How much you bench, bro?

The bench press has long been seen by the functional fitness community as reserved for the Beach Bro, having limited practicality in the box. The limited range of motion and general lack of pectoral use in most movements appears to be the main turnoff. However, regular benching (or similar movements) is a fantastic way to improve overhead lockout, strengthen the front deltoids and triceps, develop midline stability, and promote muscle growth. In addition, when performed correctly, the bench press is a whole-of-body movement, placing stress on the entire central nervous system.

There’s no doubt that incorporating the bench press at least semi-regularly into your routine will enhance athletic development across the board. Just ask Dan Bailey and Jason Khalipa who took on the Iron Triathlon in 2015.

Besides the whole-of-body stress it places, the bench press also actively engages the front deltoids and triceps, necessary for a strong overhead position and press. For maximal applicability to Olympic lifting, take a grip similar to that you take for an overhead press, and stick to low rep ranges to promote optimal strength gains.

If you want to reap the benefits but try something outside of a traditional bench press, here are a few other options.

4 Alternatives to the Bench Press

1. Dips/Weighted Dips

As mentioned, strong triceps are necessary for developing a great overhead press. We also see the benefit of dips in gymnastic movements such as at the top of a muscle-up and stability in handstands. Dips also actively engage the lower pectoral muscles and midline.

Start with a dip stand until you can achieve multiple rounds of several unbroken reps. For added difficulty, you can hold a dumbbell between your knees or use a weight belt.

Then, you can move to the rings to provide a more full-body engagement. Note: This will feel totally different from the dip stand! Eventually, add a weight belt and throw on some load once you have mastered the bodyweight movement.

2. Dumbbell Floor Press

Substituting dumbbells for a bar places extra strain on the stabilizing muscles in the body, whilst also highlighting any bias to one side of the body. Performing the press in a prone position on the floor limits the range of motion and allows for maximal isolation of the entire pectoral.

3. Diamond Push-Ups

Drop and give me 10. Most of us have at least attempted a push-up at one point or another. It’s an easy movement to throw into a WOD whilst travelling or with no access to equipment. Try modifying your hand placement to create a diamond with your fingers, lower down your chest to engage your triceps more, and create a great squeeze at the top of your press.

4. Landmine Press

The double arm landmine press provides the perfect platform to get a great squeeze across the entire pectoral muscle whilst developing shoulder and core stability.  The single arm press is a great switch-up for those lacking the shoulder mobility in the overhead press, and it places greater stress on the deltoid.

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