"So mate, how much do you bench?"
If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question, I'd be a cleaning my teeth with a golden toothbrush! It seems that the obsession with the barbell bench press has been around forever.
Although there are many aspects of training, such as cardiovascular, flexibility, and nutrition, it's still the most frequently asked question in gyms across the country. I consulted with a legend of the sport, Joe DeFranco, about the bench press.
Joe, has won three national powerlifting titles and once bench-pressed 440 pounds when he weighed only 216. We compiled a top 10 list of training tips that are guaranteed to improve anyone's bench press.
1) Train the triceps. If you want to bench more, strengthen your triceps. This doesn't mean having to do set after set of push-downs, kick-backs, and other "shaping" exercises. Training your triceps for a better bench involves heavy barbell and dumbbell extensions and close-grip pressing movements.
2) Don't neglect your back. Think of your upper back as the launching pad to a better bench. A barrel chest and strong triceps are worthless if your upper back is weak.
3) Perform low-rep warm-up sets. Most people perform too many reps in their warm-up sets. This fatigues your muscles before you reach your work sets. Following is a sample warm-up for someone about to attempt a 300-pound bench press: 95 pounds, five reps; 135 pounds, five reps; 185 pounds, four reps; 225 pounds, two reps; 265 pounds, one rep; 285 pounds, one rep.
4) Rest between sets. If your main goal is to lift heavy weight, allow adequate recovery time between sets. Three to four minutes is recommended between heavy sets. The goal is to get stronger, not tired.
5) Push the bar in a straight line. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. So if you want to push up a bar-bending load of plates, choose the shortest distance.
6) Keep the elbows tucked to keep the bar directly above the wrists and elbows. This is probably the most important aspect of pressing technique. The elbows must be tucked at your sides to keep the bar in a straight line. You also can generate far more force with your elbows tucked instead of out.
7) Land the bar on your lower chest or upper abdominals. This is an old trick to reduce the distance the bar has to travel. This also is the only way to maintain the barbell-to-elbow position described in No. 6.
8) Take a deep breath and hold it. Greater strength and stability can be achieved in all lifts when you learn how to draw air into your belly and hold it. This is called the Valsalva maneuver. Studies have proven that the body recruits more motor units (bundles of muscle fiber) and is stronger when performing the maneuver. (Caution: This causes blood pressure to rise and then fall quickly. It should be performed only by healthy individuals during activities that last fewer than five seconds.)
9) Train with compensatory acceleration. This means to push the bar off your chest as fast as you can. Many people get stuck when the bar is 4 to 6 inches off the chest. This is called a sticking point. One way to overcome this is with speed. If you move the bar faster up to that point, you will be able to blast through the sticking point.
10) Take a break. At any gym, you'll see lines at the bench press station resembling those at lottery machines when a big drawing looms. Variety is the key to progress. Take a couple weeks off from barbell bench-pressing. During this time, work on your weak points. After addressing these weaknesses, test your bench press again. You'll be amazed at the progress you make without performing the bench press :)
Tired of little or no results?
Join the thousands of people who have discovered how my Permanent Muscle program gives you every tool required including; workouts, meal plans, exercises and more to achieve stunning muscle building results over the next 6 months.
Even more chest training information!
People in this conversation