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Four Exercises That Are Better Than the Bench Press

If you want to build a bigger and stronger chest, here are four moves you would be crazy to overlook.

1) Partial to Benching
Whether you are talking about chest or any other bodypart, partials are all about overloading a particular portion of the range of motion (ROM) without doing a full range rep. By bench pressing with partials, you break the lift into smaller components within the range of motion. This allows you to isolate a particular portion of the lift and allow you to work only at that angle. This further allows you to train and lift more weight over a shortened ROM.

2) Chained to The Bench
Can chains really make the bench press even better? First and foremost, the idea of chains isn’t merely about adding weight, though at first glance, it might appear to be. You may be thinking ‘Why not simply add more plates?” That is a good question. But with chains added to the ends of the bar, you actually vary the resistance during the bench move from the bottom of the rep to the top, unlike when you simply add a weight (which goes along for the ride all the way through the range of motion). Chains cause the bar to get heavier the further you press it away from your chest, which allow for maximal tension on the on the pecs when the muscle is at it’s strongest.

3) Try Not To Move
This is a technique that focuses on zero visible movement. You naturally think that the bar needs to be moving for there to be any benefit. But indeed, in no other exercise can isometrics better catapult you to the next level than on the bench press. An isometric contraction is one in which the muscular force equals the external resistance, producing no visible movement. A good example would be if you loaded up the bar with more weight than you could possibly bench and it doesn’t move an inch. While the bar may not be moving, that does not mean nothing is going on inside your muscles. Research, confirms that you can increase both size and strength doing isometric contractions.

4) Bench In Reverse
Like the other techniques, this one starts on the standard bench press. The idea is to completely flip the bench press, which is exactly what a “reverse movement” does. To review, here is how a typical rep goes: you unrack the bar and hold it above your chest. Nect, inhale and slowly lower the bar towards your pecs (this is not a negative, just lower it under control as usual) before exploding the bar back to the start position. That is how you have done it a thousand times, but we are going to completely reverse the protocol.

A reverse bench press has you beginning with each rep with the bar at your chest, completely eliminating that initial downwards phase. Unless you have tried it, you may not realise that when you lower the bar to the chest, you are actually building up negative energy (sometimes called elastic energy) inside the target muscles as well as the assisting delts and triceps. When the bar reaches the chest, you explode upward, that built-up energy is used to press the bar back up to the start. If you did not have the built-up energy, as is yhe case with the reverse bench press, it’s more difficult to bench press. This is precisely what reverse movements do. They eliminate the built-up negative energy that makes the positive (concentric contraction easier to perform. Each and every rep starts from a full stop, making it much harder to complete.

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Bodyweight Exercises

I would be foolish to try and convince you that a bodyweight workout is somehow going to magically add pounds of muscle. But that is not to say there isn’t some value in bodyweight exercises, and if you learn how to employ some strategic tactics, you can actually take your training to a whole new level.

1)      Always take body weight moves to failure

As you are only using just your bodyweight, it does not make any sense to stop a set before you are fatigued. You need to get the most out of the particular move when bodyweight is the resistance. Since you can’t manipulate the resistance by adding or decreasing weight, and adding weights is the only way to go, you need to perform as many with good form as you can.

2)      Use bodyweight moves as a way of flushing the muscles or finishing a particular body-part routine.

Placing finishing moves at the end of a routine to flush the muscles with water, blood and nutrients is one of the best strategies a bodybuilder looking to squeeze every last bit of effort out of his muscle bellies can follow. Getting a pump by using your own bodyweight is ideal because once you reach failure you draw water inside your muscle cells, and as with a balloon, the more water the muscle cell can hold, the bigger the pump you will experience. The bodyweight pump essentially stretches the muscle cell, making the muscle itself temporarily bigger while initiating biochemical pathways that promote permanent growth.

3)      Incorporate techniques such as plyometrics and isometrics to help make bodyweight moves that much harder and more beneficial.

As you know plyometrics involve explosive, rather than the usual strong but controlled actions, which require a high proportion of fast-twitch muscle fibres. Fast-twitch muscle fibres are responsible for power, size and strength. With plyometric-type moves you can incorporate the bodyweight exercises between free-weight exercises. Exercises like the plyo push-up between sets of bench presses or plyo jump squats in between sets of leg presses can add intensity to an already brutal routine. That intensity will further break down your muscles causing long-lasting change in size and strength. You can also practice timed holds using your bodyweight. For example, wall squats in which you hold your body at 90 degrees as long as possible.

4)      Keep a log to monitor your progress on sets and reps for all bodyweight moves from week to week.

From one workout to the next you should journal all reps and holds on the different exercises, making sure that you beat your time or reps each week or month. That progressive overload is a sure-fire way of knowing whether you are getting stronger, bigger and better at each exercise.