Bench Press Alternatives: 14 Proven Exercises You Need To Know 

A vector image of a bench press - it is the main image to the article "Resistance Band Bench Press".

If you are looking for some bench press alternatives, there is an almost inexhaustible list that you could pull from. 

However, not all of these bench press alternatives are as effective as bench press, and you could reduce the effectiveness of your routine by including them. 

This is why we decided to create this list of proven bench press alternatives that are backed by science. Let’s get right into it. 

Things To Consider  

First and foremost, why might you want to look for bench press alternatives in the first place? 

Everyone knows that the bench press is the king of all upper body exercises, but that’s not to say it’s perfect for everyone. 

For one, it can be difficult to perform if you have shoulder issues. 

Bench press puts a moderate degree of stress on your shoulders, so if you experience shoulder issues or pain, performing the bench press is likely going to make it worse. 

It’s also not the best exercise if one side of your body is stronger than the other. 

If you use one side of your body more than the other during the bench press, you can easily develop muscle imbalances and build an uneven physique. 

Another reason why you might want to go with bench press alternatives is to carry on progressing if you are an advanced lifter. 

At a certain point, you will need to begin to include different exercise variations in order to stimulate muscle and strength growth. 

Doing other variations alongside the bench press can help you continue to progress by targeting your muscles differently and providing a novel stimulus that tells your body to grow. 

Lastly, you might just want to change things up. 

Doing the same exercise year-in year-out can get repetitive, and it is just normal to want to grow bored after a while. 

So, let’s take a look at some bench press alternatives you can use if you fall under any of these categories. 

Dumbbell Chest Press 

The dumbbell chest press is an excellent alternative to the bench press that engages your chest muscles, shoulders, and triceps. It also helps improve your stabilizer muscles, giving you a well-rounded upper body workout. 

How To Do It 

  1. Start by lying on a flat bench with a dumbbell in each hand, held at chest level. 
  2. Keep your feet flat on the floor for stability and maintain a natural arch in your lower back. 
  3. Press the dumbbells upward until your arms are fully extended. 
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position, maintaining control and keeping your elbows at a 90-degree angle. 
  5. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Pushups 

Pushups are a classic bodyweight exercise that targets your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles. They offer a great alternative to the bench press as they can be done anywhere, requiring no equipment. 

  • Start in a high plank position with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  • Keep your feet together and your body in a straight line from head to toe. 
  • Lower your chest towards the floor by bending your elbows, maintaining a neutral spine. 
  • Push yourself back up to the starting position, fully extending your arms. 
  • Repeat the aforementioned pushup form for the desired number of repetitions. 

Incline Dumbbell Press 

The incline dumbbell press targets the upper chest muscles and shoulders, providing a variation to the bench press that helps develop a well-rounded chest. 

  1. Set an adjustable bench to an incline of around 45 degrees. 
  2. Lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. 
  3. Plant your feet firmly on the floor and keep your back pressed against the bench. 
  4. Push the dumbbells upward, extending your arms fully while maintaining control. 
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

Decline Dumbbell 

The decline bench press targets the lower chest muscles, providing a different angle of stimulation compared to the traditional bench press. 

It also puts less strain on the shoulders, making it better than bench press for those with shoulder issues. 

How To Do It  

  1. Set an adjustable bench to a decline of around 30-45 degrees. 
  2. Lie on the bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing forward. 
  3. Secure your feet at the top of the bench or have a partner hold them in place. 
  4. Press the dumbbells upward, fully extending your arms while maintaining control. 
  5. Slowly lower the dumbbells back down to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions. 

The Bench Press 

Ah, the bench press – a timeless classic in the world of strength training. It’s a go-to exercise for developing upper body strength and sculpting a robust chest. 

Let’s delve into this exercise a little further and see what muscles it works as well as its postives and negatives to help you decide if you should bench press or go with one of its many altneratives. 

What Muscles Are Used In The Bench Press? 

The bench press primarily targets the pectoralis major, the largest muscle in your chest. It also engages the anterior deltoids (front shoulders) and the triceps brachii (upper arms). 

However, the bench press alone may not cover all the angles and variations your chest needs for optimal development. 

That’s where alternative exercises come into play. 

Bench Press Pros  

The barbell and dumbbell bench press has some undeniable benefits. 

It allows you to lift heavy loads, which stimulates strength and muscle gains. It also helps develop upper body power and enhances your pushing strength. 

Plus, the bench press provides a sense of accomplishment and is widely recognized as a symbol of strength and fitness prowess. 

Bench Press Cons 

While the bench press has its merits, it’s not without its drawbacks. 

For one, it places considerable stress on your shoulders, potentially leading to imbalances or injuries if not performed with proper form. 

Additionally, some individuals may find that the bench press doesn’t provide enough variety for complete chest development. This is where incorporating alternative exercises becomes crucial. 

The 12 Best Bench Press Alternatives 

1. Dumbbell Press (Unilateral Training, More Muscle Activation, Shoulder Injury) 

Dumbbell press is a unilateral training exercise that provides more muscle activation compared to barbell bench press. It’s beneficial for individuals with shoulder injuries as it allows each arm to move independently, reducing strain on the shoulders. By engaging stabilizing muscles, it promotes better overall shoulder health and range of motion.

2. Floor Press (Pure Strength, Shoulder Injury) 

Floor press is a pure strength exercise performed with the back flat on the floor, limiting the range of motion. It’s beneficial for individuals with shoulder injuries as it reduces strain on the shoulders compared to traditional bench pressing. By focusing on the mid-range of the movement, it targets the chest and triceps effectively while minimizing shoulder stress.

3. Pin Presses (Pure Strength, Shoulder Injury, Sticking Points) 

Pin presses are pure strength exercises performed with the barbell resting on safety pins set just above the chest. This exercise is beneficial for individuals with shoulder injuries and helps overcome sticking points in the bench press movement. By allowing you to lift heavier weights than in traditional bench pressing, it promotes progressive overload and strength gains.

4. Pushups (Athleticism, Muscle Endurance, Muscle Strength) 

Pushups are highly effective bodyweight exercises that enhance athleticism, muscle endurance, and strength. They target the chest, shoulders, and triceps while engaging the core for stability. With variations like weighted pushups or elevated feet, pushups can be adjusted to challenge different muscle groups and accommodate various fitness levels.

5. Chest Dips (Add Mass, Muscular Endurance) 

Chest dips are compound exercises performed on parallel bars, targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps. They add mass and promote muscular endurance by utilizing body weight resistance. By allowing a greater range of motion compared to bench pressing, chest dips effectively engage the lower pecs while enhancing overall chest strength.

6. Gironda Dips (Add Mass, Target The Lower Chest) 

Gironda dips are a variation of chest dips designed to add mass and target the lower chest specifically. By leaning forward and keeping the elbows wide, this exercise places greater emphasis on the lower pecs. Gironda dips are effective for individuals seeking to develop a well-rounded chest and improve overall chest strength.

7. Squeeze Press (Serious Isometric Hold, Need To Use Light Weight) 

Squeeze press is an effective chest exercise that involves holding two dumbbells together while pressing them upward. This creates a serious isometric hold, engaging the chest muscles intensely. It’s essential to use light weights to maintain proper form and focus on the contraction throughout the movement.

8. Cable Chest Flys (Chest Isolation, Muscle Hypertrophy, Train Various Angles) 

Cable chest flys are isolation exercises performed on a cable machine, targeting the pectoral muscles for muscle hypertrophy. By training various angles and allowing a full range of motion, cable flys effectively isolate the chest while promoting muscle growth and strength. They’re a versatile addition to any chest training program.

9. Machine Chest Press (Beginner, Recovering From Injury) 

Machine chest press is a beginner-friendly exercise that’s beneficial for individuals recovering from injury. By providing stability and guiding the movement pattern, this exercise reduces the risk of injury while targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps effectively. It allows for progressive overload and promotes overall strength development.

10. Standing Chest Press (Isolation, Burn Out) 

Standing chest press is an isolation exercise performed with a cable machine, allowing for a full range of motion and targeting the chest muscles. By standing, it engages the core for stability and enhances muscle activation. Standing chest press is an effective alternative to traditional bench pressing for burning out the chest muscles.

11. Dumbbell Pullovers (Muscle Hypertrophy, Serratus Anterior) 

Dumbbell pullovers are effective for muscle hypertrophy, particularly targeting the serratus anterior muscles, which are crucial for shoulder stability and mobility. This exercise involves a full range of motion, stretching the chest and engaging the lats. By using a dumbbell, it provides a greater range of motion compared to barbell exercises, promoting overall muscle growth and development.

12. Swiss Bar Bench Press (Shoulder Relief, Various Hand Positions, Just Something Different)

Swiss bar bench press is a shoulder-friendly alternative to traditional barbell bench press. With various hand positions available, it provides relief for individuals experiencing shoulder discomfort. By allowing a neutral grip, it reduces strain on the shoulders while targeting the chest, shoulders, and triceps effectively. Swiss bar bench press offers a unique variation to add variety to your training program. 

13. Incline Dumbbell Press (Unilateral Training, More Muscle Activation, Better Upper Pec and Shoulder Isolation) 

Incline dumbbell press is a unilateral training exercise that provides more muscle activation, particularly targeting the upper pecs and shoulders. By adjusting the bench angle, it isolates the upper chest and shoulders more effectively than flat bench pressing. This exercise promotes better upper pec and shoulder isolation while enhancing overall chest strength.

14. Decline Dumbbell Press (Unilateral Training, Shoulder Injury, Better Overall Chest Activation) 

Decline dumbbell press is a great bench press alternative unilateral training exercise beneficial for individuals with shoulder injuries, offering better overall chest activation compared to flat bench pressing. By adjusting the bench angle downward, it targets the lower pecs more effectively. This highly effective exercise provides a wider range of motion and promotes muscle activation while minimizing shoulder stress.

The Best Way To Train Your Chest 

To maximize your chest gains, it’s essential to include a variety of exercises that target different areas of your chest. 

This ensures balanced development and avoids plateaus. 

While the traditional bench press does perform the best overall on bench press EMG data, this means very little if you are stuck and unable to progress anymore. 

This is why including different variations that hit your muscles in different ways is so important. 

By incorporating a mix of pressing movements, fly variations, and other exercises, you can sculpt a well-rounded chest that commands attention. 

An Example Chest Building Plan 

Here’s an example chest building plan that combines different exercises to optimize your training: 

  1. Dumbbell Chest Press: This exercise targets the middle chest muscles. Perform 3 sets of 8-12 reps. 
  2. Incline Dumbbell Flyes: This exercise focuses on the upper chest. Perform 3 sets of 10-15 reps. 
  3. Pushups: A classic bodyweight exercise that engages your chest muscles. Perform 2 sets of as many reps as possible. 
  4. Cable Crossovers: These target the inner chest. Perform 3 sets of 12-15 reps. 
  5. Dips: An excellent exercise for overall chest development. Perform 2 sets of 8-12 reps. 

Build Your Chest Now  

Now that you have a solid understanding of the best bench press alternatives and how to incorporate them into your routine, it’s time to take action. 

Start by experimenting with these exercises, focusing on proper form, and gradually increasing the intensity. Consistency and dedication will be your allies on the path to building a strong and sculpted chest. 

So, unleash the power of your chest with these alternatives, explore different exercises, and watch your upper body strength and aesthetics reach new heights. 

Get ready to turn heads and exude confidence with a chest that demands attention. 

Bench Press Alternatives – FAQs 

What Are The Best Bench Press Alternatives?

The best bench press alternatives are push ups, dips, dumbbell presses, and machine presses. All of these exercises work the same muscles as bench press, and if included in a well-rounded exercise program, they can be a suitable substitute for benching.

What Can I Substitute For Bench Press? 

The best substitutes for bench are chest dips, push ups, and other variations of bench (like incline or decline). 

How Can I Bench Press At Home Without A Bench? 

You can bench at home without a bench by doing the floor press. 

The barbell floor press simply involves you lying on the floor and performing a bench press instead of on a bench. 

Can You Build Chest Without Bench Press? 

Yes, you can build chest without bench press. Pushups and dips are both great alternatives that can provide similar chest growth to bench press. 

Which Exercise Is Better Than Bench Press? 

In terms of overall muscle recruitment, the bench press is the best overall upper-body exercise. 

However, when it comes to isolating certain muscles, there are a plethora of other exercises that are superior. A few of the main examples are dips, pushups, shoulder presses, tricep extensions, and bicep curls. 

What’s The Best Seated Machine Chest Press Alternative? 

The best seated machine chest press alternative is the traditional bench press. 

The flat bench recruits a ton of different muscle groups throughout the movement, making it one of the most effective upper-body exercises out there. 

Is there a Difference Between Chest Press vs Bench Press? 

Yes, there is a difference between the chest press and the bench press. 

The chest press is a fixed exercise that is performed using a machine, while the bench press is a free, non-fixed exercise. 

What’s The Best Smith Machine Incline Bench Press Alternative? 

The best smith machine incline bench press alternative is just the classic incline bench. 

While it may feel unnerving transitioning from the smith machine to free weights, it’s going to be well worth your time in terms of muscle and strength gains. 

We hope this article will be of use to you. 

There truly are some incredible bench press alternatives out there that you can utilise if for one reason or another the bench press isn’t right for you, and if you include any of the exercises we mentioned on our list in your routine, you won’t regret it. 

If you would like more bench press help or just more fitness advice, feel free to take a look at the rest of our content on MovingForwards