Accessory exercises for bench presses help boost your performance by hitting muscle groups from different angles.

By incorporating these into your workout routine, you can improve your bench press performance and achieve a bigger bench press in less time.

In this article, I’ll cover the best accessory exercises you can do to target bench press muscles and make your bench press workouts more efficient and rewarding.

Read on to learn how to improve your bench press routine from your next gym workout!

Accessory exercises assist you in bench pressing heavy weights and achieving increased muscle growth. Another name for these exercises to improve your bench press is ‘secondary exercises.’

This is because they augment your performance in core lifts like the bench press. They strengthen smaller supportive muscles and correct imbalances on either side of the body.

Examples for the bench press include pull-ups, tricep extensions, and chest flys. Adding a few sets of these exercises to improve your bench press numbers is a handy way to condition and tone your entire body.

Choosing a couple of pressing movements to include in each workout will soon transform your bench press max.

The Chest Accessory Exercises To Increase Bench Press Gains

This section will cover a selection of upper body exercises that will increase your bench press strength if the muscle groups surrounding your chest are weaker.

1. Dead Press

Man Doing The Dead Press

A dead bench press is a great variation to work your chest muscles, particularly the pectoralis major. The starting position is with the barbell at chest level with your elbows bent.

This allows a complete range of motion, and the emphasis is placed on the ascent phase of the exercise.

A wide-grip bench press works the pecs better because it lengthens the muscle and places greater demands on it.

To judge whether this exercise will benefit you, see if you can feel your pecs when doing a bench press. If not, then it's a good idea to incorporate the dead press into your workouts.

How to perform:

  1. Set up the pins on the bench press so the bar is just at or slightly above your chest.
  2. Position yourself under the bar and set up a slight arch with your back and your feet placed on the floor. Keep your hips down. 
  3. Roll the bar to your starting position, usually around the bottom of your chest.
  4. Engage your core, drive your legs into the floor and take a breath in.
  5. Press the bar directly above you until your elbow lock out, exhaling slowly. 
  6. Return the bar to the pins with control.
  7. Repeat for desired reps. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure the barbell fully rests on the pins before performing the next rep. The whole point of this exercise is to go from a dead stop, so don't just touch and go.  

2. Feet-Up Bench Press

Man Doing Feet-Up Bench Press

Another excellent way to improve your bench press is to try the feet-up bench press.

By raising your feet as you press, the exercise focuses the exertion on your upper body, particularly your front deltoids.

This exercise can improve your bench press stability if your upper body strength is low. If you want to progress to more weight, the feet-up bench press enables you to provide lighter loads.

This way, you can do a solid chest workout without overtraining yourself and causing any injuries that could set you back. Then you’ll have more control when doing the bench press itself.

How to perform:

  1. Lie on the bench and pull your shoulder blades together, create an arch in your upper back and raise your legs at a 90 degree angle. 
  2. Grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  3. Take the bar out of the rack and take a breath in. 
  4. Brace your core and lower the bar to your chest, making sure it touches.
  5. Exhale and press the weight straight up and lock out your elbows.
  6. Repeat for 3-8 reps, 3-5 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can either place your feet on the bench or completely off.  If you choose to rest them on the bench you will maintain more stability during the exercise. 

3. Incline Dumbbell Press

Man Doing Incline Dumbbell Press

The bench press involves the shoulder joints and shoulder blades, but these can often be a source of pain or overworked muscles.

An incline dumbbell press takes the pressure off your shoulders. Dumbbells also allow you to develop muscle control to improve your bench press.

This exercise mixes the shoulder press and dumbbell chest press, providing a decent workout for the chest muscles.

Because of the long range of motion, increasing muscle mass is much simpler. This all benefits your bench press sessions.

However, if you don't have access to an incline bench, you can try doing incline dumbbell press alternatives.

How To Perform:

  1. Set up the bench on an incline of 30-45 degrees and choose two dumbbells that are the same weight. 
  2. Grab the dumbbells and sit on the bench, placing them on your quads.
  3. Use your legs to kick the weights up to the starting position with your elbows bent and the dumbbells either side of your chest. 
  4. Press the weights directly above your chest, straightening the elbows at the top of the movement. 
  5. Slowly lower with control back to the start position.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

The incline press uses smaller muscles than the flat bench press, so you'll find that you won't be able to lift as much. Make sure you choose a weight you can control and don't let the weights bounce off your chest for the best results.

4. Dumbbell Chest Press

Man In Gray Shirt Doing Dumbbell Chest Press In The Gym

The dumbbell chest press is very similar to the above exercise, except it mimics the standard bench press instead of an incline bench press or decline bench press.

Dumbbell chest presses involve taking the same position as you would for a big bench press using a barbell, except you’ll be using dumbbells instead.

This adds an extra dimension of difficulty because there are two separate weights.

Like the flyes, this exercise helps increase your bench press because it trains various muscles used in the bench press. This includes the triceps, which are activated as you move the dumbbells laterally.

The dumbbell bench press is ideal if you’d like an excellent exercise for your shoulder blades. It improves the stabilization ability of the shoulders.

This helps make your flat barbell bench press reps more controlled and beneficial for muscle growth.

How To Perform:

  1. Set up a bench flat and choose two dumbbells that are the same weight. 
  2. Grab each weight and sit on the edge of the bench, placing the weights on your quads.
  3. Use your legs to kick the weights up to the starting position and lie back on the bench with the dumbbells either side of your chest and your palms facing forwards.
  4. Press the weights directly above your chest, straightening the elbows at the top of the movement. 
  5. Slowly lower with control back to the start position.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you go to full range by lowering the weights to your chest, don't stop short as you'll be missing out on those all important strength gains.  

5. Dumbbell Chest Flyes

Man Doing Dumbbell Chest Flyes

When performing bench presses, the dumbbell chest fly is one of the easiest ways to improve your bench press progress.

This isolates your front deltoids and chest muscles, which are both important for maintaining good bench press form.

An alternative to these, which helps maintain muscle tension, is to avoid the top of the movement and reverse just before it. You can also choose to use a machine or cables to make the exercise more even.

How To Perform:

  1. Set up a bench flat and choose two dumbbells that are the same weight. 
  2. Lie flat on the bench and start the the dumbbells directly above your chest with your palms facing each other.
  3. With a slight bend in your elbows, lower the dumbbells out to each side.
  4. Stop when your hands are in line with your chest then pull the weights back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

I always remind clients to keep a slight bend in the elbow to reduce strain. Also make sure you don't allow the weights to pull your shoulder into an awkward position by allowing the hands to go past your torso. 

6. Push-Ups

Man Doing Push-Up in The Gym

The classic push-up is one of the best bodyweight exercises to improve bench press strength. Anyone can do these, and they’re also a great warm-up exercise before a heavy bench press.

Push-ups work the chest muscles, triceps, and abs. This ensures the body gets a workout across various supporting muscle groups involved in the bench press.

But it’s essential to maintain good form on press-ups and to push yourself to failure with them, as it can be easy to do too few.

If you find regular push-ups boring, you can try doing push up alternative exercises.

How To Perform:

  1. Place your hands on the floor around shoulder width and assume a plank position on either your toes or knees.
  2. Engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Keep your elbows close to your body by bending your elbows back and lower your chest to the floor.
  3. Keeping your body line strong, don't allow your lower back to sag, push back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for 3-4 sets, 8-12 reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

One of the most common mistakes I see when people perform push ups is the lower back hyperextending and the hips dropping to the floor. Keep your glutes squeezed and core engaged and perform the number of reps you can maintain good form.  

7. Bar Dip

Man Doing Dips Outside

Dips are another great exercise that benefits the pec muscles and helps improve bench press technique.

It’s one of the best supplementary exercises relying on body weight alone because it provides enough targeted resistance to benefit the chest muscles.

Performing it involves using two bars, lifting yourself using your arms, and then lowering yourself in a controlled way.

If it’s done at the right angle, you should feel the squeeze across the muscle tissue in your chest. Dips are also worth incorporating into your workout to develop your triceps.

Although they mainly work the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor, the triceps are activated as you push yourself up and lower yourself down.

Including dips is an easy step in your workout routine, and like press-ups, it doubles up as a warm-up exercise too.

Developing your triceps and chest together will improve your bench press because it involves both the pecs and triceps.

How To Perform:

  1. Set yourself up on the dip bar so that your hands are at shoulder-width apart.
  2. Pull yourself up to the starting position with your arms straight and legs crossed over, slightly behind your torso.
  3. Keeping your elbows close to your ribs and shoulders away from your ears, lower yourself until your arms are at a 90 degree angle, leaning your torso slightly forwards. 
  4. Press back to the starting position and straighten your elbows.
  5. Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Be careful of the depth when performing dips. If you experience any pain in the front of the shoulder then try to not go as deep and see if the pain subsides. Dips can aggravate the shoulder joint so make sure you do this movement with very good form and without excessive volume.

Related Article - Dips Vs Push Ups

The Tricep Accessory Exercises To Increase Bench Press Gains

Although small, the tricep muscles are very important for the barbell bench press because they assist in raising and lowering the bar.

Sometimes, the arms are the weakest muscles, and the chest can do more. Training the triceps with exercises like the tricep pushdown and barbell lying tricep extensions is the solution.

8. Close-Grip Bench Press And Board Bench Press

Man Doing Close Grip Bench Press

The close-grip bench press and board bench press are accessory lifts for the standard bench press. Close-grip bench presses transfer more weight to the triceps and away from the chest.

The closeness of the grip affects bench presses because wider grips channel the resistance into the chest, whereas closer grips channel it into the arms.

So you can use a closer grip to train the triceps.

Board bench presses involve a partner holding a series of 2x4s on your chest to reduce the range of motion. You’ll lower the bar to the height of the blocks and then force it up explosively.

This helps to improve the effectiveness of a bench press workout for those with weaker shoulders, and it helps lifts exceed a person’s one-rep max.

How To Perform:

  1. Lie on a flat bench and pull your shoulder blades together, create an arch in your upper back and place your feet on the floor.
  2. Grip the bar shoulder-width apart.
  3. Take the bar out of the rack and take a breath in. 
  4. Brace your core and lower the bar to your chest, keeping your elbows tucked in.
  5. Exhale and press the weight straight up and straighten your arms.
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

A mistake I often see is people using the incorrect grip and going too narrow which can create too much stress on the shoulder joint. The hands should be placed straight above the shoulder joint.  

9. Tate Press

Man Performing Tate Press

A unique variation of dumbbell presses is the Tate press, which works the triceps through a specific movement of the dumbbells, moving up above your chest and then downwards onto your pecs while being held upright.

Doing this movement assists in the development of elbow stability and increases the muscle mass of your arms.

The Tate press isolates the triceps during your workout, meaning that you can use it strategically to remedy any imbalances or weaknesses that might lead you to plateau in the overhead press, wide grip bench press, or any other form of pressing exercise.

If you think your triceps are weaker than they should be, this will be one of the best tricep exercises to increase bench press performance.

How To Perform:

  1. Lie back on a flat bench and start by holding two dumbbells above your body with your thumbs next to each other and your palms facing forward. Your elbows should be pointed outwards.
  2. Keeping your shoulders stable, initiate the exercise by bending your elbows outwards and your thumbs to the middle of your chest. The ends of the dumbbells should lightly touch your chest.
  3. Push the dumbbells back and straighten your arms, back to the start position.
  4. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you keep the movement of your upper arms to a minimum and don't lock out your elbow at the top of the movement. 

10. Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions

Shirtless Man Doing Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions

One of the simplest upper body accessory exercises for the triceps is the barbell lying triceps extension, also known as the Skull Crusher. 

With proper form, the exercise maintains the same distance between your elbows while lifting a barbell using a close grip.

All that’s needed is to lift the barbell straight above you. Then lower it behind your head, with elbows mirroring each other, and then reverse it.

This serves as a complete tricep workout enabling strength gains.

How To Perform:

  1. Sit on the end of the flat bench with the barbell resting on your quads.
  2. Hold the bar in an overhand grip with hands shoulder-width apart.
  3. Lie back and bring the bar above your chest and your elbows straight. 
  4. Keeping your upper arms and elbows in the same position, slowly lower the bar until it's about an inch from your forehead.
  5. Pause at this point then extend your arms back to the start position. 
  6. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Keep the elbows tucked in, don't let them flare out. If they do then try reducing the weight and keep your elbows in. 

11. Tricep Pushdown

Man Doing Cable Machine Tricep Pushdown

Among all the other exercises we’ve covered for your triceps, one of the best is the tricep pushdown. It involves the use of either a resistance band or a cable machine.

It’s best to begin this exercise with a low weight if your triceps are underdeveloped. This will allow you to feel the squeeze as you start the pulldown.

Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, and keep your core tight. Then push down, but don’t lock them out. Maintain control as you return to the start position.

How To Perform:

  1. Set the cable machine pulley high and attach the rope handle.
  2. Grab each end of the rope and take a step back to pull the weight off the stack. 
  3. Stand shoulder-width apart, engage your core and keep your elbows bent and tucked in to the sides of your body. 
  4. Keep your upper arms and elbows in the same position and push your hands downwards until your elbows straighten, squeezing your triceps in this position. 
  5. Slowly bend your elbows back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Always keep your elbows in and steady as you perform a tricep pushdown. If your elbows are loosing position, drop the weight and keep good form. 

The Bicep Accessory Exercises To Increase Bench Press Gains

Although not one of the main muscle groups used in the bench press, the biceps are part of the arms and are involved in the bench press.

This makes it prudent to work on them alongside chest exercises, tricep exercises, and the others we’ll cover later in the article. Examples include the preacher curl and chin-ups.

12. Chin-Up

Woman In Black T-Shirt Doing Chin-Up

Chin-ups are a versatile exercise that works various muscles, including the lats, biceps, forearm flexors, and rotator cuffs. But in this section, the biceps are the focus.

They’re only worked as a secondary muscle, but in combination with the other muscle groups worked, it’s a great exercise to support your flat bench press performance.

Chin-ups involve a supinated grip placed shoulder-width apart. Then pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. After that, lower yourself until your arms are extended.

To take chin-ups further, you can add a weight belt.

How To Perform:

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an supinate grip (palms towards you) with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  2. Let your body hang with your arms fully extended.
  3. Engage your core and initiate the movement by pulling your lats down and engaging your upper back muscles. 
  4. Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar.
  5. Slowly lower yourself back to the full hang position.
  6. Repeat for 6-10 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Chin ups are one of the most ill performed exercises I see in the gym. Make sure you straighten your arms and go to full range between each rep. Half reps produce half results.  

13. Preacher Curl

Man Doing Preacher Curls In The Gym

The preacher curl can be done with barbells or dumbbells, and both target the biceps as the primary muscle group.

The curling motion isolates the flexors and specifically aids the development of the biceps. If you want to focus on one arm at a time, the dumbbell preacher curl enables this. 

If one arm is weaker than the other, the dumbbell preacher curl is one of the best exercises to improve muscle balance. This then feeds back into your bench press performance.

How to perform:

  1. Grab the EZ curl bar with an underhand grip and sit on the seat with your feet flat. Make sure the height of the seat allows your upper arms and chest to be in contact with the arm pad.
  2. Take the weight off the rack and start with arms straight and upper arms resting on the pads.
  3. Keeping your wrist neutral, curl the weight upwards until it reaches your shoulders and squeeze your biceps.
  4. Lower the weight with control to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

You'll need to use lighter weight than you would for a bicep curl as the bench forces you into an unstable position and removes any use of momentum. This means bigger bicep gains, so keep it lighter and the form strict.  

14. Barbell Biceps Curl

Man Doing Barbell Biceps Curls

A close grip is best for the barbell preacher curl, rather than a shoulder-width grip because the former emphasizes the muscles within the arms.

You can use a curl bar for it, or you can use an ordinary Olympic bar. It depends on how you prefer to perform the exercise.

Either way, you’ll want to steadily curl the bar upwards toward your shoulders, with your arms tucked in as you lift and lower the bar.

Maintaining control on the descent is easily forgotten, so remember to do this to make the most of the exercise.

How To Perform:

  1. Load the barbell with desired weight and pick it up from the floor with an underhand grip, at shoulder-width apart.
  2. Stand tall, keep your shoulders down and brace your core. Keeping your elbows close to your body and your torso stable curl the barbell towards your chest.
  3. Squeeze your biceps and slowly lower the weight back to the start position. 
  4. Repeat for 8-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

It can be very temping to use the upper body to swing the weight up, doing so will reduce tension on the biceps. Make sure you keep steady and always squeeze your biceps at the top of the movement.  

The Shoulder Accessory Exercises To Increase Bench Press

Shoulder exercises are crucial for building the strength of the shoulder joint, which plays a pivotal role in helping you press up the barbell with controlled movements.

A range of exercises aid in shoulder development, including the overhead press and band pull-aparts. We’ll cover them all below.

15. Band Pull-Aparts

Man Doing Resistance Band Pull Apart

Band pull-aparts work the rotator cuff and rear deltoid, strengthening the upper back muscles triggered by the bench press.

They are a handy resistance exercise that can be done with resistance bands alone, hence the name.

It’s a simple exercise to complete, and all that’s required is to pull an elastic exercise band as far apart as you can. If you’re pulling far enough, you should feel it in your shoulders each time.

How To Perform:

  1. Hold a resistance band in each hand and bring the band out in front of your body with straight arms. There should be some distance between yourself and the band.
  2. Pull your arms backwards keeping the elbow straight. The band should pull across your chest.
  3. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold for a couple of seconds. Keep your shoulders down.
  4. Release the band back to the starting position and keep the band tight between the reps.
  5. Repeat for 12-15 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

When you pull the band across your chest make sure you keep your shoulders down and focus on squeezing your shoulder blades together, don't let your traps take over.

16. Overhead Press

Woman Doing Barbell Overhead Press

Another exercise that’s very useful as a core lift for the body, which targets the upper back and arms, is the overhead press.

It works the triceps along with the front and lateral deltoids, which are connected to the shoulders.

It's one of the best exercises for the deltoids because it's simple and requires focus and balance because it's performed standing upright.

First, you'll need to choose a barbell and lift it from collarbone height to being fully extended above your head. This makes it easier to lift heavy barbells when you're doing the bench press.

How To Perform:

  1. Set the barbell in a rack just below shoulder height.
  2. Position your hands just outside of shoulder-width and rack the bar across your collarbone and shoulders. 
  3. Keep your elbows down and brace your core.
  4. Take a breath in and press the weight directly above your head and lock out your elbows at the top.
  5. Slowly return the weight back to the start position, keeping it close to you as possible. 
  6. Repeat for 5-8 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Make sure you don't let your ribs flare during this exercise, it will place too much pressure on the lower back. Use a weight you can keep your ribs down and your spine neutral. 

17. Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Man Doing Dumbbell Lateral Raise

As you can see from the name, this exercise isolates the lateral deltoid, an otherwise difficult muscle to target. As a secondary muscle, it works the front deltoid.

As a result, it’s a decent choice for working out the shoulder muscles.

It’s best practice to go for lighter weights because it’s easy to overdo it with lateral raises. You can test whether you can do more than a couple of reps with your preferred weight.

If not, best to lower it. Once you’re confident with the lateral raises, your control while doing bench presses will be more precise.

How To Perform:

  1. Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand on each side of your body.
  2. Keep your core braced and lift the weights up so they are in line with your shoulders.
  3. Your elbows should have a slight bend in them and your arms slightly in front of your body, not directly out to the sides. 
  4. Hold in this position for a couple of seconds and then control the weight back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

I often see people make the mistake of locking out their elbows. Keep a slight bend throughout the movement to reduce strain.  

18. Dumbbell Front Raise

Man SHowing How To Do Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises With Hold

To switch the focus of your dumbbell raises to your front deltoid, the dumbbell front raise is the right choice for you.

It works the front deltoid as a primary muscle and the lateral deltoid as a secondary muscle. As with the lateral raise, this exercise assists with the strength of the shoulders. 

It’s ideal when combined with the lateral raises because both the anterior deltoids and the medial deltoids get conditioned that way.

How To Perform:

  1. Stand tall with a dumbbell in front of you with your palms facing inwards. 
  2. Brace your core and with control raise the dumbbells in front of you until they reach shoulder-height. You can either raise them together or one at a time. 
  3. Hold for two seconds at the top position then lower back to the start.
  4. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't use any momentum to lift the weight. Keep it steady and controlled and pause at shoulder height for a second to make the muscle work harder. This is much more effective than swinging up the weight.  

19. Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

Man Doing Dumbbell Reverse Flys

To ensure that all the deltoids are conditioned, including the posterior deltoids, it’s good practice to include the reverse dumbbell flyes.

These target the rear deltoids in the upper back and also target the rotator cuff and trapezius muscles.

Working the deltoids assists with extending your upper arms, and the reverse dumbbell flyes along with the two raises, isolate these muscles in different ways.

As a result, bench press performance is improved.

How To Perform:

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and as you keep your back straight, hinge at the hips.
  2. With your torso parallel to the floor, position the dumbbells close together with your palms facing each other.
  3. Keep a slight bend in your elbows then raise the weights up to shoulder height and squeeze your shoulder blades together. 
  4. Hold for a couple of seconds in this position and then control the weights back to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Don't look ahead when performing this exercise to help keep your neck and back in a neutral position. Keep your chin tucked and don't push your head forwards which can place a strain on your neck.

The Back Exercises To Increase Bench Press

The best exercises for your back to improve your bench press are worth incorporating into your regular workouts because the back muscles help add stability to your arms, especially with higher weights.

Examples of these include the cable row and lat pulldown.

20. Dumbbell Row

Woman Doing Dumbbell Rows In The Gym

Dumbbell rows provide a comprehensive workout for the back muscles, especially the lats, trapezius, and rear deltoids.

Secondary muscles covered include the biceps, forearm flexors, and rotator cuff muscles.

All of these muscles play a role in helping with the bench press, so it’s convenient to use an exercise that works them all together.

The position for this exercise involved kneeling with one knee on a bench and pulling a dumbbell upwards on one side of the body.

How To Perform:

  1. Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand.
  2. Keep your back straight and hinge at your hips.
  3. Position the dumbbells slightly in front of you and your palms facing each other. 
  4. Keep your shoulder down, brace your core and pull your elbows back, rowing the dumbbells to your ribs. 
  5. You can row the weight one side at a time or both together. 
  6. Squeeze your lats and return the dumbbells back to the start with control.
  7. Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

A common mistake I see people make with this exercise is pulling the elbow upwards and putting the shoulder in an awkward position. Think about rowing your elbow back, not up.

Related Article - Barbell Row Vs Dumbbell Row

21. Cable Row

Man Doing Standing Cable Rows

The cable row works similar muscles to the dumbbell row, except you’re using a cable machine which enables you to finetune the resistance and exercise control more easily.

You can also choose to do the cable row one side at a time or with both at once.

For form purposes, it’s best to lean forward as this helps engage your upper body but can take away tension from your lats.

If you row the bar towards you, keeping your core tight, the lats will get more exertion.

How To Perform:

  1. Attach two handles to the cable pulley machine and set to around waist height. 
  2. Grab onto each handle and walk back a couple of steps so the cable is taut and your arms are straight.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and brace your core.
  4. Keep your elbows close to your body and pull each handle to your lower abdomen. 
  5. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and keep your shoulders down. 
  6. Return weight back to the starting position with control.
  7. Repeat for 10-12 reps, 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

Excessive upper body movement is going to reduce work on the muscles, this exercise should be under control at all times. 

22. Wide Grip Lat Pulldown

Woman Doing Lat Pulldowns

Often a feature of gym workouts, the lat pulldown is a good accessory exercise for the bench press, especially regarding the back.

The lats are small muscles that are hard to train when you’re a beginner, but they assist with moving the bar as part of bench presses.

When you train the lats, you’ll pull a bar downwards while seated with your thighs underneath a leg support. The bar should touch your upper chest, and then you should return it to its position.

How To Perform:

  1. Attach the overhead standard long curved bar and sit down, locking your knees under the thigh pads.
  2. Reach up and hold onto the handle in a wide, overhand grip with your arms straight.
  3. Depress the shoulders and pull your lats down, lean back slightly and pull the handle until it reaches the top of your chest. 
  4. Pause for a second and with control, release the weight up to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for 10-15 reps, 3-4 sets. 

Tips From A Trainer!

Before you pull the bar think about pulling the lats down and contracting your upper back. Lean back slightly as you pull the bar to your upper chest. Allow the weight to stretch your lats out between the reps.

23. Barbell Row

Man Doing Barbell Bent Over Rows

Another core lift that forms a part of many gym routines is the barbell row. Primary muscles worked include the lats, trapezius, and rear deltoids.

Secondary muscles include the lower back, biceps, forearm flexors, and rotator cuff muscles.

All of these play a role in a successful bench press because they support different aspects of the movements involved.

Barbell rows can be adjusted to emphasize different muscles, making it one of the best exercises involved in a gym routine.

A looser form will develop your back and hips, while a stricter form will aid the lats, rear deltoids, and biceps.

If you don't have the necessary equipment to perform this exercise, you can try out barbell row alternatives.

How To Perform:

  1. Start with a loaded barbell on the floor and bend your knees to pick it up with an overhand grip, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Start by standing tall then push your hips back and lean your torso forwards.
  3. Lower the weight and keep a slight distance between yourself and the bar.
  4. Take a breath in, brace your core and row the weight up to just below your chest. 
  5. Hold here for a couple of seconds and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  6. With control, lower the barbell back to the start position and exhale.
  7. Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

I often see people pushing their head forwards to try and row the weight to their chest. This can cause pain in the neck so make sure you choose a weight you can keep your head and neck neutral. 

Related Article - T-Bar Row Vs Barbell Row

24. Seal Row

Man Doing Lying Bench Seal Rows

The seal row is a variation of the above exercise, performed facing down on a bench to isolate the arms and back and exclude the legs and core.

This enables muscles that are relied on more in bench pressing to be trained more extensively using the barbell row technique.

Performing the seal row means laying on your stomach on a bench, ready to lift a bar using an overhand grip.

The bar should be pulled as high as possible, even touching the bench. Then it should be lowered to its starting position.

How To Perform:

  1. Elevate a flat bench using boxes or weight plates and position a loaded barbell directly underneath it.
  2. Lie prone (on your front) on the bench and grab the bar with an overhand grip at shoulder-width apart.
  3. Pick the barbell off the floor and start with your elbows straight.
  4. Row the barbell up to the bench, pulling your elbows high and squeezing your shoulder blades together. 
  5. Lower the bar with control back to the start position.
  6. Repeat for 8-10 reps, 3-4 sets

Tips From A Trainer!

The set up is important to get right for this exercise. The bench must allow your elbow to fully extend. If it doesn't try elevating the bench using weight plates.  

25. Pull-Up

Woman Doing Regular Pull-Ups

Pull-ups are a bodyweight exercise widely used in gyms as a warm-up or as part of developing upper body strength.

The lats are worked the most compared to other muscles, but tension is also placed on the biceps, rear deltoids, forearm flexors, and rotator cuffs.

This makes them a convenient way to develop your bench press strength, as they’re often found in many workout routines anyway.

How To Perform:

  1. Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand grip with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Let your body hang with your arms fully extended.
  3. Engage your core and initiate the movement by pulling your lats down and engaging your upper back muscles. 
  4. Pull your body up until your chin is over the bar.
  5. Slowly lower yourself to a full hang position.
  6. Repeat for 6-10 reps, 3-4 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you don't yet have enough strength to perform pull ups, try using eccentric reps and lower slowly and with control. 

Rotator Cuff Exercises To Increase Bench Press Gains

Rotator cuff muscles surround the shoulder joint and facilitate a wide range of movement during exertion involving the arms and shoulders.

Several exercises exist to strengthen them, and these include various shoulder rotations.

26. Band External Shoulder Rotation

Man Showing How To Do Band External Shoulder Rotation

A simple way to put tension on the posterior rotator cuff muscles is to use a resistance band anchored to a pillar. This enables you to pull it across your body from one side to the other.

It’s essential to do this with your elbow at a right angle so that it doesn’t exercise your arms instead.

Exercising the posterior rotator cuff provides you with more flexibility and support for the pressing mention of the bench press.

How To Perform:

  1. Attach a resistance band to a stable surface, like a squat rack, at elbow height. 
  2. Stand to one side, hold the hand in the opposite hand, and take a couple of steps away to bring the band tight.
  3. Start with your elbow across your body, keep your elbow tucked in.
  4. Rotate your arm externally (outwards) against the resistance band, taking it as far as you can.
  5. Reverse the movement with control.
  6. Repeat for 12 reps on each side.

Tips From A Trainer!

If you struggle maintaining a neutral spine throughout this movement then try it from a half kneeling position.  

27. Lying Dumbbell External Shoulder Rotation

Man Doing Side Lying Shoulder External Rotation

Another way to work the posterior rotator cuff without using a resistance band is to do it lying on the ground. This way, you’ll achieve the same effect with a dumbbell.

You just need to lay on your side and keep your elbow at a right angle as you lift the dumbbell. This will have the same benefits as the band external shoulder rotation.

How To Perform:

  1. Lie on one side and hold a light dumbbell in one hand, use your hand to support your head.
  2. Prop your elbow on your hip and bent your elbow at 90 degrees, with dumbbell in front of your abdomen. 
  3. Raise the dumbbell by rotating your upper arm in an half arch motion, keeping your elbow in contact with your body. 
  4. Pause at the top position, don't allow your torso to move and with control lower back to the start position.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

There's no need to use heavy dumbbells for this exercise, you want to achieve maximum shoulder rotation and control the movement. 

Related Article - Compound Dumbbell Exercises

28. Dumbbell Horizontal External Shoulder Rotation

Man Doing Dumbbell Horizontal External Shoulder Rotation

A third variant of the external shoulder rotation is available if you’d rather not lay on the ground. This one involves using a barbell as a hinge for your arm.

All you need to do for this version is form the 90-degree angle with your elbow while hanging it over the top of the barbell.

This format also trains the rotator cuff muscles at a slightly longer muscle length compared to if you lay down on the ground to exercise them.

How To Perform:

  1. Set up a barbell on the rack so it's just below shoulder-height and rest your upper arm.
  2. Hold a dumbbell and bend your elbow at a 90 degree angle. 
  3. Rotate your arm externally (upwards) until the arm reached the end point and cannot rotate anymore. Hold for a second in this position.
  4. Lower the dumbbell back to the start with control.
  5. Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side for 3 sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can also perform this exercise seated on a bench using your knee to support your elbow.  

What Are The Benefits Of Supplementary Exercises?

Supplementary or accessory exercises are vital for a comprehensive workout routine.

Primary exercises such as the core lifts will strengthen larger muscle groups like the traps, abs, glutes, and hamstrings.

But secondary exercises reach those smaller, supportive muscles, like the anterior deltoids. Some of the best exercises to increase bench press are the ones covered in detail above. 

Including a combination of these in all your workouts will help to accelerate your bench press performance and strength in less time.

Without these supplementary exercises, you’ll find that muscle imbalances and weaknesses prevent you from reaching your potential and encourage you to plateau for longer than necessary.

5 Proven Ways To Boost Your Bench Press

It's important to remember that even if your workout routine, form, technique, and consistency are all in place, you can still do more to achieve higher performance levels.

Here are a few recommendations.

1. Get In The Right Mindset

It's a common saying at gyms that it's always mind over matter, especially when it comes to lifting heavy weights.

The body feels pain, and you have to push through that by lifting the weight anyway. If your mindset is not correct, you'll do too little work each time you're at the gym.

The best mindset is to persevere until failure, knowing you're doing the right thing. It's not easy, but it's worth it.

For a better understanding of exercise to help you develop the right mindset, you can read about the "Principles of Training" section from a guide written by The National Strength and Conditioning Association.[1]

2. Lift Heavy Weight And Explode Up

If you’re looking to build muscle, this won’t happen until the weights you’re lifting are heavy enough.

If you aren’t bench pressing enough weight, then you’ll stay in the same place and never make progress. For beginners, the principle of progressive overload is handy.

Keep upping the weight by 2.5kg every week.

Similarly, when you’re lifting those heavier weights, it’s important to get over the hesitation and explode upwards.

This gives you maximum benefits from the weight because you force your body to act.

3. Pull The Bar Apart (As You Descend)

Descending while bench pressing requires you to pull the bar apart to get the best results. It creates tension in the upper body because squeezing your hands engages your lats.

These muscles are difficult to activate for beginners, so this is good practice for your bench press and other exercises involving the lats.

4. Increase Your Nutritional Intake

No workout routine will ever be enough if you're not eating enough alongside it. Balancing your protein, carbohydrate, and fat intake to mirror your current weight and gym goals is essential.

Of course, if you're looking to drop in weight, then this isn't so much of a concern.

Still, if bulking up and putting on muscle is your preference, then you'll have to get accustomed to eating considerably more than you're used to.

5. Consider Using Supportive Gear

Lifting the barbell alone might be tricky. In this case, you can use specialist gym equipment like a power rack to help you.

It acts as a mechanical spotter giving you the confidence to perform your bench press effectively. Unlike a Smith machine, it doesn’t restrict your movements.

Accessory Exercises To Increase Bench Press FAQs

What muscles does the bench press work?

The bench press primarily works the pectoralis major, anterior deltoids, biceps, and triceps[2]. This means the chest, shoulders, and arms will all benefit from the bench press. Smaller muscles like the forearm flexors and rotator cuffs are also involved.

What is the fastest way to improve bench press strength?

To improve your bench press strength as fast as possible, it's best to incorporate the principle of progressive overload into your workouts. This means increasing your weight on the bar by roughly 2.5kg (or 5+ lbs) every week, depending on your starting weight.

How long does it take to increase bench press?

Most beginners will increase their one rep max on the bench press by 4.5-7kg (10-15 lbs) per month, but eventually, these gains will level off once certain weight levels are reached. Personal circumstances may also cause this to differ.

What is the average bench press?

For the average man, bench pressing 47kg (103.6 lbs) is a basic standard compared to the general population. For the average woman, bench pressing 17kg (37.4 lbs) is a basic standard to aim for.

The averages vary for differently sized people, but their range of motion can often be smaller, making lifting and lowering the bar easier. This has to be considered when selecting weights and rep ranges.

Conclusion

Now that you're aware of all the tips and tricks to boost your bench press, and the exercises you can perform to target each muscle group, there are no excuses left!

You can now work to improve your bench press from the next time you're at the gym and onwards from there.

It's best to pick a single exercise from each accessory list and then apply the guidance given throughout the article.

References: 

1.https://www.nsca.com/contentassets/116c55d64e1343d2b264e05aaf158a91/basics_of_strength_and_conditioning_manual.pdf
2.https://www.healthline.com/health/exercise-fitness/bench-press-muscles-worked

Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website