muscle man gym bench press alternative incline barbell chest strong

The 4 best bench press alternative lifts for a bigger and stronger chest

Only ever do the bog-standard bench press? Add these four bench press alternative moves to your muscle-building training plan to build the bigger, stronger and more defined chest you want, says New Body Plan fitness director Joe Warner

If you only ever do the flat barbell bench press you will build a bigger and broader chest. But you’ll never truly realise your maximum chest-building potential.

To do that you need to include the key bench press variations in your training programme. Why? Pressing from different angles – flat, incline and decline – and using other types of weights, such as dumbbells, will target the different parts of your pectorals in different ways.

And the more parts of a muscle you can target and train, the bigger and stronger these muscles will grow. So include these key bench press variations to build the biggest chest possible.

How to build a big chest at the gym


Dumbbell bench press

Why should I do the dumbbell bench press?

Dumbbells give a greater range of motion to work more muscle fibres. They also work each side of the chest independently, so your stronger side can’t dominate. This ensures balanced growth.

You can’t lift as heavy doing the dumbbell bench press compared with using a barbell – but weight isn’t everything! Do flat, incline and decline dumbbell presses for maximum results.


Incline barbell bench press

Why should I do the incline barbell bench press?

Incline pressing shifts more of the heavy-lifting workload to the upper part of your pecs (and to your shoulders), to build a broader upper chest.

The steeper the incline the greater the focus on your upper chest and shoulders. Remember, you’re not as strong on an incline as on a flat bench, so you’ll need to reduce the weight on the bar accordingly.


Decline barbell bench press

Why should I do the decline barbell bench press?

The decline bench press shifts the emphasis to the bottom part of your chest muscles to bring size and definition to your lower pecs.

You can lift more weight on a decline bench press than on a flat or incline bench, but lose some stability because your feet aren’t on the floor. You might also need a spotter on-hand to help you lift the bar in and out of position.


Close-grip barbell bench press

Why should I do the close-grip barbell bench press?

Taking a narrow, shoulder-width grip on the bar, opposed to a wide grip in normal bench pressing, shifts some of the workload away from your chest and on to your triceps.

A narrow grip and greater reliance on the triceps means you can’t lift as much weight, but the close-grip bench press is one of the best exercises for hitting your chest and triceps in one go to transform your upper body.

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