Barbell bench press may not work optimally for your chest unless you enter the genetic lottery and everything will work wonders for you. For most lifters out there, the barbell bench press isn’t a chest exercise at all, but rather a deltoid or triceps exercise.
This is because the pectoral muscles (pectorals) have many functions and can choose between transverse flexion or transverse adduction movements on the barbell bench press.
These two movements appear to be similar, but they are not the same because they differ very much in the position of your elbows when you perform them. In both movements, your upper arm moves up to lift the weight horizontally, like a dumbbell fly, toward the middle part of the body.
If you use a barbell to do this, your upper arm won’t have as many opportunities to lift the weight up, as it’s essentially a bar, meaning that only the first third of the entire exercise will have an appearance of transverse flexion and adduction .
Since the chest muscles do not lift the weight themselves when you press, they find their effect in the first third of the entire exercise. After that third, your pecs are pretty much just fixator muscles giving you more isometric tension.
This means that while they are still useful, they won’t produce the results you want. There is, of course, a way to make the barbell bench press better and more effective and that is to strengthen your chest, but it requires improper form and unsafe pressing. You can do this by sliding your elbows out of their sockets, which means they will stick forward when you get to the top of the movement.
This provides a little extra transverse flexion and adduction, but most of the time there is still scapula abduction if your shoulders don’t self-destruct in the process. It’s risky, don’t try.
So what should you do?
Use dumbbells instead of a barbell for bench presses. It’s a far better alternative when done correctly, which means you have to be very careful. Dumbbells have a much wider range of motion than a barbell because you can use them to go all the way down instead of holding them at chest level because a bar is in the way.
Having a wider range of motion when pushing enables you to activate your pecs far more as you can increase your transverse flexion and adduction movement that occurs when you start lifting.
When doing weight bench presses, also try to push your movement inward as if you were doing a fly. Make sure your dumbbells aren’t touching as you bring them to the top of the movement. However, you need to be as close as possible for the exercise to be effective. This means that with the correct bench press, you will get more stressed transverse adduction and flexion, which means the exercise simply does more for you.
If you want your pecs to look like the weapons they could be, always follow the rules and tips of seasoned weightlifters who have worked on their bodies for years or even decades.
What should you avoid?
I’ve seen a lot of people use dumbbells incorrectly and it harms their workout. To avoid this, make sure that you don’t use dumbbells to shorten your range of motion instead of expanding it. This may be due to the fragility of the ego or the fact that the bar is removed from the equation as an indicator of movement and location.
Weightlifters use the weight plates on the ends of the barbell to help them know when to stop dropping their weight, which leads to misjudging and stopping way too soon when the edge of the bar begins to reach their shoulder . This is wrong because you are basically shortening the movement by a few inches. So drop the dumbbell bench presses all the way down – you need them lower than your chest and you will not get any results otherwise. Always get the most out of your exercise.