Lots of eager lifters start their Monday chest workout on the bench press, and for good reason: It's easy to go heavy, and it's a hell of a lot of fun! But when the lines start forming, there's no need to worry. Check out these four alternative starts to put a new spin on your chest training!
1. Incline dumbbell press
If your upper chest is lagging, that's your first great reason to start with this multijoint move. If you always start your chest routine with flat bench presses, whether with a barbell or dumbbells, that's an even bigger one! Going incline will give you a new stimulus for growth. What's more, you can adjust the bench angle every set to slightly alter the training target.
2. Flat-bench dumbbell fly
This isolation move is rarely a good place to start your chest workout, since you can't go very heavy. Typically, you want to start with exercises that allow you to push the most weight. However, if you've ever done pre-exhaust training (pre-fatiguing the pecs before doing your multijoint exercises), you'll understand the benefit of doing flyes first in your workout.
Hitting your chest with a new stimulus is often good in and of itself. You'll feel some serious soreness down the road after you complete the full workout, but pre-fatiguing with flyes will also make your bench presses and other following exercises harder, so you won't need as much weight to fatigue the muscle. That's especially good news if you have any kind of shoulder pain.
3. Plyometric push-up
This may not be your typical chest-day opening exercise, but the plyometric push-up is a great way to quickly activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which can help boost power and strength levels throughout the rest of your workout. And because this exercise doesn't require any equipment or weight, you can do it practically anywhere!
If you're not quite ready to try the full version on your toes, start in a kneeling position with your knees and feet remaining in contact with the ground. Once you can complete 3 sets of 10 reps on your knees, start the push-up from your toes, or add a clap at the top!
4. Bodyweight dip
The dip effectively targets the lower-pec region, especially when done correctly. It's a novel way to start a chest workout and warm up your shoulders and triceps, as well.
The problematic thing about the bodyweight dip is that some trainees will do way too many—well above the muscle-building rep range of 8-12—while beginners often come up on the short side. The answer, then, is to add a weight belt, so you can fail in the appropriate rep range, or get enough help on the assisted dip machine to do the same (if you're a beginner).