Improve your Bench Press and you’ll improve the overall strength and muscular endurance of your upper body. This will help you deliver more powerful blocks, throw harder or physically overwhelm an opponent.
The Bench Press has many components, but these three tips can quickly yield impressive results, ensuring you get the most out of your Bench Press workout.
1) Grip the Bar Hard. Tension is a key to improving Bench Press strength, and the easiest way to increase tension in your body is to squeeze the bar hard. Setting a strong grip helps your body to recruit more muscle mass, giving you more strength as you press. Bonus: a strong grip on the barbell will help improve shoulder stability during the exercise and thus contribute to keeping your shoulders healthy.
2) “Pull the Bar Apart.” This is a technique used by powerlifters to improve their Bench Pressing technique. After you set your grip on the bar, pull your hands away from each other on the bar. This will recruit your lower back muscles, giving your shoulders more strength and stability during the lowering phase of the lift. Pulling the bar apart is also important for the up phase of the lift. As you press, pulling the bar apart helps you to make better use of your triceps as you press the bar toward lockout.
3) Develop Your Triceps. Most athletes mistakenly think the Bench Press is primarily a chest exercise. In reality, it is mainly an arm exercise, since it mostly uses the deltoids and triceps for pressing strength, activating the chest muscles only at the beginning of the movement. Building stronger triceps with exercises like Push-Ups, Dips and partial range of motion Bench Press variations will improve your Bench Press faster than focusing on developing your chest muscles. To increase your lifting power, add one or two of the following triceps exercises to your upper-body workout. Perform three to four sets of six to eight reps.
- Grasp handles of Dip machine and support body with straight arms
- Lower body with control until chest is at hand level
- Push body up until arms are straight; repeat
- Assume kneeling position with weight vest or chains in criss-cross pattern on back
- Perform Push-Up
- Repeat for specified reps
- Assume Bench Press position, gripping bar slightly narrower than shoulder-width
- Keeping elbows tight to body, slowly lower bar until it touches chest
- Press bar to start position
- Repeat for specified reps
Improving your technique by gripping the bar hard and pulling it apart has an instant effect on the amount of weight you can Bench Press. Make your triceps stronger and you will have completed the stronger Bench trifecta.
Want more Bench Press tips? View our series on How to Improve Your Bench Press.
Our Strength Training page is full of lift variations and workout plans to compliment your efforts to improve your bench. Check it out!
Todd Bumgardner, co-owner of Beyond Strength Performance, works with athletes both in person and online. He earned his master’s degree in exercise science from California University of Pennsylvania, and he has served as a collegiate strength and conditioning coach and a high school football coach. He is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist, as well as an IYCA high school strength and conditioning specialist.