How to Increase Your Bench Press (different thread for some variety)
So, you want to benchpress the back end of a station wagon do ya?!
By Todd Bostrom
Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. How about we add a solid 40lbs plus to your stagnant bench. Well everything you need is finally here.
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Let's get started. First things first.
If you want to bench big, you must benchpress.
This is important so you can develop the exact muscles for benching and also to perfect your form. Speaking of form, letıs go over a few pointers.
The first thing you want to do when you lay down is grip the bar. Iım 5ı10² and I feel most comfortable gripping the bar with either my middle finger or ring finger on the ring. If you are taller you can try going a little wider (make sure that your fore finger does not go past the ring) and if you are shorter you can bring it in a little.
The rings on the bar should be around 32² apart. If they are not you should compensate for the difference. Keep you elbows in as much as possible, not more than a 45 degree angle away from your body. Never bench heavy with your elbows pointed straight out from your body.
Next, you need a good foundation to press from. The easiest way to describe this is to pull both of you shoulder blades back. Once you have pulled you shoulder blades back, then I want you to shrug your shoulders up. Practice this. It will be awkward in the beginning but will soon be second nature. Not only does this give you a solid foundation, but it will decrease the range of motion making the lift easier. Now that we have that squared away, letıs get our foot placement in order.
I prefer to place my feet out somewhat wide. This helps a lot with lateral stabilization. Right before you unrack the weight, you should be driving your heels into the floor so that your body will want to slide up the bench and your back will arch. Make sure your butt does not leave the bench.
Now letıs put all of these things together in order.
1-Lie down and grab onto the bar.
2-Right before you unrack the weight, take a deep breath and hold it.
3-Pull your shoulder blades back and drive your heels into the floor making your back arch.
4-Unrack the weight and exhale.
5-Right away inhale again and hold.
6-Bring the bar down controlled but not too slow.
7-The bar should be touching either your lower chest or your upper abs.
8-As soon as the bar touches your chest, drive it up.
9-Don't begin to exhale until you are at least half way through the lift.
Rack It! Now that you know how to bench, letıs learn how to put a program together.
Putting together a strength program is very important if you want to get stronger. You canıt just go into the gym week after week and max out. You need to properly adjust the sets, reps and weights every week in order to make gains on a regular basis.
First off, I want to make sure we are all on the same page when it comes to maxing out and % of intensity. Many people that I have talked to seem to like to use the ³pyramid² system when they partake in weight training. The problem with this, is their lightest sets have the same intensity as their heaviest. How is that possible? Well let me give you an example. Letıs say after a guy warms up, he puts 185 on the bar and tosses up 13 reps.
Maybe he could have gotten 14 reps. Thatıs roughly 92% of his 14 rep max.
Then letıs say he throws 225 on the bar and busts out 9 reps. Maybe he could have gotten 10. Thatıs 90% of his 10 rep max. We'll go one step further.
He puts 275 on the bar, goes to failure and puts up 3 reps. Thatıs 100% of his 3 rep max. See the trend here? All of the sets are at 90% or above, and he does this every week!!! ³Whatıs the big deal?² you say. 90% is way too much to be lifting every week. You will never get stronger doing that!
So you say ³Well how do I get stronger then?². Well let me tell you.
First we must build our intensity on each set. The way we do this is by keeping the reps the same and increasing the weight on each set. This way our first set has the least amount of intensity and our last set has the most intensity. Let me give you an example.
The guy performing these sets is capable of doing 275 for 8 reps. Letıs go back through these sets and express them as %ıs of his 8 rep max.
1. 61% of 8RM
2. 67% of 8RM
3. 72% of 8RM
4. 78% of 8RM
5. 83% of 8RM
Now even though this guy could have done more reps on each of his sets, it doesn't mean that he should. You need to slowly increase the intensity over a long period of time.
Thereıs another thing we need to adjust throughout a training program and that is volume. Volume is the total amount of weight moved for the particular exercise we are monitoring. Since we already have an example above for weight and reps, why donıt we use that? We can break it down by volume for each set and then total volume for the entire workload.
The first set was 8 reps of 170lbs. This is a volume of 1360lb. If we figure the volume for all of our sets, we can add them up and get our total volume for the workout.
8000lbs total volume
Ideally we would like to reduce the volume of our workouts from the first workout all the way to our last. Youıd probably like to know how to do this, right? Ok, here you go.
Letıs say that our example of weight and reps is out first workout. We figured out that we had a total volume of 8000lbs. We would like our second workout to have a lower volume AND a higher intensity. Letıs not forget about intensity
1. 8x180 Volume:1440lbs Intensity:65%
2. 8x195 Volume:1560lbs Intensity:70%
3. 8x210 Volume:1680lbs Intensity:76%
4. 7x225 Volume:1575lbs Intensity:78% Approx.
5. 7x240 Volume:1680lbs Intensity:84% Approx.
Total volume is 7935lbs and the maximum intensity is 84%
Just so we are understanding all this, we'll go though week 3 and week 4 just so you'll have everything in order.
1. 8x190 Volume:1520lbs Intensity:69%
2. 7x205 Volume:1435lbs Intensity:72% Approx.
3. 7x220 Volume:1540lbs Intensity:77% Approx.
4. 7x235 Volume:1645lbs Intensity:82% Approx.
5. 7x250 Volume:1750lbs Intensity:87% Approx.
Total volume is 7890lbs and the maximum intensity is 87%
1. 7x200 Volume:1400lbs Intensity:70% Approx.
2. 7x215 Volume:1505lbs Intensity:75% Approx.
3. 7x230 Volume:1610lbs Intensity:80% Approx.
4. 7x245 Volume:1715lbs Intensity:85% Approx.
5. 6x260 Volume:1560lbs Intensity:88% Approx.
Total volume is 7790lbs and the maximum intensity is 88%
Here is the summary of the first 4 weeks of the example training cycle
Week Total Volume Intensity
1 8000lbs 83%
2 7935lbs 84%
3 7890lbs 87%
4 7790lbs 88%
Average decrease in volume per week 70lbs
Average increase in intensity per week: 1.67%
Now you see how easy that is. It can be done. By dropping reps and adding weight every week you can exchange volume for intensity. More importantly, you will get stronger!!!!
I don't care if you start your training cycle with 5sets of 5reps or 8sets of 8 reps. If you exchange volume for intensity and keep your cycle within a 9 to16 week period, you will make awesome gains.
About the Author:
Todd Bostrom works at a major university in the strength and conditioning dept. You can contact Todd at:
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