The Best Chest Exercise That You Aren’t Doing

* Maybe. Disclaimers are involved.

A relic of an older time, the Guillotine Press, is a polarizing movement. On one hand, it is undeniable in how effective of an exercise it is for activating your pectoral muscles. And on another hand, it could be viewed as a high risk, high reward type scenario that maybe you don’t want to entertain for the sake of your own joint health.

If you have been in a gym once or twice, you have likely found your way over to the bench press. Not only is the bench press one of the most effective strength training methods to build muscle in the upper body, its also the most effective exercise to leverage when bragging to your buddies about how strong you are. Sure, some folks SAY that squats are the king of all lifts, but nobody likes talking about it. After all, pecs for the sex, and if squats were really as cool as anyone said there would be a rhyme for it.

If you have a solid foundation of basic barbell training, there may be a point where you explore variations of movements. Ideally you have a good foundation in terms of effectively executing the basic motor patterns, and you have good neuro-muscular development that enables effective motor unit recruitment. These fundamentals are essential before branching out into the more specific and more focused movements, and especially movements that present higher risk if performed improperly. And it is important to note, this is a high risk, high reward movement. Be careful, but see great results.

The Guillotine Press

This movement is performed on a bench press, somewhat similar but somehow entirely different. It becomes different due to shoulder and elbow position during the lift, which in turn results in a different bar path.


  • The new shoulder position during this lift removes much of the work performed
  • You will achieve an outstanding pump in the chest


  • The new shoulder position puts your shoulders at a disadvantageous position, which increases risk of injury if the movement is not properly controlled.
  • Bar path lands right over your neck (hence the name “guillotine press”) which could result in injury if the bar is dropped

Risk Mitigation

Approaching lifts like this can be a very tricky topic. Often times people will think it is reckless to recommend certain lifts, or to perform them yourself. Knowledge is always key, and if you are mindful of how you are moving, as well as mindful of the risks, you can perform this safely.

  1. Weight and rep range – due to the position of your shoulders, (and due to the fact that this is a bodybuilding, pump chasing movement that requires ideal volume and rep ranges for hypertophy) you will want to keep this as a light and high rep movement. This will save stress on your rotator cuffs.
  2. Variations: This is already a variation of a bench press, but second order variations are always welcome.
      1. Incline Guillotine Press – This answer is based purely on bro science and personal preference, I feel a wide grip incline guillotine press is easier on my own shoulders than a flat guillotine press.
        1. Dumbbell Guillotine Press – The freedom of movement will allow you to guide the most comfortable path for your shoulders. This also removes the risk of the lift ACTUALLY becoming a guillotine.

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