Use This Exercise to Blast Your Chest and Core
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
Although it looks a bit funky this chest press is sure to take your upper body and core strength to the next level. Essentially you’re combining three of my favorite techniques into one exercise namely the “T-bench” technique, “head off” protocol, and “half body off” position. Here’s one of my bodybuilders, Ben Lai demonstrating this single arm dumbbell chest press version of it.
There are several reasons why this is so effective:
1. Performing chest presses widthwise on the bench in a T-bench position rather than the standard lengthwise protocol, allows the hips to be off the bench and unsupported. As a result you're forced to support more of your body and contract your posterior chain from head to toe to a much greater degree.
In essence you’re holding an isometric glute bridge throughout. For individuals who lack the ability to drive with their legs and hips on bench press, here’s your fix as the lifter is forced to fully contract the glutes and drive with their legs.
2. The T-bench chest press also provides similar benefits to the head-off chest press protocol I’ve outlined in other articles (read more about the Head-Off Technique here). To recap, with the head off protocol the lifter can create better cervical elongation (rather than cervical compression) resulting in improved shoulder positioning and t-spine extension. This does wonders for improving shoulder health and overall horizontal pressing mechanics.
However the effects tend to be even more profound when combined with the T-Bench position as the combination of hip drive and head-off coincide perfectly with each other. The more the hips drive up, the more the head and neck push back into cervical elongation. This promotes further improvements in t-spine extension and shoulder retraction.
3. By sliding your body towards the edge of the bench so that one side of your body is hanging off the bench this provides several additional benefits similar to the standard “half body off” chest press.
First, there is a massive anti-rotation component involved as it literally feels like your body wants to rotate and flip off the bench. The core musculature involved in rotary stability is working overtime to lock this in. In addition you'll feel the glute and hamstring on the side of the loaded arm contracting so forcefully to keep you firmly stationed, it will feel as though your posterior chain wants to cramp and Charlie-horse.
Besides the intense core activation, the rotational forces also want to pull the elbow and weight away from the body essentially trying to abduct your shoulder from your torso. As a result your chest and pectoral muscles must work overtime to resist these abduction forces as the movement feels as though it were an anti-fly exercise. This produces incredible tension on the pectorals as you're essentially holding the top of an isometric fly throughout while performing a pressing motion.
Another benefit of this half-body off movement is that the scapula are free to move without being fixed or locked onto a bench similar to a pushup or landmine press. This is one component that’s missing from the standard T-bench chest press protocol as the entire upper torso is fixed into the pad.
Having half the body off allows a more natural shoulder position and scapulohumeral rhythm as the scapula can move in a more natural fashion. In fact for any of my athletes who've had a shoulder injury this is one of my go-to variations as it's very safe for the glenohumeral joint.
Finally, the unique loading and positioning involved in the half-off technique allows the shoulder and arm to move through a slightly greater range of motion particularly in the eccentric stretched position as the bench is not prohibiting the shoulders from fully retracting. As a result this improves shoulder mobility while simultaneously teaching the athlete to stabilize the shoulder joint. The slightly greater range of motion is also very conducive for stimulating functional hypertrophy in the chest, shoulder, and triceps.
I also recommend super-setting these with some type of single arm horizontal row such as a single arm dumbbell row, quadruped row, or single arm cable row as the antagonist muscle activation matches up perfectly for an ideal circuit.
Due to the intense nature of this exercise I recommend 3 sets of 5-7 reps per side as anymore will leave you feeling thrashed.
On a side note, for individuals who suffer with excessive shoulder mobility and tend to collapse on their chest presses (yet still need to improve postural alignment on horizontal pressing movements), the standard T-bench position will be ideal. For those who have issues fully retracting the scapula and the shoulders tend to feel "stuck" into one position during pressing, the half-body off version of the T-bench will be more ideal.