Not too long ago, we highlighted the best alternatives to the back squat. Yes, the back squat is one of our favorites for overall lower body development. But, as we covered in that article, there are a whole host of awesome squat/lunge pattern exercises that are worthwhile as well. There is no doubt that having a big back squat 1RM is a great goal to work toward, but sometimes it’s cool to hit a front squat PR or even a split squat PR. Plus, throwing in a few accessories will actually help you hit those back squat PR’s faster!

Since we covered one of the “big 3” in that article, it is natural that we continue on with the rest. In this case, we are talking about the barbell bench press. For the average gym goer, this is probably the most beloved of the Big 3. For serious powerlifters, this is probably the one that causes the most grief as well. Maybe you want to take a break from those feels, or perhaps you just want to mix up your monotonous routine. Either way, it’s worth learning about some awesome alternatives. That way, you can keep making gains and keep your sanity at the same time!


How Much Ya’ Bench?

Almost every gym bro, high school lifter, and lover of lifting will ask or be asked the age old question: How much ya’ bench bro? So naturally, the bench press makes its way into the workout plan of many lifting enthusiasts across the world.

But, just because it is such a beloved exercise, doesn’t mean you have to do it. Or better yet, there is nothing to say that you can’t take a break from it every now and then. In fact, taking a break from the bench press in favor of an alternative exercise might actually help you bench more in the long run.

Also, not everyone can, or wants to bench press. Maybe you have a nagging shoulder injury that’s been giving you grief lately. Or maybe you’re a novice who needs to build up technique/strength in other movements first. Even some advanced bodybuilders decide to forgo the barbell bench press in favor of a more targeted exercise. Whatever the case, there are tons of alternative out there for you.


Our Favorites

Unless you have a few hours to spend, I can’t go through every single alternative you can do in one article, but I can boil them down to a few that I find most beneficial. Now of course, each exercise is going to be more or less beneficial depending on your goals. Plus, your experience level and health are going to play a role as well. At any rate, the following exercises range from simple to complex and give you some good ideas of what you can do besides plain old benchin’:

DB Bench Press

If the barbell bench press is the most favorite of the horizontal presses, then Dumbbell Bench Press might be second. This may seem like a no brainer as far as alternative exercises go. However, it is still worth noting that this is an awesome substitution. Depending on the gym you go to, weights can be loaded up pretty heavy on this exercise. Plus, you can change the angle of the bench in order to work the muscles in a different way. Overall, I actually suggest that the DB Bench Press be mastered first before moving on to barbell bench pressing. It provides awesome stability control and allows for novices to start with lighter weights than that afforded by a barbell.

Floor Press

People often overlook the floor press as a worthwhile exercise to perform for the upper body. This movement can be performed with a barbell or dumbbells, although the barbell version is easier to set up. What is great about this exercise is that it offers a similar pattern to the bench press while overloading the top of the movement. Those who struggle to lock out their reps or whose triceps are weaker will benefit greatly. Additionally, this is a more friendly option for those who have nagging shoulder pains. Throw these into the mix and you’ll be sure to get stronger in the traditional bench press as well.

Check out Andres’ Bench Peaking program in the workout builder!
If your bench press is lagging behind your other lifts, then this is the program for you! Training will focus on the becnh press and upper body accessories while also stimulating the other big lifts. In the end you should see awesome gains in your bench press 1RM!
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