skip to Main Content
5 Barbell Bench Press Alternatives And Variations For Chest And Shoulders

5 Barbell Bench Press Alternatives And Variations For Chest And Shoulders

  1. Do you currently utilize the barbell bench press to pack on chest muscle? 
  2. Do you currently experience shoulder pain or discomfort from bench pressing? 
  3. Are you hitting plateaus on your bench press failing to make further strength gains? 
  4. Are you interested in other innovative bench press variations, or alternatives for massive chest gains and strength? 

If you’re currently rolling in on Monday’s to hit what the rest of the health club world refers to as National Chest day then today I want to present you with some slightly different exercises. You can incorporate these on your chest days. Consequently these will also help you to make strength and muscle gains while cutting down on shoulder pain. Give these bench press alternatives a try and give me your feedback!

Bench Press Alternatives And Variations

When it comes to the almighty bench press I don’t think we’re going to argue that it can be a great exercise for packing on upper body muscle and strength. However the barbell bench press seems to be one of the most abused and misused movements in many gyms across the globe. Hell in some cases it’s the only movement misused because it’s one of the only exercises that many guys do when they go to the gym to train, but digress.

Try incorporating these barbell bench press variations for greater gains and optimal shoulder health.

Black and white image of Brandon sitting with a 90 lb. dumbbell on knee preparing to press it.

Get on some other bench press alternatives to accelerate your strength with my 120 day program. Just click the image.

1) Go To The Dumbbell Bench Press: Even though the barbell is more of a “free weight” the bar itself causes you to have to grip it at a fixed angle. In short, this means that the bar doesn’t bend. Consequently this is why it might be a good idea for you to transition over to doing some dumbbell work as it allows for a freer moving range of motion (ROM) for your shoulder.

In addition to this the dumbbell bench press will trigger some different stabilizers throughout your arms and shoulders.  Therefore this will challenge different muscle fibers producing some different strength gains for you in the movement.

2) Go To The Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press: I’m personally a huge proponent of the single arm dumbbell bench press. Loading the dumbbell in one arm allows for some tremendous core stability as you offset the load on one side of your body. This produces a diagonal line of tension that runs from your loaded hand with the dumbbell all the way down to your opposite hip.

This line of tension creates a tremendous amount of core and shoulder stability from having to handle the free weight throughout the press. I’m a big proponent of single limb training for this very reason. Therefore you can apply this to both the flat and incline bench press to play with the angle and ROM.

3) Go To A Close Grip On The Barbell: Moving your grip closer together on the barbell until it’s about even with your armpits will take a great deal of stress off your shoulders and transition much of that load stress onto your triceps. This is a great way to alleviate a lot of pressure on the shoulders while giving yourself a slightly bigger ROM.

Lean muscular man performing push-ups in a field.

There are other ways to build significant upper body strength and power besides the bench press. Learn more with my 120 day program. Just click the image to order!

4) Go To Push-ups: I’m an absolute huge fan of push-ups. Push ups will challenge your entire upper body and even more of your core foundation as the movement demands full body tension from you to execute it the way the movement is intended.

In addition to this the push up is a closed kinetic chain movement meaning that your limbs being stressed for the movement are fixed against an immovable surface…in this case being the ground. This definitely challenges your strength in a completely different way and integrates your muscular chain to perform for real world functional strength.

5) Go To A More Dynamic Crossover Push-up: This push-up variation demands a great deal more effort than you may think. In fact, whenever you start to change your hand position (particularly when elevating one hand) your push-up intensity will rapidly go up.

This particular crossover push-up using a kettlebell demands a great deal more stability at your shoulder and chest. It does this while also challenging you by redistributing your bodyweight on and off of each hand as you move them on and off of the kettlebell.

Bench Press Alternatives And Variations: The Takeaway

One of the keys to increasing your upper body strength and maintaining healthy shoulders is making sure to implement alternatives and variations of movement with and without the barbell. Getting stuck in doing the same pattern on the barbell over time may potentially cause you shoulder discomfort over the long haul.

Are you currently bench pressing more than twice per week? 

What alternatives and variations for the bench press are you using? 

Please post up and share here in the comments below. 

To put this all together make sure you take advantage of my new killer training programs here below! The first is my new 30 Introductory Bodyweight Workouts training program. The second is a 210 Day training bundle!

Introducing Brand NEW Product! 

Click Here To Get My 30 Introductory Bodyweight Workouts

Or Click On Image Here Below

Brandon Richey Fitness ghost man logo for bodyweight Workouts

Also make sure you take advantage of my more comprehensive new 120 Day Functional Fitness Training Program right here below! 

For a LIMITED TIME ONLY! Order my 120 Day Functional Fitness Plan and take advantage of my special discount bundle consisting of…

→210 Days Of Training!←


It’s changing lives already!

Click On Image Here

Man holding an atlas stone on his shoulder displaying functional fitnessRelated Articles:

5 Simple Ways To Measure Your Functional Fitness

3 Functional Strength Drills For Fitness And Performance

4 Guaranteed Ways To Get A Functionally Strong Body

5 Unique Strength Drills To Enhance MMA Performance And Serious Fitness

3 Unique Bodyweight Strength Drills For Optimal Function

3 Push Up Variations To Give You Knock Out Punching Power For MMA And Combat

Click on all images below…

If you’re looking to enhance your fitness for MMA and martial arts then make sure to check out my

90 Day MMA Strength And Conditioning Program Here.

Thai Fighter Jeff Perry delivering a knee strike

















I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Well Coach it seems as if you have done it again. Taking a tried and true exercise and making it better and more functional. Being an old man (62) I have to look for ways to improve without being stupid and your programs are great for functionality. Thank you, Thank you!!!

    1. Brian this is awesome to hear my friend! I do enjoy more bench press variations myself these days. I’m so glad to hear about your progress and that you are crushing it everyday with my 120 Day Program! Let me know if I can be of any help! Stay strong!

Leave a Reply

Back To Top
Sign Up To Get All The Latest Deals And My BRF Strength Newsletter!

Brandon Richey Fitness Will Never Share Your Information With Anyone
Free Innovative Conditioning Guide!

Just Enter Your Name & Email & Access My Guide