Alternative Exercises to Bench Press

Yeah, you heard me (read me…), that’s right, alternative exercises to the bench press. I don’t necessarily have a problem with people doing it. Just me really. You see, I injured my shoulder (not related to weightlifting…don’t ask) and since then, benching has become an arduous task. Now, I can imagine there other people out there, that have shoulder problems and can no longer bench  without severe pain. So, I’ve looked for alternatives, and have found quite a few, that seem to work really well. I’ll include both isolation and compound exercises for your literary (and viewing) pleasure. Here we go:

Chest Dips Read the entire piece on dips before you start criticizing. I know that some people with shoulder injuries complain about dips. But, I’ve found that they don’t aggravate my shoulder injury when I do them. So, buyer beware. The standing or upright version (vs seated)  involves supporting your entire weight on your hands between two parallel bars. You want to bend the elbows until your arms are parallel to the ground. Check it out below.

This one has many people complaining of shoulder pain due to the exercise, and/or shoulder pain from a previous injury that becomes aggravated due to this exercise. If  done correctly, where the body is tilted forward at an angle, most of the shoulder problems that people complain about, should not be an issue. Also don’t round the shoulders or hunch up (raise the shoulders as in a shrug).

I will say again, it does not aggravate my shoulder injury (I make sure to tilt forward and not hunch). In fact it feels pretty good. But, if it bothers you despite proper form, then, STOP! I have some other exercises you can look at. FYI, don’t write in complaining that they are bad for shoulders and I’m encouraging injuries. I already said, some people find them helpful, and better than bench press for injured shoulders, others don’t. Like I said before, buyer beware, so to speak.

Push ups Yeah buddy. But, push-ups are similar to bench press aren’t they? Well there are some differences. But don’t take my word for it.  Although, when I switched to push ups, I noticed that the pain was mostly gone. Eventually it got to a point where I was pain free with the push up, but not with the bench. Many people have had similar experiences. So, give it a try and see. I’ll do a later post on the mechanics of why one results in pain and the other doesn’t. If you want to add resistance, you could use a resistance band.

In the video he pushes, off the handles, from the weight station. You don’t necessarily have to do this. You can easily do the push up on the floor as you would normally, just with resistance bands. As an alternative, you can place plates on your back. It’s up to you, whichever is more comfortable.

Neutral Grip Dumbbell Press They are like regular dumbbell press, but with the wrists turned inwards. In other words, facing each other. I’ve tried them and they seem to work. By ‘seem’, I mean a lot of the pain was alleviated, but wasn’t gone completely. But it may be something you might want to try. It could work for you. Check it out below.

Yes, you can use regular dumbbells for this. He’s simply using the adjustable ones for convenience of changing weight. Just be sure that your palms are facing each other, otherwise it won’t make a damn difference to your shoulders.

Neutral Grip Bench Press This version allows you to bench press with the bar. Sometimes called a foot ball bar, it has several handles along its length for changing hand location. This allows you to do the bench with your palms facing each other in a neutral grip, similar to the neutral grip dumbbell press. It’s kinda like a trap bar. Hey, if there isn’t one in the gym, then use the trap bar. Nobody’s gonna care. Most gyms should have one. If they don’t, well there are always dumbbells lying around.

Summary These are the main replacements for bench press that I wanted to discuss today. There are many others, but I think these really do a good job of working the chest and/or mimicking the regular bench. Since I started doing dips, I’ve developed a taste for it. Kinda like doing it, because it gives a good back and tricep workout. I also do lots of push ups during the week. This is pretty much how I managed to get around my shoulder injury. I will repeat this injury was not due bad form lifting or remotely related to lifting. But it did bother me whilst lifting, enough so that I had to look for alternatives. So, hopefully my pain and suffering is of some benefit to you. As always, I will update as I come across more exercises. So keep coming back for more and check out the shop section in the menu, for all your workout needs.


6 thoughts on “Alternative Exercises to Bench Press

  1. Hi, although I don’t have a shoulder injury, I just don’t have access to a bench press where I live. I like some of your alternatives because I can do some of them at home like the dips and the push ups and neutral grip dumbell press. Any tips for how to build up specifically my upper chest using these techniques?

    1. For the upper chest, you can do push ups with your feet elevated. Put them up on a chair or edge of a bed and do the push up as you would normally. You can also do incline press with the bar. Doesn’t hurt the shoulders as much as a regular bench press.

  2. This is really helpful. I don’t have a bad shoulder like yourself but whenever I go to the gym I find it a nightmare trying to get on to one of the bench press stations. Then when you finally do, someone else will be harassing you to let them on.

  3. Hey, What a great article, Full of useful information and will help a lot of beginner bodybuilder’s out there. Many of beginners I see in the gym where I use to go who only come and just play bench press everyday, I think this article will help them, Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *