10 Bench Press Accessories To Improve Strength & Technique

As a powerlifting coach and athlete, I’ve researched and observed some of the best techniques in the World. Through this process, I’ve identified the top 10 best bench press accessories to implement into your training to improve both strength and technique.

The best accessories for bench press are:

  1. Close Grip Bench Press
  2. Wide Grip Bench Press
  3. Long Pause Bench Press
  4. Pin Press
  5. Board Bench Press
  6. Incline Bench Press
  7. Tempo Bench Press
  8. Banded Bench Press
  9. Slingshot Bench Press
  10. Floor Press

Let’s take a closer look at each of these bench press variations so you know why you should do them, whether you’re a good candidate to do them, and how to implement them into your training. There are countless bench press accessories you can do, but these are the ones that have the biggest impact.

If you enjoy this article, you’ll probably also like our guide on the 17 BEST TRICEP EXERCISES TO INCREASE YOUR BENCH PRESS STRENGTH.

1. Close Grip Bench Press

What is it?

The close grip bench press uses a grip that is at least five finger-lengths inside where you normally grip the bar. Therefore, how narrow your grip is on a close grip bench will depend on how wide your grip is normally. As a general rule of thumb though, don’t grip the bar narrower than shoulder-width distance on a close-grip bench press.

You may be interested to learn more about the MUSCLES USED IN THE BENCH PRESS. We break it down based on the angle of the bench, grip on the bar, and the specific bench variation.

What would this be good for?

The close grip bench will place more loading demand on the triceps. As such, if your triceps are the limiting factor in your bench press, then the close grip bench press will be a solid focus for you. You’ll know if your triceps are the limiting factor in the bench press if you always fail the lift at lock-out.

Read more on developing tricep strength in my article on How Do Powerlifters Train Arms?

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Use a grip that is five finger-lengths inside where you normally bench press
  • After a few sets, if you don’t feel the movement in your triceps, then narrow the grip more
  • Maintain a solid scapular retraction while benching. For some people, it’s hard to maintain a retracted shoulder position while benching in a close-grip variation. As such, make it a focus not to lose this position.
  • The narrower you bench, the lower your touch-point is going to be on the chest. Make sure you don’t force a higher touch-point position while benching in the close grip.

How would you program it?

If your triceps are the weak point in the bench press, then the close-grip bench press will be challenging for you.

As a result, use a weight that is 10% less than what you would typically use and do the same sets and reps.

Also, I don’t like to program close grip bench press using lower rep ranges. I find it too hard on the elbows. Therefore, aim for 5+ reps as a way to build hypertrophy (muscle growth) in your triceps.

If you want additional support for the triceps check out my COMPLETE GUIDE TO ELBOW WRAPS FOR BENCH PRESS.

2. Wide Grip Bench Press

What is it?

The wide grip bench press uses a grip that is at least five finger-lengths outside where you normally grip the bar. Therefore, the grip width for the wide grip bench press will vary depending on where you normally grip the bar.

Side note for competitive powerlifters: You may already bench press at the maximum 81cm distance between your hands that the powerlifting rules say is the ‘widest you can go’. However, the wide grip bench press should purposely exceed this distance for training purposes.

Check out our WIDE GRIP BENCH PRESS (THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE). You’ll learn more about the mechanics, technique, and how it compares with the close-grip bench press.

What would this be good for?

The wide grip bench will place more loading demand on the pec muscles. As such, if your pec muscles are the limiting factor in your bench press, then the wide grip bench press will be a solid focus. You’ll know if your pec muscles are the limiting factor if you always fail the lift off the chest.

Read about how powerlifters train their shoulders.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Use a grip that is five finger-lengths wider than where you normally bench press
  • After a few sets, if you don’t feel the movement in your pecs, then widen the grip more
  • With a wider grip, you may have problems taking the bar off the rack. Therefore, you should lower the rack height so that it’s easier to lift the bar up and out over your chest in the start position.
  • The wider your bench, the higher your touch-point is going to be on the chest. Make sure you don’t force a lower touch-point position while benching in the wide grip.

How would you program it?

If your pec muscles are the weak point in the bench press, then the wide-grip bench press will feel difficult at first until you build up your strength.

Use a weight that is 10% less than you would typically use and perform the same sets and reps.

It’s important you don’t push yourself too soon with a wide grip bench press. Some athletes develop shoulder impingements from rushing into a wide-grip bench without considering the overall load.

You’ll know you’re using a load that is too heavy if you feel like you can’t control the barbell on your chest. If you’re losing tension or can’t control where the bar touches on your chest drop the load.

3. Long Pause Bench Press

What is it?

The long pause bench press uses a 3-4 second pause on the chest. When implementing the pause, don’t ‘rest’ or ‘sink’ the bar into your chest — hold tension through your hands, shoulders, and chest. It’s the opposite of a touch and go bench press.

What would this be good for?

The long pause bench press increases the time under tension that the pecs need to work in order to stabilize the barbell on your chest. The pecs are emphasized greater in the long pause bench press and should be used if you always fail at the bottom-end range of motion.

You can also use the long-pause bench press if you feel inconsistent in your touchpoint. This is the case, if you touch some reps higher on the chest while other reps lower. The long pause bench press will help you become more precise with where the barbell touches.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • As you bring the barbell toward your chest, try and not to slow down into your touchpoint. Try and mimic the same speed that you normally would bring the bar down to your chest.
  • When implementing the pause, try and perform a ‘soft touch’. You should think about hovering the barbell on your chest, still making contact with it, but not ‘sinking it into your chest’.
  • After the 3-4 second pause, drive as fast as you can off the chest (be explosive!).

How would you program it?

Program the long pause bench press using a load between 60-70% of your 1 rep max with reps between 3-6. You can get a solid training effect with a lighter load simply because you’re extending the time under tension that the chest needs to work.

This exercise would be a great movement to program on a second bench press day if you’re benching more than once/week. Use it for technique purposes to build precision with your touchpoint.

You may also be interested in our guide to HOW MANY TIMES PER WEEK SHOULD YOU BENCH PRESS.

4. Pin Press

What is it?

The pin press is a bench press accessory where the barbell completely de-loads on the safety pins. The pins are usually set up at a lifter’s weak point within the range of motion.

What would this be good for?

The pin press is a good variation for all types of lifters to work through their sticking points. It’s effective for everyone because you can easily move the safety pins up or down based on your area of need.

If you’re weaker in the bottom end of the bench press, set up the pins closer to the chest level. If you need to build lock-out strength, set up the pins closer to the top.

As well, you can use the pin press for overload training.

Overload training is the concept of doing partial reps in order to put more weight in your hand that you can normally handle. This helps boost your confidence under heavier loads, and activate higher threshold motor units within the muscle.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • In a standard squat cage, set up the bench press between the rack.
  • Put the pins at a height that mimics your sticking point when the bar touches the pins
  • When bringing the bar down, make sure not to ‘smash’ the bar into the pins. Try to anticipate where the pins are in space, and actively stop the bar rather than dropping it uncontrollably to the pins.
  • Come to a dead stop on the pins while keeping your hands and lats tight.
  • Even if the weight is heavy, think about driving fast off the pins.

How would you program it?

You can program the pin press using both high or low reps. You’ll need to assess your specific training goal, whether you want to build strength (use a lower rep range) or hypertrophy (use a higher rep range).

With the pins lower, the percentages will mimic a regular bench press protocol. With the pins higher, the percentages will be higher than normal because of the partial range of motion.

5. Board Bench Press

What is it?

The board bench press utilizes wooden boards to overload the range of motion either through the amount of volume or intensity you can typically handle. The board heights range from 1-board, 2-board, and 3-board, each targeting a different range of motion, and allowing for more or less overload.

What would this be good for?

The board bench press is a good variation for those who want to target the mid or top-end range of motion.

If you can drive the bar off the chest, but fail in the mid or top end range of motion then the board press is my absolute favorite accessory.

Use either the 1 or 2-board to work the mid-range, and use the 2 or 3-board to work the top-end.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Choose your board height based on the area within the range of motion you want to target
  • Unrack the barbell and have a training partner hold the board directly on your chest
  • Bring the bar down to the board, pause, and drive back up
  • Avoid slamming the barbell on the boards, maintain control and tightness

If you don’t have access to wooden boards or you don’t have training partners to hold the boards for you, then consider purchasing a set of ‘Bench Blokz’. This is a light-weight piece of equipment that straps onto the barbell and allows you to mimic the board press heights needed. Check out the Bench Blokz HERE.

How would you program it?

There are two ways to program board bench press:

1. Do a series of moderate reps to your chest, then follow it up with a series of reps to either a 1 or 2-board.

  • For example: Do 5 reps at 75% to your chest, then do as many reps as you can to a 2-board with the same weight.

2. Pick a low rep range (1-4 reps) and use a weight that you normally can’t do for that prescribed rep range to either a 2 or 3-board.

  • For example: Do 3 reps with 95-100% of your 1-rep max to a 3-board.

6. Incline Bench Press

What is it?

The incline bench press is performed on a 45-degree bench to target the upper pecs and anterior delts. The bench can be higher than 45-degrees, but typically not lower for this variation.

What would this be good for?

The incline bench press is a good variation for those who want a bench press variation that targets more of the shoulder muscles.

Since the shoulder muscles are considered to be primarily activated in the mid-range of the bench press, the incline bench should be used by someone who has a sticking point halfway up.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up a bench at 45-degrees
  • Use a grip that mimics the same width you would normally use (or slightly narrower)
  • Pause the bar on your chest in between reps, and drive off your chest as fast as possible.

How would you program it?

The incline bench press can use a variety of reps, low or high depending on the training goal.

However, the load is usually significantly lower for the incline bench press. Loads that are 15-20% lower than the flat bench press for a similar rep range is common.

Program the incline bench either after a regular bench press or on a second bench day altogether.

7. Tempo Bench Press

What is it?

The tempo bench press uses a slower tempo on the eccentric range of motion (“eccentric” is the “down” phase). Most commonly, a tempo between 3-5 seconds.

If you want to learn more about bench press tempo then read our guide on HOW FAST SHOULD YOU BRING THE BAR DOWN.

What would this be good for?

The tempo bench press is a multi-purpose exercise and can be used if:

  • You struggle to maintain tightness and control on the way.
  • You want to have a high training effect, but a low training load (i.e. you can feel like you’re having a hard workout without much weight).

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Use the same grip and set-up that you normally would for a regular bench press
  • Bring the bar down with a 5-sec tempo — don’t rush the bottom range of motion when it gets hard
  • Squeeze your hands and lats as hard as you can to increase stability on the way down
  • Pause the bar for 1-sec on your chest, and then drive as fast as you can to lock-out

How would you program it?

The tempo bench press is typically used in the moderate rep range (3-6 reps).

Use a moderate intensity between 60-75% of your 1 rep max, starting on the lower end of this scale in the early part of the training cycle, and progressing to the top end at the later phases.

Add the tempo bench press after the regular bench press on the same workout, or put it on a separate day altogether.

8. Banded Bench Press

What is it?

The banded bench press is a method of attaching a band to the barbell. This will add greater resistance as you press the weight into the mid and top-end range of motion.

If you want to learn more about the banded bench press read our definitive guide DO BANDS HELP BENCH PRESS? (YES, HERE’S WHY & HOW TO USE THEM).

What would this be good for?

The banded bench press is a multi-purpose exercise and can be used if:

  • You want to increase force production at the top end range of motion. The band will force you to ‘drive-through’ the entire range of motion.
  • You have a sticking point in the mid or top end range of motion. The band will allow you to train the triceps more.
  • You need to practice control on the way down. The band will force you to exert greater control rather than letting the band pull the bar down rapidly.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Put the band over one end of the barbell
  • Pull the band underneath the bench
  • Wrap the band over the opposite end of the barbell
  • Put the bands inside the sleeve of the collar
Set up for bench press accessory: banded bench press

How would you program it?

Depending on the band thickness, you will get more or less tension through the range of motion.

I recommend starting with a 1-inch band and using 55-65% of your 1 rep max for reps between 3-5. The goal is to drive the bar as fast as possible through the entire range of motion.

Once you get used to the 1-inch band, you can increase the band tension while keeping the same bar load. Perform the banded bench on a standalone day.

9. Slingshot Bench Press

What is it?

The Slingshot bench press is a variation that uses a piece of equipment called the Slingshot. It’s a piece of fabric that wraps around your elbows and allows you to handle heavier loads for the same or more amount of reps compared with the regular bench press.

If you want to learn more about the Slingshot bench press read our definitive guide THE SLINGSHOT FOR BENCH PRESS (COMPLETE GUIDE & REVIEW).

What would this be good for?

The slingshot bench press is a multi-purpose exercise and can be used if:

  • You want to practice handling heavier loads (good for confidence). The same study showed that participants could handle 17-24kg more than their raw bench press.
  • You want to maintain a more effective elbow position. The slingshot puts your elbows in a more mechanically advantageous position, which can teach you about proper body mechanics.
  • You want a special method for increasing hypertrophy. If you can handle more volume, then there is the potential for greater muscle gains.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Put on the Slingshot and grab the bar using your normal width
  • Think about ‘pulling the bar down’, which will require you to use your upper back musculature a bit more than usual
  • Tuck your elbows slightly in front of the barbell to create more tension through the slingshot
  • Drive the bar ‘up and back’ to lock-out.

How would you program it?

You can program the Slingshot bench press in several ways, but two popular methods are:

  • Doing a burn-out set after your regular bench press. For example, doing a 5 X 5 and then putting on a slingshot for a 6th set and repping it out as many times as you can.
  • Doing an overload with more weight than you can typically handle. For example, doing a 3 X 3 with a weight that you can’t do with a regular bench press.

You can do either of these methods on a separate training day or after a regular bench press on the same workout.

10. Floor Press

What is it?

The floor press is where you lay on the ground and perform the bench press. As you lower the weight, your elbows will pause on the ground, preventing you from performing the full range of motion.

What would this be good for?

The floor press is good for people who want to develop mid or top end range of strength, without having a fancy set up like the board press, pin press, or slingshot bench press.

However, the floor press is not used for overloading because you typically can’t handle weight than a regular bench press since you’re not using a bench press arch or utilizing any leg drive.

You may also be interested in our article on THE BENCH PRESS ARCH (HOW TO DO IT, BENEFITS, & IS IT SAFE?)

The floor press can also be used for more injury-prone lifters who want to have less stress on the shoulders by reducing the range of motion.

How do you set up and execute it?

  • Set up underneath the barbell
  • Put your legs slightly bent on the floor with your feet flat
  • Bring your elbows downward until they gently stop on the floor
  • Pause for 1-sec and then drive off the groud to lock-out

How would you program it?

You can program the floor press for strength, using a lower rep range (2-5), or for hypertrophy using a higher rep range (6-12).

The floor press can be done as the main lift for the workout or on the same day as the regular bench press or another bench press variation.

Final Thoughts

There are countless bench press accessories that you can do to increase size, strength, and technique. However, the exercises covered in this article provide a well-rounded list that targets each aspect of the bench press, from the bottom, mid, and top-end range of motion.

You don’t need to do all of these exercises within the same program, but every few months, you should cycle a new exercise into the rotation that continues to challenge your area of development/weakness.

References

Duffey, M. A Biomechanical Analysis of The Bench Press. A Dissertation in Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University. 2008. https://etda.libraries.psu.edu/files/final_submissions/4136

Dugdale, J. H., Hunter, A., Di Virgilio, T., Macgregor, L. J., & Hamilton, D. L. 2017. Influence of the” Slingshot” bench press training aid on bench press kinematics and neuromuscular activity in competitive powerliftersThe Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 33(2), 327-336.

Franchi, M., Reeves, N., Narici, M. 2017. Skeletal Muscle Remodeling in Responses to Eccentric vs. Concentric Loading: Morphological, Molecular, and Metabolic Adaptations. Front Physiology, 8: 447.