Bench More With A Little Help From Hellraiser
Perhaps I should focus on furthering my career rather than finding spurious links between classic horror films and bench press variations?
Pinhead reminded me of a rather wonderful assistance exercise though.
The pin press.
What is a pin press?
Mike Tuchscherer with the strength and knowledge bombs!
The pin press is a bench press varitation where you touch the bar down to the safety pins rather than your chest. You can perform these with the pins at various heights but the variation being discussed today involves setting the pins so the bar hits the pins as close to the body as possible.
You can use any grip variation you want, and you can use a variety of special bars to perform this movement. Today, I'm thinking specifically about using a wide grip with a standard barbell.
How do pin presses help you?
Pin presses are an excellent option if you often miss bench presses off your chest, however there are a few more reasons to include this variation which we'll explore below.
- As an introduction to bench pressing
Bench is terrifying when you've never laid with a 6ft iron bar over your chest. This fear makes people do strange things with the movement.
What a show.
A pin press can take away the fear as there is no prospect of dropping the bar on oneself as the pins are in the way.
No fear of death = a much cleaner movement.
- learning to control the eccentic
Pin presses should be performed as if you are living in 'The Quiet Place.'
For those who haven't seen it, in the film if a character makes a loud enough noise loud, a monster tears their face off.
To perform the pin press, touch down to the pins gently then drive back up powerfully. This is how the lift improves control; you are forced to slow the bar down to control how hard the bar hits the pins.
Some people use a bench technique where they drop or rapidly move the barbell towards the chest. It's often when someone is performing a "touch and go" style bouncing off the chest method. This makes the press easier due to the bounce off the chest.
The pin press forces you to control/slow the bar as it approaches the chest rather than dropping or bouncing it. This means you'll be able to perform your normal bench press with more control and stability.
- They build power and strength in a weak part of a lift
To build power and strength off the chest, especially from a paused bench powerlifting perspective, one has to be 'tight' enough to press from a solid foundation.
As the great Mike T of Reactive Training Systems and bringer of RPE to powerlifting said in a 2016 article:
"A common mistake that causes people to miss low is not being tight enough."
'Missing low' means missing reps at or near the chest.
Pin pressing from near chest height is an excellent way to teach "staying tight" as if you don't, the lift won't be executed well.
Pin pressing forces you to have to break the inertia or more simply put, move from a dead-stop position, often from a position where you are weakest in the lift. The pin press, therefore, has a reputation for being hard AF as it is often used to bring up weaknesses, so often requires a load drop compared to competition benching and lifters often report being humbled by this movement.
-They are a great alternative if you can't or don't want to touch down to your chest
Injury, hypermobility, and pain can make it essential to avoid touching the bar to your chest. Personal preference or a training block aimed at strengthening a weak part of the lift can also necessitate not touching down to the chest.
In all of these situations, the pin press can is one of the best options as it provides a stable platform for the barbell to rest on, spotters aren't needed and you can replicate your set up easily without the need for specialised equipment beyond a proper squat or a bench press with moveable safety pins.
- It's more specific than floor press if you are a powerlifter
A common go-to pressing exercise when touching down to the chest is unwanted is the floor press.
Floor pressing feels very different to regular barbell bench pressing. If you are a powerlifter, the pin press is much more similar to the competition lift, which should help your competition lift more than the floor press.
- They can help you push past a bench plateau
Sometimes, we stop adapting to a certain movement like bench press. If you've not made any progress in years and you've been benching regularly most of that time, you should try taking a block of two hitting some different bench variations. Consider avoiding competition style bench pressing for a few weeks, hit some variations hard before bringing bench back in.
A great variation to replace your competition bench is the pin press. It's similiar to competition benching but different enough to stimulate new improvements. If those improvements aren't seen, you may also want to use a slightly different grip to get the needle moving in the right direction.
Alternatives To The Pin Press
2, 3, 4, 5 count pause bench
Foam roller press
Strength Standards (by 1 rep max)
According the strengthlevel.com:
Based on data from 32,000 lifts:
Advanced- elite: 60-83+kg
They don't have any data on non-binary, trans or other gender specifications at the time of writing.
You can find out more HERE
If you miss lifts off your chest, consider adding pin press to your program or chat to your coach about adding it to your training where appropriate. If you don't have a coach, consider training with me, we'll have great fun and hit some PB's without having to train for 16 hours a week.
By Chris Kershaw
The Heavy Metal Strength Coach