How does the bench press fit into strongman training? This seems to be a topic that comes up a lot for various reasons. The No. 1 question I get asked the most by the average person is, “How much do you bench press?” But most people who don’t train wouldn’t understand the difference between a 300-pound bench press and a 600-pound bench press. Now for the people out there who do lift weights, it’s easy to understand the difference between even a 300-pound and 400-pound bench press. So let’s talk about how training the bench press can be beneficial.

This is the most common big multijoint exercise for the upper body. It is a great way to improve strength and size. So why don’t more strongman competitors bench press? The answer is fairly simple. During strongman competition we always compete in events where we are standing and pressing something overhead. So the emphasis of press training is put on shoulder pressing; benching is commonly used only as a secondary exercise to help build overhead pressing strength.

I’ve mentioned before that I prefer doing close-grip bench press training because, in my opinion, it transfers over better to building upper body overhead pressing power. This is because a bigger demand is placed on the anterior deltoids and the triceps when doing close-grip benches. I also feel that it’s safer for most strongman competitors to take a narrower grip on the bar because there is a smaller risk of tearing the pectoral muscles, which has happened to a fair number of strongman competitors who try to show off by benching with a wide grip.

One thing that I like to throw into my training routine to help me get the most out of my bench press is to integrate various width boards to press the bar off. This is a fairly simple way to teach your body how to be strong through the entire movement and to overload any sticking points that you might have. The best boards to use are 2×6-inch boards that are cut and then screwed together, while leaving one board longer to act as a handle to hold the board in place. I normally will use between a 2 board (2 boards thick) and a 4 or 5 board in my training.

When doing this it’s an easy way to change your training from week to week so you could start with a 2 board and every week add another board for four weeks so you would be at a 5 board in Week 4. Or start the other way and work your way down. This allows you to press weights heavier than you would through the full range of motion, but still practice the precise benching movement. No matter which method (up or down) you utilize, the one thing I would say is to always be in control of the bar. Only touch the board at the bottom of the movement and then press back up. Don’t slam the bar down and bounce it to get momentum. Most of the time, I like to pause with the bar on the board before I press the bar back up.


Let’s briefly talk about how adding in some accessory work can improve your bench press. I like to add in some accessory chest work after I do my bench press training. I normally use dumbbell presses, both flat and incline, as well as the Hammer Strength machines, dips, cable flyes or pec-deck flyes. I will also include a variety of triceps work. All of these accessory movements will complement your bench training and help make sure there are no weak links. The accessory work does not need to be complex. I usually like to stay between 8-12 reps for all of these exercises, using weights that are comfortable for those reps. Because I do this training after my bigger press training, I’m already a little fatigued and this is where I like to get my volume in. I hope this information helps you take a new look at bench pressing for strongman power. Now go hit some bench presses! – FLEX