I hate to hate on one of the big boys, but from the perspective of ample chest development, the flat barbell bench press isn’t overly impressive.
As a matter of fact, it sucks.
Yep, I said it.
The flat bench press seems to produce results with beginners, and it’s always nice to see your numbers go up, but in terms of building a complete breastplate, moving a flat bar from a flat bench in a flat range of motion leaves a lot to be desired.
The traditional bench press (and in fact most traditional compound chest exercises) is lacking because it places too much biomechanical importance on either shoulders or triceps, and not enough on the chest. More specifically, if you think about the functions of the pectoralis major,, the bench press neglects two out of the main three: humeral adduction (bringing your arm across your body), and humeral internal rotation (rotating your arm inwards).
(Note: For more on the functions of major muscles, check out. this article on how to build muscle by improving your mind-muscle connection.)
On the other side of the coin, you have isolation movements: cable flys, pec-decks, and all the other stuff you see in the bodybuilding magazines. I won’t say they don’t work (quite the opposite in fact), and for advanced trainees, they’re fairly essential to polish your physique.
So, we have the most basic of compound movements, which are great for beginners, and basic isolation movements, which are great for advanced lifters…how about everyone in between?
For most people, too much bench pressing and not enough “other” stuff has led to some decent development of the lower and outer parts of your chest (the upper chest and inner boobs), but not much else.
The following three exercises are meant to address just that.
There’s one to focus on the upper chest, one for the inner, and then one for the chest as a whole while taking your shoulders and triceps out of it.
Also known as a “Gironda Neck Press,” the guillotine press is an exercise developed by the late, great Vince Gironda, who took specified training to a new level.
If you’re looking for a way to add some mass to your upper chest, this is the way to go.
While it looks a bit like a traditional barbell bench press, but instead of bringing the bar to your chest, you bring it down to your throat. (It’s not hard to see the origin of either moniker).
Doing so increases activation of the upper pec significantly. How significantly?
Well, in a recent EMG test done by my buddy Bret Contreras for his T-Nation article series, the guillotine press actually had the second highest peak contraction for upper pec of all exercises tested. In addition, it ranked HIGHEST for peak contraction for both mid pec and lower pec.
So while the guillotine press is one of the best for upper pec (which is notoriously hard to hit), it’s also great for chest overall.
Still not convinced? Bret’s study also demonstrated that a guillotine press with 225 pounds actually recruited MORE pec than a traditional bench press loaded with 275 pounds.
Basically, it’s the single best barbell chest exercise you can be doing, from the perspective of recruitment.
Of course, I have to make the obligatory safety statement and mention that this one can be a little tough on the shoulder if you’re not flexible. Start (and stay) light–form and recruitment are BY FAR more important than weight here. Even then, make sure you have a spotter.
NOTE: You can also do this with a mild incline.
Video creds: T-Nation
This is an incredible dumbbell exercise that I am blatantly stealing from Coach Thibs. (He stole the idea of posing shirtless for pictures from me, so I don’t feel bad about this.)
Anyway, the squeeze press DB bench press movement with one slight difference: the dumbbells are kept in contact with each other at all times and you’re actively squeezing them inward (against each other) as hard as possible.
This simple action will shift all the stress onto the pectorals. Keep in mind of one the main biomechanical functions of the pectorals is to adduct the humerus; that is, to bring it medially across the body, or towards the midline.
While that happens to some degree during nearly any pressing exercise for the chest, resistance is eliminated once you cross the halfway point of the exercise, and so activation of the pecs from an adduction perspective dies down.
With the squeeze press, we eliminate that limitation.
By actively squeezing the dumbbells together, you are engaging the pectorals throughout the entire range of motion, forcing the muscles to fire in an attempt to facilitate adduction. Tricky, tricky.
NOTE: It’s very important to understand this point: you should squeeze in the dumbbells as hard as possible during every inch of every single rep. This is what makes this exercise effective.
Here’s a video of me bangin’ out a few reps.
The fly away is a chest exercise that falls under the classification of “compound-isolation movements” that can be very effective if used correctly.
Before we can talk about the exercise specifically, we need to go over what that means.
One part oxymoron, two parts kick-ass training method, a Compound-Isolation Movement is an exercise that begins as a compound, multi-joint movement and then — right smack dab in the middle — switches to an iso to hit a desired body part; the transition occurs in the pause between the eccentric and concentric portions of the whole movement.
It’s not really all that complicated once you’re thinking about it. It all has to do with mechanics.
The first factor to consider is the number of muscles involved. Unless you have some very bizarre strength imbalance, you’ll be able to use much more weight for a compound movement than you could for an isolation movement, assuming that both lifts use the same primary mover.
Another factor that we must take into account is eccentric or negative strength. It’s been shown that, generally, eccentric strength is roughly 50-75% greater than concentric strength in most trainees.
Compound-isolations come as a result of the two above factors.
We know that you’re stronger in a compound movement than an isolation movement.
Because of the mechanical advantages inherent to each part of the lift, you’ll hopefully be able to use a weight that is significantly challenging in both the positive and negative phases of the exercise.
The Fly-Away is an exercise that crosses a dumbbell press and fly. You begin the movement by pressing the weight up, just as you would during a normal dumbbell bench press. Once you reach the top, pause for a second, and lower the weight with the eccentric motion of a dumbbell fly.
As with any chest exercise, remember to focus on flexing the pecs throughout the entire movement. Once again, here I am showing the exercise.
NOTE: I change my grip mid-way through the video to show that you can do these with either a parallel/neutral grip or a pronated grip. You don’t need to change during a single set.
If you love the regular bench press, you may also defend it. Still sucks, though.
A1) Guillotine Press 4×10
A2) Push-Ups with hands on bench 4×15
*Note: with your hands on the bench, it’s like doing an include press so you get greater upper pec activation. It will also. be easier because, you know, gravity.
B) Dumbbell Squeeze Press 5×12
B2) Angled DB Floor Press 4×12
C) Fly Away 4×8
Comments for This Entry
Lee BacchiJohn -- should those lifts demonstrated in the video be done only incline, or can they be done flat as well?
April 21, 2016 at 2:16 pm
Nicholas BorsukThe fact I already do two of the three of these lifts and I am preaching their broawesomery to my gym crew means I am ahead of the curve, feels almost as good as draping myself in velvet (whether or not it is socially acceptable)
October 27, 2015 at 10:10 pm
Sorush NiknamianI love db pullover to chest press ,
February 25, 2014 at 7:39 pm
Day 50 – Until We Meet Again | Jason's Body Transformation[...] exercise is best described as a mash-up between a DB Bench Press & a DB Fly. If you click here, you can read all about it & even see a video of the exercise. The guy in the video (Roman) [...]
February 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm
aqua00Loveeeeeeee this! Thanks for the amazing advices!
February 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm
Day 36 – It Looks Easy Enough…. | Jason's Body Transformation[...] here for a short instructional video. The full article may be found here. It’s definitely worth taking the time to read, especially if you are looking for some new [...]
February 11, 2013 at 7:49 pm
ChrisYou are right. Flat bench is overrated. It is a measure for strength, not size.
July 18, 2012 at 7:32 am
My Homepage... [Trackback]... [...] There you will find 46195 more Infos: romanfitnesssystems.com/blog/three-awesome-exercises-for-well-developed-chesticles/ [...]...
July 18, 2012 at 4:24 am
fitnesamazing exercises and article, very useful, thanks!
September 24, 2011 at 7:17 pm
NickjaaI only work out at home with bands, which while being awesome for everything else, just aren't great for chest workouts past weighted pushups. Standing chest presses are impossible with them, I don't care what anyone says, you just can't go heavy.
April 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm
John Romaniello@Alec - for the lower chest, dips are really the best option
February 13, 2011 at 8:04 pm
AlecGreat post, Roman, I'll be sure to try these exercises, seeing as I have a hard time packing muscle on my chest, my lower chest, specifically. My goal is to have that awesome line that defines my lower chest from the rest of my torso, like most models have. Which exercise do you recommend to accomplish this as fast as possible? Normal bench press hasn't been doing it for me, apparently. Thanks!
February 13, 2011 at 6:37 pm
jasonI like to keep bench as my major chest movement. Not sure if there is such a thing as a guy that can bench a truck that does not have a good sized chest. I do like the DB fly away and will give that a go. Thanks for the ideas.
September 2, 2010 at 10:14 pm
The SituationBut the dude in the videos is a scrawny nancy boy. I'm looking at people like Ronnie Coleman and Brock Lesnar not manlets.
August 13, 2010 at 10:58 pm
MichaelHi Jon. I started benching in May. Despite getting the 34kg dumbells for 4 sets of 8 I could only bench 60kg for 5 reps (really long arms)! Yesterday I did 70kg for 12 reps then 80kg for 3 reps. Then I did Incline Dumbell Press 3x8 with 38kg dumbells touching my chest each repetition. So I would say I have generally got stronger and my girlfriend has made the same general noises. But I agree that for development of the chest dumbells are the way forward but I would use the barbell when I am stuck at a plateau, which with dumbells imo will happen more frequently
August 6, 2010 at 1:48 pm
John Romaniello@ Michael - well, here's the thing...when you say your chest strength has skyrocketed, how are you measuring that? If you are only using the weight you use for a bench press as a measure of chest strength, then your results are kind of skewed--that is, of course benching is going to make you better/stronger on the bench press. For example, does performing the flat bench press make you better at using dumbbells? I'd be curious. I hasten to add that ultimately it's moot anyway, at least in terms of the post. I'm really talking about the aesthetic development of your chest, not really strength. And while I think that a bench press is better than nothing, I don't think it's all that it's cracked up to be. But if you're getting good results from it, definitely keep at it--different stuff for different people
August 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm
MichaelHi Jon I do agree with a lot of what you say but having started the flat BB press recently my strength gains have rocketed. I never go above 5 reps and bench powerlifting style, elbows tucked. I still get an unholy chest pump. So I think the flat press is still the best way to gain chest strength. But all my size work is incline work, depending on the gym I'm at, flat Barbell to the neck, light weight emphasis on contraction or dumbells down to touching chest and a brief pausing before exploding upwards, not locking out. Love the website
August 5, 2010 at 1:58 pm
SeanWell, I integrated all 3 lifts into my chest routine and I LOVE THEM! I need to work on my inner and upper-chest anyways, so this was a perfect solution. You cannot do much weight on the DB stuff, but man does it work! Thank Roman!
July 5, 2010 at 6:21 pm
Matt DragosI like this man ! Thanks for the tips on this one. Good seeing ya at Vinces wedding. See ya soon!
June 27, 2010 at 9:53 pm
jplifting feet off of the floor makes it impossible to arch your back as far too many people have a crazy arch
June 8, 2010 at 12:00 am
AshI'm going to say that if your goal is overall body fat loss then stick with the compound exercises that work more muscle, like the barbell bench press. I think these 3 chest exercises are good if you're trying to gain muscle mass or you're bulking. Although I can't compare these exercises vs bb bench for fat loss because I've never done them. Would be interesting to see how they compare for fat loss.
June 5, 2010 at 2:17 pm
Benjamin Kesselalways love the dumbbells over a barbells. Too much constriction with bars, great post!
May 17, 2010 at 11:12 pm
Megnice article. been trying to pimp up my inner pecs. might try your squeeze press. currently i'm doing something similar but instead of using DB's, I combine Cross cables set and do a dynamite presses at the end of the set until failure. Dynamite presses is bringing the D handles together to your chest and pushing it downwards (like the pushing the TNT lever in cartoons). I'd definitely shed a tear at the end of every "superset".
May 17, 2010 at 3:24 am
harshMine is flies on gymnastic rings
May 13, 2010 at 10:32 am
GlennHey Womanizer, Very nice post. Love the excersises and will give them a try. I love to do the incline pushup on the paralettes. Total Body recruitement. Just tens your whole body & like think you are a stiff ...... (fill in the blank) Work it like a dynamic pomp and it will Blast your body. Ohh Yeahhhh PS: Roman what's with the hairstyle? Come on man...... You can look sharper then that ;) Greetz from Belgium
May 13, 2010 at 9:51 am
Alex - UKWould a Squeeze Press into fly away be an even better hybrid of the latter two? or would it just not be as effective?
May 13, 2010 at 5:22 am
SeanI totally agree with you John. I will have to give all 3 exercises a try on my next chest routine. My favorite is incline push-ups with DB's at a slight angle on the floor. I place my toes on my bench and try to hit my chest on the ground with big 65lb DB's on the floor, the hexagonal type to keep from rolling away on me. I also do a single DB twist from a standing position. When you twist inward around your front thigh, squeeze your chest really hard and pause for 2 seconds, then twist outward again. Your chest will hurt very quickly on this one. Good at the end of a chest routine. You can simulate it with just your hands, just be sure your thumbs are pointed towards you when your at the from of your thighs/groin area. Try it!
May 12, 2010 at 11:08 pm
char-dawgOriginally Posted By HarryIs there a reason why you lift the feet onto the bench for the Gironda press? Is this necessary? With a guillotine press you don't want any back arch. The reason powerlifters arch is to get the lats into play and have the larger (and more powerful) lower pecs doing more of the work. Keeping your back flat places more emphasis and stress on the upper pecs, so the guillotine press is made that much more effective.
May 12, 2010 at 10:52 pm
ClementGreat post, roman. I love the bench, but I will be trying out your Guilotine press very soon. My only issue with it is that I usually go fairly close grip in my bench with my arms tucked to my sides to take out some of the shoulder risks. The guilotine press seems to not work if your arms are tucked to your sides. Will it pose any shoulder risks? As a side note, I don't have any prior injury to my shoulder. I just want to lift safe, and Tmuscle articles often advise us to use a closer grip!
May 12, 2010 at 7:02 pm
Mathieu DOh those are really cool. I'm going to try all of them, especially the guillotine press because of the badass name. Also, "upper boobies" and "chesticles" are awesomely wrong. Apart from the flat/incline DB Chest presses, I really like Pike Push-ups, as it's very challenging for a bodyweight chest exercise. Especially when you add having your feet on a bench! Cheers! Mat
May 12, 2010 at 6:33 pm
Chris GFantastic post man, really enjoyed it. Really helpful and instructive. Thanks heaps.
May 12, 2010 at 6:23 pm
BNSome good lifts to incorporate!! I gotta admit though I like bench and what I feel from it. I do a lot of Powerkifting though so I have to show my love for bench. I also like DB presses and all the variations of that.
May 12, 2010 at 6:04 pm
Habib GhaithGreat Blog Roman, and I have tried today your Chest Fly away as you demonstrated, man I felt the isolation on the end of the eccentric movement, when the weight suddenly became heavier and I realized that my pecs now only working and bust myself to finish the movement right.... you talking science man....Roman I love you man(in a straight way I swear)
May 12, 2010 at 5:49 pm
RayGreat Blog Roman, One of my favorite pec isolation moves is the peck deck doing 21's. specially the last 7 at peak contraction point uptop. Ray
May 12, 2010 at 5:34 pm
Bill PairaktaridisWell, seeing as I'm not a big fan of isolation exercises and a big fan of bodyweight exercises (you've got Craig to blame for that) I'd have to go with the traditional push up. Feet on a bench, wider grip, add a rowing movement. Anything. I do push ups in almost all my workouts.
May 12, 2010 at 5:28 pm
PeteHey Roman, Awesome tips! I've been looking for some new alternatives to the traditional bench press ever since my motorcycle accident. The injury to my right shoulder causes me a lot of pain and I can no longer do barbell bench presses. I have been using light dumbells and I will give these exercises a try. Since the accident, I have focused mainly on bodyweight exersices. I especially like doing 1-hand pushup on a Smith machine. I had to start with the bar raised higher until I built up my strength and then progressively lowered it as I got stronger. I also "borrowed"...all right, flat out stole this exercise from bodybuilding legend Larry Scott. He developed a "reverse grip dip" with your legs positioned forward, not back like with tradtional dips, that really builds your inner and lower chest. Your hands are reversed...facing inwards - thumbs toward syour body. You perform the dip focusing on contracting your chest to raise yourself up. I know it sounds weird, but you have to try it out to feel it. Have fun brother! ~ Pete
May 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm
ChadHey John great post, thanks for the exercises. It's similar to a Squeeze Press, but I'll do a push-up on a medicine ball, placing both hands on either side of the ball, the closer your chest gets to the ball, the harder you have to press to make sure you don't slip off. I'll use a weight vest to add some resistance. Thanks again, - Chad
May 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm
Slagathor@Fredacus - And to make it even more humilitaing, I'm not that much after you :D
May 12, 2010 at 4:16 pm
David PaskoffI'm definitely gonna add those two workouts to my chest days, but I will defend the flat bench because it has helped me over the years not only for my chest, but for strength in sports as well.
May 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm
JonesyGod job on tha last 2 gonna add those 2 the war chest, i also do 1 armed inline and flat dumbell presses VIGOROUS for your core also YESSSSSSSSSSS
May 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm
FredacusGreat stuff. I find that the hardest chest parts to hit are those darn upper pecs. I'll add a few of those bad boys to my upper body routine and look awesome a few weeks from now :-) Btw, I can personally attest to the brutality of Slag's chest routine. Yep, I've been noticed to whimper around the locker room for quite some substantial time after trying it out.
May 12, 2010 at 7:47 am
nathanHey Roman, The best thing for upper chest is to get more ripped - then decide if you have poor upper chest development? aside from that, any move where you take the triceps out of play... so flyes (DB, cable, wide grip presses) or even pre-exhaust of the triceps with (dare i say it?) isolation movements followed by a standard upper chest exercise works well ive found. personal favourite would be 20 second isometric squeeze on a Swiss ball (try to make it explode with the palms of your hands followed by a 40 seconds minimum set of Cable crossover or Swiss ball DB flyes. also, i remember one arm cable flyes being great for inner chest development, going past the midpoint from any angle (low to high)
May 12, 2010 at 6:04 am
KeithI find the neck press to be a really cool and interesting exercise, but I am afraid to do it since I usually dont have a spotter, and my gym doesnt have a smith machine to do it on? Any tips on safety and should it always be done on a free weight barbell? THanks
May 12, 2010 at 4:23 am
JorgeDefenetly better than the flat bench press! They seem more fun to do too. Im going to use these exercises now. But i have 2 questions. do I have to use each exercise for incline,flat,and decline angles to fully develop chest or can combining just these 3 be enough at one angle? And also. Could i combine the squeeze chest press with the fly away to get the same results or is it better to do them seperate??
May 12, 2010 at 3:40 am
GraemeI'm a powerlifter, but one thing a lot of us at my club have come to realize is that the best way to improve your bench, is not to bench. As crazy as it sounds we actually use what might be called "powerbuilding" (I just call it training) where we use exercises like the ones above to directly target the different areas primarily involved in the bench itself. So I look like a bodybuilder when I train, but certainly not when I take my shirt off! So we are aiming at building size and not just strength (get bigger, get stronger). Being that we are clean (lifting in the IPF) too many of our guys have tried to stay smaller (lower weight class) while getting stronger. For most its a slow, unrewarding approach. Favourites are incline presses with barbells or dumbells. Any dumbell press or fly, and I also like crazy bells (even though its on a flat bench).
May 11, 2010 at 9:46 pm
Mike AroneAgreed on the bench press sucking...from a muscle building perspective...strongmen...well different situation. Plus, it beats the piss out of my shoulders. Having "wrestler" posture, it doesn't exactly help. For a favorite, I will have to go with incline dumbbell (yawn). It's my favorite because of its versatility as far as volume, frequency...and a Roman Fitness favorite-density training. Sure, you can do that with the bench press...but come on...a high volume or frequency day of bench press puts a ton of stress on my joints. I also like that I can change grip and incorporate unilateral presses.
May 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm
BoxtaviousCombine the Squeeze Press with the Fly Away to produce legendary results, yup I just revolutionized "moobs".
May 11, 2010 at 8:24 pm
Rick WatkinsHey Ro - Man, Awesome training technics...I believe you are still, the man! Take care and please keep up the great work! Rick
May 11, 2010 at 8:09 pm
JonathanGreat - time to change up my routine. I'll definitely add these. I've never really liked the bench press, particularly it's place in meathead gym conversations: "so, whatdya bench?" I've always liked db press better, but I'll be happy to try your suggestions.
May 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm
SlagathorBeing that I'm a female (yes I know it's hard to belieive in some cases), chest has never really been a big target muscle group for me. That body part gets a lot of free focus as it is. Although, I also think many females underestimate what a nicely developed cheste muscle can do for you. Especially the higher lateral part of the chest, which you want to keep nice and firm in order to look awesome in a sleeveless tank top. Anyway, I still have a few good exercises that I like to torture my male clients with, and myself from time to time. Apart from doing dips, since it impresses every guy at the gym 1 DB alternating push-up: Stand in a push-up position, holding a dumbell (weight is not an issue here, it needs to roll smoothly though) in one hand. Perform a push-up, rolling the dumbell straight out from your body on the way down. When extending you arms, pull the dumbell back towards under you and switch hands. Repeat 8-10 times per arm for a total of 20 pushups. Quadrupel-kick-ass-cable-set: Perform 15 standing chest flies in a cable machine. Right after you last rep, lower the weight 1-2 notches and perform 15 "seal claps": Stand with your arms straight and your palms facing inwards (neutral grip). Bend your elbows to a 90 degree angle, keeping your shoulders lowered at all times. Squeeze your chest and extend your arms in front of you , having your palms meet in front of you (it kinda looks like when seals are clapping their paws, hence the name). Straght after your last seal clap, raise the wieight to the first weight again and perform 15 horisontal chest flies: Legs wide apart and your hip bent, keeping your back horizontal to the floor. Perform 15 chest flies. Lower you back going into your last cable set. Use the lower hooks in the cable machince, lower your weight 1-3 steps and perform 15 inverted flies: Start with your arms in about 45 degrees out from your body. With your arms straight, bring your hands together in front of you. When they meet in the middle, lift your arms straight up in front of you, aiming for your arms. Lower the same way back to starting position. As a finisher, drop straight to the floor and perform push-ups to failure after your last rep. If you don't feel your pecs after this I will either be very impressed or call you a lazy little bitch
May 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm
BjNice Blog good to know that i'm doing everything right :D man i get an lil expert more and more thx Roman see ya later
May 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm
HarryRoman, great article! Is there a reason why you lift the feet onto the bench for the Gironda press? Is this necessary?
May 11, 2010 at 4:37 pm
MarkHey Roman, nice blog. I like dumbbell floor flyes with a pause at the bottom. Got the idea from Christian Thibadeau's I Bodybuilder program. Here is an illustration. However Thibadeau recommends pausing at the bottom them rotating the dumbbells at the top. Its a killer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WQdYpEHn-nw
May 11, 2010 at 4:03 pm