Stop hiding those embarrassing bench numbers! It’s time to get serious.
There is no denying that the bench press is the king of upper-body exercises. It is a matter of pride in the gym as well as the most common measure of your weightlifting acumen. We all want to bench big and most of us probably enjoy performing this exercise more than any other. The results we see from the bench press—slabs of beef on our pecs, shoulders, and triceps—can more than match our enthusiasm for the lift itself.
Assistance exercises and variations of the Bench Press may help you increase your bench, but they’re never a replacement to Bench Press. You can’t become better at an exercise you don’t do! To increase your Bench Press… you must Bench Press. Heavy and often, to be specific. Thanks to In-home trainer Kassey Esser, we’ve reeled in a few coaching cues to get you on your way. Here a three different things to incorporate into your bench routine that’ll up your numbers this year:
1. DOUBLE DOWN ON YOUR SHOULDERS & TRICEPS
“The shoulders and triceps are “secondary” muscle groups that helps support the bench press,” says Esser. If they’re weak, chances are your bench press suffers!
How to double down:
1. Reduce the volume of your chest workouts. If you’ve been doing 12-15 total sets for chest, perform 6-10 total sets for 2-3 weeks.
2. Increase the volume of your shoulder and tricep workouts.Add an additional 3-4 sets to your workouts for 2-3 weeks.
3. Focus on the “lock-out”. Squeezing at the top of an overhead press or a close grip bench press will secure you with more finishing strength for when it’s time to bench press again.
2. GET SOME BACK.
Just because the bench press is predominately a chest exercise, it’s good to have some back behind it. “A strong, powerful back will provide much needed upper body stablization when you start piling on the weight,” Esser says.
How to get some back:
1. LIFT BIG
Make sure you’re performing movements like the barbell deadlift and barbell bent over rows – those movements are big, complex strength-builders and will pack on a solid structure. 3-6 sets, 6-8 reps, longer rest periods, 1-3 minutes.
2. LIFT SMALL
Make sure you have lat pull downs and seated cable rows in your back routines. 3-6 sets, 12-15 reps, moderate rest periods, 30-60 secs. Do not train to failure.
3. VARY YOUR GRIP WIDTH.
Powerlifters have been using different grip widths for many years and studies back this up as an effective method for increasing bench press strength.
Research has shown that a wide grip (several inches wider than shoulder-width) emphasizes the larger, prime mover muscles (the pectorals), whereas a narrow grip (right at shoulder-width, or slightly narrower) emphasizes the smaller muscles involved, such as the arms and shoulders.
According to Esser, “By varying your grip widths, you’re able to focus on each of these muscle groups and strengthen each, which can help you break through sticking points.”
Like it or not, the Bench Press is one of the primary lifts on which your strength is judged. Nothing turns heads faster in the gym than an impressive Bench Press, and it’s the first (and often only) lift people want to know your numbers on!