Which bench press is best for chest?
There is no one answer to that and if you think you have or someone claims to have, you are limiting yourself and setting yourself up for less than optimal gains. There is no one exercise that is best for chest. There is a multitude of tools that have to be applied on a constant basis to build that magnificent pec fest.
Confused muscles or confused athletes
You are faced with a dilemma. A big one, almost live changing, shattering worry which keeps you awake at night. You tried to solve this conundrum many a times and never came to a conclusion. Yet the wasted time and effort make you cringe and almost vomit. In all fairness, if it is that bad for you to decide which chest exercises to do on national chest day you should probably see a doctor. For anyone else of you who is just wondering about how to optimize their training, I hope I can help.
There is a myriad of variations of bench presses out there and it can be hard to pick the one which is best for you. Magazines have to come up with new routines for each of their new releases and websites like bodybuilding.com or muscle and strength also have to keep the masses entertained. That can lead to a lot of rubbish being published. First and furthermost let us talk about the way of thinking underlying how the question is posed.
Basic principles for chest growth
"Which bench press is best for chest?" is thinking in a very one dimensional way. Unfortunately, strength and muscle development do not really work that way as your body is a complex system. So, maybe part with the obsession to have that one size fits all magical bullet, because there isn't. Your training needs will change over time, you will rotate some exercises out, to rotate them back in again after two years. What is true now, will not necessarily stay true to you for the next decade.
What also takes priority over the question which bench press you perform is how many repetitions you perform and how these repetitions are performed. I, for example, have pumped up my chest only minimally in my training, because I work with repetition templates somewhere between 2 - 5 reps. My goal is mainly strength, not maximum muscle growth. The times when I achieved the most growth in terms of inches added to my chest was on German Volume Training. In this program, you perform ten sets for ten repetitions each.
Another approach which is even more important then the exercises you pick is the concept of time under tension. You will get more pump out of each repetition when you perform it in a very slow and controlled maximizing the time each repetition takes. This generally also works your muscles better for growth.
Bench press variations
Now that we got these things out of the way here is a list of popular chest exercises:
- Decline bench press
- Dumbbell pullover
- Incline dumbbell flies
- Upper pac cable crossovers
- Dumbbell flyes
- Cable crossover
- Dumbbell bench
- Smith machine bench press
- Barbell bench press
- Incline smith machine press
Based on this list I personally get the most pump for my chest out of dumbbell bench presses in which I work the muscle from several angles. If you already do a lot of flat barbell bench pressing give this a try. You can also some Incline bench presses if you have not done so yet. The more variety you bring to your training the more likely it is that you will achieve your goal of a big and full chest. Avoid to hone yourself in on one specific exercise, as this creates imbalances in your body, is boring and will also not deliver the desired results.
For a good chest regimen, it is good to have some dumbbell, cable and barbell work in your program. Variation between the incline and flat can be rotated on a weekly basis. To not get too stuck on one variation or the other and constantly keep testing what works best for you.
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