Dumbell Press 10 4 13

As you’ve probably picked up through the past two seminars on building a bigger bench, increasing your max goes well beyond adding weight to the bar and hoping for the best. If you’re following this series, then you’re going to arm yourself with a healthy mix of cutting edge science and can’t-miss common sense. By the time it’s all over, you’ll be a pressing machine.



This seminar will focus on a deprogramming of sorts. Since the dawn of time – or the explosion of bodybuilding in the 60s and 70s – guys have simply gone through a few perfunctory stretches before settling under the bar for a day of heavy pressing. The prevalence of this practice, we contend, has resulted in untold pounds of weight that have gone unpressed and a certain number of injuries that have plagued unsuspecting strength seekers. 

Chest close up 1

Stretching: Overrated? 

When I first started working with raw bench press phenomenon Al Davis, he told me that he always had his best meets when he didn’t have enough time to warm-up. His best workouts also fell on days he arrived at the gym and didn’t have time to warm up. A light bulb went off in my head. I asked if he still warmed up with light weights, and he said yes. The difference was he didn’t have time to stretch. Al’s best workouts resulted from being rushed because he did not static stretch beforehand.

If you want to lift maximal weights, don’t static stretch before hand, as a plethora of studies have indicated that static stretching ahead of activity inhibits force production. (That’s not a good thing when you want to own that 315 pounds on the bar.)

While static stretching theoretically helps “loosen you up,” it also activates the golgi tendon organ, a mechanoreceptor with protective qualities which curtails your body’s ability to produce muscular force. Instead, your warm-up should include dynamic movements and submaximal weights to dial in crisp technique. Save static stretching for post-workout when warm, pliable muscles will enjoy the added benefits of increased range of motion, clearing of lactic acid and a gradual cooldown.

Big Chest

Still not convinced?

A study involving 20 jiu-jitsu athletes being tested on their max bench press subjected them to testing with and without pre-test static stretching. The static stretching consisted of three separate static stretching exercises performed for three sets of 20 seconds each. Stretches were performed on the primary bench press muscles (pecs, delts, triceps). How did they fare? Their one-repetition maxes averaged 8.75 percent lower than without the stretching protocol.

>> PRESS POINT: Ahead of your routine, try more dynamic movements such as shadowboxing, jumping jacks and arm circles to prep working muscles for the work ahead. Follow that with 2-3 sets (or more if you feel the need) of light weight bench press sets, not to failure, for a more specific warm-up (again using movement, not stretching). Save your static stretching for post-workout to aid in recovery.

Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of JoshStrength.com and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at www.joshstrength.com.

Next Week:

Bench Press Seminar 4: Add Sets, Not Reps


Strength Stack

Supplement             Dose

Whey protein              20 grams 30-60 minutes pre-workout; 40-60 grams immediately post-workout


Caffeine                      200-400 mg 1-2 hours before workouts


Creatine                      3-5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 3-5 grams with breakfast


Beta-alanine               1-1.5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 1-1.5 grams with breakfast


Ribose                        5-10 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 5-10 grams with breakfast


Taurine                       1-3 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes


Tribulus terrestris        250-750 mg with breakfast and one hour before workouts; do not take it on rest days


Fish oil                        4-6 grams in 2-3 divided doses with meals