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Blast Your Bench Press Through The Roof: How To Do It!
Let’s face it, we all want a big bench press. There is something magical about the bench press. It's the feeling you get when you pump the chest, deltoid, and triceps up, working the weight up and down.
There's no other feeling like preparing for a large bench press, getting your mind and body ready, lying down on the bench and wrapping your fingers slowly around the cold Olympic bar.
As you look at the shiny chrome bar, you concentrate only on the weight, you hear nothing else but the sound of your own breathing. You feel strong. You have to love that feeling!!
With that being said, I see way too many people using the bench press as a means to simply show off and to totally abuse the movement. I see it everyday, and I cringe every time I see someone trying to move a weight that they couldn’t even take off the racks.
So, what I’d like to do is to give you some bench press tips that will help you get over your plateau or to help you get on the right track to help pack on the muscle and power to your bench press.
Bench press tip #1 - Prioritize your chest
It is of the utmost importance that you train your chest first and foremost. Your priority should be on making your chest the main focus of your training. Chest should be number one and your other body parts number two. In order to do this, you must train chest alone. Do not train any other body part when you train chest.
All of your energy must focus on your chest. You will have to cut down on the amount of energy you expend on other body parts, saving it for the chest workouts.
You cannot continue to go full out on other body parts while turning up the throttle on your chest workouts. You want your chest to recuperate fully before each workout, otherwise, you'll exhaust your body and your bench press won’t go anywhere.
Bench press tip #2 - Added progressive resistance
If you want to boost your bench press by 10%, you're going to have to continuously add progressive resistance. Progressive resistance is to add more weight over different time periods at varying rep cycles. What you want to do here is find out how much you can currently bench press.
Take that number and multiply it by 10%. For example, lets say your current bench press is 250 pounds. Take 250 pounds and multiply it by 10% and you have your goal. In this case it is 275 pounds (250 x .1 = 25 pounds plus 250).
I think even the most advanced trainer can attain a 10% increase in their bench press, especially if you've never done a bench press specialization routine before. The next step is to plan out how you need to attain your goal in the upcoming weeks. A 10% increase over a 8 to 10 week period is possible depending on your training development.
Of course, what you don't want to do is go for all out one rep maximums every chest workout. This will lead to burn out and/or torn pec. Trust me, you don't want this.
Your goal is to make small improvements while slowly lowering the amount of reps your do. You want to use progressively heavier weights while reducing the amount of reps you use.
At the end of the cycle, you may try for a single max. In each of your progressive sets, you will add progressive resistance to each set. That is, you will add more and more weight until you reach your desired amount of reps for that set.
It is important to note that you will not be taking your first couple of sets to failure. The very last set should be taken to failure. Also keep adding weight each week as you get stronger.
Bench press tip #3 - Proper form and mechanics
Make sure your bench mechanics are correct. Proper form is inducive to optimal growth and strength. Focus on moving the weight with your chest allowing for a controlled and fluid movement.
Drive the bar up with muscle strength. Follow these techniques and your will ensure that you achieve full stimulation of the pectoralis muscles.
• Always warm up properly first and foremost. Start by warming up by performing two sets of 15 to 20. Always stretch before, during and after your chest workout. You want to be warm when you start doing the bench press.
• Use a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. What you want to ensure is that your elbows are directly under the bar and are vertical in the bottom position. A quick trick to doing this is to use an empty bar and lower it to the bottom position. Your elbows should be vertical in this position. Don’t space your grip to far out and don’t space your grip too far in.
• The most important part of bench pressing is ensuring that you set up you pec girdle correctly. Lie back on the bench, take a tight grip and press your shoulders down toward your waist and back into the bench. That is, push your shoulder blades together and puff your chest out. Make sure that you thrust your chest forward when you start.
This way, you set up your position that is optimal for pressing the weight. It will take some practice but after a couple of sessions, you should get the hang of it.
• Always use a spotter when using the heavier weights. Never feel that you won't need a spotter because you will. If you are in doubt about the weight, always ask for a spot. Trust me, you don’t want to be stuck on the bench with a couple of hundred pounds on your chest.
• Your feet should be firmly planted on the floor with your butt on the bench at all times. Don’t lift your legs or put them on the bench. I don’t know why people always do this. It takes away from your core power since you want stability and the only way to do this is to keep your feet firmly planted on the floor. This way you have balance and you are able to adjust to the different stages of the lift. Remember, don’t place your feet on the bench and always keep them flat on the floor. Don’t move your feet around while you are doing the lift since this will take away from the success of your lift.
• Try using chalk on the bar. I know, sounds too simple but I’ve noticed that if my grip feels good on the bench, I usually have a pretty strong workout. Simply add some chalk to the bar and you’ll notice a difference immediately.
• Grip the bar hard. Really give it a good squeeze and get a feel for the weight. Find the proper grip spacings and pretend like your revving up a bike with both hands and squeeze. This way, you push your shoulders down and puff your pec girdle up.
• As you un rack the weight, slowly lower the weight and never drop it. Always keep your eyes on the bar, and lower it in a slow and controlled manner.
• Always inhale as the weight goes up and exhale as the weight comes down. Try taking a nice deep breath through your nose on the way down and exhale through your lips on the way up.
• Lightly touch your chest at the bottom of the movement and never bounce the weight. Once you start bouncing the weight, you take away from the effectiveness of the exercise. Remember, you want to build power and size in the chest so this means controlling the movement at all times.
• Keep your elbows in a vertical line with the bar. That is, your elbows should be directly under the bar. This way, you work the chest and keep the movement controlled.
• Use an over hand grip. I seen this one guy use an underhand grip and the weight slid off his hands and on to his chest. He had 520 pounds on the bar. Ouch! Plus, I find the underhand grip a little unnatural.
• Always make sure the weight is controlled. Once the weight starts to get away from you, lighten the load. You can get it next workout.
• Remember, you want to be completely warm before the bench workout. When I’m gearing up for a hard and heavy bench workout, I’ll drink one cup of tea ½ hour before I workout. However, you must remember to drink one or two glasses of water before your workout as caffeine tends to sap your water.
• If you need to see an illustration of how the bench press looks, click here to go to building muscle 101's weight lifting exercise page.
Bench press tip # 4 - Use core chest exercises to support the bench press
When I mean core, I don't mean cable cross overs or pec deck. I'm talking basic chest movements that support power and size. You will want to include movements like the bench press (of course!), incline presses, and dips.
Nothing fancy here, just the basics. With a full week to rest your chest between workouts, and reduced intensity for your other body parts, you should be able to pack on the weight. Remember, use core movements for your other body parts as well such as squats.
Squats are a must and should be trained once a week. When you are doing the bench press, you will actually use some of your leg power to help you power up the weight, provided your legs are flat on the floor.
For some strange reason, squats tends to make your whole body strong. So hit the squats hard on your leg day. You should also be doing core movements for your shoulders, back, and arms. This includes deadlifts, barbell bent over rowing, military presses, close grip benches and barbell curls. Forget the isolation movements when trying to improve your bench press.
Bench press tip # 5 - Boosting deltoid and triceps strength
If you want a strong bench press, your gonna have to have strong delts and triceps. These two muscles are fundamental when doing the bench press.
If you have weak triceps, your gonna have a weak bench press. Remember that when you do the bench press, the first muscles to give out are the delts and triceps. Therefore, to achieve a big bench, you have to concentrate on improving these two body parts.
You should design your program to improve not only your bench press but also to improve the secondary muscles that support the movement. Chest should be completed on day one in your program with delts and triceps being completed on day four.
This allows ample time for your pushing muscles to completely recover. The shoulder and triceps workout uses core exercises to support maximum power and strength. Remember, concentrate on core movement such as close grip bench pressing for your triceps and military style pressing for your shoulders.
Bench press tip # 6 - Using supporting movements to blast through your sticking points
I remember when I first started out and all I lived to do was bench. After a couple of months, my bench went stale and I was starting to actually get weaker. So, one of the owners of the gym gave me some very important advice. Stop bench pressing for awhile. Yep, stop benching altogether and start using dumbbells.
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing! Stop bench pressing! Not a chance. However, he convinced me that I was at a plateau and that I needed to use other movements such as the dumbbell bench press to concentrate on my sticking point. Which of course was the bottom part of the movement.
I decided to give it a shot and he showed me the correct way of doing a dumbbell bench press. To really get an effective dumbbell bench press, you must really lower the weight slowly and go past the point where the bar stopped. This way, your not limited by the bars range and you get a better range of motion.
After awhile, I really got the hang of the movement and after a couple of months, I hit the barbell bench press again and wouldn’t you know it, my bench press sky rocketed.
If you’ve found that you are at a sticking point with the barbell bench press and have been for quite some time, stop doing the barbell bench press and start using dumbbells. Your body is telling that it’s tired of the barbell bench press movement.
Bench press tip # 7 - Increase your caloric intake by 500 calories per day
I’m not going to lie to you, your not going to make huge strength gains if you’re dieting to lose weight or your not eating properly. I cannot stress the importance of quality nutrition when it comes to adding strength and building muscle.
If you really want to increase your bench press, your going to have to start eating right and in the proper amounts. There is simply no way that you are going to get stronger if you eat poor meals, 2 to 3 times a day with each meal spaced 4 hours apart.
What you need to do is make sure that you get quality nutrients into your body every 2 hours. Try adding an additional 500 “quality” calories to your diet every day. I don’t mean an extra cheese burger, I mean real “whole” food. For more detailed information on this subject, please see building muscle 101's weight lifting diet page here.
There you have it, follow these techniques and bench press tips and you may well be on your way to a monster bench.
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