Best Exercises to Superset with Bench Press

10 Best Exercises to Superset with Bench Press

Are you looking for exercises to superset with Bench Press to maximize your time (and gains) in the gym?

I’ve spent two decades working as a strength and conditioning coach and sports scientist with some of the biggest college programs in the country and using supersets within my strength programs is something I’ve been utilizing for a long time.

In this article, I’m going to share with you some of my favorite exercises to superset with Bench Press and I’ll also explain what makes each one a good option.

First, I want to make sure we’re on the same page on what a superset is and why it can be a great tool for your workouts.

What Makes a Good Bench Press Superset?

A good bench press superset exercise can help diversify your workout routine, target various muscle groups, and maximize your gains in strength and hypertrophy.

When choosing a superset exercise to pair with the bench press, consider the following factors:

Complementary Muscle Groups

Select an exercise that works muscle groups that are complementary to those used during Bench Press. Since Bench Press primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, consider an exercise that works the back or biceps.

Exercise Complexity

Try to opt for an exercise that isn’t too complex to execute, especially if you’re already fatigued from Bench Press. The idea is to keep the workout efficient and reduce the risk of injury.

Equipment Availability

Choose an exercise that uses equipment readily available in your training environment. Keep in mind that if you only have one barbell, using another exercise also utilizing the bar could be a pain in the rear.

Intensity Level

The second exercise should be challenging but not to the extent that it compromises your form or safety on the bench.

A good rule of thumb is to pick an exercise where you can do approximately the same (or more) number of reps as your bench press set.

Time Efficiency

Supersets are often used to save time. Opt for an exercise that allows for quick transitions from Bench Press.

Best Exercises to Superset with Bench Press

Now, let’s jump into what you came here for – my favorite exercises to use to superset with Bench Press.

Pull-Ups

Soccer Player Doing Pull-Ups

Why: Pull-ups primarily target the back and biceps, offering a balanced approach by working antagonist muscle groups.

Plus, Pull-Ups are an extremely effective upper-body exercise making the Bench Press/Pull-Up combo an absolute powerhouse.

How To

  • Approach the pull-up bar and grab the bar with a pronated grip (palms facing away).
  • Use a bench to get to the bar if it is too high.
  • Later in the article, I will talk about variations, alternatives, and modifications where the supinated (palms facing in) grip will be discussed.
  • Squeeze the bar and engage the core muscles and do not cross your legs.
  • Engage the upper back and pull up until your chin is over the bar.
  • Pause for 1 second with your chin over the bar.
  • Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.

Bent Over Barbell Row

Barbell Bent Over Rows

Why: This exercise also works the back muscles and biceps. Bent Over Rows helps to balance out the pushing motion of the bench press with a pulling motion, reducing the risk of muscle imbalances.

How To

  • Approach the barbell and take a shoulder-width stance. Your shins should be almost touching the barbell.
  • Hinge at the waist and bend the knee until you can grab the barbell. Use a pronated grip (Knuckles facing the floor). I will talk later about the supinated grip (palms up) in this movement.
  • Always keep a flat back, and a neutral spine, and keep your eyes focused slightly down about 1 foot in front of you.
  • Take a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and pull the bar in until it makes contact right about the belly button.
  • Pause for about 1 second. Squeeze the shoulder blades and lock in the rep.
  • Slowly return the barbell back to the starting position (weights about 1-2 inches off the ground).

Face Pulls

Cable Face Pulls with Rope

Why: Face Pulls target the rear deltoids and upper traps. They are excellent for shoulder health and help counteract the dominance of the anterior deltoids involved in the bench press.

Face Pulls can be done with a cable (as pictured above) or with a resistance band looped around a rack.

How To

  • To begin, adjust the cable machine to a high setting and attach a rope attachment to the pulley.
  • Stand facing the cable machine with your feet shoulder-width apart and grasp the rope with both hands, using a neutral grip (palms facing each other).
  • Extend your arms in front of you so that the rope is taut, and step back slightly to create tension in the cable.
  • Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine as you pull the rope towards your face, keeping your elbows wide and your hands level with your ears.
  • As you pull the rope towards your face, squeeze your shoulder blades together and imagine that you are trying to pinch a quarter between your shoulder blades.
  • Hold the contraction for a moment, then slowly release the tension in the cable and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions.

Lat Pulldowns

Man Doing a Lat Pulldown

Why: Similar to Pull-ups but generally easier to perform, especially for beginners. Lat Pulldowns engage the lats and biceps, providing a good counterbalance to the muscles used in the bench press.

How To

  • Depending on the machine or attachment that you’re using the setup may be a bit different.
  • Regardless of the setup, try to position your torso predominantly upright with a very slight lean back.
  • Grab the bar* just outside shoulder width grip with an overhand grip.
  • Now, pull the bar down to your chest, squeezing the lats hard at the bottom.
  • After a quick pause at the bottom of the rep, slowly bring the bar back up to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Seated Cable Rows

Man Doing Seated Cable Rows

Why: These focus on the mid-back and help to improve posture. Like other rowing exercises, Seated Cable Rows offer a pulling motion to balance the pushing motion of the Bench Press.

How To

  • Begin by setting up a cable machine with the desired weight. Adjust the seat of the machine so that it is at a comfortable height for you to sit on.
  • Sit on the bench and plant your feet firmly on the ground (or foot plate). Grasp the handle attached to the cable with an overhand grip, making sure that your arms are extended straight in front of you.
  • Engage your back muscles and pull the handle towards your body, bringing your elbows back as far as you can. Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the movement.
  • Hold the contracted position for a moment, then slowly return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps. Make sure to breathe evenly and keep good form throughout the exercise.
  • When you are finished, carefully release the weight back onto the stack and return the handle to its starting position*.

Dumbbell One Arm Row

One Arm Rows without a Bench
Just don’t brace yourself on a dumbbell on a rack as they WILL flip off the rack on you.

Why: One Arm Rows are another great rowing movement and, because it uses dumbbells, can perfectly complement Bench Press.

How To

  • Grab a dumbbell and a bench*.
  • Place the dumbbell next to the bench and set yourself up.
  • If rowing with the right arm, place the left knee and left hand on the bench. Keep the right foot flat on the ground.
  • Make sure the back is flat (neutral) to slightly arched.
  • Brace the core and pick the dumbbell up.
  • Row the dumbbell up, keeping the elbow close to the body as the dumbbell raises.
  • Squeeze the back at the top of the rep and then lower the dumbbell down until the arm is fully extended.
  • Repeat for the designated number of reps and then switch sides.

Dumbbell Curls

Dumbbell Curl

Why: Dumbbell Curls target the biceps directly. Since the Bench Press is a push exercise that doesn’t engage the biceps, this offers a good counterbalance. (And who doesn’t love to Bench Press and Curl?)

How To

  • Start in a standing position with feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • You can start with palms facing forward or facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps hard. Palms should finish up, facing the shoulder.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Hammer Curls

Hammer Curls

Why: These target the brachialis and the brachioradialis, two muscles not directly targeted in the bench press. Hammer Curls provide good variety and balance to a workout routine that includes bench pressing.

How To

  • Start standing with feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold one dumbbell in each hand and stand tall with good posture.
  • Start with palms facing in toward the body.
  • Now, curl both dumbbells up to shoulder level by flexing the biceps. Palms should finish still facing one another. Do not rotate the palm up.
  • Squeeze the biceps at the top of the rep and then lower back down to the starting position.

Push-Ups

Why: Supersetting Push-Ups with Bench Press is what is known as a Compound Superset. This is when instead of doing antagonistic muscle groups (ex. Chest and Back), you do two exercises that attack the same muscle group.

This is done in an attempt to completely exhaust the muscle group and stimulate hypertrophy and muscular endurance.

I use this combo within my NFL Combine training to try to maximize an athlete’s muscular endurance for the 225 Rep Test.

How To

  • Lie face down on the floor.
  • Pull your toes in so that you’re on the tip of your shoes.
  • Eyes should be focused straight down or slightly up.
  • Pull your hands close to about the nipple line of the chest and bring them out about 2-3 inches away.
  • Take a deep breath, engage the core and brace.
  • Push yourself up in one unit. There should be no sagging of the waist. The entire body from head to toe should move up and then back down in unison.
  • Feel your scapula upwardly rotate and make sure the antagonist muscles (Back and biceps) are fully engaging.
  • Lock out your push-up and pause.
  • Slowly lower yourself back down and get ready for the next repetition from just above the ground. Do not fully relax at the bottom of the push-up unless your program specifies.

Pec Deck Fly

Why: Like with Push-ups, it may seem counterintuitive to include another chest exercise, but the pec fly is an isolation movement that can help exhaust the chest muscles, potentially leading to greater muscle growth.

How To

  • Adjust the seat for proper height.
  • Select appropriate weight.
  • Grip handles or arm pads at chest level.
  • Align arms with machine’s plane of movement.
  • Tighten core and keep back flat against backrest.
  • Exhale and bring handles together, squeezing chest.
  • Pause briefly at full contraction.
  • Inhale and slowly return to starting position.
  • Repeat for desired number of reps.

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Final Thoughts

Incorporating supersets with your Bench Press routine can maximize your workout efficiency, target various muscle groups, and help prevent imbalances.

From Pull-ups and Rows that focus on your back, to isolation exercises like dumbbell curls, these supersets offer a balanced and effective approach to upper-body training.

Choose the ones that align best with your goals and make them a part of your regular workout routine.

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