The bench press. The ultimate test of strength in some people eyes!
This popular upper body exercise is commonly seen in gyms and involves laying on the back, lifting a barbell out the rack, lowering the barbell to the chest and pushing it back up again. Simple right? Sort of.
It is very common for those training bench press regularly to get “stuck” at a certain weight. Progress is steady building up the load and then all of a sudden you reach a sticking point, where you simply cannot add any more weight or if you do, that bar is simply not coming back up.
So how can you overcome this sticking point? Try these 3 simple tips to improve your bench press today.
1. Set your body in the correct position
It is easy to assume that because you are laying down, the only body parts working are the upper body. This couldn't be more wrong, and done correctly, the bench press is a whole body exercise.
To get the most out of the lift, push your shoulder blades back into the bench and downwards - this sets the shoulder into the optimal position to execute the lift, as well as increasing stability around the trunk.
Feet should be wide enough to give good stability and ensure heels are down to get more power into your press. Wearing lifting shoes can help to increase that stable platform and give you that extra pushing power you are after.
2. Don’t always go after that high number
It can be tempting. Say you are desperate to hit that 70kg for just 1 rep. Every session you do a few warm ups at 60kg then go for that one 70kg. Every session it fails. You wont improve your numbers simply by repeatedly trying that number (well you may do eventually but its a long path which will surely be littered with plenty of frustration along the route).
Instead build up your volume at the lower numbers. Work consistently and build repetitions at around 70% of the number you are aiming for. This will have the benefit of increasing your strength levels ready for the attempt at the bigger numbers.
So let the ego take a hit and take the weight down for a bit. All part of the bigger picture.
3. Use a power rack and do some eccentrics
A power rack is a brilliant tool for benching due to the fact you can set the safety arms to catch the bar so eccentric (lowering the bar) work can be done safety with no risk of injuring yourself with a falling bar.
In order to break that sticking point, you need to go higher than what you are currently capable of, (if you are aiming for 70kg bench press, start at 75kg/80kg) but only do the lowering phase.
Set the bar up as usual, lift out the rack and lower that bar under control onto the safety bars. Recruit a couple of strong friends to lift it back and repeat for 5 or so reps.
By working on the eccentric portion, you are building strength. Your body can tolerate over 1.5 times more weight eccentrically that it can concentrically. So eccentric training allows your body to work at a higher intensity than otherwise possible. Meaning your whole bench press should be improved once you go back to doing the full lift.