6/12/14 – 4 tips for a bigger Bench
So today was my first trip back into competition style benching in lieu of setting up to make my return to the platform in the new year, and all in all it went very well. I worked up to a paused set of 3 with 105kg and continued on with my workout, but it got me thinking. I have taken a number of big steps in order to increase the numbers on my bench and I wanted to share with you the my top four tips for a bigger bench.
1. Improve your set up –
While I am still not a real advocate or fan of the dramatic arch used by many powerlifters, what I am an advocate of is getting as tight and set into the bench as possible, regardless of what weight is on the bar. Taking time to make sure that you are properly set on the bench press will be the foundation upon which you can build a monstrous bench. Take time to make sure that you have grounded your upper back into the bench, that your glutes are driven down and are firmly set with your feet acting as anchors and power generators on the ground. Making sure that you are as physically tight and immovable as possible is key. If you get a bit uncomfortable – deal with it. As Louie Simmons, owner of Westside Barbell says, “purple equals strong.” Louie has also said that why have a tan when you can have high blood pressure… I guess he cant be a genius all of the time. The level of tightness your generate with your start position should be the same whether you are benching with the empty bar or your max.
2. Break the bar in half –
The minute the bar comes out of the rack make sure you set your shoulders by attempting to bend the bar into a horseshoe. By making sure that your shoulders are in an externally rotated position during any time that the bar is out of the rack is going to be key to making those weights fly up. The act of externally rotating the shoulder tightens and secure the musculature of the shoulder girdle and allows for a fuller recruitment of the muscles, thereby increasing shoulder stability and power generation throughout the lift. That being said, it also helps to create a stable bar path due to the limited range of motion of a fully externally rotated shoulder when attempting to ‘bend the bar’.
3. Turn your lats on –
Have you ever seen a great bencher that doesn’t have big lats? Cause I haven’t. It is a simple fact that the more muscles your recruit, the greater your power output. In essence, without recruiting the lats during your bench press you are a eight cylinder engine using only four cylinders. The lats help create greater stability throughout the bench, especially in the bottom positions with the bar across your chest, but what it also does is trigger a stretch reflex that will help to propel the bar upward. Whether the bench is touch and go, or with a competition pause, never forget to turn your lats on by setting your back and externally rotating the shoulder, pulling them down towards your hips. If you struggle to activate your lats increase the level of upper back accessory work that you are doing. Pull ups, straight arm cable pull downs, single arm rows and lat pull downs are all great options.
4. Triceps are king –
Besides a big upper back do you know what the best benchers in the world have? Well developed triceps, and I don’t mean a nice lean horseshoe shaped tricep, I mean something that you could unzip and smuggle a watermelon in. Seriously though, the tricep is such a small muscle but plays such a crucial part in making a big bench that they cannot be ignored. Tricep strength in many instances is the make or break muscle in the kinetic chain of events known as a bench press and if they give out, well, then you my friend better trust your spotters. Throwing in lots of close grip benching, as well as accessory work such as dips, tricep pull downs, pushups etc is only going to help develop the musculature of the tricep but also your bench.
Taking all of that into consideration, here is what I did today.
Paused bench press
– work up to a 3RM
– 4 x 3 @ 90% of 3RM
– 1 x max set @ 60kg + pushup AMRAP (As many reps as possible)
– 4 x max reps
– 4 x max reps
Straight arm cable pull down –
– 4 x 8 + 1 strip set
Take these tips away with you, try the workout, and get one step closer to building a world class bench press.
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