First of all, this guide is written by Stacy “Bama” Burr.
If you are looking for a shortcut, a mythical exercise that will amplify all your gains, or a miracle pill- you are in the wrong place. But chances are if you stay a while, you might just learn a little something.
A bench press is a compound exercise that involves many muscles but primarily targets the chest and triceps. These are your main movers. For most females who are getting into lifting weights- their first primary concern isn’t on building a barrel chest. That being said, their triceps usually overpower their chest in terms of dominance. (This could also be credited somewhat to the typical “close grip” hand placement that is commonly found in many novice lifters).
The first exercise listed is one that helps with training the pectorals and working through a pressing range of motion. With any type of dumbbell press you will recruit more stabilizers- comparatively than you would with a barbell movement. This also addresses another weakness point for a lot of females who have little experience pressing, which is stability.
The Accessory of choice: Dumbbell Bench Press / Single Arm DB Bench Press
I chose this accessory and employ it with various rep schemes. Typically the double DB Bench I like in the 6-10 rep range/ focusing on progressively increasing weight while for the single arm I like to keep higher reps in the 10-12 rep range to focus on stability and bracing, as this move will tax the core as well. The DB Bench Press can be employed for hypertrophy, stability and for increasing pressing power. For most females, progress with the DB’s seems more achievable as there is no “attachment” to any sort of weights like that on a barbell. You can vary the angle of the DB presses as well to vary the movement: Flat, Incline, Decline.
One thing I think a lot of fitness professionals forget is the importance of mastering your body first before you add resistance. To master your body and proper movement patterns, we can add in volume to the upper body routines almost anytime throughout the day (within reason) by doing BW dips (or a modified version/ chair dip) and pushups (or a modified version/ wall pushups).
HERE’S THE SHORTCUT: DO THESE DAILY.
The Accessory of choice: Pushups/ Bodyweight Dips
I chose this accessory to add to this guide because these are two moves that you can do daily to add in extra upper body work. Is the work glamorous or worthy of instagram? Maybe not, but I guarantee if you work your way up into adding 100 pushups and 100 dips into your daily routine- your bench will go up. Start doing 10 per day, 2x per day and then work your way up from there.
Advanced accessory of choice: Feet Inclined Pushups/ Weighted Dips
When you reach level expert on the bodyweight pushups and dips THEN we make it harder and start adding resistance or increasing the lever arm. The weighted dip is one of my personal favorite exercises that has helped improve my bench. Make sure you work on progressive overload. Some sets will be 10-12 reps while I will push others to the 4-5 rep range when/if the time is right. The weighted dip allows you to overload the triceps while getting recruitment in the pecs, shoulders and everything in between.
The next exercise is one of those that nobody talks about. When you see it on the list you will laugh and think, “that doesn’t belong here, that is a BACK exercise” but it does belong here. Indeed it does and here I will tell you why. If you want to build a big bench press, you have to build a big back. You have to have a launch pad for that bar to load on to!
The Accessory of choice: The Seal Row
Nobody likes them. Nobody. That is why they are so important. They take a few minutes to set up, unless you are blessed with a gym that has a Seal Row bench- which in that case- stay blessed! But take your time with these and pause up at the top of the rep and squeeze your back. Now what does that simulate? A reverse paused bench press. This is a move that is easy to progress because often times we will start with lower weights here because of the level of difficulty doing the move. Hack: If you’re running low on time and can’t set up the Seal Row, opt for a standard bent over double overhand barbell row. Make sure you squeeze up top for 2 seconds. Usual reps in the 8-10 rep range.
Add these exercises into your routine if you are looking to build that bench press!
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