The bench press is the ultimate glamour lift. “How much do you bench?” is often the first question you are asked when someone notices you have been in the gym and put on some muscle. Naturally, everyone wants to throw out a seriously big number.
But the bench press is also one of the easiest exercises to plateau on once you have been training a while. You get yourself to the position where you have a slightly above average bench press, but smashing into the realms of seriously heavy isn’t happening. Here are the best ways to earn yourself a stronger bench press.
AVOID REACHING A PLATEAU AND BUILD A STRONGER BENCH PRESS
COMPLETE DIFFERENT REP RANGES
If you are plateauing on your bench press, the first thing to do is look at your rep ranges. You could probably benefit from some periodising. To do this, start with three sets of two to three reps on incline press. Then complete a further three sets within the six to eight rep range. Then flatten the bench and do a flat bench press for three sets of four to six reps, and finally, finish with two sets of 10 to 12 reps.
The initial sets of low reps but high weight will overload the muscle and build size and strength, then you complete the sets of four to six reps, and finish with higher reps to absolute failure to initiate cellular fatigue. By mixing up your rep ranges you will stimulate muscle growth and reach those heavier presses.
BENCH PRESS TWICE A WEEK
There is no rule that says each body part must only be trained once a week. If you want a bigger chest press, train it more frequently. Realistically, you can bench press every other day if you recover on your rest days. Get back in the gym and keep lifting to get stronger.
BUILD STRONGER ROTATOR CUFFS AND TRICEPS
The bench press is a compound exercise, which means it is not just using your chest in the movement. The movement begins with the shoulder joint in a flexed position and ends within an extended position. Your rotator cuff is therefore involved in the movement, although albeit on a minimal level.
Your triceps are far more important at the top of the movement. By adding a couple of extra triceps exercises in your week and a couple of exercises specifically designed to target the rotator cuff, you may find they have a positive effect on your bench press.
ANALYSE YOUR LIFT
Break your bench press down into stages and try to work out what phase you typically fail at. If you are struggling with the bottom of the lift, you would benefit from building up your explosive power. Using lighter weights one day a week and completing more reps but really focusing on pushing the bar up with every ounce of force you have will help you build this up.
If you have access to bands or chains, completing sets with lighter weights and band resistance will help as you will need to explode upwards to overcome the increased resistance at the top of the movement.
If you fail at the top of the movement, this indicates that your chest has the power, but your triceps are letting you down. Go back to the drawing board and focus on building stronger triceps and your bench press will follow.