The bench press is probally the most well known exercise when it comes to weightlifting and yet it can be one of the most frustrating one when it comes achieving a bigger lift. We have all been there, our bench is progressing well and suddenly we hit a plateau and can't seem to get anywhere. No matter how hard we try ...no progress. Well I hate to tell you but getting a huge bench isn't going to happen overnight, but you can do some little things to improve your chances of putting up more weight.
So with that being said I have decided to compile a list of common solutions to this problem. These techniques can be used with almost any routine so please feel free to try them or share feedback on which one's have worked for you or if you have your own personal tip for a bigger bench.
Use Proper Form:
This is probally the biggest mistake that most people make. You would be amazed at how sloppy some people are on the bench. By using the proper technique you can assure yourself that you can support the optimal amount of weight in a stable fashion.
Here is a common proper technique breakdown:
- Lie flat on the bench with your eyes directly under the barbell.
- Pinch your shoulder blades together and push your shoulders into the bench but keep your hips, ass, and feet firmly on the floor.
- Make sure your feet are locked into the floor and won't move. By this point you should have a slight arch to your position between your ass and shoulders with the main part of your back slightly off the bench. You may want to get a better lock by bringing your feet forward and under you as much as possible, this will assure that you can drive off the weight using your chest as effectively as possible.
- Grab the barbell at the "O" or "Power" Ring with your index finger lying directly on top of it.
- Keep your arms as close to a 45 degree angle as possible when ascending and descending the bar moving it in an up and down position with the bar coming down just slightly below your pecs.
Get a Spotter:
A pretty simple solution right? Well, alot of people just don't seem to use it. By using a spotter you can focus all your energy on the press without having to worry about the weight coming down on top of you. Alot of times we only need a little lift on the lockout to get out those final reps which are the ones that make us stronger. By using a spotter you can train your chest to failure and therefore cause your muscles to adapt to the weight.
Train The Problem Movement:
Alot of people have certain problems with specific parts of the lift. This could mean the initial push off from the chest or the actual lockout from halfway into the movement. To overcome either obstacle you can focus on those specific parts by going to the power rack and using the power hooks. Set the hooks so they are just a little above your chest so the bar isn't resting on your body. Then spend a few sessions only lifting the weight a few inches off your chest, say around 4 - 6 inches, and that will be your complete movement. For those who have trouble with the lockout put the hooks at the halfway point of your movement and then focus on lifting the weight from their. This way you can train your problem area without worrying about the weight crashing down.
Lower the Reps:
I am always amazed at how many people who wan't to get a bigger bench are pumping out 8-12 reps per set. If you can do 8-12 reps at once, your doing too many. Try lowering your reps to somewhere between 3-5 reps per set and increasing the amount of sets. A perfect example this method is the 5x5 training routine which uses this type of thinking as the basis of its success. Instead of doing 3 sets of 8 reps try switch to 5 sets of 5 reps.
This ties into lowering the reps. How can you expect to put up more weight when your not going heavy? By pushing more weight at less reps, you will build your strength and increase your bench.
Train Supporting Muscles:
Yes, bench press does focus on your chest muscles but they aren't the only muscles you use during the lift. Your triceps, delts, and lats also help you stabalize and push out the weight. So you want to make sure that while you are training your chest muscles that you don't ignore going heavy on these other muscles. For example, doing close grip bench press will is a good way of putting alot of weight on your triceps and will allow you to build them up on your arm days. As they get stronger, they will help you increase your bench.
Get Plenty of Rest:
This should be common sense but some people just don't realize the importance of a good amount of rest. Get good amounts of sleep (at least 8 hrs) and space out your heavy chest days. Don't try to max out your bench press one day and then try again the next...chances are you won't be successful. It is recommended that you have around 72 rest before you try going heavy on your chest again.