In the land of the chest the bench press is king, and many would rather fight a horde of rabid bears with a spoon before they had to stop benching. Unfortunately for some, the perfect storm of shoulder issues and improper form makes the bench press and some of its variations (i.e. barbell floor press, incline bench press, etc) a no-go.
If this perfectly describes you – I’m also part of the “can’t bench because my shoulders feel like death” club – then have no fear. I’m going to keep this short and sweet like a cinnamon roll and give you three pressing variations that you can use in place of or alongside bench pressing to ensure that your strength and sexy levels don’t plummet precipitously without sacrificing shoulder health.
Weighted Push Up
In terms of strength development, the loaded push up is a mighty tool to have in your arsenal. Most people can do a ton of push ups, but sooner or later loading them in order to keep progressing becomes a huge issue. Weight vests and chains are cool but can become cumbersome or simply aren’t available, but by using a dip belt, something most commercials gyms have, we can side-step this issue completely.
For this variation, make sure that you set the bench far enough away from the bar so that you’re hips aren’t hiked high into the air (I could have pushed the bench back a bit further in this video). As you can see with the booty wiggle, the placement of the belt is important. Try to set it as high as you can on your torso without it interfering with the movement in order to minimize lower back discomfort. The further down the belt is placed on your lower back, the more you risk going into hyper extension which can lead to low back discomfort.
Keep your glutes squeezed mega tight throughout the entire exercise. Make sure that you place the bar high enough so that the weights don’t hit the floor at the bottom of the push up.
I’ve loaded up to 200lbs on this variation without any problem, so needless to say it can be used both for low rep strength sets of 5-8 as well as high rep pump stuff, ranging anywhere from 15-20 and beyond. To increase chest activation, actively try to push the bar together as you push up.
Band Push Up
Bands are a fantastic way to crush your chest and triceps no matter where you are in the world. For a greater challenge, simply use thicker bands.
Band Prayer Press
If you’re in the mood to hate your life while completely scorching your chest and tricepticons in the fires of Hades, this exercise is for you.
High reps sets ranging anywhere from 20-50 work best here. Make sure to keep your hands clasped together the entire time, squeezing your chest together and exploding forcefully outwards with each rep. For an even more sinister pump, control the “lowering” portion of the exercise for 3-5 seconds on each rep. You can also use an incomplete range of motion, pulsing the end range of the exercise and going for a glorious set of 100 reps, although I only recommend doing this if you’ve completed a will and are prepared to lose your life in the pursuit of hypertrophy.
Be warned that it’s impossible to look normal while doing this exercise.
May your chest inspire the hopes and dreams of millions.
May your arm girth frighten the elderly, slow moving adults and very small children.
May your gains be plentiful.
Go forth and prosper.