…on how to build a big chest without bench pressing, why parkour is the foundation of running, dieting jet lag away, and the pros and cons of multivitamins
‘What can you bench?’ It’s a question that crops up in any gym-related conversation, and any guy knows what it means. It’s a fun exercise and lets you lift heavy weights, which is great for your ego. But it also carries significant risks.
Benching forces your arms and shoulders into an unnatural movement pattern by locking them in a straight line. This stresses your shoulder and elbow joints, and can lead to injuries. If you were moving a heavy load in real life, you wouldn’t do it with your arms wide apart and your elbows up by your ears. You’d keep everything tucked in by your sides.
I’ve seen many experienced lifters who have never bothered mastering the press-up, but done correctly, it’s an extremely effective full-body exercise and a crucial first step to building big pecs. The key, as with most exercises, is form.
Adopt a plank position, with feet together and hands shoulder-width apart – any wider places too much stress on your shoulders. Spread your fingers wide and rotate your shoulders so the ‘pits’ of your elbows face forwards. Keep your body straight, your quads and glutes tensed and your core braced.
Lower yourself, without arching your back or letting your hips sag, until your nose is 1cm off the ground, then press back up, keeping your elbow pits facing forwards. Build up until you can complete three sets of ten to 12 reps with strict form.
Best of the chest
Once you’ve mastered the press-up, you need to progress to more challenging exercises. My favourite is press-ups performed on gymnastics rings. The basic starting position and movement pattern are the same but the rings make it less stable. You can increase the difficulty further by elevating your feet on a box, bringing your hands down to your waist during the lowering phase or wearing a weighted vest.
A simpler bench press alternative is the dumbbell chest press. The key is to keep your hands and elbows at 45° to your body to maintain a natural movement. If you turn your wrists too far inwards you end up in the same shoulder-damaging position as in the bench press. Keeping your palms facing is the safest option, but it places more emphasis on your triceps than your chest – 45° is a happy medium.
Structure your workouts correctly [see below] and these moves will allow you to build a heroic chest without the injury risks associated with benching. jasonferruggia.com