The quest for bigger numbers on powerlifting moves leads lifters to load up their program with a high volume of exercises like back squats, deadlifts, and the bench press. This approach definitely helps to groove movement patterns and develop efficiencies that will pay off in higher numbers down the road. But, repeating the same exercises day after day can overload the same muscles and tissues, eventually leading to overtraining. In order to stay fresh while also seeing gains in strength, it’s imperative to include a variety of exercises in your program that are still tailored towards improving your main lifts.
Recover and Adapt
The best assistance exercises mimic the same movement pattern as the primary exercise, but emphasize slightly different parts of the motion or load the body in a different way to give you a break from the routine. Some make use of partial ranges of motion while others use a different stance or tempo. In doing so, they allow your body to recover and adapt to a new stimulus—a recipe for more strength down the road.
With that being said, if your goal is to increase your bench press, then you should incorporate bench-pressing in your routine to practice the lift. Every few weeks, cycle off the main lift and switch to one of the following secondary lifts to give your body a chance to recover.