August 21, 2021 9 min read

Even if you are not new to bodybuilding, you may have only just heard of the plate pinch press.

This is because this exercise often goes overlooked in weightlifting, but it is one that can bring you a whole myriad of benefits both aesthetic and strength-wise. In this article, you will get a chance to look at what this movement is, how it is done, why it is done, and how to fit it into your regular exercising program.

What Is The Plate Pinch Press?

The plate pinch press is a chest accessory movement that focuses on building muscle (also called hypertrophy) on your chest. It is not an exercise that requires too much weight lifting, instead of focusing on a movement that will create a deep chest burn within your inner pec muscles. Working out these inner muscles will result in a more full-looking chest.

How Do I Do The Plate Pinch Press?

It is very important to do the plate pinch press properly or you might end up working out your lats or your anterior delts instead of your pec muscles. This is why we have devised this step-by-step guide, so you can check all the movements and make sure you are doing them to the letter.

Try starting out with a lower amount of weight or only a weight plate or two, and working your way up to heavier loads once you feel comfortable that you are doing the exercise correctly.

Step 1: Grab 2 to 3 plates and squeeze them together with your palms

Barbells weight plate in gym room

You will want to start off with two 10-pound plates, as this is likely enough for a first time doing this exercise. You will squeeze them together using your palms. You can have more plates but this will make the exercise harder to do, even if the weight comes out the same as it will challenge your ability to grip.

Step 2: Bring the plates to the middle of your chest

Next, you will want to bring the plates to the middle of your chest while your fingertips are pointing away from your body, pressing your palms together as hard as you can against the plates.

Step 3: Retract your shoulder blades and keep your chest ‘up’

You need to make sure that your shoulder blades are properly retracted and that your (upper) back is not, in layman's terms, hunched over. Your chest must be up so that you are properly and fully isolating your chest muscles and not accidentally using other muscle groups such as your lats or your shoulders.

Step 4: Extend your arms forward and slightly upward

Before you do this step, you need to make sure that you are pressing your hands together against the plates as hard as you possibly can. Then, you will want to extend your arms forward - at this point, you will feel your chest working very hard, and you will want to use a controlled tempo to keep bringing your arms both up and forward. You need to make sure that you are going both forward and up, as going forward and down will be easier, but it will not work out your pec muscles nearly as much.

Step 5: Contract your chest as hard as possible

At no point during this exercise should you relax your muscles. The point of the plate pinch press is that you will have your pec muscles contracted at every turn so that your core is properly exercised. Make sure you are contracting and squeezing as hard as you can for the full duration of the movement. Also, make sure that your spine is in a neutral setting so that you are only working out your pecs and not something else.

Step 6: Reverse your arms in the exact same movement pattern 

Once your arms have been extended fully, you may start bringing the plates back to the starting position. Make sure you are not dropping your arms low, and that you are always contracting your chest muscles so that you can keep the concentration in your core.

Which Muscles Are Worked During The Plate Pinch Press?

Since the plate press is designed to isolate your chest muscles and give you a proper chest workout, there are only two muscles that you will work out doing this exercise, since these are the muscles that make up your chest:

  • Upper pecs: The upper pec constitutes the muscle fibers that are found in your clavicle (also known as the collarbone). These muscles help with shoulder flexion, which is the movement that you do on a pec fly. You can also use these muscles by doing incline bench presses.

  • Lower pecs: The lower pecs are the muscle fibers that are found on your sternum as well as your ribcage. These aid in horizontal flexion, which is the movement you do when you bring your arms overhead from the front of your body. You can also work out these muscles by doing decline bench presses.

The plate pinch press works out both of these muscles - the upper pecs are used when you are squeezing the plates together, and the lower pecs are used when you extend your arms both forward and up. You will likely feel more fatigue in your inner chest muscles rather than the outer ones as these are not often used or worked out with other kinds of compound exercises such as the bench press.

What Are The Benefits Of The Plate Pinch Press?

There are several benefits to the plate pinch press. Although you might already have a lot of exercises in your routine that include a workout of the chest, such as dumbbell bench press, dumbbell pec flys, barbell workouts, and pec deck, the plate pinch press is exclusively designed to workout your pec muscles, making it an overall more effective exercise.

Here is a quick description of all the main benefits you can get from this specific kind of workout:

1. It Is Great For Isolating The Chest Muscles

didactic board of anatomy of human muscular system

The plate pinch press is one of the only few exercises that will work out your chest muscles and only your chest muscles. Because of this reason, you will get a much more effective workout, and increase your muscle hypertrophy faster than with movements that use accessory muscles in order to work out the chest. This means that if you want better pecs, this kind of workout is better for you than if you are simply working to improve your overall strength and body.

2. Only a Low Load Is Needed

Even if you are a professional bodybuilder that is used to pressing a decent amount of weight, the plate pinch press still only requires a relatively low amount of weight. This means that not only less equipment is required, but also that this exercise is easier on your tendons, your joints, and your ligaments.

Often, workouts such as dips, overhead shoulder press, and incline bench press are much tougher on your body than the plate pinch press (not in a good way). This also means you can do this exercise more often than you do others as its recovery time is also lower.

3. It Is An Option For Training Chest Around A Shoulder Injury 

The plate pinch press can be a great way of getting around a shoulder injury since it reduces the amount of stress that is put into your joints and tissues. A lot of bodybuilders and weightlifters will experience an injury of some sort at some point in their training lives, as many athletes do, so if you find yourself with a shoulder injury, you can still train your pec muscles using the plate pinch press.

4. There Is Minimal Equipment Required

Unless you go to a very well-equipped gym every day, one of your concerns might be that you might need a lot of stuff in order to be able to do the plate pinch press. You might even be training at home right now and you might need to purchase the equipment so you are worried about the cost and maintenance.

This is yet another reason the plate pinch press is a great exercise - it requires no more equipment than two to three plates. Even if you want to combine it with other exercises the most you will need is a push-up and banded pec fly, which is also easy enough to get and maintain.

5. There Is A Low Technical Barrier

The plate pinch press, as we have seen above, is quite a simple exercise to do and understand. This means that you do not have to be an experienced bodybuilder or weightlifter in order to learn this movement, and you can start using it as soon as you would like without having to spend too much time learning it.

6. There Is More Time Under Tension For The Chest

The best thing you can do in order to increase muscle hypertrophy (the growth of muscle cells) is to increase your time under tension in every workout.

You can use the plate pinch press to have constant tension in your pec muscles for 60 to 90 seconds or even longer. This is a much longer time than you usually spend on your pec muscles when you do other chest exercises, making it a great choice for increasing hypertrophy.

What Are Some Variations Of The Plate Pinch Press?

There are two other kinds of workouts that also revolve around pinching plates - these are called the plate pinch hold and the plate pinch overhead press. Although these workouts are fairly similar to the plate pinch press, as they both work as pinch movements, they both work out different groups of muscles and therefore should not be used as a substitute for the plate pinch press.

Here is a quick rundown of how both these movements work:

  • Plate Pinch Hold: This kind of workout is quite simple to understand. All you need to do is pinch two plates together with your hands while you leave your arm straight at your side. This workout is focused on your hand strength which will be important for bettering your grip.

  • Plate Pinch Overhead Press: This workout is quite similar in motion to the plate pinch press, as you will be pinching the plates with your hands except instead of having your arms at a 90-degree angle, you will have them over your head (similar to a shoulder press). This exercise works out different muscles than the plate pinch press (it works out your front delt).

What Is A Sample Workout With The Plate Pinch Press?

We recommend that instead of doing several reps of the plate pinch press, that you instead use a sort of time-under-tension protocol. This means that you would be focusing on how long you spend actually pinching the plates together and doing a pressing movement rather than how many times you do it.

In this section, we will describe two sample workouts where you can use the plate pinch press to improve your pecs.You can add this at the end of your workout.

Workout Example #1: 

If you are focusing solely on the plate pinch press, then you can increase the time you spend on your sets every week in order to gain more muscle. Keep in mind that you should maintain the same weight for all of these weeks in order to avoid fatigue or injury.

It is never smart to overwork yourself to the point that you may not be able to perform your workouts consistently.

Here is a sample workout for the plate pinch press:

  • Week 1: 4 sets of 30-seconds 
  • Week 2: 4 sets of 40-seconds
  • Week 3: 4 sets of 50-seconds
  • Week 4: 4 sets of 60-seconds

Workout  Example #2: 

There are a lot of weight lifters that like to increase their workout by adding a cable pec fly. By doing the plate pinch press with a cable pec fly, you are essentially making the cable pec fly more arduous and therefore working out your muscles to an even greater extent.

In this case, we recommend that you keep the plate pinch press at the same level every week and increase only the cable pec fly. You still get a more difficult workout but you will not risk as many injuries or fatigue.

Here is a breakdown of how this workout would look like:

  • Week 1: Do 4 sets of 30 seconds of the plate pinch press with 4 sets of 12 to 15 reps of the cable pec fly
  • Week 2-4: Keep the same plate pinch press numbers but increase the load of the cable pec fly as much as you feel you can or is necessary

You can adjust this workout if you feel you need more sets or less, but the gist remains the same - increase the cable pec fly and maintain the plate pinch press.

Final Thoughts

Just like there is the old adage of not skipping leg day, it is also important not to forget chest day, and having special workouts just for them is a great way to do that. The plate pinch press is a fantastic way to isolate your chest muscles and increase hypertrophy.

You can add it to your regular workout routine after you are done exercising your other muscles and doing other press movements.

If you do choose to add this exercise to your routine, though, make sure that you keep it up for at least four weeks (as we mentioned above in the example workouts) so that you can actually see and reap the benefits of this workout.

And make sure you do it correctly, as not following the proper technique can make it so that you are working out your assisting muscles as well instead of isolating your chest.


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