Few exercises command more mystique and interest than the bench press. Think about conversations you overhear about weight training; "how much do you bench? " is among the most eagerly leveled questions. In association with said mystique, is often a desire to press to elite heights. Well within the following 7 tips, you should find a few gems that will elevate your bench to new levels.
1. Strengthen the upper back.
During the bench press, the pecs pull on the arms which are attached to the shoulder blades. If the shoulder blades aren't tightly retracted, the pecs round the upper back sinking the chest. This position renders the shoulders vulnerable and impairs transmission of force to the bar.
Fortunately, upper back strengthening will reduce the likelihood of the aforementioned deviation. Exercises like rows, reverse flies, and scarecrows strengthen shoulder blade retraction. Stronger retraction means more shoulder stability and, therefore, more force transmission to the bar to bench bigger weights.
2. Avoid high rep sets.
High rep sets increase the risk of stimulating adaptations that counter increased strength. Every rep is, essentially, a command to your Adaptational apparatus. As such, you want every bench press rep to command your neuromuscular system to adapt for greater bench press force capacity.
What happens as you increase reps per set is a reduced force output per rep to conserve energy for more reps. So those additional lesser force reps command the nervous system to adapt so less force is produced per rep. This situation creates adaptational confusion; does adaptation obey the commands of the first few forceful reps or the last several sub-forceful reps?
To minimize adaptational confusion, keep reps per set between 1 and 5; with the perspective of "the lower the better". Such low reps will increase the proportion of reps that influence higher-force adaptations. More high force commands reassures the adaptational apparatus to make neuromuscular alterations conducive to greater bench press force.
3. Avoid fatigue.
While avoiding fatigue may sound the same as keeping reps low, additional clarification is necessary. Although keeping reps low is critical to avoiding fatigue, fatigue can also be induced by factors other than high reps. Excessive heavy loading, repping til failure, and insufficient rest between sets/workouts are other fatiguing factors. Another relationship between fatigue avoidance and keeping reps low is that both strategies aim to avoid adaptational confusion.
Lifting maximum weight/repping til failure too frequently wears down the neural pathways. To cope, the nervous system will resort to less-ideal pathways in order to rest that which is exhausted. The problem with this phenomenon is that it, like too many reps, presents adaptational confusion.
As mentioned above, each rep is a command to the adaptational apparatus and a consistent message is critical. The more commands coming from sub-standard reps the more likely sub-standard adaptations will follow.
To avoid fatigue and keep muscular tension high, focus more on acceleration and avoid repping til failure. This high force to fatigue ratio is best accomplished with loads between 70-90% of 1RM for sub-failure reps moved as fast as the musculature can.
4. Hold your breath!
Holding a deep breath amplifies muscular force! This is a fact most seem to know (watch anyone lift something heavy outside the gym! ), but resist in the gym because of what's been learned from pop-culture depictions of fitness. Breathholding, therefore, isn't utilized enough when benching.
Now, to clarify, breath-holding shouldn't last more than a few seconds and neither should a set of bench-presses! DO NOT HOLD THE BREATH FOR HIGH REP SETS!
To optimize breath-holding, get inflated after you're set up but before you unrack the bar and don't exhale until past the sticking -point.
5. Squeeze the bar.
The sturdier the forearms, the more forcefully the triceps can lock them out on a heavy bench press. Think about any lever you exert force against; if it's unstable/wobbly, you exert less force against it. So squeeze the bar so the forearms are sturdy allowing the triceps to pull them to lock out without neural apprehension.
6. Pinch and Arch.
When the body isn't resisting any undo forces, joints can remain in neutral positions. During a heavy bench press, however, forces are far beyond undo! Bench-presses require the pecs to pull on the shoulder girdle with forward force and, if this pec force isn't resisted by the upper back (see tip 1), the shoulders are vulnerable and less pec force is transmitted to the bar.
To preempt the shoulders being pulled forward, arch the low back and pinch the shoulder blades together before unracking the bar. Arching a healthy low back during bench-presses anchors the shoulder blades more effectively; and, because this position is not vertical and less vulnerable to gravity compression, the spine is safe in this position. This position provides a bench press platform to skyrocket from.
7. Avoid the frivolous.
What's going to correlate most with well developed pecs, delts, and triceps is immense pressing strength. not mediocrity at a large variety of "related exercises ". Furthermore, effort spread over too many exercises impairs recovery and confuses adaptation. As such exert maximal force/effort with a few presses you progress well with and leave the rest for those who lift just for fun.
Begin practicing any of these tips, you're not already, and enjoy an immediate increase in bench press performance. Additionally, prepare to be asked for pointers by onlookers who notice your sudden meteoric rise in strength; as many of the tips mentioned will also enhance the performance of any exercise.