Tip: Do the One-Arm Bench Hybrid

One part dumbbell bench press, one part glute activation, one part balancing act, and a little bit of headless horseman.

Personal trainers love training the core. So do a lot of generic "gym members" and Men's Health readers. Meat and potatoes lifters, though, think core training is largely happy horseshit. Meat and potatoes lifters just work their abs and if this core thing wants to come along for the ride, fine, but tell it to keep its yap shut.

Me? I'm pretty much in the meat and potatoes group, but I'm always happy to experiment with different exercises, even core exercises. Case in point, I found that spine specialist Stuart McGill's modified one-arm dumbbell bench press to be particularly satisfying, and when I combined it with T Nation contributor Joel Seedman's "head-off" chest press, I found a valuable movement that I can incorporate into my routine regularly without feeling like it was a horrible waste of time.

How To Do the McGill One-Arm Bench Hybrid

Set yourself up to do a conventional one-arm dumbbell bench press, but pretend you're drunk. As such, you lie down on the bench so that you "miss" and your right cheek is on the bench and the left one is off. Likewise, the left side of your upper body is hanging off the side of the bench and the right side is on the bench.

That's the set-up for a traditional McGill one-arm bench, but now incorporate Joel Seedman's head-off the bench suggestion, as explained in the following video:

Your head, left glute, and left half of your torso are now off the bench. As you press the dumbbell with your left hand, the left glute has to fire up and drive your leg into the ground so you don't lose your balance. The core fires up, too, along with the t-spine that's actively supporting your head. You then repeat the movement on the other side, of course.

Use less weight than you'd use for a conventional one-arm dumbbell press. Note, however, that the idea isn't to "progress" and keep on using less and less of the bench to support you so that you're eventually able to balance on the fart of an angel. Keeping roughly half of your torso, one glute, and your entire head off the bench works fine; just increase weight as you progress.

What It's Good For

The hybrid movement does the following:

  • Teaches the glutes to fire maximally.
  • Improves bench press mechanics, shoulder health, and yes, chest growth.
  • Strengthens the neck.
  • Stiffens the core to enhance shoulder and hip explosive power.
  • It acts as an anti-rotation movement, thereby fortifying yourself against twisting injuries.