Any experienced lifter will tell you the importance of developing your technique. Masterful technique will not only allow you to lift more weight, it will allow you to safely lift more weight.
If your goal is a big bench, spend time honing your competition bench. Next, identify and attack your weaknesses.
“You’re only as strong as your weakest link.”
If you’re a raw lifter, you need to build ton of strength in the bottom end (right off or a couple inches from your chest) of the bench press.
Here are five of my favorite bench press variations for building brute strength off your chest.
I picked these up from my coach, and the youngest man to bench 600lbs raw, Josh Bryant.
The Dead Bench is great for building explosive strength off the chest.
The bar starts on the safety pins near chest level. Press it explosively, return it to the pins and rest.
Single reps only.
Because there’s no eccentric (down) portion, the help you normally get from the stretch-shortening cycle is eliminated. This makes it extremely challenging and requires you to generate a ton of power out of the bottom.
Try single repetitions with short rest periods, 30-90 seconds for submaximal loads. If you go heavy, wait for full recovery.
The Spoto Press is named after one of the best benchers of all-time, Eric Spoto. He held the record for the biggest raw bench ever, 722lbs.
Before being a world record holder, videos of Eric Spoto surfaced of him repping out 600+lbs with ease.
In many of the videos he was coming about an inch shy from touching his chest. He initially caught criticism for this by some, while others took notice. Since breaking the bench record, it’s become a staple in many big benchers training.
As a rule of thumb — it’s better to try and learn something from the guy throwing around 600+ pounds like an empty bar than it is to criticize.
Lower the bar about an inch from your chest, slight pause and press it up explosively.
Although the ROM is slightly shorter, Spoto Presses are harder than the regular bench press because you’re under tension for longer.
The key with these is to stay tight and under control.
Build explosive, spring like, reversal strength. During the descent build tension in your lats. Try to create so much tension, you can’t even touch the bar to your chest!
During the bench press, I like to control the bar down and touch it lightly to my chest like it’s made of glass. I think of loading my lats like a spring on the way down. The closer the bar gets to my chest, the tighter my back gets. By the time it touches, there’s so much tension built up, the bar is ready to explode off my chest!
This will give you that spring loaded pop, rather than pressing dead weight off your chest.
The Spoto Press is one of my favorites learning to generate tightness and build tremendous starting strength and power at the bottom end of the bench press.
You can do these heavy for lower reps, in the 1-3 range, or 5-8 for more strength/hypertrophy.
Perform just like a competition bench, with a longer pause. Keep the bar on your chest for 2-5 seconds and press it up fast.
A common mistake on these is to loosen up when the bar rests on your chest. Instead, stay as tight as you can, build tension during the pause and explode up.
The longer the pause, the more challenging it is due to the diminished effect of the stretch-shortening cycle.
The paused bench is a very specific movement (similar to the bench press) and has great carryover. It’s also great because it allows you to practice your normal bench technique.
Sets of 2-5 reps at 60-80% of your 1RM for starters.
The floor press isn’t often thought of as a good movement for getting stronger off the chest.
It should be!
For longer limbed lifters, it’s great building strength in the mid-range. But, for shorter armed, barrel chested lifters, it’s great for training the bottom end. A floor press for me is pretty much the same ROM as a bench press.
Setup on the floor in the power rack similar to a bench press. I like to keep legs straight, my glutes and legs tight to remain stable.
Bring the bar down until your triceps touch the floor, slight pause and press.
Without any leg drive, you’re relying on your arms and upper body musculature to get that bar moving off your chest.
This is a great exercise for building explosive starting strength and it’s a good one for giving your lower back a break.
A lot of lifters scoff when they see this one – they shouldn’t. They’re actually great for building up your pecs, shoulders and triceps.
Just like in the floor press, your legs are taken out of the equation. This forces you to rely purely on your upper body pressing power. Plus the ROM is increased because you lay flatter on the bench.
If you’re new to this one, I recommend keeping your legs straight and resting them on a bench or box to keep your balance.
This one is great for developing your upper body musculature. Look at any big bencher and you’ll notice one thing in common. They’re BIG!
This is another one that’s easy on the low back, but can put a bit more strain on your pecs and shoulders. If you have a history of problems with either of these, I wouldn’t recommend these.
Keep the reps at 6+ for this one.
Master your bench technique.
Find your weaknesses and attack your sticking points with the special exercises.
Give the Spoto Press, Dead Bench, Paused Bench, Floor Press and Feet-Elevated Bench Press a try to build explosive strength and power off your chest.
Want a bigger bench?
Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with “BENCH” in the subject line!