Whaddya bench? Anybody that's involved in the lifting community has probably heard this at least a thousand times. It doesn't matter if you're a bodybuilder, or even if you're just training for sports; it's nice to have a big bench press. It commands power and respect, and will show your work ethic as it takes a while to acquire one.
Now before you ask "Why should I take advice from you?," I'm going to tell you why. At only 15 years old, I have benched 405 in a competition (where lifts are heavily scrutinized by judges and cheaters dont make it). I hold an IPA World Record for the bench press, along with the Wisconsin state record for SLP and NASA. (If you're wondering what the acronyms are for, they are abbreviations for different powerlifting organizations that sanction meets.)
Problems On The Bench Press
Now, here are some basic problems I hear of when people tell me about benching:
1) "The bar was shaking."
This usually occurs when a person hasn't benched much before and is new to the lift. It takes a couple weeks of practice and then it usually isn't a problem after that. If it does somehow become a problem, it may be due to weak brachii. If you have this problem, it's also wise to start doing hammer curls.
2) "I got stapled, man."
Well, this means the bar didn't move at all. Either the weight was way out of your range (try to be honest with yourself), or you're weak off the bottom of the bench. If you're weak off the bottom, you should train your lats, chest, and front delts. Exercises for these muscle groups will be listed at the end of the article.
3) "I stalled about here."
(Mimicking a bench press with an imaginary bar). The problem here is your lockout (which is mostly caused by weak triceps). Now there are different points of the lockout, like half-way up or nearly at the top, but I still train them the same way. I solve these by doing board presses (explained below).
Clean a barbell up to your shoulders from the ground. Do a half-squat, and at the top of the squat push the bar up overhead like any other kind of press.
You all know what this is.
Incline Bench Press
Grab an incline bench and do some benching. Pretty self-explanatory.
Stand over a barbell and grab in an overhand grip with your hands being about shoulder-width apart. "Row" or pull the bar up to your belly button and lower. Try to keep your back a little above parallel to the ground.
Pullups with an overhand or underhand grip work well. I say "weighted" because I feel that anything over 10-12 reps isn't that great for strength. The easiest way to add weight to a pullup is to attach a dip belt to yourself with plates attached to the chains.
Take some 2x6 boards and nail a couple together. I have a 5 board, 4 board, 3 board, and a 2 board. You basically have a person hold the boards on your chest while benching, to decrease the range of motion. Sink the bar into the boards and explode up. (This exercise is, in my opinion, the best assistance exercise for the Bench Press)
Go to a pulley station and move the pulley up to the top. Attach a short straight bar attachment and grip it with both hands being overhand. Keep your elbows into your sides and push down with your triceps.
Lie on a flat bench and have a spotter hand you a loaded EZ curl bar. Bring the bar down to your forehead and press up.
Lie on a flat bench inside of a squat rack and set the pins up high and lay the bar across the pins. Push off the pins to complete lockout and repeat. The bar shouldn't move farther than 3-4 inches. Adjust the safety pins accordingly.
That, my friends, is how you make gains on your bench press. The main principle is to find your weak spot and attack it.
Yours in sport,
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