If you walk into any big-box chain gym and take a poll on the best chest exercise ever, you’re bound to get one answer. More than anything else, from bros to brokers, you’ll find one thing that seems consistently true. The Bench is the king of chest exercises. That may be true, but that doesn’t mean that’s the only chest exercise.
Bench-only programs are a great way to avoid the positive benefits of variation, and minimize overall adaptation. Facetiousness aside, it behooves even the most talented trainee to spend some time away from benching, be it for a single training session, a deload week, or months at a time.
Often our immediate strategy is the simple switch from barbells to dumbbells. This can help deload the shoulder and elbow, but I want more of a change. Free those shoulders from their bench! Provide yourself a more potent opportunity to get better. Enter the Kneeling Cable Chest Press.
The kneeling cable chest press allows you all of the positive benefits of push-ups and dumbbell pressing at the same time. An open-chain exercise, it allows our hands to move freely of each other, de-loading the elbow and shoulder, and since our back is unsupported, we encourage desirable shoulder movement and core engagement. If you want to maximize muscle usage while minimizing stress, this is your new exercise.
Tall and half kneeling variations are in vogue, in thanks to the propagation of the Functional Movement Screen. These work well, but not for this exercise. The anteroposterior force vector likely prevents you from effectively kneeling tall. You can try it here, but you’ll be stuck with minimal weight or be launched backwards. Neither is particularly appealing.
Rather than getting tall, get small. Sitting back towards your heels allows a more desirable pelvic position, moving away from anterior pelvic tilt, which encourages more of an anterior thoracic tilt. As those hips tilt backwards and those ribs drop forwards, you’re setting yourself up for some of the abbiest pressing of your life! (Abbiest…that’s not a real word. Can we make it work?) This will make you forget that a push-up is a moving plank!
Pressing from this slightly kyphotic position can facilitate a better breath, and effectively turns this into a slightly inclined press. You’re winning extra right now.
The kneeling cable chest press can serve as a high-tension, low-load exercise that exacerbates the many challenges of bench-pressing so that you can bet better while allowing your body a bit of recovery time.
Integrating the kneeling cable chest press is all about what you want from the exercise. Use it for a deload or high-volume hypertrophy work; the specifics are entirely yours to choose from. I’d venture that this is most appropriate for practicing time-under-tension strategies, or through slightly higher rep ranges. Setting a 5-rep max doesn’t make too much sense, but creating the purest pressing pattern you can does.
These can be used to replace benching in your current workout, or as a supplement to your benching when you want higher volume and lower stress. Those of us with wrist, elbow, and shoulder issues may desire this as an ergonomically friendly strategy to challenge the chest more appropriately.
However you integrate it, this can be a powerful addition or substitution to the pressing that’s already in your program.