You might think you’ve done every chest exercise in the book, but there are more than likely a few variations you’ve yet to try. Guys will never stop chasing that elusive goal of a broad, barrel chest—so trainers won’t ever stop innovating new ways for you to get there.
Men’s Health Fitness Director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S., is one of those trainers. He has an inexhaustible number of pec-building exercises in his repertoire, some of which he shares in the Men’s Health New Rules of Muscle program. You’ll get workouts filled with new variations on old standards, which will help you to build even more muscle.
Eb says: Yes, this is the start of the typewriter pushup, but it has some virtues on its own as well. Think of this as a good mini-step in learning the one-arm pushup. The straight arm is shouldering very little of the load; your bent arm is carrying most of the weight. You’ll also get a lot of core benefit here. It’s easy and sometimes convenient to break at the waist on regular pushups. You’ll be more conscious of your core here, more effectively squeezing not just your abs but your glutes to maintain a straight line.
Eb says: The typewriter is the direct level-up of the archer, but it’s more than that too. Here you’re doing two things typical pushups don’t permit. First, you’re honing your body’s proprioception on this one, forcing yourself to be aware in space. Can you keep your chest and torso on one straight, typewriter line as you slide it across? You need to go slowly to do that. Second, there’s a little bit of chest adduction in here. No, this isn’t a fly, but it’s the perfect bodyweight replacement for one if you’re in a pinch.
Hollow Body Alternating Press
Eb says: This is one of my all-time favourite moves, in part because of what it doesn’t allow to happen at your core. In a traditional bench press or floor press, even if people don’t arch their backs, they almost always let their ribcages flair and slip into what’s called “thoracic extension.” You can’t do that in the hollow body. Here you’re pressing your lower back into the ground, keeping your ribcage contained and really integrating your abs into the press.
Then we add alternating arm action. This places huge anti-rotational demands on your core, and demands shoulder stability too. Take 10 to 20 pounds off your normal pressing weight for these, and use it as a chest day finisher.
Mixed-Style Incline Press
Eb says: This move mixes unilateral and bilateral pressing components to hit your core while still giving you a solid dose of strength work and body control work. On the unilateral reps, your challenge is to keep your core stable. You’ll want to rotate your core one way or the other, but really flex your abs and work to move only at the chest.
We mix the bilateral reps in not to give your core a break, but to make sure we still get challenge the body to move truly heavy loads; now you’re moving double what you were on the single-arm reps. That places greater overall stress on the body, a key mechanism for growth. We mix that mechanism for growth with the single-arm body control work for a well-rounded press that keeps your body constantly off-balance.
Mixed-tempo Single-arm Press
Eb says: This one is all about owning your press form and maintaining core control. It’s very convenient on single-arm moves to rock your torso back and forth, and you’ll find a tendency to do that here. You have to turn on your obliques and transverse abdominus muscles to prevent that from happening.
Double-explode Bench Press
Eb says: This one is all about upper-body “athleticism” and massive amounts of mind-muscle connection. Most presses (and exercises) have you focusing on either accelerating the weight upwards quickly or slowly decelerating it (as you do in tempo work). Here, you must control both. We want you generating powerful acceleration on back-to-back reps, then generating enough force to decelerate the weights after every other rep. It’s a movement pattern that requires thought and focus, and will force you to own each rep that much more. Just as importantly, it’s a movement pattern that mirrors what takes place in athletic arenas, where you don’t always get to explode, and you don’t always get to eccentrically contract to decelerate an object, but you need to be ready for anything.
Superman Pushup to Skydiver Pushup
Eb says: Sure, it’s a party trick exercise, but it’s more than that, too. Consider it a challenge move with benefit: You have to deliver explosive pushup contractions to elevate your body, but awesome things happen once you’re airborne. Throwing your arms forward and then out to the side requires both shoulder mobility and a ton of strength from your stabilizing back and rotator cuff muscles. You’ll need to train more than pushups to do this move. You’ll have to do plenty of rotator cuff work and lying Superman work. And hey, a party trick exercise never hurts every so often.
By Brett Williams