Upgrade Your Technique
One of the fastest ways to quickly add pounds to your bench press is to improve your technique. Many athletes are shocked to learn how much technique is involved in the bench press. For starters, your stance is very important – many of the best benchers in the world have a wide foot stance when they lie on the bench. This gives them a wide base and more stability for a big push.
All the top benchers also concentrate on pushing through the floor with their feet during the press. Next, learn how to bring your shoulder blades together. Many benchers flare the lats when they press; this is a mistake, especially if you are a raw bencher (no bench shirt) and can eventually lead to a shoulder injury. Keeping your shoulder blades tight and pulled back helps to put you in a great position to have a strong bench.
Another quick tip to improve your technique is to think about gripping the bar as hard as you can (this helps to activate the nervous system) and to try and pull the bar apart while you are trying to lock out the weight.
Lastly, move the bar in a straight line. Most benchers tend to push the bar in an exaggerated curve - this simply increases the distance of your push. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line.
Strengthen the Upper Back
The upper back muscles are extremely important for proper stability in the bench press. The stronger your upper back muscles are, the easier it is for you to maintain ideal position. We recommend training the upper back with a variety of movements, and the three of the absolute best are chin ups/pull-ups, dumbbell rows and Pendlay rows.
Chin-ups and pull-ups should be done religiously, with lots of sets and a variety of grips. As you get stronger, strap a dumbbell or plate around your waist for added resistance. Dumbbell rows are a tremendous upper back exercise and allow you to really overload the muscles with heavy weight.
The Pendlay row is an awesome exercise invented by Olympic weightlifting coach Glenn Pendlay. It is very strict barbell row where your upper body is always parallel to the floor, forcing your upper back muscles to work very hard to move the weight.
Work Your Triceps
Most athletes regard the bench press as a chest exercise. While the chest is involved, a properly performed bench press for strength is primarily a triceps and upper back (yes, upper back) movement. If you want a strong bench, the triceps are king. Two of the best movements you can do to increase your triceps strength are dips and floor presses.
Dips, especially the weighted variation, really allow you to overload the triceps better than other exercises. Make sure to work the muscle in a complete range of motion by lowering yourself so that your biceps are in contact with your forearms before pressing back up.
Floor presses are a staple among elite powerlifters and really help to improve the lockout phase of the bench press.
Note: When doing floor presses, it’s always a good idea to have a great training partner there to help you un-rack and rack the bar.
Work the Angles
While it may seem tempting to focus only the bench press when you are trying to improve your numbers, the truth is that faster gains can be achieved by working the angles. This means doing different pressing exercises in addition to the bench press at different angles.
Number one, this causes faster adaptation by forcing the muscle to work with different movement patterns.
Number two, working different angles can help to ensure complete muscular development and reduce the risk of injury. So, in addition to the bench press, make sure to include the incline press, military press, and various dumbbell presses in your bench press program.
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