How to Build A Bigger Bench Press, Part 2: The Shoulders | STACK
X

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

Build A Bigger and Better Bench, Part 2: The Shoulders

April 11, 2013 | Rick Scarpulla

Must See Strength Training Videos

The Bench Press is often thought of exclusively as a chest exercise. Unfortunately, those who believe this couldn't be further from the truth. In addition to the chest, the back and shoulders play critical roles in the Bench Press. (Learn why the back is critical for a big Bench.)

The shoulders—particularly the anterior delts—help to press the bar off your chest. If you perform a bench-pressing motion with your arms, notice how much your shoulders move and how little your chest moves. Yet people still think it's primarily a chest exercise.

Several factors needs to be taken into account when assessing how to maximize shoulder strength so you can add weight to your Bench Press. (Watch Dwight Freeney's shoulder workout.)

Genetics

The first factor is your genetic makeup. If you are built with large, square shoulders, you have a predisposition for greater pressing power. If your shoulders are low and narrow, you're at a natural disadvantage. Your suit jacket size can tell you a lot about your build. If you wear a size 50 jacket (assuming you are not a fat slob), you will have a greater pressing advantage than your friend who wears a 42 jacket.

A wide and high shoulder build means you have a more upper-back and lat muscles, which are critical for pressing the bar. Most people are largely proportionate, so a wider back and lat area usually implies larger shoulder muscles. You will rarely, if ever, see someone with a small back and massive shoulders.

On the flip side, if you have a sloped-shoulder build, you will have larger trap muscles. This doesn't mean you can't be strong on the Bench, but you are not predisposed for a huge bench—not unlike how some folks will never be able to run a 10-second 100-meter dash, no matter how hard they train.

Understanding the biomechanical setup and movement patterns of your body is critical to becoming the best athlete you can be. In my opinion, many shoulder injuries are caused by improper use. Many athletes suffer shoulder injuries and have no idea how they happen. They probably don't understand their biomechanical structure and the proper approach to training it implies. You have to train hard, but you also have to train smart

Training Implications

Understanding your own personal shoulder structure will allow you formulate the best plan of attack for your training. Although there are certain staples to shoulder training, much of what is required is determined by what your needs are genetically. They should dictate your technique on the Bench Press, the frequency of your shoulder workouts, and their intensity.

Grip

Different shoulder builds affect the grip that should be used on the Bench Press. A wide grip is best for large shoulder girdles, a moderate grip for smaller shoulder girdles. A wide grip recruits more back and lats, whereas a moderate grip relies more on the triceps. Neither is right or wrong. The key thing is to maximize your Bench approach based on your own body. (Watch how to properly perform the Bench.)

Volume, Intensity and Frequency

A large shoulder girdle allows you to train your shoulders with heavier weight—and single heavy reps build max strength. People with smaller shoulders do not recover well from single reps, so in order to impact their shoulder strength and size, they need to stick to three to six reps, only max out occasionally and train more frequently.

I don't perform reps to add size, because I have adequate size and density. Additional rep work only lengthens recovery time. I stick to singles and sometimes triples. One of my colleagues has an angled shoulder build, so he frequently does three to six reps to build his size and strength.

No matter how your shoulders are built, understand that all shoulders respond to frequency, and to a variety of rep speeds and angles. Incorporate steady pace, explosive and timed-pause reps into your shoulder workouts. Multiple speed stimulus works well for developing shoulder strength and power.

The Military Press

You need to perform several different exercises to hit each shoulder muscle. That said, one of the best movements is the tried and true Military Press. Seated or standing, it is a staple in the repertoires of most big benchers. We use it often, many times as a main movement on our heavy days.

The Forgotten Muscles

The rear delts (i.e., the backside of the shoulders) are one of the most overlooked muscle groups. It's best to work them frequently with low weight and high reps during each workout and on off days. Good exercise options include Rear Delt Raises and Band Pullaparts.

Watch the exercise demonstrations below to see some of my favorite shoulder exercises, which I use at Ultimate Advantage.

Read part one of this series to learn how to increase your Bench by strengthening and using your back during the exercise.

Rick Scarpulla
- Rick Scarpulla is a highly sought-after strength, speed and conditioning coach who helps develop top high school, college and professional athletes and programs throughout North...
Rick Scarpulla
- Rick Scarpulla is a highly sought-after strength, speed and conditioning coach who helps develop top high school, college and professional athletes and programs throughout North...
Must See
NFL Wide Receiver Randall Cobb Outworks Everyone
Views: 24,628,881
Margus Hunt Benches 385 Pounds for Five Reps
Views: 19,126,688
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,834,380

Featured Videos

James Harden on Becoming a Franchise Player Views: 72,546
Path to the Pros 2015: Devin Smith Views: 28,813
Blake Griffin Interview and Cover Shoot Views: 574,257
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088
Two-Ball Dribbling Drill With John Wall
Views: 3,359,483
Colby Lewis's Four-Seam Fastball Technique
Views: 5,011,383
Drew Brees Will Not Be Denied
Views: 7,834,380
Dwight Howard Stays in the Gym All Night
Views: 3,880,088

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

4 Simple Golf Core Exercises to Increase Your Driving Distance

Every driving range in America that you go to and listen for 5 minutes you will hear "I crushed my drive" or "I played okay but on the 13th hole I hit a...

The Top 10 Mistakes Athletes Make in the Weight Room

5 Quick Workout Fixes for Faster Muscle Growth

6 Gym Machines That Are Actually Worth Your Time

Todd Durkin

Jump Higher After a Month With These 3 Exercises

Use Eccentric Lifts to Increase Size and Strength

3 Tips to Blast Through Training Plateaus

3 Habits of Highly Successful Coaches

Get a Full-Body Workout With Just 2 Exercises

Train Like a Pro: Peyton Manning's Core Workout

Abby Wambach's Soccer Power Workout

The 3-Minute Total Arm Pump

Train Like a Pro: Los Angeles Lakers Strength Training Program

5 Ways to Get a Higher Vertical Jump

4 Exercises From NFL Players to Build True Game Speed

Build Awesome Arms With This 15-Minute Workout

3 Keys to In-Season Baseball Training

Deadlift Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

Posterior Chain Fixes to Improve Your Game

3 Keys to Better Softball Workouts

Build Wrestling Strength With the Gable Lock Isometric Hold

Mike Boyle: 4 Small Muscles That Can Lead to Big Gains

Train Like a Pro: Damian Lillard's Basketball Core Workout

Build Bulletproof Chest Strength With This Unconventional Method

Build Max Power With These Pulling Exercises

Putting Together an Off-Season Workout for Point Guards

12 Strength Moves from NFL WR Harry Douglas's Full-Body Workout

Save Your Shoulders With These Barbell Landmine Exercises

3 Tricks for a Stronger Front Squat

Improve Your Squat Depth With 5 Easy Warm-Up Exercises

Train Like a Pro: Dustin Pedroia's Baseball Power Workout

The Best Lower-Body Landmine Exercises

Prevent Volleyball Shoulder Injuries With These Exercises

7 Farmer's Walk Variations for Improved Core Strength

Evan Longoria's Off-Season Strength and Resistance Workout

Can You Survive This Insane 100-Rep Push-Up Challenge?

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Exercise

Increase Your Explosiveness with the Power Curl

Todd Durkin's Complete Football Strength Training Program

How Strength Training Changed Rory McIlroy's Game

How to Improve Shoulder Strength and Flexibility

What Happens When You Do The Same Exercise Every Day?

12-Week Resistance Band and Chain Workout

3 Simple Strategies for a Better Workout

Grab a Broom for This Fast-Paced, Full-Body Workout

When Not to Try Unstable Hockey Training