When you walk into a room and people see even the slightest bit of definition on your frame, the first question (or sometimes snarky remark because they’re jealous) is, “Have you been lifting?” 99% of the time the next question is, “How much can you bench?” It’s overplayed, it’s old, it’s generic, but it’s not going to stop. Are you happy with the number you tell people? If you are, there’s always room for improvement. If not, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again. In our everlasting quest to take your health and training to the next level, we’ve put together 5 tips you can utilize today to improve your bench press. Bring on the gains!
A lot of times when you see people bench pressing, the bar is too high up on their hand, causing the wrist joint to flex backward at an extreme rate. Not only does this open your wrist up to excess strain, it also causes you to lose power. Having the bar directly inline with your forearm is the most effective and efficient position for maximum output, but that is not very realistic. A slight bend in the wrist is required, but the bar should be sitting low in the hand with the thumb wrapped around.
To help keep the wrist straight, try to keep utilizing wrist wraps. These wraps should be wound slightly above and below the wrist joint, and tight enough to provide support prevent the wrist from flexing too much. Additionally, don’t grip the bar like a wuss – no one likes a limp handshake. When you lay under that bar and greet it, give it a firm grip and try to bend it into a “U”. This intensity will help you stay tight, which we’ll talk about later.
How’s the tempo of your bench press sets? Are you blasting through each rep, letting the bar bounce off your chest, or are you going slow and controlled? The speed at which you lift can play a significant role in strength gains and push you through frustrating plateaus. If you’re stuck at a particular weight or looking for a new level of soreness, try slowing down the eccentric contraction of the movement, and exploding on the concentric contraction. The eccentric contraction of a bench press rep (the downward movement of the bar) stretches the muscle tissue in the chest and achieves the micro tears required for growth and strength increases.
For example, you might hear someone say they use a 4 second negative and a 1 second positive for their reps. This means it takes 4 seconds to go from lockout, down to the bar barely touching the chest. On the concentric contraction, try to explode. The mind muscle connection can play a huge role here – focus on squeezing your pectorals at the top of the movement. Remember, go slow and controlled. Feel the stretch at the bottom, explode up, and squeeze!
While it might not seem like the most obvious tip for bench press, firmly planting your feet can actually help. Wiggling them around during a set is wasted energy and causes your stabilizing muscles to work harder than they should have to. When you explode up in the concentric contraction, push through those feet and have a solid grip on the ground.
Are you utilizing a strength training program that consists of high weight and low (3-5) reps? Maybe it’s time to add some drop sets into the mix. After a solid working set, drop the weight by 20 – 30% and push that for 10-12 reps. By doing this, you will recruit more muscle fiber than if you stick to one particular weight. In the long run, the more muscle fiber you can engage in your lift, the bigger and (in this case) stronger the muscle will become. Don’t be short sighted!
Use a Pre-Workout
A solid pre-workout supplement can be the differentiator between a good bench workout and a great bench workout. From increased strength and power, to better focus on the mind-muscle connection, utilizing a pre-workout might just push you past the plateau you’ve been struggling with. True Nutrition’s Buzz Saw and nDURE pre-workouts are great tasting supplements packed full of the necessary ingredients to prime your body for an epic bench press session. With a potent blend of BCAAs combined with creatine, betaine, caffeine, and other energy promoting ingredients, you’ll be ready for anything.
Whether you are on the incline, flat bench, or decline, the tips outlined above are all applicable. Don’t forget, utilizing proper form in your exercises should always be a top priority. Do your research before hand! If the weight is causing you to use improper form, lighten the load! Trust us, we here at True Nutrition are all about pushing the limits, but let’s be smart about it. Have a gym buddy or spotter there for you in case you get stuck in a hole. Also, try not to rush the process. The journey is ever continuing, and we must mark our successes by setting goals and smashing them.
True Nutrition is here for the long run to support you every rep of the way with the highest quality protein powders and supplements on the market. No fancy packaging, no BS. Strictly top shelf products to bring you closer to reaching your goals. Keep grinding. See you at the bench on Monday.
Yours in health,