Probably one of the most well known gym exercises, up there with bicep curls. If you have been in or around any sort of gym environment you’ve probably heard the famous question, “how much ya bench?”. While many people know about the bench press, not so many utilise the many variations available to maximise their bench progress. Much like the squat, the bench is a staple compound exercise and you’ll soon find you are stronger in some areas of the movement than others. The 3 variations below will help you blast through any platues and bring up any weak areas giving you a complete, well – rounded bench press.
Close Grip Bench Press
The two main muscle groups used in the bench press are the pectorals and the triceps. So if your bench press is stalling, chances are it’s one of these muscle groups letting you down. Gripping the bar with your hands closer together (only 1-2 inches closer than normal) will place the emphasis on the triceps rather than the chest, making this a great movement to build up lagging triceps, which are used mostly for your lock out. You will find you may not be able to go as heavy as your normal bench press as not only will you be places emphasis on the tris, but your ROM will be slightly larger.
Wide Grip Bench Press
You probably guessed it from the title, this is pretty much the opposite of the close grip. Where the close grip focusing the muscle engagement on the triceps the wide grip will target the chest (pectorals). Much like the close grip you are simply moving your grip wider by about 1-2 inches, this may not seem like much but you will notice the difference straight away. As this is going to be targeting your pecs this is a great movement for developing that explosive movement moving the bar off your chest which is a very common sticking point. Also the opposite to the close grip is the ROM. This can be dramatically shorter than normal. One thing to watch out for is since you are gripping wider this can put more stress on your front delts and pecs so be careful!
Paused Bench Press
As mentioned previously in our squat variation post, this should be implemented in every training programme and can be applied to any variation including the two mentioned above. All that is required is a 1-2 second pause on your chest at the bottom of the movement, taking all momentum away, forcing you to be as explosive as possible. This is fantastic for building explosive strength and is a must if you are thinking about competing in the future. Like all the other variations mentioned you will be forced to use lighter weights than usual as the lack of momentum i.e. the bounce off your chest, will remove all crutches to cheating the movement.
Written by Ryan Wilson