Want To Beat Your Bench Press PR? These 5 Exercises Can Help.


with Personal Trainer Dominic Tomlinson

1. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

(A) Start with a bench and two dumbbells of equal weight. Lay face-up on the bench, plant your feet flat on the floor, and extend your arms, holding your dumbbells directly above your shoulders. (B) As you lower your weights, bring your elbows out and slightly down toward your hips; at the bottom of the movement, your dumbbells should be in line with your chest and at about chest height. Pushing through the chest, press the weights back toward the ceiling and repeat. Utilizing dumbbells instead of a barbell will help strengthen the stabilizer muscles of the pressing movement. Be sure to keep a nice, slow tempo throughout the movement.

2. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

(A) Adjust your bench into an inclined position (B) and perform a bench press using the same cues as the flat dumbbell bench press. Again, utilizing dumbbells will increase stabilization and will, in turn, increase the strength of your bench press. While the flat dumbbell bench press targets all parts of the chest equally, this exercise focuses on the upper portion of your chest.

3. Cable Chest Flies

(A) Using both sides of a dual cable stack, set cable anchors to about chest height. Grab a handle in each hand and take a step forward, staggering your feet and bending your front knee. (B) Keeping your chest upright, bring your hands together in front of your body; arms should remain extended with a slight bend in the elbow throughout the motion. Don’t allow your hands to swing behind your back while holding the handles, as this could cause injury. Utilizing this exercise will strengthen the agonist (prime) movers of the bench press.

4. Machine Chest Press

(A) Set the seat so that the handles are at a comfortable level around shoulder-height (B) and press. With this exercise, the goal will be to focus on the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement. Lower the weight for about 3-4 seconds before reaching the bottom of the movement, then press the weight back up again. This increases the muscles’ time under tension and can produce greater results in strength and endurance.

5. Dumbbell Pull-Overs

This exercise focuses on strengthening your serratus anterior, another stabilizing muscle in the bench press. (A) Lie on your back on a flat bench with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent at 90-degree angles. Grab a single dumbbell and hold one side in both hands with arms extended upward.
(B) Keep your core tight, hips elevated, and elbows slightly bent as you lower the weight towards the floor slowly while being careful not to over extend your shoulders, then bring the weight back to the starting position.


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