A loaded barbell is a typical choice for chest workouts but there are other exercises besides the bench press. Find out which ones.
One of the main reasons a barbell is a popular choice is that your chest muscles are relatively strong. To grow and strengthen these, you need enough weight.
The barbell does a better job at this than most pieces of chest workout equipment.
1. Barbell bench press
While you have likely already heard of this fundamental compound chest exercise, it is definitely worth mentioning the barbell bench press since it is so effective.
Besides the barbell and weight plates, you want a good weight bench and a barbell rack to do this movement.
Once you have the required gear, take the following steps to do a barbell bench press:
- Rack the barbell at the right height for the next step and load it with the desired amount of weight. Put the weight bench below the bar at a good distance for the next steps.
- Lie down on the weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell. Your arms should be somewhat folded in this step.
- Push the barbell up until your arms are slightly less than stretched and move it forward until it is above your chest.
- Lower the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Slowly raise the barbell again until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
Barbell bench presses do not only work your chest muscles but also your triceps and front deltoids in nice amounts. As mentioned, you should have to issue using enough resistance to work these muscles.
One potential downside is the extra equipment requirement. Not every home gym owner has the ability to do a barbell chest workout with a bench.
That being said, it is still fair to say that bench presses are basically the top option for workouts like this.
2. Barbell pullover
The dumbbell pullover is the more popular version of this next chest exercise but you can use a barbell too. Again, you need a flat weight bench to do this movement.
Once you have that, take the following steps to do a barbell pullover:
- Sit down on the weight bench with the barbell on your upper legs. Hold the bar with your hands about shoulder-width apart and hand palms pointing down.
- Kick the barbell back and lie down in one movement. Keep your hands at about chest height for now.
- Push the barbell upward until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly move the barbell back and down as far as comfortable. Keep your arms slightly less than stretched throughout the movement and your elbows close to the center.
- Move the barbell back into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion.
Something interesting about the pullover exercise is that you can use it both to work your lower chest muscles and latissimus dorsi middle/upper back muscles.
If you feel your back muscles working harder than your lower chest you want to modify your technique.
To keep this a lower chest barbell exercise, you want to keep your elbows close to the center during the pullover.
Something else to note is that you don’t want to overestimate your strength in this exercise. You definitely don’t want your muscles to fatigue when the barbell is above your head.
3. Landmine chest press
The landmine is a setup where you anchor a barbell close to the ground on one side. You can then add resistance to a variety of movements by holding the free barbell sleeve.
As an example, take the following steps to do the landmine chest press:
- Anchor the barbell on one side and load it with the desired amount of weight on the other side. Hold the free barbell sleeve with both of your hands.
- Clean the barbell up to chest height by stretching your legs and tilting your upper body back. Keep your spine straight throughout this movement.
- Put one foot slightly forward and one foot slightly back but keep your upper body at the same angle. Move the barbell to one side so only one hand holds the sleeve.
- Slowly push the barbell forward until your arm is slightly less than stretched. Keep your upper arm at about a 45-degree angle to your side and your spine more or less straight.
- Return the barbell back to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set on one side and then do the same number of repetitions on the other side.
Landmine chest presses are the first example of a barbell chest exercise you can do without a weight bench.
Additionally, you work your triceps and front deltoids a lot. Due to the somewhat upward movement, you will work these front shoulder muscles just a bit more than a regular chest press.
One potential upside of landmine chest presses is that you work one side at a time. This can help you avoid strengthening one side more than the other which can lead to injuries.
On the flip side, this unilateral (one side at a time) chest workout will also take longer to complete. People with a busy schedule may not like this.
4. Incline barbell bench press
To do the next chest exercise with a barbell you need an incline weight bench and a barbell rack.
Once you have these, take the following steps to do an incline barbell bench press:
- Set up the barbell at a height where you can conveniently do the next steps. Load it with the desired number of weight plates. Move the incline bench below the bar.
- Lie down on the incline weight bench with your shoulder blades pulled down and back. Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell. At this point, your arms should be folded to a good extent.
- Unrack the barbell by pushing it up. Move the bar forward until it is above your chest. Your arms should be slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms at 45-degree angles or less to your sides.
- Slowly push up the barbell again so that you are back in the position of step 3.
By changing the angle of the regular bench press, you focus on different parts of your chest muscles. More specifically, you work the muscle fibers in your upper chest more.
Besides that, you still work your triceps and front deltoids a good amount too.
The different muscle engagement is not necessarily essential for your barbell chest workout.
At the same time, this exercise may align with your training goals and personal preferences.
5. Landmine chest fly
As the name implies, this next chest exercise gain requires you to have a landmine setup. Once you have that, take the following steps to do a landmine chest fly:
- Anchor the barbell on one side in the landmine attachment and load the other side with weight plates if needed. Stand with one side toward the anchor and hold the barbell with the hand farthest away from the anchor.
- Slowly move the hand with the barbell upward and inward until your arm is about horizontal.
- Return the same hand to the position in step 1 in a controlled motion.
- Complete your set and do the same number of repetitions with your other arm.
The chest fly is typically a chest muscle isolation exercise. The landmine version tends to work your deltoids a nice amount too. Especially the standing version.
You can also do the landmine chest fly while lying down on the ground. This would isolate your chest muscles more and require less weight on the barbell to get a good workout.
6. Barbell floor press
This next barbell chest exercise is not optimal but it can be useful if you don’t have the room or budget for a weight bench.
That aside, take the following steps to do a barbell floor press:
- Load the barbell with the desired amount of weight and lie down under the barbell with your shoulder blades pulled back and down. Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell.
- Slowly push the barbell up until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
- Lower the barbell in a controlled motion until you are back in starting position.
Barbell floor presses are not ideal because your chest muscles tend to go through a smaller range of motion. This is generally suboptimal for muscle growth and strength progress.
Additionally, the lack of a weight bench makes the movement less comfortable and potentially more challenging for your shoulder joints.
At the same time, floor presses are a good example of a barbell exercise for your chest without a bench. In some situations, it can be the best option available.
7. Barbell-supported incline pushup
This next chest exercise is definitely unusual in terms of how it implements the barbell. Additionally, you will need a barbell rack that can go low enough.
Take the following steps to do a barbell-supported incline pushup:
- Rack the barbell at about knee height.
- Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell, extend your arms until they are slightly less than stretched, keep your shoulders above your wrists, and step back with your feet until you are in a straight line from your heels to the top of your head.
- Slowly lower your body as far as comfortable by folding your arms. Keep your upper arms at angles of 45 degrees or less to your side.
- Push yourself back up in a controlled motion until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
The classic pushup exercise mainly works your chest, tricep, and front deltoid muscles. By elevating your hands, the movement becomes easier and works your lower chest more.
You could argue that the barbell makes it easier to keep your wrists in a comfortable position than something like a plyo box.
That being said, the barbell-supported incline pushup is not that special when it comes to chest exercises.
A potential downside is that your body weight is not enough to challenge the strong chest muscles for your training goals.
8. Decline barbell bench press
On top of a barbell and weight plates, this next chest exercise requires you to have a good FID bench (flat, incline, decline) and a barbell rack.
Once you have the equipment requirements, take the following steps to do a decline barbell bench press:
- Rack the barbell at a height where you can easily do the next steps. Load the bar with the desired amount of weight.
- Anchor your feet behind the pads of the decline bench and lie down. Pull your shoulder blades back and down and put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the barbell. In this position, your arms should be folded a good amount.
- Push the barbell up to unrack it and move it forward so that your slightly less-than-stretched arms point up vertically.
- Lower the barbell as far as comfortable in a controlled motion. Keep your upper arms at 45 degrees or less to your sides.
- Slowly raise the barbell again until your arms are slightly less than stretched.
If you can get over the scary position of the barbell, the decline bench press can offer a great lower chest and tricep workout.
Due to the different pressing angle, you work your front deltoids a lot less. The decline bench press could also feel more comfortable on your shoulders.
Decline bench presses are not always necessary but could align more with your training goals than the other chest exercises with a barbell.
How do you train your chest with a barbell?
To train your chest with a barbell you do exercises where you work these muscles with movement patterns like horizontal arm adduction. One example exercise is the bench press.