You can train your chest with heavy weights, using bench presses and incline presses. But one issue with many of those exercises is this: Your core doesn’t always have to be active.
Very often, you arch your back during a bench press or incline press, and yes, that can prevent you from truly carving detail into your pecs. But there are other pressing options, especially if you have access to a cable machine or a pair of resistance bands and a pullup bar. One of the more unique options (and a move that’ll shred your abs too) is the Bear Plank Chest press from Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. Here, you press down towards the ground, while maintaining a bear plank position that fires up abs, glutes, and even quads.
It’s a recipe for carving your chest while also providing a lot of core work too. And it’s also fun. “Nearly every pressing exercise we do has us driving weights toward the ceiling,” says Samuel. “By changing it up, we force new stabilizing muscles into action, and we also get a new anti-rotation challenge, too.”
You’ll need some gear to pull it off, in the form of a cable machine. Or, you’ll need resistance bands anchored to a pullup bar. But from there, you get all the benefits of the bear plank position, and a lot of core work too. “Every time you let the weight carry your arm upwards, it threatens to pull your torso out of line with the ground,” says Samuel. “Your goal is to maintain that.
That means your abs can never relax, leading to a ton of organic ab work. It does something else, too. “You’re not arching your back: You can’t to hold the position,” says Samuel. “Because of that, your ribs stay tight to your torso, and your chest works over its fullest possible range to drive the press.”
Other muscles are occupied, so your pecs drive the process, and get the full stimulus of each rep. “Your body will love this move,” says Samuel. “It’s the perfect chest-day changeup.”
The Bear Plank Chest Press is a perfect movement to place near the end of your chest or upper body workout. “It’s not going to have you moving enough weight to be a lead exercise,” says Samuel, “but it’s perfect to finish off your chest.” Use it as a third or fourth exercise in a push-day session, or a finishing move in an upper-body or full-body workout. “Focus less on going crazy-heavy,” says Samuel, “and more on keeping a fully flat back. This is as much about core as it is about chest.”
For more tips and routines from Samuel, check out our full slate of Eb and Swole workouts.
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