I tried this simple bench press trick and it absolutely blew my mind

Who would have thought that resistance bands can help you build breastplate-like pecs?

Person performing the bench press exercise in a gym
(Image credit: Getty Images)

I'm always on the lookout for new exercises to improve my lifting technique. It's not like I'm desperate to gain muscle mass, but admittedly, doing the same workout over and over again can make every workout routine a bit boring after a while. This is why I was so excited to discover the Nilsson press, a bench press alternative that activates the pecs more efficiently than the standard variety.

The bench press is one of the best compound exercises to build muscle definition and strength. It's part of a group of exercises called the Big Three Lifts; this also includes the deadlift and weighted squat. Add the bent-over row and the overhead press to the mix, and you get the best full-body workout known to man.

But back to the Nilsson press. I was idly browsing T-Nation (opens in new tab) when I came across this workout, and it piqued my interest straight away. As explained in the article, you perform the Nilsson press by hooking a couple of resistance bands on a barbell loaded with a couple of small weight plates.

Then, you loop your arms in the bands on each side and perform the exercise. By having the resistance bands pulling against your elbows, you naturally try and draw them, reducing the pressure on the shoulders. Funnily enough, this is how you are supposed to perform bench presses anyway, but most people let their elbows flare out; not great for shoulder health.

Nilsson press: feel the burn

Needless to say, my gut reaction was to start doing Nilsson presses straight away but I had to wait until I finished work first. Setting up the exercise was a bit fiddly as I have longer resistance bands at home so I had to loop them around the bar a couple of times to find the right length.

Working out with lighter weights always gives me the impression that I won't be pushing my limits hard enough but the Nilsson press yet again proved to me that I should be doing more sessions with lighter weights. The extra pull from the resistance bands made me perform the bench press in a way that really made my pecs burn by the end of the sets.

The caveat of the Nilsson press is that you need proper home gym equipment to be able to do it. You can loop the bands around dumbells or even adjustable dumbbells. You will also need a sturdy weight bench to rack the barbell onto in between sets.

Other than that, there is no reason why you shouldn't give the Nilsson press a go. It provides a different stimulus to your pecs than your standard barbell bench press (like how the sumo deadlift will activate different muscles to traditional deadlifts), essential for keeping on gaining muscle in the long term.

Avoid these bench press mistakes

(Image credit: Pexels)

Avoid these bench press mistakes

(Image credit: Pexels)

Avoid these bench press mistakes

(Image credit: Pexels)
Matt Kollat
Fitness Editor

Matt is T3's Fitness Editor and covers everything from smart fitness tech to running and workout shoes, home gym equipment, exercise how-tos, nutrition, cycling, and more. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar (opens in new tab) and Fit&Well (opens in new tab), and he collaborated with other fitness content creators such as Garage Gym Reviews (opens in new tab).