If you are performing a moderate-intensity workout (i.e., 60% of a 1-RM) on the bench, placing your feet in the air can cause greater muscle activation. When using a heavier-weight bench press, it's best to place your feet on the ground for safety reasons. If you want to focus on greater chest activation during the bench press, try placing your feet in the air.
STUDY EXAMINES FEET UP BENCH PRESS CHEST MUSCLE ACTIVATION
FEET UP BENCH PRESS SUMMARY
- Benching with the feet in the air resulted in greater chest muscle activation.
- The chest, the anterior deltoid, and triceps showed the most muscle activation in the bench press exercise but placing your feet in the air resulted in greater activation of these muscle groups.
- We don’t know if benching with your feet in the air leads to greater muscle growth.
Changes in bench press kinematics can cause increased muscle activation. For example, the free weight and smith machine bench press caused greater activation of the triceps than the dumbbell bench press, whereas the dumbbell bench press caused greater activation of the biceps than the free and smith machine bench press. Muscle activity in the biceps increased with stability requirements (i.e., Dumbbells > barbell > Smith Machine), while triceps brachii activity was reduced using dumbbells versus barbell and dumbbells versus Smith machine.
The three different exercises noted no differences in the chest or anterior deltoid muscle activation. The researchers suggested that the increased instability of performing dumbbell chest exercises resulted in greater muscular activation of the biceps to stabilize the joint. (1) Instability devices such as doing a bench press on a Swiss Ball have been found to result in no greater muscle activation of the chest than performing a traditional dumbbell press. (2, 3)
ARE THE FEET UP BENCH BETTER FOR CHEST ACTIVATION?
Many people will often do a flat bench press with their feet in the air to increase muscle activation of the chest. In a previous study, muscle activation of the chest and triceps performed on a stable bench press was greater than on unstable surfaces.(4) Researchers measured muscle activation of the chest, arms, shoulders, abs, etc. The subjects had electrodes placed all over their chest and arms, as documented in the study below.