Tip: 3 Oddball Exercises to Boost Your Bench Press

Build better shoulder and back stability and your bench numbers will blow up. Here's what to do.

Everyone wants to bench press more weight. What's holding many of them back may surprise you: lack of shoulder and back stability. Boring, eh? (I'm Canadian, sorry.)

Focus on three exercises to make progress. Do them before a bench day or use them between some of your warm-up sets. Then watch your bench numbers skyrocket over the coming weeks.

1 – Mini Band Wall Slides

Grab the lightest mini band you can find. Keep your chest "proud" throughout the movement, with the hands just scraping the wall. Keep the wrists outside the elbows as you slowly slide up the wall, making sure the elbows don't leak out. Some people may not even need a band if they've had shoulder problems in the past or mangled their shoulders by benching too often.

2 – Bottoms-Up Kettlebell Holds and Carries

Grab a light kettlebell, especially if you've never tried this before. This allows you to get used to the fact that there's a weighted ball of metal near your cheek that only your grip and shoulder stability can keep from falling.

Start light and progress... because no one likes a guy who had half his face taken off by a kettlebell. Your elbow is your dial of difficulty here: Start low and bring it higher if it's too easy.

3 – Band W's

Although you feel like you're not doing much, there's a frenzy of activity below the surface in the rear delts, lower and middle traps, and even the lats with this exercise.

You'll probably start shaking after 5 to 6 reps if you're doing it right. Keep high tension on the band the entire time, stapling your elbows to your sides to create a "W" at the top of the rep. Go. Slow.


You can use each exercise in one of two ways:

  1. After some targeted foam rolling or mobility work, use as a precursor to your bench press or other upper body movements. Perform 1 to 2 sets of each, 10 reps for the wall slides and W's and about 30 seconds per arm on the carries.
  2. You can add these in-between sets of bench press as "fillers" while you'd otherwise just be resting or sitting on a bench scrolling Instagram.
Gavin McHale is a former hockey player and skinny kid turned online strength coach and lifter. Galvin helps clients rebuild the athletic body they used to have using no-nonsense strength-training methods. Follow Gavin McHale on Facebook