The Bench Press test will not make or break your football performance. But it will prove to your coach that you busted your butt this off-season. You need to be fully prepared for testing day, whether you’re a perennial starter or just trying to make the team.
Your coach will see how many reps you can perform on the Bench Press at either 185 or 225 pounds to measure your overall strength and muscular endurance. Your goal should be to lift more weight than when you were previously tested to show you’ve made progress.
Many of you are ready to knock the test out of the park. However, some of you may be freaking out because you didn’t lift as much as you should have over the summer. Regardless, you still have time to add a few more reps to your Bench test. We spoke with Rick Scarpulla, owner of Ultimate Advantage Sports Performance Training and an elite expert on the Bench Press, to learn how you can crush your test.
RELATED: How to Test Your One-Rep Max
Training Before Testing Day
You can take one of two approaches during the two weeks leading up to the Bench Press test, depending on where you currently stand.
Option 1: You Trained Hard All Summer
If you trained hard and are feeling strong, it’s time to scale back your workouts. “You want to let your body recover as much as possible so when you go to camp, you’re as fresh as you can be,” says Scarpulla.
He recommends cutting out high volume work and limiting your training to one upper-body, one lower-body and one bodyweight workout each week to allow your muscles time to recover. Your workouts with weight should focus on two or three primary movements performed for four sets of three reps, and you can add conditioning work with intervals on your off days.
Option 2: You Slacked Off on Your Program
OK, it’s panic time. Unfortunately, you can’t expect crazy gains at this point. “If you slacked off all summer, the worst thing you can do is to jam a whole summer’s worth of work in only a few weeks,” says Scarpulla. “That’s just going to get you hurt and broken down.”
He recommends doing an upper-body lift twice per week for the next two weeks. Only perform sets of three reps, which allows you to lift enough weight so that you’ll see some gains but won’t kill your body with volume. Do these three primary exercises twice per week. And don’t forget about your lower body.
- Bench Press – 4×3
- Shoulder Press – 4×3
- Pull-Ups – 4×8-12
Perfecting the Bench Press Test
On testing day, you want to knock out as many reps as you can to impress your coach. Here are some tips to help you do just that when it’s your time to shine.
You need to warm up for the Bench Press, but don’t go crazy with it. Start with a dynamic warm-up you’re comfortable with. Afterwards, Scarpulla recommends performing five reps of Bench Press at about 60 percent of your max.
Use a Slightly Wider Grip
Adjust your hand position on the bar to a slightly wider grip than you normally use, ideally so your pinky is on the bar line. This shifts the weight so your shoulders can assist with the movement.
Drive Your Legs
Yes, the Bench Press is an upper-body exercise, but you can’t ignore the importance of your lower body. Without it, you’re only half as strong. Before lifting, set your feet on the floor in a solid and comfortable position. As you start to push the bar off your chest, press your feet into the ground, fire your glutes and drive your shoulder blades into the bench. This will transfer energy from your lower body to your upper body and into the bar.
Use a Soft Lockout
When you’re training, you typically lock out at the top of each rep. When you’re testing, this no longer applies, because it will tire you out faster. Instead, try a soft lockout, which is a fluid touch-and-go motion. This will allow you to move a bit faster, reducing fatigue during the isometric portion of the exercise. It also allows you to synchronize your breath with the lift. Inhale on the lower and exhale on the press—to maximize your strength on each rep.
In the video above, Scarpulla provides a demonstration of the soft lockout technique.
RELATED: Scarpulla’s Guide to Building a Big Bench