a Bigger and Stronger Chest