Yo bro, how much do you bench? The universal question of gym goers all over the planet. The bench press is widely considered as the king of the upper body strength exercises (albeit, there are better exercises that display pure upper body strength). Bench pressing is a great exercise as long as you have the proper shoulder health, mobility, and stability. So ditch the “Bench pressing is sure fire way to get hurt” stigma, and use these tips to add some plates to that bar!
You can instantly become a better Bencher once you realize that the bench press isn’t just an upper body motion, but rather a total body motion. Your Shoulder Blades should be pulled together and tight throughout the entirety of the motion. Your glutes should be activated, engaged, and squeezed throughout the entire motion. Your feet should be pushing through the floor. Just like the squat and deadlift the Valsalva maneuver should be utilized while benching. By taking a deep belly breath and pushing it into your rib cage you create more intra abdominal pressure, therefore creating the overall body “tightness” you need to press a lot of weight.
Develop and Strengthen Your Upper Back. I tell my clients to compare their upper backs to a shelf. Can a weak shelf support heavy objects? The answer is No. you must strengthen your shelf in order to support heavy weights, and also to keep your shoulders healthy. The bench press tends to cause internal rotation of the shoulders. To offset this you need to become stronger in thoracic extension, and Strengthening your upper back is the best to do it. I recommend you start implementing a lot of rows, some more rows, and then some more rows on top of those other rows into your programs. I also love face-pulls for bench pressing maintenance and shoulder health, especially done as pre-work.
Strengthen Your Triceps. A common misconception with the bench press is that big pecs are what drives a good press. Go look around your gym at the best bench pressers, I guarantee that none of them have small weak triceps. The role of the triceps as a prime mover in the bench press is extension of the elbow. If you find yourself struggling with lock out under heavy loads chances are your triceps need some work. My go to triceps exercises for helping your bench press are:
Dead stop DB Floor extensions
Lastly, it’s important to figure out what your weakest points are within the entirety of the lift. Are you failing off your chest? Are you failing at lock out? Do you feel out of control on the eccentric lowering portion of the lift? If you are saying yes to one or all of these, it may be a good idea to implement some bench press variations to help train those lacking parts. If you are struggling with lock out add in some board presses or close grip bench presses. If you are struggling off the chest try doing some paused floor presses or Spoto presses.
The Bench Press can be a great way to increase upper body mass & strength, if done correctly and safely. These tips are just small pieces of the overall puzzle. Have fun with the process and start adding some pounds to that bar!
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