We like the bench press. It’s long been considered the go-to gym move for chest development and strength (which is why you may hear a lot of “Whattaya bench?”). But broad, strong pectorals don’t necessarily have to come from the bench press, and the classic move may have some downsides, as well.
The front deltoids, for instance, inherently take on a lot of stress during the flat barbell bench because of the tendency for the bar to drift back over the lifter’s eyes, instead of right at the bottom of the chest. Sure, this is a form fix waiting to happen, but often the bench press comes associated with the urge to make it the heaviest lift in an athlete’s arsenal, and with that stigma can often come injury. Alternately, volume benching can lead to fatigue and stress of the rotator cuff as form starts to decline in the later reps.
Does this mean you should scrap the bench? Unless you have a history of shoulder injuries or don’t feel confident in your form, of course not. But it’s not a bad idea to work in other movements for the pecs, considering their primary motion is INWARD, and not OUTWARD. Remember, benching stresses the triceps, too — a true chest exercise is one that can primarily engage the pectorals. That’s our goal with this workout — to offer an alternative to the press that will still shape and grow the chest. You’ll still be using the bench for some movements, but forget about the barbell press for once.
THE BENCHLESS CHEST WORKOUT
Dumbbell incline press: 12, 10, 8, 6, 12.
Cable crossovers: 4×15 (alternate top hand with each rep).
Plyometric push-ups: 4 sets to failure.
Dumbbell flys: 5×5. Go as heavy as you can while keeping good form. Focus on cinching your chest together and flaring it open instead of swinging your arms up and out — it helps to pretend you’re hugging a big tree!
Incline dumbbell flys: 4×12. Nice and light, to keep perfect form and focus strictly on the chest doing the work.