The Bench Press is much more than a chest exercise. Your entire upper body, including your arms, works to lower the heavy weight and drive it off your chest.
Think about it. You straighten your arms as you press the bar off your chest. What muscles help to straighten your arms? The triceps. When the bar is close to your chest, your pecs do the most of the work. As the bar continues to rise up, the role of the triceps increases, and they play an essential role when you move through the top half of the rep.
That's why Rick Scarpulla, owner of Ultimate Advantage Training (Bloomingburg, New York) prioritizes triceps strength when developing a bigger Bench Press. And he's had some great success. At the age of 55 and weighing 200 pounds, Scarpulla can raw Bench Press 440 pounds. Many of the high school athletes he trains can lift well over 300 pounds on the movement.
His silver bullet? The RS Press.
Scarpulla developed the RS Press (as in "Rick Scarpulla Press") as an assistance move to the Bench Press. It's essentially a hybrid between a Close-Grip Bench Press and a Skullcrusher.
How to perform the RS Press
- Hold the bar with a close grip so the inside of your hands are on the edge of the knurling.
- Keeping your elbows tight to your sides, lower the bar until your elbows are aligned with your body.
- Rock the bar backward a few inches.
- In one fluid motion, rock the bar forward a few inches and press it explosively off your chest.
The unique part of the RS Press is the rocking motion.
"When you do the small swing backwards and come forward, it activates the delts and the firing back up develops triceps strength," Scarpulla says. Compared to the Close-Grip Bench Press, the triceps are firing through a greater range of motion, which makes it more challenging for the backside of the arms.
It also improves control of the bar during the Bench Press. "When you stop the bar on the way down, it takes tremendous back and rear delt strength to stop the bar with a heavy load," he adds.
Consistently performing this exercise will result in a stronger Bench Press, especially on the top half of the rep, because of the added tricep strength. However, it's also a great overall assistance exercise, because it works several common weak points in the lift.
Scarpulla recommends performing the RS Press once or twice a week. He sometimes does it for 3 or 4 sets of 12 reps with light weight, or he might load it up for heavy sets in an approach similar to the Bench Press. Give it a try and watch your Bench Press skyrocket.
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