The barbell bench press is a staple exercise in any upper body workout routine, with bodybuilders using it to build their chest muscles and powerlifters using it as a competitive lift. However, relying solely on the bench press can lead to a plateau in progress and muscle growth. That’s why smart lifters incorporate a variety of chest exercises, using different angles, training tools, and grip-widths, to keep their muscles challenged and growing.
A recent addition to this variety of exercises is the Larsen Press. This exercise is a variation of the standard bench press, but it requires athletes to lift their feet off the ground while pressing, eliminating the leg drive which is a major contributor of force in the standard bench press. The Larsen Press has gained popularity among lifters for its ability to target the chest muscles in a different way and provide a new challenge to the workout.
When incorporating the Larsen Press into a workout program, it is best to use it as a variation to the standard bench press, and to include it in a periodized training program. It’s important to be careful when performing the exercise and start with a light weight before progressing to heavier loads.
In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about the Larsen Press, including how to perform the exercise, the benefits it provides, and when to include it in your workout program. Whether you’re a bodybuilder looking to sculpt your chest or a powerlifter looking to improve your bench press, the Larsen Press is a valuable addition to your upper body exercise arsenal.
What Is A Larsen Press?
The Larsen Press is a variation of the Feet Up Bench Press, in which the legs are positioned to the sides of the bench while suspended above the ground. It was introduced by Adrian Larsen, a powerlifting specialist known for his expertise in bench press.
Adrian Larsen, born with dislocated hips and club feet, had to undergo multiple surgeries in his early years, and was advised by his doctors to wear leg braces full-time. However, he decided to pursue sports and eventually found himself in the weight room working on his strength and athleticism. He first competed in powerlifting as a sophomore in high school.
How To Do Larsen Press
To perform the Larsen Press, you will begin by setting up for the exercise in a similar way to how you would set up for a competition-style bench press. This includes positioning yourself on the bench and un-racking the barbell.
Once you are set up, it is important to ensure that you are stable before lifting your feet up off the floor. As you do this, you should focus on creating tension throughout your entire body, including your legs. Here are the steps on how to do this exercise.
- Begin by positioning yourself on the bench in a standard bench press setup, with an arch that is typically less than usual.
- Before starting the exercise, focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and creating tension in your upper back and arch.
- If you do not have a spotter, unrack the weight before lifting your legs. If you have a spotter, you can unrack the weight after lifting your legs.
- Once the weight is over your body, raise your feet off the ground by keeping your legs straight or by placing them on an object.
- Lower the barbell towards your chest while keeping your core tight and maintaining your upper back arch and scapular retraction.
- Pause briefly at the bottom of the movement, and then press the barbell back up to the starting position.
- Repeat for desired reps, making sure to keep proper form throughout the movement.
Larsen Press Pro Tips
It’s important to note that the weight used for the Larsen press should be lighter than the weight used for traditional bench press as the legs are not involved in the movement and the core muscles have to work harder to maintain stability throughout the movement.
It’s also important to use a spotter or use a safety rack for this exercise to ensure safety. Also, keep a mental focus on the muscle group you are working and do not sacrifice form for weight. The Larsen press is a challenging exercise that can help to target the chest muscles in a different way and improve stability.
What Are The Benefits Of Larsen Press?
The Larsen press has several benefits that can help you take your upper body training to the next level.
Improved Upper Body Force Production
First off, the Larsen Press can help you produce more force with your upper body. Since the legs are out of the equation, your upper body has to work harder to move the weight, which can help you improve your bar path and force production. And when you add your legs back in, you’ll be able to utilize both your upper and lower body more effectively. There are studies that reiterate the benefits of using variations in the bench press during training which may reduce stress on shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Another benefit of the Larsen Press is that it can help improve your form. The limitation of the legs forces you to maintain a stronger set position with your upper back on the bench press. So, if you’re someone who struggles to keep their upper back tight during bench press sets, the Larsen Press can be a great way to work on that.
Increased Pec, Tricep, and Shoulder Strength
The Larsen Press is also a great way to increase the relative intensity on your pecs, triceps, and shoulders without adding more weight to the bar. Plus, it’s a great option for athletes looking to improve their time under tension and muscle hypertrophy.
Building Mass and Hypertrophy
In addition to these benefits, the Larsen Press can also help you build more muscle mass and hypertrophy during your off-season training.
Building Core Stability and Tension
The Larsen press can help you improve your core stability and tension while lifting heavier loads, which can help you prevent bar tilt and instability during your bench press.
Why You Should Do Larsen Press
Larsen Press is a variation of the bench press that is self-limiting, meaning it reduces the absolute load while maintaining higher relative intensities. This allows you to lift lighter weights while still exerting significant effort, making it an ideal choice during periods of higher volume training to manage workloads and reduce the risk of injury.
Increased Range of Motion and Chest Development
By removing leg drive in the Larsen Press, it increases the demand for added range of motion and places a greater emphasis on the pectoral muscles. This makes it beneficial for bench pressers seeking to enhance chest development and work on hypertrophy with a more challenging range of motion.
Improved Stability and Oblique Activation
The Larsen Press demands greater lateral stability by removing leg support, placing more burden on the oblique muscles. These often-neglected stabilizers play a crucial role in controlling side-to-side rib cage movement and enhancing shoulder stability, contributing to better overall bench press performance.
Reinforced Chest Position
With leg drive absent, the back extensor muscles become responsible for maintaining an elevated rib cage position during the Larsen Press. The cue to “reach the chest to the bar” reinforces good stability and a strong shelf to pause on, which translates back to the Competition Bench Press.
Simplified Focus and Technique
Unlike the Competition Bench Press, the Larsen Press simplifies the bench press movement by focusing primarily on the upper body musculature. It allows lifters to concentrate more on upper body positioning, reducing form breakdown and making it easier to reset during higher rep sets.
Larsen Press can serve as a work-around for issues with commercial gym benches that do not meet the height requirements of competition benches. Since your feet are off the floor during the Larsen Press, the bench height becomes less of a factor, allowing lifters to train effectively even with suboptimal equipment setups.
When To Do Larsen Press
Purpose of the Exercise
Before incorporating the Larsen Press into your workout routine, it is important to consider your intent and goals. The exercise can be used in different ways, including as an accessory, finisher, or main movement.
The Larsen Press can be an effective tool to improve your bench press technique. Using tempos and pauses can help focus on specific areas of technique and form. An example of this could be using a pause bench press for 3 sets of 5 reps at 80% of your 1-rep max, followed by 3 sets of 8 reps at 60% of your 1-rep max using a Larsen Press with a 4110 tempo.
The Larsen Press can also be a great finisher after a bench press workout to increase volume and target the chest, triceps, and shoulders. An example of this could be 5 sets of 3 reps at 85% of your 1-rep max with a traditional bench press, followed by an AMRAP (as many reps as possible) set at 65% of your 1-rep max using a Larsen Press.
The Larsen Press can also be used as a main movement for building upper body strength. If you want to avoid leg drive, the Larsen Press can be a great option. An example of this could be 4 sets of 8 reps at 70% of your 1-rep max with the Larsen Press.
It ultimately comes down to your goals and why you want to incorporate the Larsen Press into your workout routine. It’s a great way to change things up and challenge your upper body in a new way.
The Larsen Press VS Feet Up Bench Press: What’s The Difference?
While the Larsen press and the feet up bench press may seem similar, there are some key differences between the two exercises. The Larsen press involves lifting the feet off the ground and hovering them above the bench, while the feet up bench press involves resting the feet on the bench.
One of the main benefits of the Larsen press is that it helps to increase core stability and tension in the obliques, which is not as heavily emphasized in the feet up bench press. This makes the Larsen press a great option for those looking to improve their overall stability and core strength while bench pressing.
It’s important to note that the Larsen press can be more challenging for beginners and those new to lifting, as it requires a higher level of technique and control. As a result, it may be more beneficial for these individuals to start with the feet up bench press before progressing to the Larsen press.
The Larsen Press is a unique and challenging variation of the traditional bench press that can offer a number of benefits for athletes looking to improve their upper body strength and technique. By eliminating the use of leg drive, the Larsen Press forces the upper body to produce more force and maintain proper form, which can lead to greater muscle activation and hypertrophy in the chest, triceps, and shoulders.
Additionally, the Larsen Press can also help to improve core stability and tension, making it a valuable addition to any powerlifting or bodybuilding program. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the Larsen press can be unsafe for beginner lifters to attempt before building up the proper technique, strength, and cueing for the movement. It’s also important to consider your overall goal and intent before incorporating the Larsen Press into your training routine.
Rahul is a sports and performance consultant. Over the course of his 15-year career in the fitness sector, he has held positions as a strength and conditioning instructor, gym owner, and consultant.
He is deeply committed to assisting people in finding happiness and feeling good about themselves.
Rahul has a master’s degree in exercise science and is a certified NSCA CSCS and CISSN.