Advanced Chest Training – 5 Alternative Chest Exercises
It’s Monday and you know what that means? If you’re like the rest of the world, it signifies chest day.
Despite the ridiculousness of that mentality (read: I hope you train chest a little more often than that) you most-likely have the standard chest routine planned for the day: Flat or incline bench press, a dumbbell press exercise along with flys, cable crossovers and possibly a machine press to round things out.
Take pause for a moment and evaluate your progress. What kind of results have you had over the past 6 months? How about the past year? No, I’m not talking about strength; I’m talking about the amount of muscle you’ve managed to build. Are you presently satisfied with your results so far or do you feel as empty as the latest “fitness chick” on Instagram who needs to post just one more selfie?
Below are 5 alternative chest exercises guaranteed to pack on some significant muscle tissue. These aren’t designed to increase overall chest strength – although they will tax your stabilizers quite nicely which will, in turn, help with strength development. If muscle mass is what you want and if you want to build a sizable, broad, complete chest then read on.
5 Chest Exercises for Advanced Gains
#1 – Close-Grip Dumbbell Press
It’s well known the advantages of using dumbbell moves for chest. Independent limb control, a deeper range of motion and less shoulder strain are just a few. But let’s take those same attributes and improve on them.
You know the feeling you get when you bring in the handles of a cable chest exercise? Let’s apply that to dumbbell presses for an intense and constant squeeze to pummel your pecs to new growth.
The how: Grasp a pair of dumbbells and lay back on the flat bench as you would normally for presses. Prior to beginning, twist your wrists so you achieve a neutral grip (palms facing each other). Bring the dumbbells together and actively press them against each other.
You should have created tension in your pecs without even moving the weight yet. Descend the weight down toward your chest keeping the dumbbells touching and squeezed together. When the weight touches your chest reverse the motion keeping the tension the entire time. Shoot for 8 to 12 reps.
#2 – Feet-Elevated Pause Push-Up
The age-old push-up should be, at the very least, a part-time staple in your chest arsenal. No other chest exercise is as portable, effective and a true test of bodyweight functionality than the push-up.
Don’t be the guy who can bench press a ton of weight but barely eek-out a set of 20 textbook form, full range floor push-ups. But by sticking with our theme let’s make them tougher by adding some resistance and a stability/control factor to make our pecs scream.
The how: You probably know feet-elevated push-ups well and good but pausing at the bottom for a count will seriously test and tax your mettle. Start by taking the standard push-up position with your hands spaced a few inches beyond shoulder-width and your feet on a bench behind you.
Descend to the bottom position keeping a straight line from your feet to your head and your elbows pointing slightly out. Pause in the bottom position for a count of 3 to 5 before pressing back up. That is one rep. Go for as many reps as possible.
#3 – Plyometric Push-Up on Boxes (or Benches)
Plyometric training uses the stretch-reflex phenomenon to develop potentiation in the muscle for greater power and strength development. In other words, plyos can get you jacked. You’ve never done plyometric work before? It may be time to start.
By tapping into a different system of strength you can easily establish carry-over into other aspects of your training. Plyos can increase that fast, reactive strength making you stronger and subsequently bigger too. Let’s look at Plyo push-ups and make them even more effective.
The how: Set up two boxes and one bench (one box for each hand and the bench for your feet) or two benches (placed parallel to your body for your hands and feet). Take a standard push-up position with the ability for your body to descend between the boxes/benches. Once you are at or below the level of the boxes/benches forcefully push your body with as much power as possible attempting to launch your hands off the surfaces.
Catch yourself when you come down and descend again for another rep. Be careful as you don’t want to miss the bench and fall to the floor so do a set or two using a steady speed before applying the plyometric component. Go for as many reps as you can do and terminate the set once your form begins to break down.
#4 – Kneeling Landmine Chest Press
The landmine (in my day it was the T-bar) is an extremely versatile piece of equipment. It’s simply a 45 pound bar fixed in a sleeve on the floor which can swivel and rotate in any direction. Rows, unilateral shoulder work, leg work and core training are just a few things you can accomplish with the landmine.
Using this unique but simple piece of equipment it can be used for better chest development as well – you just have to be a little creative and willing to try new things. Enter the kneeling landmine chest press.
The how: Load the end of a landmine bar with a moderate amount of weight. Kneel in front of the free end and grasp that end with both hands (in a clasped grip). Start with the bar at the top of your chest and press it out and up.
Be sure you are keeping your shoulders back and down during the movement and are focusing on contracting the chest as much as possible. Lower the weight under complete control and repeat for reps. Go for 8 to 12 reps with a moderate amount of weight.
#5 – Super Wide-Grip Incline Bench Press
Incline bench presses are normally the average gym-goer’s least favorite chest exercise. Why? It’s simply a tough angle to perform on with an impressive amount of weight. This is due to the angle of push which increases the range of motion considerably. Think about it.
When performing the decline bench press your range of motion is shortened and you also put your shoulders and triceps in an angle of a strength advantage allowing you to lift more weight. But let’s not abandon the incline press – as most of us need a little more work on the upper chest anyways.
The how: Take the normal position on the incline barbell bench press with your shoulders pressed down and toward your waist to emphasize your chest doing the work. Take a wide, very wide grip on the bar. Most doctrine will advocate a grip a few inches wider than your shoulders.
Here, you want to grip the bar 12 or more inches outside of your shoulders – depending how long your arms are. This grip will allow a slightly shorter range of motion but also stretch the pecs more in the bottom position. Allow the bar to touch your upper chest for an intense stretch before pressing back up. Perform sets of 6 to 10 reps.