Transforming The Ineffective To Effective: The Barbell Bench Press!

You do these tried and true exercises (cables & barbells) because everybody tells you that they are the best for building a great physique. Then come along free weights that blow them away. Learn more...
How many times have you seen lifting partners, and other people around your gym making gains from exercises that produce little or no results for you? You try and do these tried and true exercises because everybody tells you that they are the "meat and potatoes" for building a powerful physique.

So Why Then?

You try and perform these exercises, using immaculate form in your mind, and all that you end up with is frustration. Either your poundage's don't improve, you injure yourself, or at the very least the incorrect body part becomes sore the next day. Then you end up with a disproportional physique, and are left to wonder why.

So, you try and work around these exercises, supplementing a cable apparatus or a machine. Sure, you get a good "squeeze", but nothing can replace the stimulation one can get from free weight mass builders.

This vicious cycle can go on for weeks, months, or years depending on when that magical moment clicks. Everything appears so clear, and you feel foolish for not realizing your mistakes. Well, I'll give you a couple performance suggestions on the barbell bench press that will hopefully make this exercise work for you.

Working The Chest

Ahh, the "manliest" part of a males physique, along with the biceps, the body part that most layman gym members along with bodybuilders covet to grow. So, the first exercise they go to is the flat barbell bench press. Who hasn't as a person who lifts weights, been asked the age old question, "How much can you bench?" So, they jump on the bench press, throw weight on the bar, and press.

Some lucky individuals figure out the intricacies of this movement right away, and develop strength and muscle gains. Partly due to genetic makeup, having the right build for a bench press, or are just quick learners when it comes to training. Other individuals like myself, toil for years not seeing gains in their chest when doing this exercise, but rather in their front delts, and triceps. They try every trick in the book, be it different hand placements, different lifting cadences, but to no avail. Then one day, it just clicks.

This is what happened to myself. I abandoned the flat bench press for the past 3 years, using dumbbell's, machines, and cable movements. While I managed to put on some muscle, I was still missing the mass that I so desired on my pectorals. Then, I was lying awake in bed one night, and was trying to figure out why the bench press wouldn't work for me. Then, a light went on. It had been a combination of things that had been causing me not to see any usefulness out of this classic mass builder.

First and foremost is the descent of the barbell. While lowering the barbell, you need to concentrate on rolling your shoulders back on the bench, and trying to "pin" your shoulder blades together. Much like you would try to do on a rowing movement. While it will feel weird, you can practice this, and develop the flexibility to do this by reaching behind your body with both arms, clasping your hands together, and then squeezing your back together and thrusting your chest forward.

Once you have your shoulder blades pinned together, you need to concentrate on lowering the barbell to your lower chest area. Much has been made about trying to work the area right underneath your collarbone by lowering the barbell to the neck area, but it only ends up causing shoulder infringement and use of the triceps. Which, is exactly what we are trying to stay away from.

Now that the barbell has fully descended and is on your lower chest, your shoulder blades are pinned together, and you have taken a deep breath, this is where it gets somewhat easier. Pause with the bar on your chest for a count of one, then press the bar up JUST short of lockout, with the bar ending up over your face. Exhale forcibly while doing so. The path the bar travels should be in an arc, not just up and down. Hold the weight at this magic point that is just short of lockout, and prepare to complete the process again, keeping your shoulder blades pinned throughout.

Training Systems

Complete your set, using how many reps or how much weight that you so desire. I'm not here to preach about training systems, but getting the most out of exercises is more important that the number of reps or sets you do. After perfecting the smaller points of the bench press, you can expect to notice a MASSIVE pump in your chest, and a profound soreness that you didn't think was possible coming from your chest area because you had given up on this mass builder.

The performance of the flat barbell bench press can also be used on the incline barbell press, but the position you lower the bar to on your chest is slightly higher up on your torso. The best was to do this is switch between the incline press, and the flat press for your chest workouts. This will put you back on track in seeing sizable gains in size and hardness in your chest.

Next time around, I will talk about the finer points of doing a back workout that can change you from having monster arms and a thin back, to a V-taper that looks great from all angles.

Until Next Time,
Stay Pumped and Focused,