The bench press. It’s a staple in most people’s routines even though it’s highly overrated and has mainly become an “ego” or measuring stick lift. How much can you bench, bro? If you lift weights, you have probably been asked this question a thousand times.
Here are a few things to remember:
– If you want a bigger bench, bench more. Movements are specific to movements. Increasing strength in a lift is about neuromuscular efficiency. The more you perform the lift, the more efficient you become at performing it.
– Improve your set-up and form. Most people just lay down, un-rack the bar and start benching. This is fine for a beginner but if you’ve been lifting for a while this won’t cut it. Some commons mistakes I see are people not keeping their upper back tight, having the elbows too far out to the side (they should be slightly tucked), improper breathing, no leg drive, and “pressing” over “pushing”.
– Why is pressing bad for the bench PRESS? When I say press I imagine you laying completely flat, not keeping the scapula retracted and allowing the shoulders to internally rotate as you press. This will lead to a shitty bench. Instead, keep the scapula retracted and depressed, pull the bar TO your chest and then push AWAY from the bar.
– Build your upper back. Aside from having shitty form, some people are unable to maintain tightness in the upper back during the bench press because of weakness. If you’re benching heavy weight and lose tightness in your upper back it’s over for you. For my clients I resort to extra band pull aparts, face pulls, shrugs, and row variations with isometric holds.
– Hammer your triceps. If you want to be able to press a lot of weight you might want to build one of the prime movers in the bench. Skull crushers in moderation, heavy close grip pressing, close-grip floor press or close-grip rack lockouts.
– Bench variations. At some point you will need to addresses weaknesses in your bench. If you are slow off your chest or have trouble locking out, you can improve this by tweaking the exercise selection. Floor pressing, board press, adding accommodating resistance (bands + chains), Dynamic effort bench or “speed” work, slow eccentrics, different ranges of motion, etc.
– Nutrition. Obviously diet won’t specifically just bring your bench press up but if you are trying to move heavy weight, you need to have the appropriate amount of nutrients to perform AND recover optimally. This means have some damn carbohydrates before you train! Don’t be afraid of a little sugar or higher GI carb source in that pre-workout meal.