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Effective Alternatives to Flat Bench Presses

Hello All,

I imagine I am not the only one to ever seek EFFECTIVE alternatives to the Flat bench and its variations. I find that it puts way too much undue stress on my shoulders and before anyone mentions its, I have tried all the different modifications, such as bringing the arms in at a lesser angle <45.

Besides Dips and the dumbell variations of the bench press are there any good exercises that effectively target the chest the way these do but without bringing undue stress to the shoulders?

Alex

[quote]acham wrote:
Hello All,

I imagine I am not the only one to ever seek EFFECTIVE alternatives to the Flat bench and its variations. I find that it puts way too much undue stress on my shoulders and before anyone mentions its, I have tried all the different modifications, such as bringing the arms in at a lesser angle <45.

Besides Dips and the dumbell variations of the bench press are there any good exercises that effectively target the chest the way these do but without bringing undue stress to the shoulders?

Alex[/quote]

That’s odd that you would experience such pain in the shoulders when benching, but not in the shoulders when dipping, are you dipping with weight or no?

It’s possible that you may have a severe imbalance in your deltoids (suprise suprise), but again I can’t make that assessment until I’ve actually seen you or you’ve posted some pictures.

Do you focus on the back and rear delts at all? Or it might be that you have very weak front deltoids, as a result they aren’t able to act as stabilizers for the chest and triceps. I’m not diagnosing this to be the case, just saying that it is a possiblity.

As for alternatives, I know that Professor X himself uses the Hammer Strength Chest Press, I do as well when doing ballistic type training, and on occasion will make it my primary chest exercise. You should look into using that if your Gym or a local gym offers hammerstrength machines.

You should look at your shoulders and see if there’s something wrong as the previous poster said. It should not hurt at all unless you have an injury. I used to not bench for 3-4 years because of shoulder problems, steming from inadequate rear deltoid and rotator cuff strenghts/flexibility. Once the problem was taken care of via specific training i am able to bench pain free again and my shoulders never feelt sp? Better. So look there first instead of trying to get rid of this corner stone movement.

I was having shoulder problems when doing flat bench presses. My massage therapist noted that my chest development was ahead of my shoulders. He recommended I concentrate on shoulders for a while. He also recommended I strengthen my pectoralis minor by doing dumbell pullovers and to stretch it after workouts. After following his recommendations for two weeks I tried a flat bench press to see how things were going. The shoulder pain was much less. So I’ll stay away from benches for a while longer until my shoulder development catches up.

I hate the flat barbell bench press. I think it helped me greatly when first beginning, however, I haven’t done the barbell bench press (outside of occasionally doing incline presses with an olympic bar or on the Smith machine) in years. I think dumbbells are the better alternatives, especially if you are having shoulder problems. As others already noted, if it is pain that you are feeling by simply doing the movement, my guess is that you either have an injury or your form is very poor. Since I hate the barbell bench press, I don’t see a point in worrying about it much unless this same pain is produced in other movements using the same muscles. The barbell bench press is simply the most popular and the one every guy runs to in the gym to show off his strength. That doesn’t mean it is the most effective for development.

As far as the Hammer Strength machines, I like them but wouldn’t base an entire routine around them unless you have been training for quite a while.

I actually hurt my shoulder playing hockey, I can’t bench at all without any pain, not even with dumbbells. However, my dip numbers have been going up steadily, last time I did 10x3 with 35 lbs no pain whatsoever. I can also do pushups w/ no pain as well.

Thank you for this post and for all the responses! I’m having a very similar problem. Except that it’s not pain, but I can’t keep my shoulder (my left shoulder) in proper alignment throughout the exercise. So, I’ve been focusing on dips and Hammer Strength and other exercises. Any specific exercises you’d all recommend to correct any potential imbalances?

[quote]StevenF wrote:
I actually hurt my shoulder playing hockey, I can’t bench at all without any pain, not even with dumbbells. However, my dip numbers have been going up steadily, last time I did 10x3 with 35 lbs no pain whatsoever. I can also do pushups w/ no pain as well. [/quote]

This is good to know. I have an old sports injury (my left shoulder) too. It could be this or muscle imbalances that is causing my problems. How has your chest development been just on the exercises you’ve been able to do?

ZEB
Hello…Hello…Hello…
Check 1-2-3

Prof X–I must disagree that it is just a ego exercise. All of the classic chests were built with the bench press. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is not an effective lift.

I’ve been doing it for 20 years and never had a problem with it. Now that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a problem for some, but there is not a lift out there that is 100% safe for everyone.

I personally have pain and don’t like dips.

To the poster: I’ll echo most sentiments and say there has to be an issue that needs to be dealt with. That most likely is some annomoly or strength imbalance that needs to be worked out. Not knowing your situation I hate to prescribe anything, but I would definately look at rows and rear flyes as alternatives to build up potentially weak areas.

Can you do pushups? Ibelieve variations of these can work the chest very effectively. You won’t get massive, but you can build a good deal of strength.

Good luck–talk to a physio or keep experimenting till you find what works.

acham,

Are you aware of the differences between BB and PL bench press? When I started doing it PL style, all of my shoulder problems disappeared.

There’s an article by MR about bench setup and by him and EC about rotator cuff - you should check them out.

CT recomends the decline press to take stress off the deltoids. laters pk

[quote]sasquatch wrote:
ZEB
Hello…Hello…Hello…
Check 1-2-3

Prof X–I must disagree that it is just a ego exercise. All of the classic chests were built with the bench press. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is not an effective lift.

I’ve been doing it for 20 years and never had a problem with it. Now that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a problem for some, but there is not a lift out there that is 100% safe for everyone.[/quote]

Well, I disagree with you…and since paper beats rock, I win and your mother dresses you funny.

Many of those classic chests were also built doing dumbbell presses as well, not just from bench. Either way, I will agree that some people are simply “made” to bench and will get great benefit from it. The most I worked up to on the flat bench was 405 before I moved on to dumbbells. I think it can limit development unless you trust your spotter with your life once you start moving truly heavy (and rib cage splitting) weight.

I agree with the PL vs. BB bench setup comment. I too switched to a PL bench and no longer have any shoulder issues. It should be noted, however, that this style bench doesn’t work the chest like a wide, elbows out BB bench. For me, my triceps get most of the work.

Hey everyone,
Thanks for the responses. I guess I should clear some things up first. I had been doing flat bench presses for long before I had shoulder problems. I did them because they were effective at the time. My form was pretty solid, but somewhere at sometime I must have neglected my shoulder development because this winter brought great pain to my shoulders, specifically when benching.

So I sought help from the orthopedist and physical therapist. The orthopedist, being the predictable people that they are, brushed it as off as inflammation and just gave me some COX-2 Inhibitor variation that I refused to take for I know the various side effects these drugs have. They do not thing that astute and religious supplementation of the proper compounds can’t do. (DHA, EPA, GLA, MSM, DMSO, Chondroitin, Bromelain, etc.)

So I took care of the inflammation part, but I had to then give special care to the shoulder strength imbalances. I worked PT and I have now regained my previous strength and there is no longer pain in normal movements, but I am very reluctant to return to the bench for fear of aggravation of the joint.

When I really thought about the movement of the flat-bench press I wondered why this didn’t happen even earlier to me. It is somewhat restrctive on one’s range of motion and for people using it at angles nearing 90, with heavy weights, puts a tremendous force on the rotator cuff region, even more so if one goes below parallel.

Therefore, I have come here seeking alternate exercises that can build a chest. My experience with flat dumbell pressing is that it is more comfortable and less restrictive. I plan on using them, as also push-ups and the occasional dip, but I was just wondering if there is anything else, some little known chest exercise that someone efficaciously uses so that I could incorporate it into my regimen.

Thanks alot

Alex

[quote]Professor X wrote:
sasquatch wrote:
ZEB
Hello…Hello…Hello…
Check 1-2-3

Prof X–I must disagree that it is just a ego exercise. All of the classic chests were built with the bench press. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it is not an effective lift.

I’ve been doing it for 20 years and never had a problem with it. Now that doesn’t mean that it can’t be a problem for some, but there is not a lift out there that is 100% safe for everyone.

Well, I disagree with you…and since paper beats rock, I win and your mother dresses you funny.

Many of those classic chests were also built doing dumbbell presses as well, not just from bench. Either way, I will agree that some people are simply “made” to bench and will get great benefit from it. The most I worked up to on the flat bench was 405 before I moved on to dumbbells. I think it can limit development unless you trust your spotter with your life once you start moving truly heavy (and rib cage splitting) weight.
[/quote]

I can agree partially with you there, but most gyms don’t offer dumbells to a level that can challenge your max like that of a barbell.

You can build massive power without needing any type of spot 90-95% of the time. I do lift with a partner, but have also had to go alone for periods of time and this did not slow me down.
You just have to lift intelligently.

Also a slight difference in our lifting objectives may cause some of this difference of opinion. i know you are into bodybuilding so max power may not be your main objective. That would make the 120’s-150’s very useful.

By the way, you talk about me or my momma like that again, and I’ll show you the difference between our objectives personally! Ta-ta

[quote]sasquatch wrote:

Also a slight difference in our lifting objectives may cause some of this difference of opinion. i know you are into bodybuilding so max power may not be your main objective. That would make the 120’s-150’s very useful.[/quote]

Actually, strength is very much a goal of mine. I just find that size follows strength, which is one reason I find it odd that so many seem to be seperating the two as if they don’t go together. I train to get stronger…which leads to getting bigger…which means they are both equally important. As far as the dumbbells, that issue of limits as far as the weight used is why much of my work is done on HS machines now.

[quote]

By the way, you talk about me or my momma like that again, and I’ll show you the difference between our objectives personally! Ta-ta[/quote]

Yo momma.

[quote]jsbrook wrote:
StevenF wrote:
I actually hurt my shoulder playing hockey, I can’t bench at all without any pain, not even with dumbbells. However, my dip numbers have been going up steadily, last time I did 10x3 with 35 lbs no pain whatsoever. I can also do pushups w/ no pain as well.

This is good to know. I have an old sports injury (my left shoulder) too. It could be this or muscle imbalances that is causing my problems. How has your chest development been just on the exercises you’ve been able to do?

[/quote]

I think its a little too soon to tell, I just recently started the heavy dips since I found out I could do them. My chest has gotten bigger, though. Nothin to brag about yet.

[quote]StevenF wrote:
jsbrook wrote:
StevenF wrote:
I actually hurt my shoulder playing hockey, I can’t bench at all without any pain, not even with dumbbells. However, my dip numbers have been going up steadily, last time I did 10x3 with 35 lbs no pain whatsoever. I can also do pushups w/ no pain as well.

This is good to know. I have an old sports injury (my left shoulder) too. It could be this or muscle imbalances that is causing my problems. How has your chest development been just on the exercises you’ve been able to do?

I think its a little too soon to tell, I just recently started the heavy dips since I found out I could do them. My chest has gotten bigger, though. Nothin to brag about yet. [/quote]

That’s good though. Some gain is better than none. Good luck.