One of the most undervalued and overlooked chest exercises is the plate pinch press.
It’s not one of these ‘sexy’ exercises that will turn heads in the gym because of how much weight you’re lifting. In fact, you don’t need much weight at all in order for this exercise to be effective and for you to feel a chest pump.
So what is the plate pinch press? The plate pinch press is when you take two plates back-to-back (typically 10lbs plates), and you press them together with your palms as you extend your arms away from your body. The plate pinch press works the fibers of the inner chest and is used with higher reps at the end of a workout.
In this article, I’ll discuss how to do the plate pinch press properly so that you’re isolating your chest as much as possible. In addition, I’ll detail the benefits of the exercise, variations of the movement, and how to program it within a workout.
Let’s get started!
What Is The Plate Pinch Press?
The plate pinch press is a chest accessory movement that is used in muscle-building (hypertrophy) training phases.
Rather than lifting a lot of weight, the goal of the plate pinch press is to feel a deep chest burn, specifically with your inner pec muscles. This will aid in building a round and full-looking chest.
Many other chest accessory exercises like the dumbbell press, dumbbell pec fly, or peck deck get greater attention when it comes to isolating the pec muscles. However, the plate pinch press has notable benefits above and beyond these dumbbell and machine-based exercises (discussed later in this article).
The plate pinch press is typically completed at the end of a workout after more compounded movements like the barbell bench press or shoulder press. Many advanced lifters like to superset the plate pinch press with some sort of pec fly (either dumbbell or cable) in order to create greater muscular fatigue.
Advocates of the plate pinch press include professional bodybuilders, like Marc Lobliner, who says that the:
“Pinch press is one of the best exercises for isolating the chest”.
In addition, professional powerlifters, like Mark Bell, has said that:
“With the right technique, the plate pinch press is one of the few chest exercises that can keep tension on the pecs throughout the entire movement”.
So, if you haven’t yet tried the plate pinch press, it’s something you should highly consider adding at the end of your chest day. But first, let’s talk about how to do it properly!
How To Do The Plate Pinch Press
One of the biggest mistakes of doing the plate pinch press is compensating by using your lats or anterior delts rather than isolating your pec muscles.
So make sure you follow the step-by-step technique below in order to get the most out of this movement.
Remember, it’s not about how much weight you use, it’s how much tension you can create within the muscle. I know lifters who bench press over 500lbs, but only use 30lbs for an exercise like the pinch press.
Step 1: Grab 2-3 plates and squeeze them together with your palms
Most people start by using two 10lb plates and squeezing them together with their palms.
However, the more plates you add, the harder the movement will be. For example, squeezing three 5lb plates is harder than squeezing two 10lb plates.
Even though squeezing three 5lb plates is less weight comparatively, you’ll need to squeeze the three plates harder together in order to prevent one of the plates from slipping.
Step 2: Bring the plates to the middle of your chest
The plates should be brought to the middle of your chest with your fingertips pointing away from the body.
You should feel like you’re pressing your palms together against the plates as hard as possible.
Step 3: Retract your shoulder blades and keep your chest ‘up’
Prior to starting, ensure your shoulder blades are retracted and that your upper back is not ‘hunched over’.
You want to keep your ‘chest up’ as it will be much easier to isolate your chest and avoid using your lats or shoulders.
Step 4: Extend your arms forward and slightly upward
Just before extending your arms forward, ensure you are squeeing your hands together against the plates as strong as you can. You should already feel your chest working quite hard before starting.
Once ready, use a controlled tempo to push your arms up and forward. If the plates start at chest level, you should be pressing your arms so that when extended they are at face level.
It will be much easier to extend your arms forward and slightly down. You want to avoid doing this because you won’t be using your chest muscles as much.
The plate pinch press was named as one of my top dumbbell chest fly alternatives.
Step 5: Contract your chest as hard as possible
At every stage of the movement, you should be squeezing the plates as hard as possible. There is no point within the movement where you should be ‘relaxing’ or taking a break.
Also, make sure your core is tight as you’re extending your arms because that way it will be harder to arch your back when you fatigue. At all times you want to maintain a neutral spine.
Step 6: Reverse your arms in the exact same movement pattern
Once your arms have fully extended, you can begin to return the plates to the start position.
Try to mimic the same movement pattern without dropping your arms too low.
when you reverse your arms, you want to continue to think about contracting your chest without losing tension on your muscles.
The plate pinch press was named as one of my top dip alternatives (click to check out the other exercises that made the list).
Muscles Worked: Plate Pinch Press
The plate pinch is aimed at isolating the chest muscles.
The chest is made up of the ‘upper pecs’ and ‘lower pecs’.
- Upper pecs: The upper pec includes the muscle fibers on your clavicle (collarbone), which help with shoulder flexion. This is the action of doing a pec fly. The upper pecs are also targeted by doing incline bench press.
- Lower pecs: The lower pec includes the muscle fibers on your sternum and ribcage, which help with horizontal flexion. This is the action of bringing the arms overhead from the front. The lower pecs are also targeted with decline bench press.
When performing the plate pinch, you are required to do both of these actions:
You need to use the upper pec muscles to squeeze the plates together, and at the same time, you need to use the lower pec muscles to extend your arms forward and up.
As such, the plate pinch isolates both the upper and lower pecs effectively.
You will probably also feel the inner chest muscles begin to fatigue a lot quicker, rather than the outer pec muscles because the inner chest muscles aren’t typically challenged through most compounded exercises like the bench press.
Check out my full guide on the role of the chest in various pressing movements and the bene.
Benefits: Plate Pinch Press
As I said, there are several chest accessory exercises that you can implement into your training programs, such as dumbbell bench press, dumbbell pec flys, and pec deck. However, there are some added benefits of doing the plate pinch press over these other exercises.
Here are 6 unique benefits to performing the plate pinch press:
1. Great For Isolating The Chest Muscles
The pinch plate press will target the chest muscles to a greater extent compared with other chest accessory movements.
For example, exercises like the dumbbell bench press will use a lot of front delt and triceps to complete the movement.
While compound movements are great for building strength and hypertrophy, isolation movements are still required if you want to increase the muscle mass of a specific muscle group.
2. Only a Low Load Is Needed
You won’t need much weight to do the plate pinch press. As such, you can get an extremely high training effect without the risk of lifting heavier loads.
For example, the plate pinch press is much easier on your tendons, joints, and ligaments when compared with exercises such as dips, overhead shoulder press, and incline bench press.
This should also allow you to maximize your recovery between your workouts, which if you’re training chest multiple times per week is a big consideration.
Read my guide on how many times per week should you bench press.
3. An Option For Training Chest Around Shoulder Injuries
Because of the reduced stress on your joints and tissues, the plate pinch press is a good candidate when coming back from a shoulder injury.
If you’ve ever had a shoulder injury, you’ll know that training your chest becomes increasingly difficult in order to mitigate the amount of stress placed on the shoulder.
The plate pinch press allows you to activate your pec muscles by using a lower absolute load and taking out any activation of the shoulder (so long as you perform the movement with solid technique)
4. Minimal Equipment Required
For those of us training at home or with minimal equipment, the plate pinch press only requires 2-3 plates to perform effectively.
When you combine the plate pinch press with other minimal-equipment exercises, such as the push-up and banded pec fly, you can get a solid chest workout without the use of barbells or dumbbells.
5. Low Technical Barrier
Unlike exercises such as the bench press, overhead press, and dip, which involve more complex movement patterns, the plate pinch press is a simple movement to learn.
As such, you won’t have to spend weeks or months learning the technique before you start increasing the work capacity or training load for the exercise.
6. More Time Under Tension For The Chest
One of the key considerations for increasing muscle hypertrophy is how much time under tension the muscle has throughout a particular movement.
With the plate pinch press, you can have constant tension on the muscle for upwards of 60-90-seconds, which goes well above the time under tension you can isolate the chest with other dumbbell and barbell exercises
Variations Of The Plate Pinch Press
Two other variations that involve ‘pinching plates’, include the: plate pinch hold and the plate pinch overhead press.
These are not movements to substitute for the plate pinch press as they target different muscle groups. However, they are worth mentioning so you have the full-breadth of ‘pinching movements’ that you can do in the gym.
- Plate Pinch Hold: The plate pinch hold is where you pinch two plates together with your hands while your arm is straight at your side. This movement will challenge your hand strength, which is important for improving your grip.
- Plate Pinch Overhead Press: The plate pinch overhead press is similar to the plate pinch press; however, instead of extending your arms horizontal to the ground, you are pressing the plates overhead (like a shoulder press). This exercise targets the front delt.
Sample Workout With The Plate Pinch Press
Rather than programming the plate pinch press with reps, I like to use a “time under tension protocol”.
This way, you don’t have to worry about progressing the training load (pinching more plates together), but rather using the same training load and simply going for more time.
Workout Example #1:
At the end of a workout, use two plates to squeeze together, and perform the following protocol. Use the same weight week-to-week.
- Week 1: 4 sets of 30-seconds
- Week 2: 4 sets of 40-seconds
- Week 3: 4 sets of 50-seconds
- Week 4: 4 sets of 60-seconds
Workout Example #2:
Several lifters like to superset the plate pinch press with a cable pec fly. This is used to make the cable pec fly more difficult, which will fatigue the chest muscles to a greater extent.
If you choose to do a superset with the plate pinch press, I would leave the plate pinch press static week-to-week and aim to progress the pec fly.
- Week 1: Plate pinch press 4 sets of 30-seconds superset with cable pec fly 4 sets of 12-15 reps
- Week 2-4: Same plate pinch protocol, but increase the load of the cable pec fly
If your goal is to isolate the chest and increase hypertrophy of the pec muscles, then the plate pinch press is an excellent exercise.
I would add it to the end of your workout after you have already done a series of other pressing movements.
If you do try this exercise, make sure to include it for at least 4 weeks so that you can maximize the progression and see the full benefit.
Don’t neglect the technique of this movement as the goal is chest isolation versus using multiple muscle groups to assist.