If the Squat is the king of lower-body exercises, then the Bench Press also deserves a royal title when it comes to the upper body.
Whether you’re an athlete, a bodybuilder or a weekend warrior, everyone gets a sense of satisfaction when hitting a personal record on the bench. However, it can be frustrating when you are stuck at a Bench Press plateau and can’t seem to add any weight to the bar.
Follow these three tip to break through a Bench Press plateau and start setting new personal records every workout.
Bench Press Plateau Busters
Adopt Powerlifting Technique
There’s a reason why the people with the heaviest bench presses in the world are powerlifters. They know how to bench right.
A powerlifting bench differs from the version performed by the average person in the gym. The whole body needs to be tight, especially the legs, core and back muscles. Pull your feet in so they’re almost underneath your hips, and dig them into the floor as hard as you can. You’ll notice that this creates a small arch in your lower back. This is vital for getting a bigger bench, since it allows you to put pressure down through your glutes and upper back.
Squeeze the bar as hard as you can and keep your elbows tucked in. Letting them flare out not puts you in a weaker position, it’s also a potential shoulder wrecker. When the bar reaches your chest, pause momentarily then explode upwards. The exercise needs to be forceful and controlled, not slow and labored.
Add Speed Work
Speed work is another method from the school of powerlifting. Once a week, do a bench session where you lift only 50 to 60 percent of your max for six to 10 sets of three reps.
This may sound easy and it should be. The aim is not to break down muscles, cause fatigue and stress your nervous system. Instead, speed works reinforces technique, boosts the speed that you can lift the bar and increases your drive from the bottom position to reduce the chance of a failed rep.
Many other exercise can improve your Bench Press. The best way use accessory exercises is to strengthen individual components of the Bench. Then, when you get under the bar, everything will come together to help you lift more weight.
Pick two accessory exercises to perform after your main bench session, and two for your speed session. Do three sets of six to 10 reps of each exercise, and aim to increase your weight or reps each week. As soon as you stall, change to another accessory exercise. Here are six options:
- Close-Grip Bench. This mimics the exact technique of a regular Bench but places extra stress on your triceps. For many folks, triceps strength is the limiting factor to building a bigger bench.
- Paused Bench Press. Perform bench presses as you would normally, but have a partner count to three while the bar is on your chest. This will boost your power and drive from the bottom position.
- Dips. Dips are the number one exercise to build triceps strength.
- Dumbbell Rows. A strong back keeps your shoulder blades stable so you can exert as much pushing force as possible against the bar.
- Chin-Ups. For the same reasons as above.
- Dumbbell Bench. Great for higher rep work to increase your strength, endurance and muscle mass. You can perform these on a flat, incline or decline bench.
If you follow these three tips, you won’t fail in your quest to build a bigger bench. Remember, the Bench Press isn’t an ego lift. To watch your numbers shoot up, drop your weights for a few months to reacquaint yourself with correct technique, go light but fast on your speed work and hammer the accessory exercises.