10 Bench Press Variations for Explosive Muscle Gain

Transform your chest and upper body strength with a diverse range of Bench Press variations tailored for explosive muscle gain. Whether you’re a seasoned lifter seeking to amplify your bench press routine or a fitness enthusiast looking to enhance overall upper body development, incorporating a variety of bench press variations can be a game-changer. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore 10 dynamic Bench Press variations designed to challenge and stimulate different aspects of your chest, shoulders, and triceps. From incline to decline, and close grip to wide grip, these variations offer a comprehensive approach to building a powerful and well-defined upper body. Let’s dive into the world of Bench Press variations and uncover the key exercises that can elevate your muscle-building endeavors to new heights.

10 Bench Press Variations for Explosive Muscle Gain

1. Close Grip Bench Press

The close grip bench press is a powerful variation of the traditional bench press that targets the triceps muscles. By narrowing your grip on the barbell, you can put more emphasis on your triceps, which can help you develop explosive upper body strength. This variation also engages your chest and shoulders, making it a great exercise for overall muscle development.

To perform the close grip bench press, lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Grip the barbell with your hands placed shoulder-width apart or slightly narrower. Lower the barbell to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

2. Incline Bench Press

The incline bench press is an excellent variation that targets the upper chest, shoulders, and triceps. By adjusting the angle of the bench, you can shift the focus of the exercise to different parts of your chest. This variation helps in building explosive strength in your upper body and adds definition to your chest muscles.

To perform the incline bench press, set the bench at an incline of around 30-45 degrees. Lie flat on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell to your upper chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Push the barbell back up, fully extending your arms.

3. Decline Bench Press

The decline bench press is a variation that targets the lower chest, triceps, and shoulders. By adjusting the bench to a decline angle, you can put more emphasis on your lower chest muscles, helping you achieve a well-rounded chest development. This variation also engages your triceps and shoulders, contributing to explosive muscle gain in your upper body.

To perform the decline bench press, set the bench at a decline angle of around 15-30 degrees. Lie flat on the bench with your feet secured at the end of the decline. Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell to your lower chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Push the barbell back up, fully extending your arms.

By incorporating these bench press variations into your workout routine, you can enhance your muscle gain and develop explosive strength in your upper body. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity as you become more comfortable with each variation. Consistency and proper form are key to maximizing the benefits of these exercises.

4. Dumbbell Bench Press

a. Flat Dumbbell Bench Press

The flat dumbbell bench press is a versatile exercise that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. It is a great variation of the traditional bench press as it allows for a greater range of motion and activates stabilizer muscles.

To perform the flat dumbbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Start by sitting on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs.
  2. Slowly lay back on the bench, bringing the dumbbells up to your chest with your palms facing forward.
  3. Engage your core and press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling, fully extending your arms.
  4. Lower the dumbbells back down to your chest in a controlled manner, maintaining tension in your chest muscles throughout the movement.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

b. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press

The incline dumbbell bench press primarily targets the upper chest and shoulders. By adjusting the bench angle, you can place more emphasis on the upper chest muscles, helping to develop a well-rounded chest.

To perform the incline dumbbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Set an adjustable bench to an incline position of around 45 degrees.
  2. Sit on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs.
  3. Slowly lay back on the bench, bringing the dumbbells up to your chest with your palms facing forward.
  4. Engage your core and press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling, fully extending your arms.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back down to your chest in a controlled manner, feeling the stretch in your upper chest muscles.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

c. Decline Dumbbell Bench Press

The decline dumbbell bench press targets the lower chest muscles, helping to develop a well-rounded and fully defined chest.

To perform the decline dumbbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Set an adjustable bench to a decline position of around 30 degrees.
  2. Sit on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs.
  3. Slowly lay back on the bench, bringing the dumbbells up to your chest with your palms facing forward.
  4. Engage your core and press the dumbbells straight up towards the ceiling, fully extending your arms.
  5. Lower the dumbbells back down to your chest in a controlled manner, focusing on the contraction in your lower chest muscles.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.
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Incorporating these dumbbell bench press variations into your workout routine can help you target different areas of your chest, leading to explosive muscle gain. Remember to always use proper form and start with lighter weights before progressing to heavier ones to prevent injury and maximize your results.

5. Wide Grip Bench Press

a. Wide Grip Barbell Bench Press

The wide grip barbell bench press is a powerful variation of the traditional bench press that specifically targets the chest muscles. By placing your hands wider apart on the barbell, you engage more of the pectoralis major muscle fibers, leading to increased muscle activation and growth.

To perform the wide grip barbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  2. Grasp the barbell with a wide grip, wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it directly above your chest with your arms fully extended.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell down towards your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Pause for a brief moment when the barbell touches your chest.
  6. Push the barbell back up to the starting position by extending your arms fully.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

By incorporating the wide grip barbell bench press into your workout routine, you can enhance your chest development and achieve explosive muscle gains.

b. Wide Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

The wide grip dumbbell bench press is another effective variation of the bench press that targets the chest muscles while also engaging the stabilizing muscles of the shoulders and arms. This exercise provides a greater range of motion compared to the barbell bench press, allowing for a deeper stretch and increased muscle activation.

To perform the wide grip dumbbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Sit on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, resting on your thighs.
  2. Lie back on the bench and position the dumbbells at shoulder level, palms facing forward.
  3. Push the dumbbells up above your chest, fully extending your arms.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells towards your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Pause for a brief moment when the dumbbells are just above your chest.
  6. Push the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Incorporating the wide grip dumbbell bench press into your workout routine can help you develop a well-rounded chest and achieve explosive muscle gains.

c. Wide Grip Smith Machine Bench Press

The wide grip Smith machine bench press is a variation of the bench press that utilizes a Smith machine, providing added stability and control during the exercise. This variation targets the chest muscles while also engaging the shoulders and triceps.

To perform the wide grip Smith machine bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Position yourself on the bench beneath the Smith machine bar.
  2. Grasp the bar with a wide grip, wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the bar off the rack and hold it directly above your chest with your arms fully extended.
  4. Slowly lower the bar down towards your chest, keeping your elbows at a 45-degree angle.
  5. Pause for a brief moment when the bar is just above your chest.
  6. Push the bar back up to the starting position by extending your arms fully.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

By incorporating the wide grip Smith machine bench press into your workout routine, you can enhance your chest development and achieve explosive muscle gains while benefiting from the added stability provided by the Smith machine.

6. Pause Bench Press

a. Paused Barbell Bench Press

The paused barbell bench press is a variation of the traditional bench press that requires you to pause at the bottom of the movement. This exercise helps increase explosive muscle gain by forcing you to generate more power from a dead stop position.

To perform the paused barbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back arched.
  2. Grab the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lower the barbell towards your chest, but instead of immediately pushing it back up, pause for a brief moment when the barbell is just above your chest.
  4. Maintain tension in your chest and shoulders during the pause.
  5. After the pause, explosively push the barbell back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

By incorporating the paused barbell bench press into your workout routine, you can enhance your explosive muscle gain by challenging your muscles to generate more force from a static position.

b. Paused Dumbbell Bench Press

The paused dumbbell bench press is another effective variation of the bench press that focuses on explosive muscle gain. This exercise requires you to pause at the bottom of the movement, similar to the paused barbell bench press. However, using dumbbells adds an additional challenge to your stabilizing muscles.

To perform the paused dumbbell bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Lie flat on a bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back arched.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing forward and your arms extended above your chest.
  3. Lower the dumbbells towards your chest, but instead of immediately pushing them back up, pause for a brief moment when the dumbbells are just above your chest.
  4. Maintain tension in your chest and shoulders during the pause.
  5. After the pause, explosively push the dumbbells back up to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

The paused dumbbell bench press not only enhances explosive muscle gain but also improves stability and coordination due to the need to control two separate weights independently.

c. Paused Smith Machine Bench Press

The paused Smith machine bench press is a variation of the bench press that utilizes a Smith machine, which provides a fixed barbell path. This exercise is beneficial for explosive muscle gain as it allows you to focus on generating power from a static position.

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To perform the paused Smith machine bench press, follow these steps:

  1. Set up the Smith machine to a comfortable height, ensuring the barbell is aligned with your chest when lying flat on the bench.
  2. Lie flat on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back arched.
  3. Grab the barbell with a grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lower the barbell towards your chest, but instead of immediately pushing it back up, pause for a brief moment when the barbell is just above your chest.
  5. Maintain tension in your chest and shoulders during the pause.
  6. After the pause, explosively push the barbell back up to the starting position.
  7. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

The paused Smith machine bench press offers a controlled and stable environment for explosive muscle gain, allowing you to focus on maximizing power output during each repetition.

7. Floor Press

The floor press is a highly effective bench press variation that targets your chest, triceps, and shoulders. By performing this exercise on the floor, you eliminate the leg drive and focus solely on the upper body muscles, making it an excellent choice for building explosive muscle gain.

a. Barbell Floor Press

The barbell floor press is a classic exercise that primarily targets your chest muscles. To perform this variation, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the barbell with an overhand grip, making sure your hands are shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell to your chest, pause for a moment, and then press it back up to the starting position. Remember to maintain proper form and engage your core throughout the movement.

b. Dumbbell Floor Press

The dumbbell floor press is another effective variation that allows you to work each side of your chest independently. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, positioning them at shoulder level with your palms facing forward. Lower the dumbbells until your triceps touch the floor, pause, and then press them back up to the starting position. This exercise helps improve stability and balance while providing a great challenge to your chest muscles.

c. Close Grip Floor Press

The close grip floor press is an excellent variation for targeting your triceps and building upper body strength. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Hold the barbell with a close grip, placing your hands slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart. Lower the barbell until your triceps touch the floor, pause, and then push it back up to the starting position. This exercise places a greater emphasis on your triceps while still engaging your chest and shoulders, making it a valuable addition to your workout routine.

Incorporating these floor press variations into your training regimen can help you achieve explosive muscle gain and enhance your overall bench press performance. Remember to start with lighter weights and gradually increase the resistance as you become more comfortable with the exercises.

8. Reverse Grip Bench Press

The reverse grip bench press is a powerful variation of the traditional bench press exercise that targets the chest, triceps, and shoulders. It involves gripping the barbell or dumbbells with a reverse grip, where your palms are facing towards you. This change in grip not only engages different muscle fibers but also places emphasis on different areas of your upper body. In this article, we will explore three variations of the reverse grip bench press: the reverse grip barbell bench press, the reverse grip dumbbell bench press, and the reverse grip Smith machine bench press.

a. Reverse Grip Barbell Bench Press

The reverse grip barbell bench press is an excellent exercise for developing upper body strength and muscle mass. To perform this variation, you will need a barbell and a flat bench. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Lie down on the bench with your feet firmly planted on the ground and your back flat against the bench.
  2. Reach for the barbell with a reverse grip, making sure your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it directly above your chest, arms fully extended.
  4. Slowly lower the barbell down to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your wrists straight.
  5. Pause for a moment at the bottom, then push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.

Remember to maintain proper form throughout the exercise, keeping your core engaged and your back firmly against the bench. Start with a weight that challenges you but allows you to complete the desired number of repetitions with good form.

b. Reverse Grip Dumbbell Bench Press

The reverse grip dumbbell bench press is a variation that provides a greater range of motion and targets stabilizer muscles in your shoulders and chest. Here’s how to perform it:

  1. Sit on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards you.
  2. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, ensuring stability.
  3. Lift the dumbbells to shoulder height, keeping your elbows bent and tucked in.
  4. Press the dumbbells up towards the ceiling until your arms are fully extended.
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to shoulder height, maintaining control throughout the movement.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Maintain a slow and controlled motion throughout the exercise, focusing on engaging your chest and triceps. Adjust the weight of the dumbbells according to your strength and fitness level.

c. Reverse Grip Smith Machine Bench Press

The reverse grip Smith machine bench press is a variation that provides stability and control while targeting the chest, triceps, and shoulders. The Smith machine’s guided barbell allows for a safer lifting experience. Here’s how to perform it:

  1. Set up the Smith machine with a flat bench positioned underneath.
  2. Lie down on the bench and position yourself comfortably, with your feet firmly planted on the ground.
  3. Reach for the barbell with a reverse grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Lift the barbell off the rack and hold it directly above your chest, arms fully extended.
  5. Slowly lower the barbell down to your chest, maintaining control and keeping your elbows tucked in.
  6. Pause for a moment at the bottom, then push the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms.
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The Smith machine provides added stability, making it suitable for beginners or those who want to focus on form and control. However, it’s important to note that the range of motion may be slightly limited compared to the other variations.

Incorporating these reverse grip bench press variations into your workout routine can help you target different muscle groups and stimulate muscle growth. Experiment with different weights and rep ranges to challenge yourself and achieve explosive muscle gain. Remember to always prioritize proper form and listen to your body to prevent injuries.

9. Board Press

a. 2-Board Press

The 2-board press is a bench press variation that involves placing two boards on your chest before performing the lift. This exercise is great for targeting your triceps and improving your lockout strength.

To perform the 2-board press:

  1. Set up a bench press station with two boards stacked on top of each other on your chest level.
  2. Lie down on the bench and grip the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Unrack the barbell and lower it down towards your chest until it touches the boards.
  4. Pause for a brief moment and then push the barbell back up to the starting position, focusing on keeping your elbows tucked and maintaining a strong, stable position.

The 2-board press is beneficial for individuals who struggle with the bottom portion of the bench press or want to target their triceps more effectively. By limiting the range of motion, you can overload the triceps muscles and enhance their strength and power.

b. 3-Board Press

The 3-board press is another bench press variation that involves using three boards on your chest. This exercise primarily targets the triceps and can help improve your lockout strength and explosive power.

To perform the 3-board press:

  1. Set up a bench press station with three boards stacked on top of each other on your chest level.
  2. Lie down on the bench and grip the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Unrack the barbell and lower it down towards your chest until it touches the boards.
  4. Pause for a brief moment and then push the barbell back up to the starting position, focusing on maintaining proper form and generating power from your triceps.

The 3-board press is an effective exercise for individuals who want to specifically target their triceps and increase their bench press lockout strength. By using the boards as a target, you can work on explosive power and develop stronger triceps muscles.

c. 4-Board Press

The 4-board press is a bench press variation that involves using four boards on your chest, thereby reducing the range of motion even further. This exercise is excellent for isolating the triceps and building explosive strength in the lockout phase.

To perform the 4-board press:

  1. Set up a bench press station with four boards stacked on top of each other on your chest level.
  2. Lie down on the bench and grip the barbell with a slightly wider than shoulder-width grip.
  3. Unrack the barbell and lower it down towards your chest until it touches the boards.
  4. Pause briefly and then explosively push the barbell back up, focusing on engaging your triceps and maintaining a stable upper body position.

The 4-board press provides a unique challenge for your triceps and can help you break through strength plateaus. By limiting the range of motion, you can focus on explosiveness and power, ultimately leading to increased muscle gain and improved bench press performance.

10. Swiss Ball Bench Press

The Swiss Ball Bench Press is an effective variation of the traditional bench press that utilizes a Swiss ball for added instability. This instability forces your muscles to work harder to stabilize your body during the exercise, leading to increased muscle activation and improved core strength.

a. Swiss Ball Barbell Bench Press

The Swiss Ball Barbell Bench Press is performed by placing a Swiss ball between your upper back and a flat bench, while holding a barbell with an overhand grip. This exercise not only targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps like a regular bench press, but also engages your core and stabilizer muscles to a greater extent due to the unstable surface of the Swiss ball.

To perform the Swiss Ball Barbell Bench Press, follow these steps:

  1. Sit on the Swiss ball and carefully roll your body down until your upper back is firmly positioned on the ball. Keep your feet flat on the ground and maintain a slight arch in your lower back.
  2. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the barbell off the rack and lower it towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your wrists aligned with your forearms.
  4. Press the barbell back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

b. Swiss Ball Dumbbell Bench Press

The Swiss Ball Dumbbell Bench Press is similar to the barbell variation, but instead of using a barbell, you use two dumbbells. This variation provides a greater range of motion and allows each arm to work independently, which can help correct any muscle imbalances.

To perform the Swiss Ball Dumbbell Bench Press, follow these steps:

  1. Sit on the Swiss ball and carefully roll your body down until your upper back is firmly positioned on the ball. Keep your feet flat on the ground and maintain a slight arch in your lower back.
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand, with your palms facing forward and your arms extended directly above your shoulders.
  3. Lower the dumbbells towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your wrists aligned with your forearms.
  4. Press the dumbbells back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

c. Swiss Ball Smith Machine Bench Press

The Swiss Ball Smith Machine Bench Press combines the stability of the Smith machine with the instability of the Swiss ball, creating a challenging exercise that targets your chest, shoulders, and triceps while also engaging your core muscles.

To perform the Swiss Ball Smith Machine Bench Press, follow these steps:

  1. Place a Swiss ball between your upper back and a flat bench, positioning yourself under the Smith machine bar.
  2. Grab the bar with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lift the bar off the rack and lower it towards your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in and your wrists aligned with your forearms.
  4. Press the bar back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms without locking your elbows.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Incorporating these Swiss Ball Bench Press variations into your workout routine can help you enhance your explosive muscle gains, improve your core stability, and challenge your muscles in new ways. Remember to always use proper form and start with lighter weights before progressing to heavier loads to ensure optimal results and minimize the risk of injury.

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