4 Tips you Need to Know for a Bigger Bench Press
- Setup properly and get as tight as possible.
- Train and utilize the muscles in your back.
- Press the weight explosively, keeping proper form.
- Work on your technique and weak points.
“How much do ya bench?”
Always the first question every lifter is asked by their friends. If you’re a big squatter or deadlifter, this is not the question you want to hear. If you struggle in the bench press like many lifters do, you may just need to make a few adjustments.
Here are four tips that will help you bring up your bench and make you a whole lot more eager to answer that question.
1. The Setup:
Drive your heels through the floor, trying to push your head back towards the spotter. You shouldn’t actually move towards the spotter because your traps will be driving into the bench creating stability. Keep your feet planted in the ground and drive your knees out. Whether you prefer to bench on your toes, or flat footed is up to you.
Flex your glutes, HARD, like you are trying to crack a walnut between your butt cheeks. Keep your glutes flexed and planted on the bench! Create tension through your entire body!
Arch your lower back hard to the ceiling. Try to bring your bellybutton to the ceiling. Minimize the distance the bar has to travel.
Try to drive your upper back into the ceiling the entire time. Arch your upper back hard to the ceiling. This step is often forgotten. Just because you are arching your lower back hard does not mean your upper back is arched as well. This will create more tension and shorten the range of motion.
Tighten your lats and tuck your shoulder blades into the back pocket of your pants. Flex your lats hard and pull your scapula down to keep your upper back tight!
Try to melt the bar between your fingers! Grip the bar in tight to your thumb. If you’re not sure where to start, grip with your pinkies on the rings. Remember to SQUEEZE the bar as tight as possible!
Take a deep breath and remember to hold it until you have finished your rep. After you complete a rep, you can rebreathe. Breathe through pursed lips, short breaths. You do not want to expel all your air and flatten out on the bench. You can also try to hold your breath as long as possible. Try getting five reps without rebreathing.
When setting up, you want to create as much tension as possible throughout your entire body! The tighter and more stable you are on the bench, the better your press will be.
2. Train the Upper Back and Lats
Your back will play an important role during the bench. As the bar descends you will want to drive your upper back through your chest, pulling it closer to the ceiling and the bar. By doing this, your chest will reach its highest point, meeting the bar. This will minimize the range of motion and create tension.
Pull the bar into you. During the eccentric portion of the lift, when you are lowering the bar to your sternum, try to drive your elbows into your lats, rather than relying solely on gravity to bring the bar to your chest. Control the bar down and touch it your chest lightly. This will help you support the weight using the muscles in your back as intended.
Keep your elbows pointed at each other to ensure that your they’re in the proper position: not too flared, or too tucked. If done correctly, you will feel the muscles in your back working hard. The closer the bar gets to your sternum, the more tension you will feel in your lats and mid back, giving you a pop off the chest when you press.
3 Exercises I like for building a strong back:
– Rows (barbell, dumbbell, t-bar, chest supported, cable, TRX, etc.)
There are many other great exercises you can do. These three exercises are great for developing size and strength in the lats and upper back.
3. BE EXPLOSIVE!
When the bar reaches your chest, keep as tight as possible, grip the bar as tight as possible, and press the weight as EXPLOSIVELY as you can! Remember not to flare your elbows too early, you will put undo strain on your shoulder and put yourself in a disadvantageous pressing position.
4. Train your weaknesses and practice your technique!
If you consistently fail pressing off the chest, you can try:
– Paused presses off the chest for a 3-5 second count
– Dead bench
– Full range of motion rep work
If you fail towards lockout:
– Board presses at your sticking point
– Bench press with chains
– Slingshot bench press
Especially for beginners, I recommend getting a lot of practice doing full range of motion bench pressing with submaximal weights so you can master your technique.
*Video of one of the worlds best benchers, Kirill Sarychev, putting it all together and benching 719lbs raw!
Want a bigger bench? If you have are looking to increase your bench or improve your programming, email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and put “BENCH QUERY” in the subject line.