Next Level Bench Press Variations

Next Level Bench Press Variations

Take your bench press and chest workouts to the next level with these exercises and approaches.

Every male on the planet wants to bench press. Yet, the number one exercise associated with upper body weight room injury in the male population is, of course, the flat barbell bench press. Without getting into the technicalities of why, and the propensity we have for injury in this horizontal pushing exercise, we can safely say that one of the main factors is simply that we bench too much! Blasphemous, I know, but it’s the truth.

However, what also adds to the elevated risk of injury is that we don’t use enough bench press variety in our training. If we did, gym goers would be able to bench with far less injuries, simply by mixing it up and using different variations within their programming.

So what exercises should we use to “mix it up,” while still satisfying our craving for benching heavy? I recommend the following time-tested, and injury-prevention approved, bench variations:

  • Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Wide-Grip Bench Press
  • High-Incline Bench Press
  • Medium-Incline Bench Press
  • Low-Incline Bench Press
  • Decline Bench Press
  • Neutral Close-Grip Bench Press
  • Neutral Wide-Grip Bench Press
  • Thick-Grip Bench Press

It should be noted that in addition to staving off some injuries in the long term, using these pressing variations can also help you blast through personal bench press records. So in the end, it’s a win-win situation – you give your body the variety it needs to stay healthy long term, and in doing so you’re well situated to break old PR’s by altering which muscles you use to bench press!

Programming Guidelines

Regarding the list and video above, try to use variations you’ve never performed before implementing variations that you’ve done in the past. If you’ve already performed all of the different variations listed above at one point in your lifting career, choose the one you’ve performed least, or haven’t performed in the longest time.

When using a variation for the first time ever, make sure to stick with it for 3-4 months before moving onto another variation. When using a variation you’ve done sparingly in the past, be sure to stick with it for at least 2-3 months before moving onto another variation. Basically, the newer you are to a certain bench press variation, the longer you use it. The more experience you have with a certain variation, the less you should use it. The overriding idea is to always vary the training stress.

Programming Specifics

For lifters whose 1RM is equal to their bodyweight (or less) use the following loading schemes regardless of the variations you choose:

  • Sets: 4-5
  • Reps: 4-5
  • Frequency: twice per week

For lifters whose 1RM is more than their bodyweight, but less than 1.5 times their bodyweight, use the following loading schemes regardless of the variations you choose:

  • Sets: 3-5
  • Reps: 3-5
  • Frequency: twice per week

For lifters whose 1RM is more than 1.5 times their bodyweight use the following loading schemes regardless of the variations you choose:

  • Sets: 4-5
  • Reps: 2-4
  • Frequency: 1-2 times per week

For lifters whose 1RM is twice their bodyweight use the following loading schemes regardless of the variations you choose:

  • Sets: 4-6
  • Reps: 1-3
  • Frequency: once per week

If you’re benching twice per week, never do so back-to-back, and leave at least two days between each session. Also, unless you’re part of the first category of lifters (those who bench their bodyweight or less), try to avoid training to failure. That means no “forced reps” or “spotted reps.” Don’t miss lifts. Select a weight that you can get on your own, and if you must train to failure, save it for the last set of each session only.

Bench more, and stay injury free from benching, by mixing it up. And while you’re at it, please enjoy the benefits associated with setting new bench press records in the process!

Looking for supplements that will help boost your bench? 1R would recommend the following:

  1. Optimum Nutrition 2:1:1 Recovery - The carbs and protein will help you recover and build lean muscle faster after tough workouts
  2. Cytosport L-Glutamine - Needed for immune system support, energy production, and the building and protection of the lean muscle mass when stress is increased on the body
  3. Cytosport Creatine - By increasing your body's ATP production creatine will help you become more explosive, more powerful, and more athletic when taken before or after workouts
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About the Author

Sam Leahey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Council on Strength and Fitness. He is an assistant strength and conditioning coach at Springfield College. Prior to that he was an assistant strength and conditioning coach at American International College. Although prepared in a variety of bodies of knowledge, Sam particularly specializes in applied exercise science under the guides of biomechanics, physiology, and developmental kinesiology as they relate to program design for athletic performance enhancement as well as remedial exercise. For more information on Sam visit www.SamLeahey.com or feel free to contact him at sam@samleahey.com.