Excluding President’s Day, Bench Press Monday might be America’s most celebrated holiday. Valentine’s Day is touted as über romantic, the world celebrates Abrahamic fables together, and for decades the precious bench press has been the pinnacle of pec exercises in the exercise world. I hate on it enough that you think I just want to watch the world burn; not the case. I’m just not a fan of this:
I believe you should earn your bench press, and that when programmed and performed correctly, it can be a damn good exercise. I almost always program the bench press with upper back work inbetween sets to help keep the upper back healthy. This might be a strength exercise like a row, or it may be a filler exercise.
“Fillers” are exercise that don’t have a strength emphasis, and can either improve performance of the main exercise or improve function/activation of muscles that are involved. I’m discussed my Four Favorite Bench Fillers, before, and today I wanted to share one of my new favorites with you. It’s a diagonal band pull apart that’s done at the bottom of a rear foot elevated split squat (RFESS). Here’s an example:
Band pull-aparts are an awesome exercise to keep the shoulders healthy and pump some blood into the upper back. In between sets of bench pressing, they serve to reinforce a tight upper back position that helps stabilize pressing big weights.
Holding the bottom of a RFESS provides a potent stretch to the quad at both the knee and the hip. When you’re benching with an arch you need a good deal of anterior chain flexibility to allow your a proper set up, and it’s not common to include lower body mobility drills on upper body/bench press days. Instead of ignoring the lower body in your warm-up, performing the band-pull apart in this RFESS position allows for a gentle stretch that makes setting up for your bench press easier, and can reduce the adaptive shortening that happens from sitting all day.
I’m assuming that you’re reading this during a break at work, or during your commute, or during one of your daily bathroom breaks. Odds are, you’re sitting while you read this, and that makes you a great candidate for including this exercise in your next training session. Include it between sets of bench pressing, RFESS’ing, overhead pressing, or reverse lunging. If it requires anterior chain flexibility and a tight upper back, this is the filler for you. (Hint: That’s almost every exercise, so do it.)