Monday, March 19, 2007

Low Budget Warrior Tip No. 103:
No Bench Required (Part 2)

Last week I went over several exercises based on the basic pushup. This week I want to cover some barbell, kettlebell and dumbbell exercise that train the chest without using a bench. The first three of these I have to thank Pavel Tsatsouline for bringing to my attention several years ago through his books “Power to the People!” and “The Russian Kettlebell Challenge”. Since then I’ve found several other references to these exercises, which have been around since the old-time strong men like Arthur Saxon and Eugene Sandow.


Without further ado, here are six exercises for strengthening the chest without a bench:



  1. Side Press—Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Grab your dumbbell, kettlebell or barbell in one hand and clean it to your shoulder. If you’re using a barbell, make sure you grab the bar at the center of balance before attempting to lift it off the ground. Now, shift your center of gravity over the leg opposite of your lifting arm and lean to the side away from the bell. As you shift your weight, rotate your hand so that the back of your hand is facing behind you and your thumb and fingers are facing forward. Ideally, your elbow should be a little bit behind you so that your triceps will be resting on your lats—not directly on your ribs. Turn your head so that you are facing the bell and tense up the entire body, especially the core muscles. Keeping eye contact with the bell, engage the lat and press the bell upward until you can lock your arm out. Maintain tension as you return the bell to the lowered position.
    Kettlebell Sidepress Step 1Kettlebell Sidepress Step 2
  2. Bent Press—This is similar to the side press, but I like it better because I think it works the pecs even more than the side press. Start in the same stance as for the side press and hold the bell in the same position. But, instead of pressing the bell up, bend at the waist to lower your torso to the side and slightly to the front and press with your pecs and lats so that the bell rises almost naturally as you press your body away from it. Once your arm is locked out, keep it straight overhead as you raise your torso back to a standing position. At the end of the motion, you are standing straight up with your arm locked straight up, supporting the bell. Slowly lower your arm back to the starting position for the next rep.
    Barbell bent press 1Barbell bent press 2Barbell bent press 3
    Barbell bent press 4Barbell bent press 5Barbell bent press 6
  3. Floor Press—This is essentially a bench press, but you are lying on the floor instead of a bench. Because your elbows cannot drop lower than your back, you won’t get the bar or bells to your chest, but you will get sufficient range of motion. There are two ways to get into position. You can either lie down and have someone hand you the weights, or you can maneuver the weights into position as you lie down. Some of the old-time strongmen would roll a barbell up their body as they laid back, but this takes a lot of muscling around. For floor press, I prefer to use dumbbells or kettlebells, because you can hold them to your chest while sitting up, then lay back and they almost automatically fall into position.


  4. Neck Bridge Press—This is a floor press except that before pressing the weights up, you arch your belly toward the ceiling so that only your head and heels are on the floor. This lets you get a more complete range of motion, but you have to start with very light weights until your neck and spine become accustomed to the exercise. Be EXTREMELY careful performing this exercise and don’t use any more weight than you are confident with. Only do this with a spotter around who can take the weights if anything goes wrong. This is a very effective exercise, but stupidity will get you injured quickly.


  5. Floor Fly—Lay on your back with a dumbbell/kettlebell in each hand. Stretch your arms straight out to the sides. Keep your arms straight as you use your pecs to pull them up and inward. At the top of the fly, your arms are locked straight toward the ceiling. Slowly lower your arms back to the floor. If this exercise is new to you, start with very light weights.


  6. Isometric Press/Punch—From a standing or lying position with clenched fists held to the sides of your chest, slowly punch or press one fist out. Resist the punching motion with your biceps and back muscles. It should look and feel like you are moving your arm through wet concrete and you should feel the burn of effort in your chest, back, triceps and biceps.

    Well, that should keep you busy for a week.

    Stay strong, live well.

    John Fike

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