Using Fillers In Your Programs: Bench Press
Fillers For the Bench Press
As a quick refresher for those first tuning in: “Fillers” are low grade exercises that address a specific mobility or stability issue – lack of glute activation, tight hip flexors, poor scapular upward rotation, as examples – which are performed during rest periods of a main exercise.
Fillers could also be a simple stretch.
In short the idea is do something productive during your rest periods – other than stalk your ex on Instagram – that’s not going to affect or deter performance on subsequent sets of deadlifts, squats, bench presses, and the like.
Another way to look at it is this: I know it, you know it, your parent’s mailman’s second cousin’s godfather knows it, we all know it…
…you’re (probably) going to skip your warm-up.
Fillers are the compromise.
Instead of giving people a laundry list of warm-up drills they’re not going to do, I’ll sprinkle fillers in as PART OF THE PROGRAM.
(cue evil strength coach laugh here).
So in no particular order here’s a quick-n-dirty rundown of some of my go to fillers on bench day.
Okay, I’m cheating a little bit here.
I’m only speaking for myself, but I find rows are something most people can’t include enough of in a program. Many of us are so overdeveloped and/or tight in our anterior chain – namely pecs – that it’s not uncommon practice for me to pair a rowing variation with EVERY set (including warm-ups) of bench press to help offset the imbalance
I don’t care if it’s a DB row, Seated Cable Row, Chest Supported Row, Seal Row, TRX Row, Face Pulls, or Band Pull-Apart…I want some kind of row tethered to every set of the bench press.
And then I’ll include 1-2 more rowing variations later in the session too. The whole notion of a balanced approach to program design – where you attempt to include a 1:1 (press:row) ratio – while noble and good place to start, tends to be a bit underwhelming.
I’ll often say it’s more beneficial to UN-BALANCE someone’s program (to the tune of 2-3 rowing variations for every press) to to better “balance” them.”
So, as more of an umbrella theme to consider, just staying cognizant of rowing volume (and adding more of it into someone’s program) is going to be leaps and bounds more effective for long-term shoulder health and training domination than the litany of correctives that can be substituted in.
2. Band Posture Corrector
This is a drill I stole from my good friend and strength coach Jim “Smitty” Smith of Diesel Strength.
Sitting at a desk all day, every day, can be brutal.
The muscles on the back side (namely, rhomboids) get long and weak, while the muscles on the front (namely, pecs) get short and overactive.
A good bench press requires a fair amount of scapular retraction and depression to help protect the shoulder joint and to provide a more stable “surface” to press from.
This drill targets those muscles involved.
Simply grab a band, loop it around your shoulders, and “reverse” the posture.
I like to perform 10-20 reps with a 1-2 second hold on each rep.
3. Foam Roller Snow Angel
Likewise, the bench press also requires a decent amount of thoracic extension (which makes it easier to retract and depress your shoulder blades).
The Foam Roller Snow Angel allows for a few things to fall in place:
- A nice pec stretch.
- Nudges more thoracic extension (by lying on the foam roller).
I like 10-12 reps here.
4. Child’s Pose – off Med Ball
Pigging back off the above drill, this one also helps to improve thoracic extension in addition to strengthening the scapular stabilizers when you add a static hold at the top of each rep.
Adding the medicine ball into the mix along with flexed hips helps to keep the lumbar spine out of the equation.
I like 5, 5 seconds holds here.
5. Bicep Curls
The fuck outta here.1