Alternative Exercises for Bench Pressing

The bench press is considered the standard for building a bigger and stronger chest. It's also, typically, one of the most crowded pieces of equipment at the gym. Waiting for the next available bench isn't ideal for anyone short on time.

You don't have to rely on the bench press for a developed chest. (Image: Westend61/Westend61/GettyImages)

Luckily, you don't need the bench press to increase strength and build more muscle. Several other exercises work the same muscles. As a bonus, trying a bench press alternative can add some variety to your workout routine.

1. Dips

Dips primarily target your chest but also recruit the muscles of your shoulders and triceps. It's an all-around great bench press alternative for building upper body strength and size.

HOW TO DO IT: Place one hand on each of two parallel bars. Keep your arms straight but refrain from locking them out. Align your shoulders with your hands.

Lean forward slightly, and lower yourself by bending your elbows until you feel a stretch in your chest. Once you feel the stretch in your chest, push your body back up until your arms are straight again. That's one rep.

To maximize this exercise, perform dips at the beginning of your workout and perform three to four sets of eight to 12 reps. Don't leave these for the end of your routine as you'll want to be at your freshest for these.

2. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press

Most gyms keep the barbells and the dumbbells separate from one another. Dumbbell bench pressing not only allows you to move as heavy of a weight as you can with a barbell, but dumbbell bench presses are an excellent choice for a bench press alternative — they engage more stabilizer muscles than barbell movements.

Single-arm dumbbell bench presses can help you improve strength imbalances between your dominant and non-dominant arms. But single-arm dumbbell bench presses also force you to engage your core to prevent you from sliding off the bench. So you get to work both your chest and your abs during this exercise.

3. Push-Ups

Push-ups train the same muscles as the bench press: the chest, triceps, shoulders and abs. Plus, the only equipment you need is your body, so you don't need to wait around.

Changing the difficulty of push-ups is as easy as changing the positions of your hands. The wider your hands are placed, the more challenging the push-up is for your pectoral, or chest, muscles. A narrower hand placement creates more intensity in the movement of your triceps.

Besides changing the position of your hands, you can also increase the challenge of push-ups by changing the angle at which they're performed. Decline push-ups are one of the best ways to train your chest.

HOW TO DO THEM: Place your feet on an elevated surface like a chair or a step. With your hands on the ground in front of you and feet elevated, slowly lower yourself to the ground and push yourself back up.

If you can't do a regular push-up or knee push-ups, incline push-ups are an excellent substitution for building upper body strength. You can also add weight to push-ups by having a gym partner or friend place a moderate weight plate on your back before you start your set.

4. Hammer Strength Chest Press

Hammer Strength machines replicate the natural motion our bodies make. They're also an excellent way to isolate your chest muscles as they allow you to use both hands or just one at a time.

HOW TO DO IT: Starting from a seated position, grab the machines handles with your hands. These handles are angled and keep your hands around chest height. From this position, press the handles forward, extending your arms as far as you can.

Once you've reached the end of your range of motion, slowly lower the weight stack back to the starting position. Perform three to four sets of 8-10 reps.

5. Dumbbell/Barbell Floor Press

When you can't grab a bench at the gym, the floor press is an excellent substitution for bench pressing. Perform floor presses with dumbbells, kettlebells or a barbell.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on the floor between two dumbbells, kettlebells or under a racked barbell. Keep your knees bent with feet flat on the floor. Press the weight over your chest, extending your arms as you would in a regular bench press.

Once your arms are fully extended, slowly lower the weight back down until your upper arms are flat on the floor. Perform three to four sets of eight to 12 repetitions of floor presses.

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