How to Increase Your Bench Press?
Ask any jacked guy at the gym about the most common question they hear, and they'll likely tell you this: "How much can you bench, bro?" The barbell bench press is the universal yardstick of strength, the litmus test that separates the lifting elite from the rest. The more weight you can stack on that bar and press off your chest, the higher you stand in the gym hierarchy.
But here's the kicker: The bench press isn't just about showboating in front of the mirror. It's an absolute powerhouse for building upper body strength and muscle mass. Few exercises let you handle heavy weights like the bench press does, and that's gold when it comes to making gains. Even if you're not a die-hard meathead, this compound exercise should be your best friend, mainly because it's one of powerlifting's Big 3 movements.
So, if you want to answer the gym's favourite question with pride or if you're genuinely striving for muscle and strength, you'll need more than decent form and a strong will. Don't worry; we've got your back, and we're about to smash through those bench press plateaus.
Breaking Free from the Bench Press Plateau
Before we dive into the techniques that transformed my bench press, it's essential to understand that if you're stuck, doing more of the same isn't the solution. If you've been benching the same weight for ages, doing more bench presses probably won't cut it.
I've been there myself, hitting a frustrating plateau, and the solution was far from doing more of the same. Instead, it's about incorporating other exercises and strengthening supporting muscle groups that will push your bench press to new heights. So, forget about your plateau for a while, and let's break through it together.
Also read - Are You Lifting After A Layoff ?
Mastering Your Bench Press
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let's delve into some anatomy – specifically, your chest, the star of the bench press show. To maximize your bench press, you need to know your chest muscles inside out.
The Chest Muscles You Need to Bench Press
Your chest muscle consists of two heads: the sternal head and the clavicular head. The meaty part of your chest, the one you associate with a massive pec, is the sternal head. Both heads connect to the humerus near the shoulder, but their functions diverge from there.
The clavicular head also connects to the collarbone, and it's crucial for overhead shoulder motion. On the other hand, the sternal head assists in shoulder adduction, like when you clap your hands in front of you with straight elbows. Understanding this muscle dynamic is key to improving your bench press.
Other Bench Press Support Muscles
If you aim to bench more weight, piling on reps at the same manageable weight won't cut it. Overloading your bench with endless reps can lead to shoulder and elbow problems. Lucky for you, several other muscles play significant roles in the bench press.
- Anterior Deltoids: Your front shoulders are vital for bench press prowess. They often feel the burn after a bench press workout. Strengthening them directly correlates with your bench press performance.
- Triceps: These muscles are frequently the weak link in the bench press chain. To hoist that weight, your triceps must do their part. The long head of your triceps even assists in shoulder adduction, helping you push more weight overhead.
The Core Connection
Ever wonder why your glutes feel sore after a heavy bench day? Energy transfer is the secret sauce here. In the bench press, you have five points of contact: your feet, head, back, and glutes are all firmly anchored. This setup is essential for pushing the weight up. Your core is the linchpin in transferring energy from your feet to your upper body. When the weight is substantial, your heels drive into the ground, creating a solid posture throughout your core.
Strict form ensures you can push the weight back up. Without that stability, the bar travels unpredictably. And that's a no-no.
Five Exercises to Boost Your Bench Press
Now that we've covered the basics, let's dive into the exercises that will transform your bench press game:
- Barbell Row
Why: Building up your posterior erectors and lats is crucial to assist your pressing movements. These muscles affect your posture, which is vital for your bench press starting position.
How to Do It:
- Grab a loaded barbell with a pronated grip; make sure the length of your grip and stance both should be shoulder-width apart, and hinge at the hips to reach a 45-degree angle with the ground, keeping your core tight.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together while bending your elbows and shoulders to row the barbell to your belly button.
- Lowering the bar slowly to the initial position where you started. That's one rep. Aim for 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps twice a week.
- Floor Glute Bridge
Why: Engaging your glutes is essential for energy transfer during the bench press. This exercise mimics your bench press posture, making it highly effective.
How to Do It:
- Lie flat on your back with your legs at a 90-degree angle.
- Drive your heels into the ground, pushing your hips up towards the sky while maintaining a rigid posture.
- Hold for 2 seconds at the top, then return to the starting position. That's one rep. Do 4 sets of 15 reps, as frequently as 3 or 4 days a week.
- Shoulder Press
Why: Strengthening your anterior deltoids directly contributes to your bench press competence. It's essential for owning the arm position during the bench press.
How to Do It:
- Stand holding dumbbells at your shoulder level with your palms facing each other, elbows at a 45-degree angle to the torso.
- Keep your core tight, squeeze those glutes, and slightly bend your knees.
- Press the dumbbells overhead, while straightening your elbows and shoulders.
- Slowly lower the dumbbells back to the same position you started. That's one rep. Aim for 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps once a week.
- Close-Grip Pushup
Why: Your triceps play a crucial role in locking out your bench press. This exercise targets your triceps, making it an ideal addition to your routine.
How to Do It:
- Set up in a pushup position with your hands slightly closer than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your elbows facing behind you and your core tight.
- Bending the elbows and shoulders, slowly lowering your chest to within an inch of the ground.
- Push back up. That's one rep. Aim for 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps once a week.
- Dumbbell Pullover
Why: This exercise helps with posture, making it a game-changer for your bench press. It simulates the ideal bench press form.
How to Do It:
- Lie with your shoulder blades on the bench, feet flat on the ground.
- Lift your hips, squeezing your glutes, and drive your torso upwards until the ground and your torso are parallel to each other.
- Hold a single dumbbell directly over your chest with both hands while keeping the elbows slightly bent.
- Slowly lower the weight down behind your head, stretching as far back as you can without feeling any discomfort.
- Pause, stiffen up your core, then press back up. That's one rep. Aim for 4 sets of 8 to 10 reps.
Incorporate these exercises into your training routine, and watch your bench press numbers soar. Remember, it's not just about lifting more weight but lifting it with proper form and strength.
Don't let a stagnant bench press hold you back. Diversify your training, target key muscle groups, and focus on form. Incorporate supporting exercises and stay consistent. Break through that plateau, and soon, you'll be pushing more weight than ever before. Your bench press journey awaits!