Bench pressing has become the de facto measure of manliness in the gym. I am not sure how it got this way (and I am not sure it should be) but it is. So to solidify your position atop the gym totem pole you need to use every method available to add pounds to your bench.

One exercise that has helped my bench press and the bench press of many of my clients is the dead bench.

What is the dead bench?

The dead bench is done out of the power rack. It is a brutal exercise, and you will not be able to lift as much as the regular bench press. Here is how to do the dead bench:

  • Set up the squat rack so that the safety pins are set to chest level when laying on the bench. Get it as close as you can. Some squat racks won’t have a pin setting exactly at your chest level.
  • Get underneath the bar, assume your normal bench press grip.
  • Explode the bar upward with as much force as you can muster.

Here’s how it looks.

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465 dead bench… Working on my starting strength

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The dead bench is a great exercise for building starting strength in the bench press. Starting strength is the ability to fire as many motor units as possible simultaneously. Because of the lack of an eccentric portion of the lift, and therefore the lack of the stretch-shortening cycle, the dead bench teaches your body to recruit more motor units to press the weight.

The effects of the stretch-shortening cycle can last for seconds after an eccentric contraction, so not even a paused bench press can build the same starting strength as the dead bench. If you want to increase the bottom end power of your bench you need to include dead benches in your routine.

When and how to add dead benches?

Because the goal is to completely remove the effects of the stretch-shortening cycle, the dead bench needs to be done for heavy singles. The way to add volume is by doing multiple sets with short rest periods. For example, you can do 8 sets of 1 rep with 45 seconds rest.

Due to the use of heavy singles, the dead bench is very taxing on the body. So, program them in for four weeks at a time, followed by at least a 4-6 week hiatus. Keep them to once a week and perform the dead bench as an accessory movement after your normal bench sets.

The amount you can dead bench compared to regular bench varies from person to person so it is difficult to try to put a percentage to it. Use the first workout to gauge where you’re at, and program the rest of your cycle off this number.