It’s Monday (National Chest Day), and you walk into the gym to find all the bench presses are taken. But you’re patient, and you decide you’ll wait ’em out…until you see “that guy” already waiting, leering from nearby like a vulture waiting for its prey.
Now you know you’re not going to get a chance at the bench press for at least 30 minutes. 🙁
You suck it up and get started on one of these bench press alternative exercises – that’s what!
Even if you don’t do them frequently, there are several reasons to try some bench press alternative exercises:
- Bench press isn’t available
- Looking to hit your chest from different angles
- Struggle to execute proper form
- Want to lift to failure but have no spotter
- Bench is sweaty and nasty from the last presser
- You hate benching
With those things in mind, we’ve compiled 18 bench press alternative exercises you can use at practically every gym.
Let’s dive in!
Top 18 Bench Press Alternative Exercises
Dumbbell Bench Press
Even hotel gyms have dumbbells. They might be light, but that just means you’ll have to crank up the repetitions.
The dumbbell is a great alternative if you’re lacking the mobility necessary to execute the bench press. But to get full benefits from the dumbbell press, you’ll need to remember some basics:
- Stabilize your core and squeeze your glutes. Keep your feet on the ground.
- Externally rotate your shoulders (think armpits up, not your shoulder blades)
- Keep your elbows close to your body—they should never spread further than a 45-degree angle.
This is a super bench press alternative exercise because it decreases risk of injury. If you go too heavy or can’t finish a rep, you can always drop the weight to the floor and reset.
Dumbbell Bench Press Variations
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Even if every bench and machine in the gym is taken, you can always perform good, old-fashioned push-ups. Pushups are a great exercise to learn and practice proper form. Many of the pushing principles still apply: stabilize your core, externally rotate your shoulders, keep your elbows tucked, etc.
Pushups also can help rehabilitate injuries. If you lack shoulder or chest strength, you can start with pushups before working back up to the bench press.
Dumbbell/Barbell Floor Press
When the dumbbells and barbells are available but the benches are not, there’s this floor press.
This is a great bench press alternative exercise for those experiencing limited range of motion in their shoulders. The form is still the same, but the body’s position on the floor restricts the elbows from extending too deep.
Don’t look at the floor press as an “easier” alternative to the classic bench press, though. With the classic bench press, you’re able to generate power and momentum with a slight bounce and press. When pushing from the floor, you have to generate all of the energy from a dead position.
Because of this, the floor press is a great exercise to learn proper form, stabilization, and torque.
In most gyms, the dip bars are almost always free.
You can use dip bars, assisted dip machines, power stations, or even boxes/chairs to get a great workout here.
Remember to keep your core tight and your back in a stable position. It’s easy to overextend when making this more vertical pressing motion.
Incline Bench Press
Most gyms only have a couple incline bench presses, but it’s still open more often than the flat benches.
What’s more, some people find it easier to execute proper form with the incline bench press.
With your feet flat on the floor and in position to generate more power, you may find it much more comfortable to press.
Decline Bench Press
You’ll find you can bench significantly more weight in this decline variation.
Your range of motion is limited, but this exercise helps you target the lower portion of your chest. This is great for overcoming slight muscle imbalances.
Flyes can be tricky.
Even when you’re strong enough to perform flyes with good form, increasing the weight slightly can put too much strain on your arms. Because of this, focus on high reps instead of heavy weight low reps when doing flyes.
Remember, this is a chest exercise. You get the full benefit of this exercise when your arms remain stationary—movement should only occur at the shoulder joint.
Machine Chest Press
The machine chest press is always (almost always) a safe exercise to perform.
Don’t get sloppy, though! It’s easy to neglect good form when you hop on a machine like this, but keep in mind the chest pressing fundamentals to keep your joints secure and reap full rewards.
Add these bench press alternative exercises to your workout routine today to begin building the chest of your dreams. Change them up to keep things fresh and keep your muscles guessing.
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