Part 1 | Part 2
Now that the fundamentals of the traditional bench press (part 1) have been discussed, let's look at some variations.
Since everybody that has ever been in a gym has done the traditional flat, decline, and incline bench press exercises, there is really no need give them much discussion.
Rather, I am going to say something that may surprise you. If you what to have a big bench, do not do these lifts... big benchers do not "bench" in its traditional since. They do utilize its many mutations, but rarely the traditional lifts themselves. Most big benchers spend more time developing the bench presses "supporting cast" than the actual lift itself.
They key is to know where you are weak. If you cannot stay tight and stabilize on the bench, cannot explode out of the hole, and cannot keep the bar in the groove, than you probably have a weak upper back (show me a good bencher, and I bet they have a huge upper back).
If you cannot lock out the weight, you probably have weak triceps. If you cannot keep your wrists locked out, you probably need to work on grip strength and your wrist flexors.
As with all types of training, there is not a cure all for everybody, one thing does not work best for all. Every person has different weaknesses and different strengths, so each person needs to analyze their own situation, and develop a game plan that is specific to their own needs.
Change The Implement
The body will always respond better to a wide variety of stimuli. The every so dreaded PLATEAU is usually a result of stagnant training. The body becomes so "good" at performing the movements of the usual training program that it no longer has to adapt to deal with it. Eventually, it will actually start to detrain, and the individual may experience a loss in strength.
The answer to this problem is easy; change up the training implement. There is a lot of choice out there. For instance, we utilize the normal barbell, band presses, push-ups and body weight exercises, camber bars, and dumbbells and physioballs. This is just a small list of what is out there, but it is definitely a good start.
Change Up The ROM
Traditional weight training is good for developing only a small part of the total range of motion (ROM). Since most people only utilize a load that they can lift through their weakest ROM (the stick point), the stronger ROMs are not sufficiently stressed to a point that they will experience benefit.
By utilizing the traditional full ROM movements in addition to the cambered bar, partial bench, floor press and board press (large training topic, will have its own article in the future, strength can be elevated throughout the entire strength curve, thus vital ranges of motion will experience strength growth.
Change The Force Curve
Adding bands and chains to the bar can closer mimic the natural human strength curve, and thus improve training efficiency. Now we can not only stress the body at the stick point, but through out the full range of motion.
Since the weight of the bar increases through out the concentric phase of the lift, the decelerative properties that have plagued traditional free weights are drastically decreased.
The body no longer can utilize the momentum created during the bottom portion of the lift, or the mechanical advantage of the body to decrease fiber recruitment. This forces greater fiber recruitment, an increase in the firing rate, and a greater overall response from the CNS, which is ultimately the goal of all of our training.
I hope this give you some ideas for the next time you walk into the gym. Stay tuned for the next exciting edition of the Big Bad Bench.
Until than, just remember: Train normal to be normal results, but extreme results require extreme measures.