Can You Develop a Bigger and Stronger Chest Without The Bench Press?

Today, I decided to check my favorite site for fitness panties – S-Nation. In the new featured article, the author wrote that you cannot beat the bench press when it comes to building larger and stronger boobies. That’s not true.

What many people fail to realize is that the bench press is nothing but an exercise. Therefore, it can be replaced if you have no intentions to compete in benching competitions.

How can you replace it? By choosing another compound movement with similar characteristics.


What makes the bench press so special?

arnold-schwarzenegger-bench-press

During the so-called Golden Era of Bodybuilding, when the D-bol was actually D-bol, the bench press got extremely popular thanks to Arnold’s internationally recognized chest which is still in the dreams of many people with a questionable mental status.

Since the 70s crew did a ton of benching, many protein powder clowns continue to assume that this is the secret to incredible chest transformation while completely ignoring the fact that genetics come first. Even if you are benching the whole universe, you cannot change your insertions, muscle bellies, and frame.

Another quality of the bench press is that it works the main pushers (chest, triceps and front deltoids) really well. This cannot be said about the overhead press because it misses the chest. As a result, the bench press remains one of the lifts that work a great amount of muscle mass in your upper body. Even the back has to deliver.

However, that could also be said about other exercises such as dips. Thus, the bench press does not offer a package that other movements cannot replicate.

Finally, we arrive at the programmable side of the bench press, which is considered otherworldly by strength experts.

The bench press is a barbell exercise that allows you to perform well-calculated routines. For example, if your program calls for 80% of your 1RM (one repetition maximum), it’s easy to determine the exact number. In addition, the bench press can be made harder until infinity without altering the movement pattern. You just add weight and that’s it. There is no need to do fancy dancing such as planches, front levers…etc.

All of this is great but does not make the bench press unique. You can treat weighted dips and push-ups the same way. Sure, your bodyweight will affect the equation, but unless you are one of those guys on never-ending bulks, you will not be gaining that much anyway.

Which exercises can replace the bench press?

During my glorious permabulking days, I was frequently passing by a busy playground with horizontal and parallel bars on my way to the barbell dungeon. Every single time I was thinking how stupid those morons are for wasting their time on dips while I was doing real work – benching. This continued throughout the autumn and winter, but when the summer came the story changed.

During the hot months, the monkeys were training naked and had solid chest development. Meanwhile I ”the bencher” was still boobless. After a few more years, I completely switched to dips and never looked back.

I can feel my chest working a lot harder during dips than bench presses although I don’t think this will be the case with everyone. Still, I believe that the dip offers at least as much “chest activation” as the bench press.

Another option is to do weighted push-ups instead of dips. The only difference is that it’s a little harder to find a convenient way to add weight.

One of the possible methods is to do push-ups between two stable surfaces so that the weights attached to you can hang. This may not be as straightforward as lying on a bench, but you can still develop some pretty decent strength. Not to mention that out of the big three pushing exercises that involve the chest (bench presses, dips, push-ups), push-ups are the healthiest choice for your shoulders.

Note: You could also do push-ups on gymnastic rings or suspension systems. The instability of the rings will torture your chest even more. In fact, I learned where my chest is the day after my very first ring push-up workout. For a week even walking down the stairs was killing most of my chest fibers. It’s a brutal exercise for the chest. I don’t think that even the dumbbell bench press can replicate it although they are pretty similar.

The Importance Of Programming and Progression

An exercise will not make you stronger by itself the very same way a guitar will not make you a better musician. We have to push ourselves to do hard/heavy stuff.

Exercises are just hardware by themselves. You need software (programming) to increase their value. Ironically, this is something that the gurus forget to mention when they present you the routines of Jay Cutler and friends. The result is a bunch of weaklings who attribute their weakness to exercises instead of attitude and programming.

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