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I Can't Increase My Bench! What's Wrong?

A conditioning specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a Bachelor's of Science in Exercise Science. His articles will help you!

By: Josh Henkin

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I Can't Increase My Bench! What's Wrong?

I have been stuck at the same bench press weight for many many months. I have read your article and it was good. The problem is though is that in my gym that I go to the don't have chains and bands and boards and stuff. I been training the max out way. I been training heavy with 1-6 reps per set. I always start out my chest routine with flat bench press. I have always done that so I think I need to start with incline or something else for awhile.

Bascially I just don't know why I can't increase my bench... I don't know what I am doing wrong. I'm training heavy and I train every body part once a week. I eat about 6 times a day with a high protein diet. I know that close grip bench presses really help the flat bench press. But when I do them for some reason it hurts my left shoulder. Dips work good but my gym doesn't have a dip belt so I can't use any extra weight which is not very helpful Could you help me out?

When I wrote about chains and bands I knew many would not have access to this equipment. Even though both are very easy to obtain you can still make great progress without either one. Many times I can improve one's bench press from just fixing their technique. Here are a few tips on performing the bench.

    1. Keep a tight arch in the back. This will reduce the strain on the shoulder and improve your ability to utilize the lats and lower body.

    2. Take a breathe before lowering the bar, hold the breathe during the lowering, and exhale through pierced lips while pushing up the bar. This helps improve your internal pressure mechanism known as intrabdominal pressure. Utilizing this natural support system you will find yourself much stronger.

    3. Grip the bar as hard as possible, even think about tearing it apart. As strength expert, Pavel Tsastouline calls irridation, you will find more muscle become active and you will feel much stronger than trying to isolate your chest.

There are plenty more of these helpful tricks, but program design can play another role. Even though you do not possess chains or bands I would still recommend using speed bench type work to compliment the heavy lifting. This can be performed with loads of 55-65% of your best max bench, plyometric push-ups, or explosive bench press with the smith machine.

It would also be wise to consider other exercises in your routine. While some may argue this point, I find overhead pressing exercises very helpful in improving ones bench press. I would speculate that your shoulder injury during close grip bench presses is either a result of you gripping too close together or not keeping a proper arch in the back. Once you master this technique you can employ other great exercises such as floor presses, pin presses, etc. Try some of these techniques and give us an update. Take care.

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I Can't Increase My Bench! What's Wrong?
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