High Performance Exercises You Should be Doing: 1-1-2 Bench Press

April 28, 2015

About the Author: Eric Bach

You’re extremely busy, I get that. So I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say:

Training efficiency is key to building a strong, athletic body on your terms. There is no perfect routine.

Especially when have a hectic schedule that changes on a whim, leaving you short on time and frustrated with your training.

Most times, something has to go, whether it’s your soft tissue work, mobility training, core training (no, squats and deads aren’t enough), or volume to build muscle.

high performance exercises

Photo credit: http://bodybuilding-wizard.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/dumbbell-incline-bench-press-exercise.jpg

Fortunately, some exercises are better than others and provide an ultra-efficient training session to maximize training.

When it comes to exercise selection a few deciding factors come into play:

1) How efficient is the exercise? Is it a compound exercise that trains multiple aspects and fits within the time constraints of your busy schedule?

2) Does the exercise fit your goal? Whether you’re looking to improve performance, shred body fat, or build muscle does it fit the bill and make sense?

3) Does it provide a stimulus you’re body is lacking for health, such as creating a strong cardiovascular response, create anti-rotation or anti-flexion core stress?

These are but a few questions to ask when incorporating a new exercise into your routine, but they provide an in-depth view on whether an exercise truly fits the demands of your goal, allowing you to train efficiently and get results faster.

In other words, the exercise is specific to getting you strong, shredded, and athletic on your terms.
If you want a strong, resilient core, a thick muscular chest, and symmetrical strength then the 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press deserves a spot in your training.

Sure, floor presses, regular dumbbell bench presses, push-ups, and close grip bench presses are all fantastic  exercises that make up the brunt of high-performance training programs. They’re a great way to build upper body strength with a massive set of triceps and pecs.

Problem is, multi-dimensional exercises that train the trunk, as well as unilateral exercises are non-existent in most programs.
Lets change that with the 1-1-2 bench press, a compound exercise combined with unilateral training stimulus to maximize training efficiency.

How To:

1) The 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press is simple—hold two dumbbells over your chest as if performing a regular dumbbell press.

2) With your left arm extended, lower the right dumbbell to your chest and perform a single arm press while keeping your eyes on the locked out dumbbell.

3)At the top of the press, alternate by holding your right arm fully extended and perform a press with your left arm.

4) Once at the top, perform one regular, dumbbell bench press with both arms.
All of that is one rep, hence the name 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press.

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Vital Notes:
– Feet flat on the ground to improve stability. If you won’t you could find yourself cork-screwing off the bench.

– Keep your eyes on the extended arm to prevent losing control with a chunk of iron over your face.
– Always use a spotter, with them spotting at the wrist of the support arm and watching the moving arm.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “what the hell… that sure is a lot of work for one measly rep.”

You’re right, it is. The benefits fat outweigh the moderate complexity of the exercise.


Luckily, you’re not the average gym rat—you relish a challenge, especially a challenge that builds a jacked, resilient body and mind.

The 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press is a unilateral and bilateral exercise in one. Not only do you get the progressive overload of a typical press to build strength, you get unilateral stress to increase motor unit recruitment for building strength and muscle while reinforcing stability in the shoulder combined with a major anti-rotation stress on the contralateral side of the core to keep you on the bench.
Equally as important, this is a great exercise to weed out muscular imblances between the left or right side.

So here’s what you get:

A huge challenge to the chest, triceps, and shoulders to work concurrently with the trunk to both generate movement through the upper body and prevent rotation through the trunk—a hugely efficient training stimulus to get #gainz.

Furthermore, 1-1-2 dumbbell bench presses are an extended set exercise, creating a long time under-tension to build high performance muscle.

How to Incorporate the 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press:

The beauty of the 1-1-2 dumbbell bench press is its awesome efficiency. While it’s too much for most beginners, most experienced lifters capable of concentrating on lifting rather than pickin’ up girls should incorporate the lift as an auxiliary hypertrophy exercise or finisher.

Because the demands for stability and time under tension are great, it’s best to drop the weight at least 30% from where you would normally lift for a given number of reps. In other words, if you press 100lb dumbbells for 6 reps, drop the weight to 70lbs max or so. In this case, conservative is better while you get your feet wet with the exercise.

Tweet: Check out this awesome new bench press method from @Eric_Bach http://bit.ly/1QFcWpr #training #strengthCheck out this awesome new bench press method from @Eric_Bach http://bit.ly/1QFcWpr #training #strength

Auxiliary /hypertrophy programming:
– 3 sets of 5-6 reps after your main power and strength work with a moderate resistance.

As a finisher, pick anywhere from 8-12 reps, which equals out to 24-30 reps total and a brutal time under tension of 60-90 seconds to add slabs of muscle to your chest, shoulders, and triceps.

As a Finisher:
-2×12 reps at the end of a workout will destroy your chest, triceps, shoulders, and obliques. I promise :).

Wrap Up:

As I alluded to above, as you lower and press the weight on one side the offset loading is really going challenge your “core” to fire and to keep the body steady on the bench throughout the duration of the set without falling off.

In addition, the unilateral exercise will improve motor unit recruitment, stave away imbalances, and build massive amounts of athletic muscle.

Photo Credit: http://bodybuilding-wizard.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/dumbbell-incline-bench-press-exercise.jpg

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