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a woman performs a bench press

You Know the Bench Press . . .

“How much can you bench?” may be one of the most overused gym clichés out there, says Danny King, master personal trainer at Life Time, but the benefits are real. “It’s a great way to hit the chest and shoulders,” he says. “Anytime you’re doing bigger compound movements using a couple of different muscles, it creates a level of stability so you can push and move more load.”

The easiest modifications are to use a 45-degree incline bench or to attach bands to the barbell. “They create a little bit of deceleration, so you can push really hard.”


. . . Now Meet the Dumbbell Chest Press

Sick of benching? Try the dumbbell chest press. “It’s a true unilateral pressing exercise,” says King, because while both arms are pressing at the same time, they’re doing so independently.

To Do It Right: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, lie back on a bench, bending your elbows so the weights are level with your shoulders; face your palms toward your feet. Press the weights above your chest until your arms are straight, taking care not to hyperextend the elbows, and return the weights slowly to the starting position.

. . . and the Elevated One-Arm Pushup

You don’t have to be able to do a regular, two-handed pushup off the floor in order to get the unilateral benefits of this move thanks to the elevated modification. “If you’re doing one-arm pushups properly, you’re getting tension from your feet to your head and shoulders, your core, your glutes — everything’s involved,” says Dallas-based fitness coach Karen Smith.

To Do It Right: Start by doing a one-arm pushup against an incline bench or wall, keeping your core tight and your shoulder contracted, not shrugging it up toward your ears. “Against the bench you may have to begin in the bottom position with your hand next to your chest and then step back and straighten your arm — otherwise it will turn into a weird forehead push-up,” Smith cautions. Over time, lower the working hand by decreasing the incline of the bench, using a low box, or eventually moving down to the floor.

This was excerpted from “Beyond the Basics” which was published in the October 2021 issue of Experience Life magazine.

Photography by: Kelly Loverud; Styling: Pam Brand; Fitness Model: Tina Kuharski
Sarah Tuff

Sarah Tuff Dunn is a Colorado-based outdoors, health, fitness, and nutrition writer.

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