10 Awesome Bench Press Variations For Skinny Guys To Get A Bigger Chest

Are you a skinny dude looking to get a bigger chest? Then stick around! Because today, I will be sharing my 10 favorite bench press variations for skinny guys to get a bigger chest.

Ideal bench press variations for beginners to build a bigger chest will engage the pectoralis major, minor, and anterior deltoid muscles. The exercises should also facilitate improvement in upper body pressing form, technique, and balance. This will develop the chest strength required to perform the flat and incline bench presses.

Two years ago, I started my own weight gain journey.

Having been a skinny lad for my entire life, I was on a mission to get JACKED!

More specifically, I wanted a chest that would fill out my shirts.

The problem?

I was struggling to make progress on my flat and incline bench press (the most widely recommended bench press variations).

So instead, I tried a range of easier alternatives in the hopes of increasing my general chest strength and pushing power.

It worked for me, so I know it will work for you too!

So are you ready to find out?

Then let’s jump right in!

I performed many bench press variations to get a bigger chest as a skinny guy

Why Should Skinny Guys Do Bench Press Variations?

Hitting bigger numbers on your bench press is associated with a larger chest.

Most people know this.

And if you don’t, it doesn’t take much research before stumbling across this adage.

But there’s more to it than this. Especially for skinny dudes.

diagram showing the chest muscles activated by bench press variations.

The chest is actually made up of multiple muscles- namely the pectoralis major and pectoralis minor.

And both of these muscles span a large surface area across the entire chest.

Therefore different bench press variations (targeting the pectorals at different angles) are essential for serious chest gains.

Furthermore, your anterior deltoids also contribute to chest size, since they lie directly next to the pectoral muscles.

And as a skinny dude, your anterior delts are probably highly underdeveloped.

Therefore you should include bench press variations that emphasize engagement of the anterior delts, and this will increase the overall size of your chest.

But the most important reason why you should include different bench press variations?

See below!

Bench Press VariationReason
Banded Barbell Bench PressIncreases fine motor control of the barbell.
Barbell Floor PressEngages chest muscles with reduced stress on the shoulder joint.
Paused Barbell Bench PressIncreases the explosive power of your pushing movement.
Single Arm Dumbbell Bench PressCorrects any natural upper-body muscle imbalances.
Dumbbell Incline PressEngages the stabilizer muscles in the upper chest.
Barbell Decline PressAllows for higher weight loads to be lifted.
Barbell Narrow-Grip Bench PressGood upper body compound exercise to work the triceps too.
Barbell Wide-Grip Bench PressHighly specific for engaging the pectoral muscles.
Barbell Flat Bench PressBest overall chest-builder.
Barbell Incline Bench PressBest upper chest-builder.

Increasing the strength of all the chest muscles (as described above) will add up to enable you to bench an overall heavier load.

And this is the best way to turn a skinny chest into a jacked chest!

Check my other article to learn how to build a wider upper body!

10 Awesome Bench Press Variations For Skinny Guys

The barbell flat bench press is by far the best exercise you can do to increase your chest size as a skinny newbie.

Indeed, there’s a reason why this exercise is so popular.

But as a skinny guy looking for a bigger chest, you should also consider including a range of other bench press variations (for the reasons described above).

So here are 10 awesome bench press variations you can include in your training program!

infographic showing the best bench press variations (hard to difficult)

1. Banded Barbell Bench Press Improves Bar Control.

Banded Bench Press

To perform the banded barbell bench press:

  1. Load an empty barbell onto a rack.
  2. Hook the loops of a resistance band to both ends of the barbell and thread the band underneath the bench (this will provide the resistance for the exercise).
  3. Lie on the bench with the barbell at eye-level, glutes planted onto the bench, and feet planted on the ground.
  4. Form a slight downward curve in your back.
  5. Grab the barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  6. Un-rack the barbell by pushing with both arms.
  7. Lower the barbell slowly as you inhale, stopping as the elbows drop below the torso, and the barbell touches your chest.
  8. Push the barbell back up as you exhale, until the arms are fully extended.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

As a beginner, you may struggle to perform the conventional flat barbell bench press.

Even without any weight plates, it may be hard (remember a full sized-barbell weighs 20kg alone!).

The banded barbell press is an excellent variation for beginners to practice the movement of the bench press without weights.

I would recommend you start with lighter resistance and work your way up.

The main advantage of using bands to induce resistance (rather than weight plates) comes from the unique resistance profile of bands.

You will find the barbell easier to press when it’s closer to the chest.

And as you begin to move it upwards, the resistance increases.

Therefore the banded barbell bench press will help skinny guys to practice controlling the barbell as they move through the range of motion of the bench press.

And this will provide a strong foundation to start your bench-pressing journey!

2. Barbell Floor Press Increases Shoulder Joint Strength.

Barbell Floor Press Without A Rack

To perform the barbell floor press:

  1. Load a barbell on a rack at waist-level.
  2. Lie on the floor with the barbell at eye-level.
  3. Hold the bar with a shoulder-width, overhand grip.
  4. Form a slight downward curve in your lower back.
  5. Un-rack the barbell by pushing with both hands.
  6. Lower the barbell as you inhale, until the upper arms are flat and parallel to the ground.
  7. Push the barbell upwards as you exhale.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The barbell floor press is a good variation to perform if you don’t have access to a weight bench.

It’s also known commonly as the half bench press.

But don’t let the name fool you.

The floor press has major benefits for skinny guys who are trying to improve their bench-pressing abilities.

This variation of the bench press will specifically target the upper portion of the bench press movement. And doing so will improve the stability of your overall bench press.

Additionally, the floor press is a great way to shift emphasis to your triceps and anterior deltoids, making it a great exercise for overall upper-body development.

The biggest advantage of the floor press for skinny guys is the reduction of shoulder joint stress.

As a skinny guy, your shoulder joints have probably not yet adapted to the stress induced by the lower portion of the bench press movement

This is why you may feel pain in the shoulder when you first begin bench pressing.

But this is mitigated in the floor press because the elbows do not go below the torso.

Looking to get bigger? You can check out my other article for a home workout plan for skinny guys to gain muscle!

3. Paused Barbell Bench Press Develops Explosive Power.

How To | Paused Bench Press

To perform the paused barbell bench press:

  1. Load an empty barbell onto a rack.
  2. Perform the basic bench press movement (as per the first variation).
  3. As the barbell approaches the chest, hold it for 2 seconds.
  4. Push the bar upwards with explosive power.
  5. Load 5kg weight plates to overload.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The paused barbell bench press is a great bench press variation to increase explosive power in the lower portion of the movement.

Explosive power refers to the generation of maximum force in a short period of time.

The paused bench press is excellent at developing explosive power because the barbell comes to a dead stop as it approaches the end of the eccentric (lowering) phase.

This prevents the stretch reflex in your pectorals from helping you push the bar upwards.

In other words- the paused barbell press forces you to move the barbell with 100% pure pushing power.

And this will improve your overall bench-pressing capabilities down the road.

Check out my other article to learn how to lift weights for muscle growth!

4. Single Arm Dumbbell Press Corrects Muscle Imbalances.

How to do a Single Arm Dumbbell Bench Press | Tiger Fitness

To perform the single-arm dumbbell bench press:

  1. Sit firmly on a bench.
  2. Load a dumbbell and place it on your upper thigh.
  3. Kick the dumbbell upwards with the knee as you lay on the bench.
  4. Hold the non-lifting arm outwards for stability.
  5. Lower the dumbbell with a shoulder-width, overhand grip.
  6. As the dumbbell approaches the torso, push back upwards.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The single-arm dumbbell press is a unilateral pressing movement.

This means it exclusively works one side of the body, unlike many of the other bench pressing variations.

As a skinny beginner, you may find that one side of your body is naturally stronger than the other.

This is normal.

The problem is that unbalanced upper body strength will also cause your barbell push to become uneven.

And this will prevent you from effectively bench-pressing heavy loads later down the line.

You can instead correct this by building strength in the weaker side by using dumbbells.

Simply overload on the weaker arm, until strength levels increase to that of the stronger arm!

Read my other article to find out how to get bigger arms!

5. Dumbbell Incline Press Increases Upper Chest Stability.

Incline Dumbbell Bench Press Form & Tutorial Guide

To perform the dumbbell incline bench press:

  1. Sit firmly on a bench inclined at a 45° angle.
  2. Load two dumbbells and place one on each thigh.
  3. Kick both dumbbells upwards with the knees, as you lay back on the bench.
  4. Lower both dumbbells with a shoulder-width, overhand grip.
  5. As the dumbbells approach an imaginary line drawn across the clavicle, push upwards.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

This is the dumbbell version of the incline barbell press (which is one of the best ways to develop the upper chest).

The reason why you should start with the dumbbell variation is that the barbell variation is generally much harder to perform.

This is due to the heavy weight of the barbell load.

Instead, you should first practice with light dumbbells. And work on gradually adding more weight.

By doing so, you are engaging more stabilizer muscles involved in the incline pressing movement.

That’s because dumbbells are inherently more unstable (and harder to keep controlled) than barbells.

Once you have mastered the dumbbell incline press with at least 15kg on each hand, you can progress to the barbell incline press!

6. Barbell Decline Bench Press Will Build Confidence.

Decline bench press

To perform the barbell decline bench press:

  1. Load a barbell onto a rack.
  2. Adjust a weight bench to a -30° angle.
  3. Lie on the bench with the barbell at eye level, glutes planted, and legs secured over the leg stands.
  4. Form a slight downward curve in your lower back.
  5. Hold the barbell with a shoulder-width overhand grip.
  6. Un-rack the barbell by pushing with both hands.
  7. Lower the barbell until it touches your nipples.
  8. Push the barbell upwards as you exhale.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The declined bench press receives a lot of bad press.

Many people say it’s “pointless, just do the flat bench press!”.

But in my opinion, the declined bench press has its use for skinny guys. Especially if you have just begun your bench-pressing journey.

And here’s why:

Firstly, any upper body pressing movement is great for activating the pectoral muscles. And the decline bench press will also engage the lower pecs more so than the other bench press variations.

This leads to those chiseled pectorals that many people covet.

Secondly, the decline bench press places less stress on the shoulder joint compared to the flat and incline variations.

This makes it a great exercise for skinny guys looking to develop shoulder joint strength in the early stages of your bench pressing journey.

Thirdly (and in my opinion most importantly), the decline bench press is the easiest of the bench press variations to overload on.

As a result, you will be able to bench more weight on the decline bench press.

This makes it an awesome way to build your confidence and mentally prepare yourself to tackle the harder bench press variations!

7. Narrow Grip Bench Press Builds The Triceps.

Close Grip Bench Press Width

To perform the narrow grip bench press:

  1. Load a barbell onto a rack.
  2. Lie on the bench with the barbell at eye-level, glutes planted onto the bench, and feet planted on the ground.
  3. Form a slight downward curve in your back.
  4. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip just slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart.
  5. Unrack the barbell by pushing with both arms.
  6. Lower the barbell slowly as you inhale, stopping as the elbows drop below the torso, and the barbell touches your chest.
  7. Push the barbell back up as you exhale, until the arms are fully extended.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The narrow-grip bench press should be more of an accessory exercise in your overall training program.

Although it will engage the pectoral muscles, this isn’t the main reason for performing the narrow-grip press.

Instead, the main reason for performing this exercise is its ability to activate the triceps.

Not only will this lead to tricep hypertrophy, but stronger triceps will help with the other common compound pushing exercises like the overhead press.

Therefore the narrow-grip bench press can be included in a skinny guys program.

But make it a supplementary exercise rather than the focus of your program.

Read my other article to learn more about compound exercises!

8. Wide-Grip Bench Press Maximises Chest Volume!

Wide Grip Bench Press

To perform the wide-grip bench press:

  1. Load a barbell onto a rack.
  2. Lie on the bench with the barbell at eye-level, glutes planted onto the bench and feet planted on the ground.
  3. Form a slight downward curve in your back.
  4. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  5. Unrack the barbell by pushing with both arms.
  6. Lower the barbell slowly as you inhale, stopping as the elbows drop below the torso, and the barbell touches your chest.
  7. Push the barbell back up as you exhale, until the arms are fully extended.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The wide-grip bench press is the best way to specifically target the pectorals.

Unlike the narrow-grip and standard flat bench press, the range of motion is severely reduced in this exercise.

This means the barbell is traveling at an overall shorter distance across the movement.

And this focuses the weight of the barbell mainly on your pectoral muscles.

In contrast, the other bench press variations distribute the weight of the barbell more evenly across the anterior deltoids and triceps.

So if you are looking to add more volume to your chest, then the wide-arm bench press is the way to go!

9. Barbell Flat Bench Press Is The Swiss Army Knife

To perform the flat barbell bench press:

  1. Load a barbell onto a rack.
  2. Lie on a flat bench with the barbell at eye-level, glutes planted onto the bench, and feet planted on the ground.
  3. Form a slight downward curve in your back.
  4. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip at shoulder-width apart.
  5. Unrack the barbell by pushing with both arms.
  6. Lower the barbell slowly as you inhale, stopping as the elbows drop below the torso, and the barbell touches your chest.
  7. Push the barbell back up as you exhale, until the arms are fully extended.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

The barbell flat bench press is the king of chest exercises. And it should be a staple exercise for any skinny guy looking to get bigger.

In fact, when someone mentions a bench press, they are usually referring to this variation.

The flat barbell bench press will engage your pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, anterior deltoids, and triceps.

In other words, the flat bench press will work the entire front of your upper body.

Not only will this exercise help you build a wider upper body, but the movement itself is also functional.

By that, I mean it is a movement you use in your daily routine (i.e. pushing!).

The flat bench press can be tricky for skinny newbies. So build up to it by performing the variations listed above first!

10. Barbell Incline Press Drives Upper Chest Growth!

How To: Incline Barbell Bench Press | 3 GOLDEN RULES! (MADE BETTER!)

To perform the incline barbell bench press:

  1. Load a barbell onto a rack.
  2. Lie on the bench set at a 45° angle.
  3. The barbell should be at eye-level, glutes planted onto the bench, and feet planted on the ground.
  4. Form a slight downward curve in your back.
  5. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip at shoulder-width apart.
  6. Unrack the barbell by pushing with both arms.
  7. Lower the barbell slowly as you inhale, stopping as the elbows drop below the torso, and the barbell touches your chest.
  8. Push the barbell back up as you exhale, until the arms are fully extended.

Why It Is Good For Skinny Guys:

Where the flat barbell bench press is the king of chest exercises, the incline variation can be considered the queen!

In other words, it’s also very important (but slightly less so than the flat bench press) for developing your chest.

Where the flat bench press will work the entire chest, the incline bench press will shift emphasis to the upper chest.

This will result in balanced chest development and an overall fuller chest.

This exercise is hard though. That’s because most guys do not usually use the upper chest muscles much in their daily activities.

So be sure to gradually build up to it by performing the other bench press variations mentioned above.

That being said, it’s a highly recommended exercise.

And I credit the incline press for my own chest results!

Conclusion.

Finito!

Today I have shared 10 awesome bench press variations for skinny guys to build a bigger chest.

The best variations are flat and incline barbell bench presses.

These are the two essential exercises you really need to perform in order to grow your chest.

But they can be difficult to perform for beginners.

So as a skinny guy, you should instead start with the easier bench press variations. These include the banded barbell press, floor press, and dumbbell press.

By taking this strategy, you will develop your upper body strength, and stabilizer muscles, and gain confidence in the overall pressing movement.

Once these have been mastered, then you can tackle the barbell!

Which bench press variation will you be trying in your next workout?

Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions! You can find my details on the “contact us” page.

You may also be interested in the downloadable Kalibre Blueprint PDF which details exactly how I gained 40lbs of lean muscle (it’s 100% free!). It details the exact exercises and nutrition (with printable worksheets) I used to go from skinny to ripped!

Thanks for reading guys!

Peace Out,

Kal

(Biochemistry BSc, Biomedical Sciences MSc, Ex-Skinny Guy)

Kal

I'm Kal (B.S, M.S)- a health & fitness writer and owner of Kalibre Fitness. I love to nerd out on weight training and nutrition. My primary interests are in muscle hypertrophy mechanisms and strength development. You can connect with me in the "Contact Us" section below!

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