How to Add More to Your Bench Press
“How much do you bench?!”
If you had a penny every time you lied through your teeth as you answered that question, you’d probably have enough for another year of gym membership.
It may seem like an odd phenomenon but there are those who feel compelled to add 20, 30 or even 50 kg (lbs if you’re into that) to their actual, true max lift whenever they are faced with the “bench” question.
Most of the time their maximum bench press weight isn’t that bad at all, but somehow they feel that they still suck at the bench.
For gym rats and weightlifting enthusiasts the bench press has immortalized itself as the ultimate gauge of upper body strength. Everyone who regularly goes to the gym, no matter how hard they try to deny it, wants to have a bigger bench.[showmyads]
The problem is that everyone gets stuck at a bench press plateau at some point during their training. It happens to even the best lifters and no matter how hard you try, each time you attempt to add a five or ten pounds to the bar, chances are it’ll remain stuck to your chest and you’ll be crying to your spotter for mercy.
Before you lose some dignity when someone dares you to press the barefaced max bench lie, the following tips can help you turn that mythical bench into reality.
- Blast your triceps. Bench press monster Scot Mendelson said that the muscles that do most of the lifting in a bench press are the triceps and the lats. While some may have their own opinions about the matter, they can’t say that to Scot’s face. How can you argue with a guy who presses 700 pounds raw and 1000 pounds with a bench shirt? So do some extra work with skull crushers, kickbacks and close grip presses. Forget the cables as they won’t be much help.
- Fire up your lats. In line with what Scot said, the lower lats will help your bench. Some experience difficulties in getting the bar off their chest and stronger lats will help fix this. Bent over rows and seated lower cable pulls will help strengthen your lower lateral muscles.
- Train for explosiveness. It’s called dynamic-effort training. Trying not to make it sound too complicated, the idea is to train your bench pressing muscles with amped speed once a week. You load the bar with about 70% of the maximum weight you can lift and then press it as fast as you can for 3 reps and do it for 8 sets. This trains the muscles to have more explosive power.
- Max out your bench. One of the best ways to increase your bench pressing power is to allow 1 day per week for four weeks of maximum lift training. This is done by pressing the heaviest weight you can lift for 1 to 3 reps. Maximum lift training should not be done for more than four consecutive weeks as progress usually halts after that point.
- Add air to the core. Unless you have been living in a cave for the past decade, you may already have heard about the importance of the core muscles and core strength. The core will help you stabilize your bench to eliminate wobbling and injury potential. Don’t neglect your abs in your workout routine.
- Breath properlyForget the common advice on breathing in on negatives and out when you push. When you’re pressing at your limits you want to breathe deeply into your belly on the negative and hold it in there as you press off your chest. Blow out all the air on lock out, give yourself a few more reserves of oxygen, then do it all over again for the next rep.
- Get a grip. One should use a full grip when bench pressing. Try experimenting with different widths of gripping the bar, but most people lift more with a wider grip as opposed to a narrow one. Middle finger right on the ring of the bar is ideal for most body sizes.
- Mind your technique. Keep the shoulder blades together. Keep your hips on the bench. Keep your feet flat on the floor right below your glutes (also read up on leg drive). Press low on your chest. Keep the elbows tucked. Admit it. You have at some point cheated on these. You keep the form, your max weight will improve.
- Mind the minder. Most will attest to the fact that they can bench a good 10 to 20 pounds in addition to their max just by having someone watch over them. It’s best to have a spotter as you press. Not only will the spotter help you improve your max lifts, he can also save you from a world of hurt. If a spotter is unavailable make sure you’re using a bench with safety bars.
- Mind the mind. Never underestimate the power of the mind. Believing you can lift a bar off your chest is better than doubting whether you can. So talk to yourself. Psyche yourself up. Don’t overdo it though, as you may end up with more than just a hurt ego.
Keep these techniques and you’ll never have to lie about your bench again.
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