Why The Guillotine Press Is One Of The Most Powerful Chest Exercises

The guillotine press (aka neck press) was the only form of the bench press that was recommended by the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda.

It was also the only form of bench press that the first ever Mr Olympia, Larry Scott, ever did.

Check out the bodies on these guys:

Vince Gironda And Larry Scott
Both Iron Guru, Vince Gironda, and first ever Mr Olympia winner, Larry Scott (trained by Vince), used the guillotine press instead of the regular bench press, or any other form of bench press for that matter.

When I started out doing the regular ol' bench press, I did all sorts of different variations and got no results.

I tried the flat, incline and decline bench presses, I tried narrow and wide-grip bench presses, partial-rep bench presses, lifting heavy weights and light weights, I also tried different rep ranges and sets…

…but nothing I tried seemed to work.

My chest muscles were invisible – I couldn't see them or feel them – the only thing you could see on my chest were my man boobs!

And this despite going to the gym and working out relentlessly for over 10 years.

Everything changed for me the day I found out about the Iron Guru, Vince Gironda. I talk about Vince in this article, where I explain why you should probably listen to every piece of advice Vince had to offer.

I told you in that article how Vince was reported to have thrown out every bench in his Gym, and replaced them with dipping stations.

Now this may not have been entirely true, because there was one variation of the bench press that Vince did like – “the guillotine press”.

The guillotine press involves bringing the weight down to your neck, while flaring your elbows out to the sides.

Vince realized that this kind of movement stimulates the fan-shaped pectoralis major muscle of the chest better than the regular bench press, better than almost any other exercise for that matter.

And I would listen to this guy if I were you, because Vince had an unusually advanced understanding of the anatomy of the human musculoskeletal system and exercise dynamics.

He was obsessed with natural muscle growth and fat loss without using steroids like most professionals do today. He put this obsession to work for 50 long years, while he trained thousands of people at his gym.

So if Vince says the guillotine press stimulates your pecs better than the bench press, then I'm doing the guillotine press.

Proof From EMG Studies

Now just like many of Vince's other theories, the latest research using electromyogram (EMG) studies show that Vince was right all along.

In a recent EMG experiment whose results were published over at T-Nation.com, strength coach Bret Contreras compared 20 different chest exercises to see which ones best stimulated the lower, middle and upper portions of the pectoralis major muscle of the chest.

Contreras came across some interesting results.

He found that dumbbell bench presses generally activated those chest muscles better than barbell presses.

He also found that the guillotine press beat the hell out of every other form of chest exercise, stimulating more upper, middle and lower pec fibers than any other exercise (aside from weighted dips of course).

The reason the guillotine press is so good at activating the pecs is that by flaring your elbows out and lowering the bar to your neck, you are stimulating those pectoral fibers along their line of axis, allowing them to contract optimally.

See how in the picture below, the pectoral fibers fan out horizontally from the sternum at the midline of your chest, to the top part of the upper arm bone (the humerus).

When you fan your elbows out and lower the weight to your neck, the movement is in line with these fibers, allowing both optimal stretching and optimal activation of these fibers.

Pec Fibers Line Of Axis
The pectoral fibers fan out horizontally from the sternum to the upper humerus (arrows). The guillotine press directs the contraction path in accordance to the orientation of these fibers, making it a superior chest exercise to the regular bench press.

If you're looking to save time and want to do just one exercise for the chest, then the guillotine press is an excellent choice, since it provides surprisingly good activation of all fibers throughout the lower, middle, and upper chest.

There's no need to do the decline, flat, and incline bench presses, the guillotine bench press truly is a 3 in 1.

The advantage that the guillotine press has over dips, is you can do the guillotine press on a bench – you don't need a dipping station.

Also, since the guillotine press isn't a bodyweight exercise, you can more easily adjust the weight, and you can start out with lighter weights as a beginner.

“I remember the day I switched from doing regular bench presses to doing the guillotine press. I didn't think much of it at first – it was a strain on my shoulders and I couldn't handle as heavy a weight as I could on the regular bench press. But the next day, my entire chest was sore as hell!

That was a sure-fire sign that the guillotine press was stimulating my chest in ways that the regular bench press never could.”

…Ted Barnes

Over time the strain in Ted's shoulders went away.

See, the biggest problem with the regular bench press is it uses too much of the front deltoid muscles in the shoulders.

With the guillotine press, your arms are positioned in a way that minimizes the use of the front deltoids and maximizes the use of the pectoralis major of the chest.

The reason you feel a strain in your shoulders during the guillotine press, is because your shoulders are acting as stabilizers.

Admittedly, with your elbows flared out, your shoulders are in a weak position, so it will take some time for your shoulders to adjust.

Start with a light weight, and progressively increase the weight as your shoulders become stronger in this position.

If you have any shoulder issues – AC joint pain, rotator cuff issues, etc, then please seek medical advice before you do this exercise.

How To Perform The Guillotine Press

Like I said, start out with a light weight so you don't get a shoulder injury. It's also important to have a spotter with you, since you are lowering the weight to your neck – don't let yourself get guillotined by the bar, eh?

  • Grasp the bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder width apart. Hold the bar in front of you with your arms fully extended.
Guillotine Press Top
  • While inhaling, slowly lower the weight to your neck until the bar is almost touching your neck. Your elbows should be flared out, with your elbows and upper arms directly beneath the bar.
  • Slowly push the weight away from your neck, back to the starting position while exhaling.
  • Hold for a brief moment and repeat.
Guillotine Press Bottom To Neck

You can either plant your feet on the floor, or raise them up like in the picture below.

A lot of people find raising their feet to be more comfortable, because it reduces the arch of the lower back.

By raising your feet and reducing the arch of your lower back, you also change your posture in a way that makes the exercise target more of your upper chest.

This is the way Vince Gironda recommended you do it.

Guillotine Press Feet Raised
Guillotine press for upper chest with feet raised

Guillotine Press Video

Blast Those Pec Fibers With The Neck Press

How To Use The Guillotine Press To Maximize Chest Development

Use slow and controlled movements, being sure to lower the weight slower than you lift it.

Remember, muscle microtrauma happens when you lower the weight with gravity, so slowing down the pace here can earn you lots of extra muscle.

For perfect square pec development, like that of Vince Gironda and Larry Scott, it's important to:

  • do the right number of reps and sets;
  • rest long enough to allow your muscles to recover, but not so long that you lose the cumulative hypertrophic effect;
  • use progressive resistance, good form, the right antagonizing exercises, and much more – all of which I reveal in the Chest Sculpting Blueprint.

You can learn more about this program here:



The guillotine press is a powerful exercise that very few people know about. EMG studies have shown that it stimulates more of the pectoralis major muscle than any other bench press variation.

An especially important benefit is that the guillotine press stimulates all three portions of the pecs – lower, middle and upper – surprisingly well. This is very important for guys who are looking to build that unstoppable-looking chest.

Building the chest out in every direction to really get that wide, stone-slab-like appearance, is also a powerful method that helps reduce the appearance of excess chest fat and man boobs.

Click the following link to discover how to use exercises like the guillotine press (and some other, chest exercises that are just as powerful) to help get rid of chest fat, get rid of man boobs, and build a powerful, unstoppable, muscular chest:


17 thoughts on “Why The Guillotine Press Is One Of The Most Powerful Chest Exercises”

  1. Hello, a thought for you. The neck press I feel builds mostly the mid upper outer area, now if you are trying to build, isolate the upper inner portion to me what works better is using the football bar, turning it upside down and doing a reverse angled grip 30 degree incline press,which is more shoulder flexion. What also fills out the inner portion of the whole chest more is using a 2 inch thick cambered bench bar, over hand grip and reverse grip to get a deeper fuller pec stretch, this has been building my chest better fuller more mass. The football bar should be 2 inch thick as well watsongymequipment sells this specialist bar someone should do a emg study comparing all 3 reverse angled football bar incline cambered bar pronate and reverse grip and the neck press done on the bench and the floor, would be very interesting it someone out there could do this.

  2. ive been lifting for 25 years and this is the first ive heard of it. im not going to stop regular benching but will def give this a try as a supplement exercise

    • Hi Jason

      Be prepared to lift a slightly lower weight than you normally do when benching. The neck press with elbows flared places your shoulders in a weaker position. But since your shoulder joint is largely controlled by the pectoralis major of the chest, this weak positioning is just what this muscle needs for optimal stimulation.

      Do let us know how you get on :p.

  3. The secret is full stretch and angles, and the right grip width. This will build a broad thick full chest.

    Secret exercises:

    #1. Cambered bar flat bench press.
    #2. Cambered bar decline bench press 30 degree.
    #3. Incline 45 degree shoulder width grip use special swiss bar.
    #4. Decline dumbbell fly 30 degree.
    #5. Decline two dumbbell pullovers 30 degree.
    #6. Flat two dumbbell pullovers. You will become thick and full doing this. You need two special bars – cambered bar and swiss bar.

    Note doing barbell press on the 3 angles is better for mass then dumbbells why because you will use less stabilizer and can keep your form nice and even. Let me know how you like my mass and shape workout.

    • Thanks for the input Roc. It would be great if someone tried this workout out and got back to us. The cambered bar is an excellent bench press variation, in that it allows you to lower your hands beneath the level of your chest, so you get a deeper stretch in your pecs.

      As a beginner, I would suggest you stick to just one or two chest exercises. Once you have a decent amount of muscular development on these exercises, you can then play around with hitting the chest from different angles using different exercises like Roc has suggested.

  4. Hi Garry

    I’ve started your program 2 weeks ago and I saw great results in the first 2 weeks. I was leaning up everywhere besides my chest. Also when I have bread or rice that tight hard look goes away. I went with no bread or rice but on 1 occasion when I have it, I feel bloated. Can you advise me on what I should do.

    • Hi Abidemi. Different people will respond to a particular exercise in different ways. Some people find they end up with big pecs no matter what chest exercise they do. The only way to know how an exercise will affect you is to do it and see how it goes, then to change things up and test and tweak. There are some basic guidelines you can follow though, and I talk about this in my Chest Sculpting program, especially in the Advanced Series.

      As a general rule, narrow-grip compound chest exercises work on the thickness of your pecs, while the wide grip variation works on the width of your chest. So to work on chest WIDTH using the guillotine press, I would use a wide grip. A better exercise for increasing the width of your chest is the chest dip.


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