Whether you're training for sport or recreation, a plateau in your Bench Press progression is never welcome. Increasing your intensity or switching up your workout may make a difference, but the problem could lie deeper, making it hard to fix with such obvious changes. Let's take a look at two common issues that could be preventing you from making gains in your Bench Press.
You might be able to move off your plateau instantly with a few changes in your set-up. Tightening up your lats and setting your feet solidly on the floor can increase the force you apply against the bar. These two simple tweaks could get your Bench Press ramped up again.
If you are still having a poor showing in the Bench, the issue could be the strength of your rotator cuff muscles. When people hear the term "rotator cuff," they often think "shoulders." In fact, all four rotator cuff muscles originate on your scapulae (shoulder blades), which are located on your back.
All the muscles surrounding your shoulder blades need to be tight and strong to stabilize your shoulders so you can handle more weight. On your Bench Press workout days, first perform the following circuit for three rounds—and your plateau will be history.
- Set up bar at hip level on Smith Machine or squat cage
- Hold onto barbell or straps attached to bar
- Lean back until arms are straight and body is at 45-degree angle
- Keep body straight and pull chest to bar with elbows to the side and scaps retracted
- Lower body with control back to start position and repeat for specified reps
- Sit on Lat Pulldown machine and grip bar overhead, using V-grip attachment
- Without rocking back, pull bar down in front until it touches upper chest
- Allow bar to rise back to start position until arms are straight
- Repeat for specified reps
- Face cable machine with rope attachment at eye level
- Hold ends of rope with straight arms and knuckles facing each other
- Maintain tension in cable and bend knees slightly
- Keep elbows above hands and retract scaps, pulling hands toward face
- Extend arms and repeat in slow, controlled fashion
- Repeat for specified reps
Rest two minutes after you complete the circuit.
The extra 10 or 12 minutes you spend on this circuit before beginning your workout will not only add strength over time, but will flood your upper body with blood and tighten up the muscles, priming them for the pressing to come. Assuming you do a full back workout on another day in the week, the added volume of back training can only do you good.
Whether you're after strength, muscle gain or improved sports performance, you'll accomplish your goals with this circuit. Use these tricks of the trade and experience a blast-off in results.
Lee Boyce is a strength coach based in Toronto who works with strength, sports performance and conditioning clients. He is the fitness expert for a national TV show, First Look; and he contributes to many major magazines, including MUSCLEMAG, Men's Fitness, TNATION and Men's Health. A former university level sprinter and long jumper, Boyce is the owner of leeboycetraining.com. Follow him on Twitter.