So, you want to bench more?
The bench press is either seen as the best or the worst upper body lift in the strength and fitness world depending on who you talk to
What you will notice is that those who suck at it won’t do it and come up with 4000 reasons why it’s bad for your shoulders and why it shouldn’t be done blah blah blah, fact of the matter is that people want a bigger bench and there are saf(er) ways to get one
The main thing that I want to emphasize is that the bench like any lift is just a tool or weapon that we have access to, to get more jacked and less womanly.
There are other things we can do to build the bench muscles but at the end of the day if you want to get good at benching you must learn to do it right and practice it.
First things first… What muscles do I need?
Before we start we will break down what main muscles we need and then we will look at a few exercises to get them.
- You need a strong upper back – WTF? Why? The Upper Back (Traps, Rhomboids, Rear Delts and Lats) These will keep your shoulders healthy and give you and awesome based to press off and control the bar… Trust me on this.
- Triceps – The tris are one of the main movers in the bench and most of the time is the reason people suck and can’t lock the weights that they wish to.
- Pecs and Shoulders – I put these two together because they tend to work well together to help that weight come off the chest fast
- Grip – If you can squeeze the bar tighter, create more tension and keep your wrists strong you will go a lot further with your benching than if you were to have the grip strength of a teenage school girl.
So, we know what we need, now what do I have to do you ask?
Here are a few pro tips that I have used with the guys and girls that have the focus of lifting heavy shit.
Assuming that you know how to bench properly (if you have never learnt hit me up and come down to Royale Fitness) we are going to roll into a few tools, rep ranges and exercise selection that I have managed to help hundreds of guys take their bench up well into the 100kgs bracket – side note last testing night we had 53 men bench over 100kg at RF, a heap of guys in the 120-140kg mark and a few hitting between 140-160kg, this is general guys training either for sport or for fun, they are not body builders or power lifters yet they have some serious form, strength and power.
Bench Builder Tip #1 Reps and Sets –
Spend a lot of time at around the 24-rep mark for you working sets.
I picked up this concept from Mark Bell a pro powerlifter and have found it to work beautifully time and time again
6×4 reps, 5×5 reps, 4×6 reps at between 75%-85% your 1 rep max is a favourite cycle of mine for adding strength and size OR 9×3 reps at 50-60% (plus bands or chains) for speed if you’re big but slow in this movement is a ripper as well.
Another great thing to do is build up and hit a rep max set in the 2-6 rep range followed up by 1-2 lighter high rep challenges.
I love building up and hitting say a set of 5 around 130kg then dropping back to 100kg and seeing how many I can get, it is a great way to get the strength in then hit some heavy pump work.
Bench Builder Tip #2 Variation –
Everyone has a favourite grip, vary it up and get stronger close for your tris and/or work the hands out further to get some extra pec/shoulder work.
Work pauses in, holds off the chest, different bars (see bamboo bar above), slow controlled reps and play with if its flat or inclined.
There is so much that you can do to keep things fresh and prevent overuse injuries.
Do them all but don’t be a program hopper, attack a weak area, get it better then move on to a new weak area.
Bench Builder Tip #3 –
Train the lockout.
I have noticed time and time again that when I hit a floor press, chain, band, slingshot or board press PB, I usually hit a bench PB in the following month.
Tris lock out the bench but they are also involved in the press off the chest, if you can make any part of the movement stronger over time you will just be stronger.
The other benefit to this concept is the fact that your shoulders will be safer and loaded in less compromised positions.
Bench Builder Tip #4 –
Pick your accessories to build your weak areas or imbalances.
When I train my bench hard this is what my program template generally looks like.
1a Upper Back 3sets
1b Upper Back 3sets (superset the 1a/1b movements together)
2 Bench Press
3a Bench Press Variation (back off set with different grip OR Dumbbell work)
3b Upper Back
4b Shoulders for pump or stability
4c Biceps (optional)
This template is done 2x per week with different rep’s schemes and exercise variation depending on how my athletes body is and what the main goals are at the time.
There is enough to get you started and moving in the right direction here.
If you are lost with your training stay tuned as I will have some great opportunities for you to take advantage of in the coming months.
If you have any questions hit me up at facebook.com