6 Reverse Band Bench Press Alternatives (With Pictures)

the 6 best reverse band bench press alternatives

The reverse band bench press is a barbell-based exercise that uses resistance bands to lighten the weight of the bar as it nears your chest. 

Due to the deloading effect of the bands at the bottom of the bench press, this exercise is often used to strengthen the lifters lockout, assist in upper-body injury rehab, or train the lifter to produce maximum force through the entire range of motion.

While the reverse band bench press is a fantastic exercise, you might not have the equipment required for it or you just don’t like using bands and want a similar alternative.

So how can you obtain all the benefits of the reverse band bench press without performing this exact exercise? 

The 6 best reverse band bench press alternatives are:

Each of the exercises from this list are included in the article below. I will walk you through how to perform each one step-by-step and cover a pro tip for each exercise alternative, so you can avoid making the common mistakes.

Additionally, you’ll find these reverse band bench press alternatives use a variety of equipment: some use chains, bands, boards — you’ll most certainly find an alternative that works for you and your equipment accessibility.

Let’s build your bench!

This article is an extension of my Reverse Band Bench Press: How-To, Benefits, Why Do It? Article. Open it up in a new tab to check it out next!

What Makes A Good Reverse Band Bench Press Alternative

what makes a good reverse band bench press alternative

A good reverse band bench press alternative will satisfy the following criteria: (1) it targets similar muscle groups as those worked in the reverse band bench press and (2) it lightens the bar load near the chest or it increases the load of the barbell near the lockout position.

Muscles Used In The Reverse Band Bench Press

the muscles used in the reverse band bench press

The muscles used in the reverse band bench press are: 

• Pectoralis major and minor (chest muscles)

• Anterior deltoids (front shoulder muscles)

• Triceps

The reverse band bench press demands some upper arm abduction with a significant amount of shoulder flexion and elbow extension. These three actions require the pecs, shoulders and triceps to work in unison in order to push the bar up off the chest and back to the lockout position.

Takeaway: An excellent reverse band bench press replacement must target the pecs, shoulders, and triceps.

Reverse Band Bench Press: Accommodating Resistance

Since the resistance bands are anchored at the top of the power rack, they will stretch as a loaded barbell is lowered. As a result, the reverse band bench press increasingly lightens the load of the barbell as it nears the chest. 

To mimic this effect, a good reverse band bench press alternative needs to make the bottom half of the lift easier, and increase the difficulty of the exercise as the barbell approaches the lockout.

Takeaway: An ideal replacement for the reverse band bench press will progressively reduce the resistance on the way to the chest and provide increasing resistance as the implement is locked out.

Reverse Band Bench Press Alternatives

Continuously-looped resistance bands are the type of bands you’ll want for the banded exercises listed in this article. The bands from WOD Nation are an example of high-quality bands you can find on Amazon (click here to check today’s price on Amazon), they’ll last years of solid use and won’t snap on you like other flimsy bands will.

1. Banded Bench Press

The banded bench press is an excellent reverse band bench press alternative, as it targets the same muscle groups by changing the orientation of the bands. 

As a close variation to the reverse band bench press, the banded bench press only differs in the anchor point for the bands. Instead of anchoring the bands around the top of the uprights, they’re fixed to the bottom of the power rack. 

While this resistance band set-up is the direct opposite of the reverse band bench press, it accomplishes the same objective: less resistance near the chest and additional resistance on the barbell as it approaches the lockout position. The main difference lies in that this variation applies extra load to the barbell through band tension, instead of using additional loaded weight and having bands relieve some of that weight in the bottom position.

How To Do It

  • Set a barbell and bench into a power rack, or find a full bench press station
  • Ensure the barbell is place at the correct hook height (you should only need to lock out your elbows to unrack it)
  • Secure a resistance band over the barbell right by the collar, anchoring it using band pegs, heavy dumbbells or under the legs of the power rack
  • Ensure that you’ve added 10-20% of your planned working set in band tension to the bar
  • Lay down on the bench, so that your eyes are directly under the bar
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together and keep them retracted throughout the exercise
  • Using an overhand grip, place your hands on the bar with your pinkie fingers on the closest set of smooth rings
  • Confirm that your thumbs are fully around the barbell (avoid the suicide grip!)
  • When ready, lock out your elbows and bring the barbell out of the hooks
  • Once the bar has settled, begin lowering it towards your chest
  • Gently touch the bar to your chest, then forcefully push it up and back towards your face

Pro Tip

Resistance bands apply active resistance by physically pulling the barbell towards the bands’ anchor point. Because of this effect, you’ll want to anchor your bands so that they’re pulling straight down relative to your lockout position. 

If your anchor point is a couple inches forward or backward from your bench press lockout position, you’ll expend more energy in trying to keep the bar in its correct bar path versus actually pushing against the bands’ resistance.

Check out my article on the Banded Bench Press for a complete guide on how to perform this exercise, the benefits, and how to incorporate it into your training program.

2. Banded Dumbbell Bench Press

The banded dumbbell bench press uses a different implement to work the same muscle groups and match the intended strength curve, making it an excellent choice as a reverse band bench press alternative.

The banded dumbbell bench press performs much like the banded bench press in that it targets the pecs, shoulders and triceps. Further, the added band tension provides a similar strength curve to the exercise by making the movement easier near the chest and more difficult towards the lockout position.

Unfortunately, the banded dumbbell bench press introduces more variety by changing the implement from a barbell to dumbbells and this sacrifices some specificity. For this reason, the strength and hypertrophy adaptations that you acquire with the banded dumbbell bench press are less likely to transfer to the reverse band bench press.

How To Do It

  • Locate a free-standing bench and grab the dumbbells you require
  • Wrap a light resistance band around your back and hold each end securely in both of your hands
  • Keeping the band in position, grab the dumbbells using an overhand grip
  • Sit down on the bench with the dumbbells resting vertically on your thighs
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together and keep them retracted throughout the exercise
  • When ready, gently lay back on the bench and press the dumbbells to the lockout position
  • Once the dumbbells have settled, begin lowering them towards your chest
  • When the base of the dumbbells roughly get in line with your chest, forcefully push them up and slightly back towards your face

Pro Tip

There are many ways to set-up for a dumbbell bench press: some lifters keep the dumbbells right against their ribcage as they lay back and gently press them into position, while others simultaneously launch the dumbbells into the lockout position as they rock back onto the bench.

Neither option (and the other variations included in this video) is right or wrong, it depends solely on what you find is most comfortable and reliably puts you into a good bench press position.

On the plus side, you only need one resistance band for this exercise. Since you won’t need to do as much fine-tuning with your band set-up, use this as an opportunity to test out different set-up sequences. Once you find one that meshes well with your preferences, stick to it. 

3. Banded Chest Press

The banded chest press is another reverse band bench press replacement, since it focuses on working the pecs, front delts and triceps while also increasing the resistance of the upper half of the lift.

As a machine substitute for the reverse band bench press, the banded chest press is an underrated variation as it’s incredibly easy to set-up. 

Provided you have access to a similar machine as detailed above, the process for anchoring the bands to apply additional resistance is easy to implement. Further, many trainees find it more comfortable to train closer to failure on machines since there’s a reduced risk of injury compared to performing a traditional barbell bench press to near failure (even with a spotter).

On the downside, the banded chest press completely removes the stabilization requirement from the original lift. On top of this, the use of a machine instead of a barbell means that the likelihood of transferable strength adaptations to the reverse band bench press are blunted.

How To Do It

  • Locate your gym’s chest press machine
  • Ensure that the seat is placed at the correct height (when you sit down, the handles should be about sternum-height)
  • Secure a light resistance around one of the rear metal posts/uprights and pull one end through the other end of the band
  • Loop the free end of the band over the loadable sleeve
  • Follow the same process to secure another resistance band on the other side of the machine
  • Sit on the seat and grasp the handles
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together and keep them retracted throughout the exercise
  • When ready, push the handles away from you to the lockout position
  • Return the handles towards your chest to start your first rep
  • Once the handles are almost in line with your chest, forcefully push them forwards to complete your first rep

Pro Tip

Depending on your chest press machine, you might need to set your resistance bands differently than is described in the instruction guide above.

For instance, this video shows a lifter performing the banded chest press using only a single light resistance band instead of two (one band per side). In this scenario, they secured the band to one handle and looped the band around the back-rest/head-rest in order to loop the other over the opposite handle. 

This type of band set-up is totally fine and your situation will dictate how you decide to apply band tension to your chest press machine. When in doubt, always ensure these two things: (1) the band you’re using has no frays, cuts, or damage to it, and (2) that the ends are secured firmly enough that they will not slip off your anchor points.

4. Banded Push Up

The banded push-up is a reverse band bench press alternative that can be done at home and that emphasizes the same muscle groups, while placing greater difficulty on the lifter towards the push-up’s lockout.

Due to the limited equipment needed (the lifter’s bodyweight and a light-to-medium resistance band), the banded push-up is a fantastic reverse bench press substitute since it can be done almost anywhere — whether at-home or on the road.

The difficulty of the exercise can easily be scaled up or down by opting for a lighter or heavier band. As a secondary means of altering the difficulty of the banded push-up, the lifter can also perform the movement from their knees (easier), toes (harder), or even elevating their feet on a box (hardest).

How To Do It

  • Grab a light-to-medium resistance band
  • Loop the band around your back, and hold one end in each hand
  • Get into your preferred push-up position, with either your knees or toes in contact with the ground
  • To start, begin with your elbows locked and your body in a straight line
  • Lower yourself towards the floor under control
  • Aim to make gentle contact with your sternum against the floor
  • After this occurs, push the floor away with purpose to return to the starting position

Pro Tip

The most important thing with your push-ups is that you maintain a consistent standard with your technique. Too often, lifters will cut their range of motion and continue counting their half-reps. Not only does this diminish the strength and muscle you’ll build, it makes it challenging to objectively compare sets because the reps are inconsistent. 

If you’re performing half reps because you’re struggling with your upper body strength, here’s a short guide to follow: start with the most scaled down version of the push-up and don’t use any bands. As you get stronger, add a light band. Then, swap your light band for a medium band. At this point, you should be able to progress to the regular push-up (without bands). Follow the same process to add bands to this variation.

5. Bench Press With Chains

The bench press with chains uses a similar method of accommodating resistance to increase the difficulty of the exercise near the lockout, making it a fantastic reverse band bench press substitute.

In the bench press with chains, you’re essentially performing a bench press exercise with the addition of chains on either side of the barbell. As you lower the bar towards your chest, more and more chain links will rest on the floor — making the barbell lighter than it was at the lockout position. 

In this way, the bench press with chains works similarly to the reverse band bench press: lighter at the bottom and heavier at the top. Due to its similarity in accommodating the barbell’s load, it’s one of the most specific reverse band bench press variations you can choose.

Check out my full guide on training with chains for powerlifting

How To Do It

  • Set a barbell and bench into a power rack, or find a full bench press station
  • Ensure the barbell is place at the correct hook height (you should only need to lock out your elbows to unrack it)
  • Load 10-20% of your planned working set in chains on the bar (split the total amount evenly on both sides)
  • Lay down on the bench, so that your eyes are directly under the bar
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together and keep them retracted throughout the exercise
  • When ready, lock out your elbows and bring the barbell out of the hooks
  • Once the bar has settled, begin lowering it towards your chest
  • Forcefully push the barbell up and back towards your face by driving it as hard as possible through the mid range and top range of motion

Are you weak in the middle of the bench press?  Check out my complete guide on how to fix it.

Pro Tip

A common mistake that lifters make in the bench press with chains is adding too much chain-weight to the barbell. Generally, you can aim to add 10-20% of chain-weight to the weight of the bar you’d normally lift.

While it might not seem like much, this is a significant increase that will certainly tax your triceps — without overloading them so much that your pecs get neglected.

While many gyms have chains available, very few have ways to accommodate the distance of the chains to the floor. If the chains don’t touch the floor, they’ll swing during your unrack/rerack and this can be a serious hazard. Instead of risking injury, I’d suggest investing in the Looper Straps by Spud, Inc (click here to check today’s price on Amazon). Not only will you be able to set your chains at the perfect height for your bench presses, they’ll work just as well when you need to squat or overhead press with chains, too.

6. Board Press

The board press is a great reverse bench press alternative, since it targets the same muscle groups, uses a barbell, and replicates a comparable range of motion.

With the board press, a spotter holds the board against the lifter’s chest throughout the exercise. The barbell is lowered until it makes contact with the board, then is pressed back up to the lockout.

There are multiple versions that can be performed depending on the board thickness you’d prefer to use. Generally, a 1-board or 2-board press is a great place to start for most lifters.

Unfortunately, the board press has a clear drawback. While the reverse band bench press certainly lightens the barbell load, it still allows full range of motion. On the other hand, the board press reduces the range of motion because of the addition of the board — completely neglecting the bottom range of motion that is excluded.

If you’re comfortable with eliminating a couple inches of the board press’s bottom range of motion, then this can be a great variation. However, those who lack strength off the chest might want to select a different reverse band bench press replacement.

How To Do It

  • Set a barbell and bench into a power rack, or find a full bench press station
  • Ensure the barbell is place at the correct hook height (you should only need to lock out your elbows to unrack it)
  • Lay down on the bench, so that your eyes are directly under the bar
  • Pinch your shoulder blades together and keep them retracted throughout the exercise
  • Using an overhand grip, place your hands on the bar with your pinkie fingers on the closest set of smooth rings
  • Ensure your thumbs are fully around the barbell (avoid the false grip!)
  • When ready, lock out your elbows and bring the barbell out of the hooks
  • Spotter: hold the board(s) against the lifter’s chest
  • Once the bar has settled, begin lowering it towards your chest
  • Gently touch the bar to the board(s), then forcefully push it up and back towards your face

Pro Tip

If you’re performing the board press alone, don’t worry. Instead of skipping your board pressing altogether (because you don’t have a spotter), you can simply tuck the board(s) under your shirt to keep it in place.

As an alternative to the board-and-spotter combo, some lifters prefer to use a Bench Blokz (click here to check today’s price on Amazon). 

Working in the same way as a conventional board, the Bench Blokz attaches to the barbell itself — eliminating the need for a spotter to hold the board(s). This piece of equipment has multiple settings, so you can perform any variation between a two-board to a five-board press. Here’s a short video of how it works.

Note: Bench Blokz makes another model that allows a half-board or one-board press, too (click here to check today’s price on Amazon). This version would be more suitable for lifters who know their weak point is directly off the chest, as opposed to a few inches above chest-level. 

Check out my article on Why Do Powerlifters Use Boards For Bench Press? (5 Reasons)

Final Thoughts

Regardless of the variation you choose, an effective reverse band bench press replacement will target the same muscle groups as those that are worked in the reverse band bench press. An ideal alternative will also reduce the resistance towards the chest, and increase it as the implement is locked out.

Ultimately, the best reverse band bench press alternative for you will depend on: (1) the equipment you have available, and (2) whether you’d prefer a barbell, dumbbell, machine, or bodyweight alternative.


About The Author

Kent Nilson

Kent Nilson is an online strength coach, residing in Calgary (AB). When he’s not training, coaching, or volunteering on the platform at powerlifting meets, you’ll likely find Kent drinking coffee or enjoying his next Eggs Benedict. Connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.