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The barbell bench press is a rite of passage lift for most lifters. The first two exercises people usually do are the bench press and biceps curls. And then the love affair begins.
The barbell bench press allows you to build upper-body size and strength which is great for performance and the beach. But the barbell is very unforgiving, and it pays to program accessory exercises to strengthen your bench press rather than benching more. And this is where the TRX comes in. Although the TRX is a tool very unlike the barbell, the TRX will help strengthen and improve your bench press numbers.
Don’t believe me? Please read on.
Here we will go into what’s needed for a good bench press and three TRX exercises to improve your bench press.
There are many negotiables when it comes to the bench press with grip width and depth being the main ones. But there are several non-negotiables to improve your bench press with regards to setup and execution. And here they are.
A barbell inverted row is a great option, but the TRX inverted row has a few advantages over the barbell version. First, the TRX doesn’t lock you into an over or underhand grip which is easier on your wrist, elbow, and shoulder joint. Because the TRX handles offer more freedom of movement. Second, TRX’s inherent instability will improve your core stability and train your muscle stabilizers more than the barbell version.
Muscles trained: Upper back, posterior deltoids, biceps, and forearms.
How it helps: A strong and engaged upper back sets a solid foundation to help keep the barbell on the correct pressing path.
How and when to do it: Grip the TRX with your preferred grip and hang down directly under the TRX handles with your chest up and shoulders down. Then squeeze your glutes and engage your upper back so your torso forms a straight line. Pull your body up to the handles below your chest and then slowly lower down. As this trains, the opposite muscles to the bench supersetting this with the bench for anywhere between eight and 16 reps works well.
Any single-arm horizontal press will work here but the TRX takes this up a notch. You can adjust your intensity to make it easier or harder and TRX’s instability means you’re training more upper and lower body stabilizers. Plus, this does wonders for your pressing technique because the TRX will give you instant feedback if anything is amiss. TRX single-arm chest press is a solid option to strengthen pressing imbalances between sides.
Muscles trained: Chest, front deltoid, triceps, core, and glutes
How it helps: The TRX single-arm chest press strengthens pressing imbalances between sides and improves core and glute strength for lower body drive
How and when to do it: Adjust your intensity by moving your feet closer to the anchor point (harder) or further away (easier). Loop the handles together, and grip with one hand with the strap over your shoulder. Slowly lower down being careful not to rotate the upper body and don’t let your elbow go too far past your torso. Press back and reset and repeat. This makes for a good accessory exercise after your main strength move for the day for two to four sets six to 10 reps per side.
Strong triceps is needed for pressing and lockout strength and the TRX tall kneeling triceps is a solid exercise to improve both. Being overhead this exercise strengthens all three heads of the triceps and the tall kneeling position strengthens your glutes (and helps improve hip mobility) which helps with the lower body drive. This exercise is a nice change of pace from other triceps variations. Because being a bodyweight move, it gives your elbows a break from dumbbells and barbells.
Muscles trained: triceps, core, and glutes
How it helps: builds and strengthens all three triceps heads for improved lockout strength. Being bodyweight in nature you can do more reps for better hypertrophy too.
How and when to do it: get into a solid tall kneeling position with the TRX straps over the shoulder and the handles set so your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Straighten your arms in front of you and bend the elbows and lower your torso until the handles are behind your head. Push with your triceps until they’re locked out. Reset and repeat. Performing for two to four sets for eight to 16 reps as an accessory move will have your triceps ready for benching.