The bench press…a key movement for your chest that, ironically enough for some people, doesn’t even work their chest all that well!
THIS version of the dumbell bench press is going to force continuous tension on your chest while placing TREMENDOUS tension on the abdominals as well… (you’ll see why in a second).
The Back-Off-Bench Press is a unique movement for the chest that LOOKS like a standard dumbell bench press…until you look a little closer. You’ll be doing the bench press with your upper back hanging off the end of the bench!
And while it is true that you’ll be forced to use less weight than in a normal bench press, I found this technique basically FORCED the pecs into continuous tension. I got a GREAT pump using lighter dumbells and hit the core at the same time (and especially the rectus abdominus six-pack muscles).
This exercise is really the ideal beach body exercise…chest, abs and arms all in one shot 🙂
Don’t let that “beach body” thing fool you, though…this exercise is VERY tough and actually very valuable. It’s definitely one I’m going to be including in my training more often.
To perform this one, you’ll need a few things for the set up…dumbells (they don’t need to be heavy), a bench and something to brace your legs under. I used a power rack with a loaded barbell set on the rails to brace my legs on and that worked perfectly (Smith machine will actually be useful for this). You can also use just about anything else you can think of that you can brace your legs under…even a partner pushing down on your knees, if that’s what you’ve got.
Here’s what my setup looked like…a flat bench inside the power rack with the barbell set in the rails at about hip height. You’ll need to adjust the bench position under the bar, depending on how it feels when you’re doing the exercise. I’ve got the bar basically over the midpoint of the bench.
The first time you do this, start with LIGHT weight until you get a feel for the exercise. If you’re using the rack setup, just set a couple of plates on the bar to keep it from coming up.
This is one of the ONLY times I’ll ever recommend you set your feet on a bench for bench pressing…in a normal press, you need the stability of your feet on the floor. In this version, your knees will be locked under the bar, giving you stability there.
Grab your dumbells. I’m using a pair of 65 lb db’s in the demo here.
Stand up and set the dumbells on end on your thighs.
Sit down on the bench then shuffle yourself forward so that your hips are a bit closer under the bar. Again, you’ll need to experiment to get the position right for you.
Raise one leg up and brace it under the bar. Then get the other leg up. If you’ve got a partner to hand the weights to you, this will be even easier – just get into position on the bench first, then have them hand the dumbells to you.
Lay back on the bench and feel for where your upper back is. With the moderate weights I’m using, I had the end of the bench right in the center of my shoulder blades. Make sure you have at least that much of your upper back off the end of the bench.
Now bring the dumbells back and into position for the bench press. THIS is where your abs are going to fire HARD and stay contracted HARD for the duration of the exercise. It’s also the reason why the pecs are going to be contracted continuously…your back has nothing to brace on, therefore even at lockout, the pecs are forced to contract to stabilize and hold the weight.
Taking the back support away places HUGE demands on the entire upper body.
Now press up. Do this exercise at a moderate pace, under control the whole way. You’re using lighter weight so go for FEEL with this one and squeeze the pecs at the top. Your abs will contract no matter what you do here 🙂
The first time you do this, the weight will be something you’ll need to adjust. Go up to about half of what you’d normally use for a heavy set of dumbell bench press and do 6 to 8 reps with it.
When you’re done, you can either just drop the weights to the floor (which most gyms don’t like), or move them back up onto your thighs then use your knee-bracing to do a sit-up.
Then just stand up and set your dumbells down and you’re good.
That’s the exercise!
Like I said, try it with a lighter weight the first time you do it but definitely give it a try if you’ve got the equipment to do it – I was very impressed with how strongly this targets the pecs and the core.
It’s a nice alternative when maybe your joints are a bit beat up for doing heavier benching and you still want a strong pec workout or if you want to get the incredible abdominal work you’ll get from it without the repeated spinal flexion of a crunch or sit-up movement.
Nick Nilsson is known in the fitness industry as the “Mad Scientist of Muscle,” and for good reason! For more than 28 years, Nick has been creating unique, new exercises and training techniques and putting together some of the most innovative muscle-building and fat-loss programs available anywhere.