The svend press is a somewhat controversial and lesser-known chest exercise. It’s mostly used as an at-home chest exercise and as an alternative chest exercise without a bench.
But what is a svend press? Well, it might look like a pressing exercise, but it’s actually a chest exercise that focuses on applying constant tension and isometrical work to your chest.
The exercise is done by taking a few plates and squeezing them together with your palms at your chest height and then slowly pushing your hands outwards while constantly pushing your hands against the plate.
There is a lot of controversy and questions about the actual effectiveness of this exercise. It’s also often disregarded as a chest exercise because of the major involvement of your shoulders.
In this exercise guide we will dwell deeper into the svend press and look at what muscles does it work, is it really effective, what are the benefits of using it, how to do it with proper form and technique, and finally we will take a look at some variations of it.
Muscles worked by the svend press
The svend press is quite an interesting and controversial exercise. Even when it comes to a simple question like what muscles does this exercise work, there are many discrepancies and different opinions.
Overall the fitness community and trainers can usually agree on two things. First, the exercise definitely will train your shoulders, and secondly, it will load your chest to some degree (if done right).
Your shoulders and especially your front deltoids will work isometrically throughout the exercise to keep your arms and the weight up and moving in a straight path.
Your chest muscles get their share of the load thanks to the constant squeezing and, by contracting your pecs for the whole exercise, most so when your arms are fully extended out. All of the work is done isometrically. And the muscle is eventually worn out by the constant tension.
Your arms will also receive their share of work because you are constantly squeezing the plates together. This affects mostly your biceps but also your triceps to a degree.
Primary muscles worked:
- Pectoral muscles (both the upper and lower pectoralis major)
- Front deltoids (Anterior deltoid muscle)
Secondary muscles worked:
- Middle deltoids
Svend press benefits
Many people have their share of doubts about the standing plate press, and there is a lot of chatter and controversy surrounding this exercise. Its overall effectiveness as a muscle builder might be doubtable, but the exercise still has a few benefits.
A good option for a home chest workout – Well, the svend chest press is quite a budget-friendly exercise meaning it doesn’t really need any special equipment. All you need is a heavy object to squeeze between your palms. Also, it’s one of the few chest exercises you can do without a bench.
It’s a different way to train your chest and front deltoids – Usually when we train our muscles eccentrically meaning by movement, either by pulling or pushing heavy objects. Well, the svend press trains your muscles isometrically. Basically by keeping your muscle under constant tension for a longer period of time.
Also, the svend press can be good for:
- Improving your neuromuscular communication, also known as your mind-body connection
- Fighting muscle imbalances
- Burn sets and etc
- Getting some extra blood flow going to the chest
- Overcoming a bench press plateau
As we showed above there are some benefits to the exercise but is the svend press effective? It depends a lot on the context and what you want to use it for. If you are looking for an extra chest exercise that you could do without a bench for your at-home workout routine, then maybe. If you are trying to build isometrical strength in your upper body, then yes. But if you want to build a bigger chest and effectively train your pecs, then the answer would be a definite no.
How to do the svend press
- For the first thing assemble all the required equipment. The best and most effective things to use for the exercise are two smaller-sized weight lifting plates. A single plate or a dumbbell, or even a kettlebell, can also be used.
- After you have your equipment ready assume a stance that is slightly narrower than the width of your shoulders.
- Pick up your weight next. Don’t directly grab the plates, but rather place them between your palms and squeeze them hard to keep them together.
- Next, you will have to bring the weight up to your chest with your finger pointed outwards. Hold the plates right against your chest at about the middle of it.
- Now flare your elbows a little out and raise them so they would be parallel to the ground.
- Stand tall and pull (or roll) your shoulders back and slightly squeeze your scapulae together. At the same time, push your chest a little out and up.
- Brace your core and tighten your abdominal muscles up.
- Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, push the weight out. Keep squeezing the plates as hard as you possibly can for the entire time. Slowly push the weight directly outwards from your chest until your arms are fully extended. Hold your hands extended out for a few seconds while still squeezing the plate and contracting your pecs as hard as possible.
- Now inhale again and start to bring your hands and the weight back to your chest. Remember not to rush here, the svend press is all about keeping your pecs contracted and under tension for a longer period of time. Also, while bringing your arms back, keep squeezing the weight.
- Once you reach your chest, you can relax your chest for a second and then repeat the procedure for however many repetitions you want to perform.
Tips and recommendations
- Make sure to perform a decent and thorough warm-up before starting the exercise. Remember to give a little more attention to your shoulders.
- Keep the weight pinched between your palms, and do not hold it or support it in any way with your fingers.
- When performing the svend press, try to keep your chest and pecs contracted and under tension throughout the exercise. In simpler words, keep squeezing your weight for the entire duration of the movement.
- This exercise is all about time under tension, so do not rush here and don’t move your arms too fast. The slower you go, the better. And also remember to bring them back slowly.
- Don’t overdo it with weight. As tempting as it might seem, do not start off with a heavy plate. This exercise really doesn’t need that much weight as it’s more of an isometrical exercise in nature. Also, when you use a heavier plate or a dumbbell, your form and technique will largely suffer, and you will most likely start to use other muscles to aid the movement. A heavier weight also means the effort will shift more on your shoulder muscles than your pecs.
- As this exercise is more of an isometric exercise and depends largely on time under tension, then you should keep your repetitions longer, anywhere from 10 to 20 reps.
- Keep your core engaged and your abs contracted and tight for the whole exercise.
- It’s important that you move your hands and the weight directly out on a horizontal plane. Try to move in as a straight path as possible and avoid dropping your arms, lifting them up, or swinging up and down.
- Use as comfortable and smooth plates as possible, so it would be better to press your palms against them.
- Stand tall throughout the exercise and try to move your body as little as possible. Do not sway back and forth with your body. Also, avoid leaning backward or arching your back at all costs. The main reasons for this are using too heavy weight and exhausting your shoulders too much.
- The ideal weight for this exercise is about 10 to 20 pounds. If you feel that is too much, then don’t hesitate to use lighter plates.
Svend press variation
Although the svend press might not be a very popular exercise, and to be honest, not many people even know it exists, then there are actually quite a few different variations of the exercise.
The main changes and differences between the variations are based on your body position and the equipment you use to perform it in the first place. For example, while the original version of this exercise is meant to be done while standing up, it can also be done either by lying down, kneeling, or even sitting. Also, while it’s usually performed with weightlifting plates, you can swap them out for a dumbbell, kettlebell, or even a medicine ball.
With each of these different variations, the focus of the exercise shifts, and either different muscles are being used or the muscles are trained and loaded in a different way.
Floor svend press
The pinch press – floor press hybrid is a great and much more effective way to target and of course train your chest compared to the standing version. It can be used as a great at-home bench press alternative.
In this variation, you perform the exercise while lying flat on the floor, with your weight on your chest. And again, you can use pretty much anything for this variation, be it a plate, kettlebell, a dumbbell, or even a pair of dumbbells. This exercise will allow you to use a lot more weight which means you can load your chest muscles more.
The floor svend press will focus a lot more on your whole chest muscles because it’s an upwards pushing movement from a dead stop. Also, it’s more of an eccentric exercise that depends on the movement, while the standing one is an isometrical exercise, that depends on tensions and time under tension.
The exercise places a lot less emphasis on your shoulder muscles as well.
To do the floor variation, start by lying down flat on the ground. You can bend your knees to make it a bit more comfortable and get a little extra support. Place the weight on the chest and squeeze it as hard as you can with your palms. Push your elbows a little up and towards your shoulders and try to keep them in a straight line.
Take a breath in, and as you exhale, start to push your arms up. Make sure they move in a straight path. Keep squeezing the weight and contracting your chest throughout the exercise. Once your arms are completely extended, pause the movement for a few seconds and then slowly return back down.
Other variations of the exercise:
- Dumbbell svend press – In this variation, you will be using a dumbbell or even two to perform the exercise. Using dumbbells will allow you to use more weight. It is especially good and useful while you perform the exercise lying down.
- Kneeling svend press – This version is done by kneeling down on the ground. While kneeling on the floor you will use a lot less of your core muscles. Also, it will allow you to keep your body more firm and fixed.
- Cable svend press – In this variations, you will be using cables instead of other equipment. It can be done standing up, kneeling, seated, or even while lying down. The cables will add a lot more resistance to the exercise because they will be constantly trying to pull your hands apart.
- Seated svend press – This variation is as straightforward as it sounds. It has the exact same benefits as the kneeling version.
- Incline svend press – The incline variation is done by lying down on a 30 to 45-degree bench. It will target more of your upper chest muscles and your front deltoids.
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