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...
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Why Do So Many Exercises Have Foreign Names

Have you ever noticed how many of the exercises and exercise equipment athletes use today have foreign exercise names; Romanian Deadlifts, Bulgarian...

Don't Train Your Arms Until You Can Do These 4 Things

Medicine Ball Training for Hockey Players

The 7 Best Slide Board Exercises

Why One Bench Press Is Not Enough

Get a Ripped Core With 6 Advanced Dead Bug Variations

The Total-Body, Crunch-Free Ab Workout

Get Faster by Improving Your Core Mobility

Break Through Plateaus With the 1-10 Drop Set Method

3 Explosive Exercises Designed to Increase Pitching Power

Baseball Workout for Power Hitting

Developing Pre-Pull Tension for a Monster Deadlift

Get Tougher With Skylar Diggins' Bodyweight Workout

Notice On-Court Results With This Basketball Core Workout

The 14 Best Exercises From 2014

3 Sandbag Training Mistakes Athletes Make

5 Isolation Exercises Your Workout Is Missing

5 More Exercises Only Elite Athletes Can Conquer

Do Your First Pull-Up With This Simple Workout. Guaranteed.

Basketball In-Season Battle Rope Complexes, Part 1

10-Minute Ab Workout You Can Do Anywhere

Get More Explosive With James Harden's Workout

4 Ways to Get a Jacked Back

Female Athletes: Get Strong, Not Bulky, With These Workouts

3 Tips to Maximize Your Off-Season Baseball Training

Keys to Preventing Groin Injuries in Hockey

The Simplest Bodyweight Workout Ever

7 Exercises That Safely Build Shoulder Strength

How to Train During Your Hockey Season

Demolish Your Delts With This Super Shoulder Training Strategy

Game Changer: Should You Be Using Machines or Free Weights?

Improve Your Back Strength with the Inverted Row

Kettlebell Swing vs. Olympic Lifting: Which Is Better?

Off-Season Baseball Exercises for Your Shoulders

The Best Exercises for Preventing a Groin Pull

7 Strategies for Dealing With a Meathead in Your Gym

James Harrison's Physioball Side-to-Side Bridge

The Turkish Get-Up for Youth Athletes

Build Powerful Pecs With This Multi-Angle Chest Workout

The Upper-Body Endurance Combo Workout

Strengthen Your Core With Advanced Plate Push-Outs

Improve Your Strength for Track & Field Success

Bilateral or Unilateral Exercises: Which Are Better?

Build Explosive Hips to Jump Higher

Why the Dead Bug Is Changing Core Training

4 Strength Exercises for Female Athletes