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, we’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!

As hinted above, these 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.

These accessory chest exercises include dumbbell chest flyes, push-ups, and bar dips.

1. 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 you need this exercise, 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.

Dead Press

2. 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.

Feet-Up Bench Press

3. 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.

Incline Dumbbell Press

4. Dumbbell Chest Press

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.

Dumbbell Chest Press

5. 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.

Dumbbell Chest Flyes

6. Push-Ups

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.


7. Bar Dip

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.

Bar Dip

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

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.

Close Grip Bench Press

9. 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.

Tate Press

10. Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions

One of the simplest upper body accessory exercises for the triceps is the barbell lying triceps extension.

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.

Barbell Lying Tricep Extensions

11. Incline Dumbbell Press

This is another option to combine a chest muscle and tricep muscle exercise. However, used for the triceps alone, it's inefficient as it only triggers the triceps as a secondary muscle.

Still, if you'd like exercises to improve several muscles simultaneously, this is an ideal choice because it works the chest, deltoids, and triceps together.

As described regarding chest accessory exercises, this exercise simply involves pressing up the dumbbells while on an incline bench.

Best Incline Dumbbell Press Alternatives: Exercises For Mass

12. 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.

Cable Machine Tricep Pushdown

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.

13. 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.


14. Preacher Curl

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.

Preacher Curl

15. Barbell Biceps Curl

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.

Barbell Biceps Curl

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.

16. Band Pull-Aparts

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.

Resistance Band Pull Apart

17. 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.

Barbell Overhead Press

18. 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.

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

19. Dumbbell Front Raise

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.

Alternating Dumbbell Front Raises With Hold

20. Reverse Dumbbell Flyes

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.

Dumbbell Reverse Flys

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.

21. Dumbbell Row

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.

Dumbbell Row

22. Cable Row

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.

Standing Cable Rows

23. Lat Pulldown

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.

Lat Pulldown

24. Barbell Row

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.

Barbell Bent Over Rows

25. Seal Row

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.

Lying Bench Seal Rows

26. Pull-Up

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.

Regular Pull-Ups

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.

27. 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.

Band External Shoulder Rotation

28. Lying Dumbbell External Shoulder 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.

Side Lying Shoulder External Rotation

29. 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.

Dumbbell Horizontal External Shoulder Rotation

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.

Other 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.

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]

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.

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.

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.

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.


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.



Last Updated on July 3, 2023