Pinch Press: Exercise, Variations, and How-To Guides

Pinch Press: Exercise, Variations, and How-To Guides

What Is The Pinch Press?

The pinch press, otherwise known as the plate press, is a chest exercise performed with a weighted plate using a close grip. 

Before diving into the pinch press, it’s important to visit the bench press first. The press is the foundation of all chest exercises and it comes in various forms. While usually performed on a bench, the press is a compound exercise that can be altered by varying the bench angle (incline, decline, flat) or the grip width (wide grip , close grip, pronated, etc.). As it relates to the pinch press, the focus of the exercise is going to be on grip width. 

Most close grip presses focus on keeping the hands within a few inches of each other while using a pronated (overhand) grip. The pinch press however is different. Instead of a pronated grip with dumbbells, you hold a weighted plate between both hands during the press. The plate itself runs along the center-line of your body, and both palms face each other to stabilize the weight. It likely makes more sense when you see it demonstrated, but the idea is to hold the plate between both hands as if you were “pinching” a coin between two fingers.

How To Do The Pinch Press

The plate press is a very simple exercise but most important factor besides technique is the weight you choose. Because of how you hold the plate during the press, you’re limited to how much you can push  during the actual exercise. Choose your weight wisely and perform the exercise with intensity.

  • At an adjustable bench, choose the angle you prefer to perform the pinch press (incline, flat, decline).
  • Pick a plate that is a manageable weight, or use two dumbbells that will provide intensity for multiple reps
  • Squeeze your hands together with the plate centered between them. The greater the tension you create by crushing the plates between both hands, the greater contraction you’ll feel in your chest. 
  • Keep the plate about an inch or two above your chest- this will serve as the starting position.
  • Inhale deeply and begin pushing the weight away from your body. While squeezing the plate between your hands, emphasize the squeeze in the centerline of your chest. Hold that tension even as your arms rise higher above your sternum.
  • Press the plate higher until there is a slight bend in your elbows. Hold the plate at the top of the movement for a brief moment.
  • Slowly lower the weight back to to the starting position. The plate should once again hover only a few inches above your chest before beginning the next rep. If at any point you feel your grip slipping, put the plate down immediately until you re-establish your grip.
  • Repeat for reps.

The Issue With The Pinch Press

Before I criticize the exercise, I do believe the concept of the pinch press has merit. The idea of the movement is to keep constant tension on the chest by squeezing the pecs together as you fully extend your arms in front of your body. The real issue is when you try performing this exercise standing up. You will feel the tension on the chest as you stretch, but this exercise doesn’t solely isolate the chest. In order to keep your arms in front of you, the anterior delts (front of the shoulders) has to stabilize the humerus the entire time. 

If your goal is to work the front delts, then by all mean, perform the standing pinch press.

However if chest development is really what you’re aiming for, using an incline or flat bench will take the majority of the shoulders out and target the chest much more. You’ll get the same benefits of keeping constant tension on the chest in addition to gravity working in your favor.

How To Do A Standing Pinch Press

  • Choose two plates that are light enough to hold out in front of you, but heavy enough to perform challenging reps with.
  • Stand straight with your chest high and your shoulders packed, emphasizing the natural arch of the spine.
  • With your feet hip width apart , press two plates together between both hands directly in  front of the chest’s midline.
  • Bring both the plate and your hands within an inch of your chest. Be sure to bend your elbows a little lower than shoulder height. This will be your starting position.
  • In a fluid, controlled motion extend your arms away from the body. Keep them parallel with the floor at all times; do not allow them to sag as a result of gravity.
  • With a slight bend in your elbows and your arms nearly fully extended, hold the weight in front of you briefly. Feel the contraction in your anterior delt and upper chest as they fight against gravity to hold the plates up. 
  • After a brief moment, slowly bring the weight back towards the midline of your chest. Control your arms in the process, until the plates are once again an inch away from your chest. Repeat the prior steps for reps.

Pinch Press Variations

What we’re looking for with pinch press alternatives are  exercises that stimulate the muscles of the inner chest and anterior delts. Although there are many types of presses, when targeting the aforementioned muscles, it’s important to consider two things: the hands in relation to the midline of the chest and the angle of the exercise. The more upright the angle of the press, the more the shoulders are activated as they extend the arms forward. The closer the hands are to the centerline of the chest, the greater the contraction in the center chest. The exercises below are great examples that will work one or both of the target muscles specifically.

Close Grip Dumbbell Press

  • Before starting the exercise, find an adjustable flat bench. The press can be done horizontally or at an incline, it just depends on your preference.
  • Take a pair of dumbbells and lay back against the bench. Hold the dumbbells together so that they’re making contact with one another. Your hands should be within a few inches of each other and about an inch above your chest. This will be your starting position.
  • With a deep inhale, begin pressing the dumbbells away from the body. Make sure the dumbbells stay in contact with one another throughout the movement. 
  • Continue to press upward until there is a slight bend in the elbows and your arms are almost fully extended. Hold this position briefly as you feel the contraction in your chest. Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the starting position, keeping the weights centered above the middle chest. 
  • Once the dumbbells are right above the chest, hold for a moment and repeat the same process for reps.

Standing Cable Front Raise

  • Adjust the cable to the lowest setting, just at the base of the ankles. Choose a straight bar attachment that’s about shoulder width.
  • Stand a few inches away from the pulley with your back turned to it. Make sure your feet are centered between the attachment.
  • Grab the bar and pull it through your legs. The bar should be resting in front of your thighs, your arms straight and shoulder width apart, and the cable running through your legs and back behind you to the cable machine.
  • Standing tall, begin raising both arms upward. Keep them straight and fully extended until they are at shoulder height. 
  • Squeeze the front delts at the top and hold this position briefly. This will create the ideal amount of tension in the shoulders as they fight against gravity to keep the arms up.
  • Begin to slowly lower the bar back to the starting position. Control the negative and fight the urge to let gravity pull the weight down.
  • Once the bar is nearly touching your thighs, hold briefly to prevent the weight from resting completely on your legs. Raise your arms once again towards your shoulders and repeat the exercise for reps.

Diamond Push Ups

  • First arrange your hands so that each index finger, middle finger, and thumb are touching one another on the corresponding  hand. This will create a diamond shape in between both hands.
  • Assume the push up position. Place your hands directly in the middle of the chest, keep your hips, torso, and neck aligned, all while keeping a bend in your elbows. This will be your starting position.
  • Press your body away from the floor, making sure your hands maintain contact with each other the entire time.
  • When your arms are fully extended, begin lowering your body back to the starting position. Your torso should be a few inches above the floor before repeating the process. 

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