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The bench press. It’s one of the original rite of passage exercises that many lifters spend countless—oftentimes too many—hours toward perfecting. When you’re a beginner, you most likely performed two main exercises—biceps curl and bench press. Then, the love affair begins.
The bench press is an upper-body powerhouse move—it builds power, muscle, and strength in the chest, shoulders, and triceps because of a couple of factors.
During this quest to create more and more 1RMs, plateaus and soreness will eventually happen. You get stuck and might see no way out of your bench press purgatory—eight coaches who love the bench press as much as you give you expert tips to improve it.
Now, these tips are designed for you to try only some at once to find what works for you. If they do great, you have found a solution. If not, try the next one to see if your bench press performance will finally bust through its plateau.
Kevin Mullins Jr, CSCS, B.S. Kinesiology, University of Maryland, Director of Product Development – The St. James
For years, powerlifters, strength athletes, and bodybuilders have been using grip-fattening tools to increase the demand on the forearms and, in some exercises, the biceps and triceps during major lifts. And it works.
Yet, many miss out on the benefit of using Fat Gripz on their bench press—a common mistake since you aren’t exactly “gripping” your dumbbells or barbell during pressing movements so much as you are under the load fulcrum.
However, using a fatter grip point can dramatically increase pectoral muscular recruitment during your bench press – an epic trick of the trade to stimulate hypertrophy or improve muscle recruitment before a more maximal effort.
How to do it:
For muscle growth: Try three sets of 8 to 10 repetitions with a 4-2-1 tempo (eccentric, isometric, concentric) on your next flat or incline bench press. Go lighter and emphasize the feeling of breakdown instead of simply moving the resistance.
For strength: Try five sets of 3 repetitions at 80% of your 1RM to increase sensation and kinesthetic awareness. Press in the same manner you will execute your larger lifts and rest roughly 45 seconds between the Fat Grip version sets.
Allan Bacon, Ph.D., an online personal trainer specializing in training powerlifters and body composition clients
If you want a bigger bench, pay attention to your feet! Perfecting leg drive on the bench press allows you to be stronger, maintain the upper back position, and protect your shoulders simultaneously.
How Use Your Feet For a Better Bench Press
A special note about the setup: if you find it excessively difficult to push both down and away from you, then your feet are likely in an incorrect position. If you feel you can push down but not away, then your feet are too far towards your shoulders. If you feel you can push away but not down, your feet are placed too far in front of you.
Andrew Heming, MS, CSCS, NSCA-CPT, a former university head strength coach, professor, and trainer
If you want to compete in powerlifting, you must keep your butt on the bench. If you are going to brag about how much you can bench, you must keep your butt on the bench. If you want to know if the weight you are adding to the bar is making your upper body grow bigger and stronger, you need to keep your butt on the bench.
How to Keep Your Butt On The Bench:
You can use this technique with your regular bench press training – no special exercises, no added time.
This bench press variation is when you put a wooden board or board on your chest to shorten the range of motion. The hardest part of improving your bench press is getting past sticking points in the lift. A common sticking point is when the bar is closest to the chest. Think about the last time you struggled on the bench.
If you shorten the range of motion using a board, you can push more weight, strengthening the sticking points where you’re struggling. You can also use the 2-Board Press when the full range of motion presses bothers your shoulders. This way, we can keep getting a training effect without compromising the joint.
How to Do It
The 2-board press can be used as a primary strength lift for the day in place of your scheduled bench pressing if strength is your goal. If more muscle is the end goal, put the 2-board press in your program as an accessory exercise aiming for 8+ reps.
Travis Pollen, Ph.D., exercise science professor and personal trainer
Many bench pressers’ weak point is their lockout. Two of the best solutions for attacking this weakness are band-assisted and band-resisted pressing, which allow you to overload the top of the range of motion (ROM).
How to do the Band Assisted and Resisted Bench Press
Choose one of the variations, and spend four to six weeks working on it once a week, either as your main bench variation or as an accessory. Three working sets of 6-8 reps will do the trick.
Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., a metabolism fitness professional, strength coach, and educator specializing in tailoring nutrition to each individual’s needs
The pin press with feet up works excellent if your sticking point is at the bottom or a few inches of the bottom since 1) You’re doing it with a long pause to reduce the contribution of the soft tissue being in a stretched position, so the muscle has to work harder. 2) You are doing it with a flat back, so there is an increased range of motion for a greater training effect as an accessory movement.
How to do the Pin Press With Feet Up
Best as an accessory movement after the more specific bench work is done; this can be on the same day or a separate day. Repeat for reps around the 5 -12 range for 2 to 4 sets.
Korey Van Wyk, CSCS Trade & Professional Acquisitions Editor for Human Kinetics
The 1.5 rep bench press can increase your bench press in multiple ways. If you are weak in the bottom half of your press (from off the chest to halfway up) will strengthen that portion of the lift and make you a more efficient presser by improving your technique. Repeating the bottom part of the lift allows you to practice hitting the proper spot on your chest and make sure your bar path is on track.
How To Do The 1.5 Bench Press
One of my favorite ways to incorporate this movement into a program is in the warm-up. Rather than mindlessly pumping out reps a lighter weights, use that time to refine your technique and warm up simultaneously. Use it until you get to a weight that would cause you to get tired of the number of reps you’re doing. Then switch to regular reps for the remainder of your warm-up and work sets. That alone could be the spark you need for new gains!
Dr. Bo Babenko, a physical therapist and strength coach specializing in strengthening the mind, body, and soul
So, you’re ready to take your bench press to the next level? The concept of torque is one that any physicist will surely go on for about hours, but it’s sometimes lacking in the more advanced stages of strength training. I’ve heard of high-level lifters, who have set world records, and use the concept of torque.
Understanding these concepts can lead to improved shoulder mechanics and less injury. Getting better at “separating the bar“ is low, hanging fruit you can build in as you progress your pushing ability.
How to do It:
Performing this, you improve the stability and power of your shoulder. Include these in your warm-up to prime the muscles with three sets of 12 reps with any weight under 90%, and consider including this between sets that build up toward maxes or weights above 90%.