How awesome would it be to bench as much as you say you do? Come on, you know you bump those numbers up another 90 pounds.
In all honesty, being able to press a lot takes a lot of technique, confidence, and of course, upper body strength.
“How much do you bench?” Is one of the first questions you will be asked as soon as someone finds out you lift. If you are embarrassed to answer, or you tend to add an extra 90 to what you bench, this article is for you.
Why Is Increasing Your Bench So Hard?
The bench is a very technical movement that anyone can do, but few master.
Staying in your groove when you bench takes a lot more than just letting it flop down to your chest and then you fight to push it up however it goes.
The more you play around and find what will work best for you, the better you are going to get on the bench.
A Quick Word On Progression
Having a steady progression plan on bench pressing will help you build strength, perfect your form, and help you figure out what works best for you.
There are many times I see someone who benches the same weight each week, and sometimes the same amount of reps. Your body gets used to this and you are eventually not going to see any improvement at all.
If you are unsure about how to progress, strive to add five pounds to the bar each week.
This is the most basic form of progression and will help you get further than jumping up by 20lbs or more; it will be slower, but it will be maintainable.
Record Your Form!
Being able to record your form will allow you to gain another perspective on what you could improve on. Do your arms flare too early? Do you dance your feet around? Are you having a shoulder issue on the left side which is pulling you out of your groove?
You can find out a lot from watching your bench — from the set up to the lockout.
Now that you are prepared to use these tips properly, let’s get into why you’ve come.
Check out the 10 tips on the next page…
Try all of these tips one at a time and see which help ones you and which don’t.
Everybody is built different and their form is going to be slightly different; not every tip helps every person.
10 Tips To Increase Your Bench Today
Below are the 10 tips that using just one will increase your bench today.
1. Warm Up Properly
Warming up is important for such a technical movement. Warming up will raise your body temperature as well as get your muscles and nervous system primed for performance.
Warming up with a light weight allows your body to get back into the flow of things and will give you much better performance than if you go in and start in on your working weight.
2. Grip Width
If someone gives you a canned response for “how wide your hands should be while benching,” I would step away slowly.
We are all built differently and you want to have your hands as wide as they need to be so that your wrists are straight and that your wrists are over your elbow when the bar is on your chest.
Going too wide takes away leverage from your triceps, going too narrow takes away from the chest. Ideally, you want your forearms perpendicular to the ground, with your wrists directly above your elbow.
This is tip works best if you record your reps.
3. Stay Tight
Too many people dance their feet around, open their hands when they are pressing, or just generally not staying tight.
The tighter your body stays, the stronger your lift. This is a full body lift, even though it’s just your upper body moving the weight.
4. Tuck Your Elbows
Tucking your elbows on the descent of the lift will allow your lats to load up like a springboard and give you power off of your chest.
Row the bar down to your chest and squeeze your lats. If done correctly, you will notice a complete difference in the feel of your lift.
5. Leg Drive
Often the most confusing tip, leg drive is extremely important to your bench.
You’ve probably seen people try to use leg drive and their ass comes off of the bench. This is bad.
What leg drive is supposed to do is help keep your body tight and drive your upper back and tucked shoulder blades firmly into the bench.
If you are having issues with your ass coming off of the bench, move your feet further forward, or move them further back. This will remove the possibility of your butt coming off of the pad.
6. Squeeze The Bar
Squeezing the bar is actually something that I never personally understood until I tried it. So even if you think you are squeezing the bar tight enough, listen up.
There’s a difference between holding the bar tight, and squeezing it. If your hands, forearms, and biceps aren’t pumped up after a set, you aren’t squeezing tight enough.
Try this with me, make a fist and just squeeze it. Feels tight, right? Now, take that same fist and squeeze it as if your lift depended on it. Squeeze it and think about that person you want to punch their face.
Did your whole arm start shaking and most of your body tense up? If so, that’s the type of squeeze I mean when I say squeeze the bar.
7. Big Breath
Taking a big breath before your lift allows your body to stay tighter, it raises your chest some to shorten your range of motion, the added oxygen helps with overall power.
The Valsalva maneuver is tried and true, use your breathing to help with lifting.
8. Eat More
If you talk to any powerlifter, they will tell you that eating more will help you build strength.
Food is anabolic and while you shouldn’t gorge and binge your way to strength, eating an extra cheeseburger every once in a while can definitely help your recovery and increase your strength.
9. Hammer Curls
Believe it or not, hammer curls are an exercise that has a decent carryover to bench.
Basically how it works is the stronger your biceps and forearms are, the better you are able to stay in the grove. This is a technique I learned from people who bench 400+ raw and 700+ geared.
There are probably a lot of people happy that they get an excuse to do more bicep work now.
10. Strengthen Your Upper Back And Lats
Face pulls, bent over dumbbell raises, heavy shrugs, wide & narrow grip seated rows, and wide & narrow grip pull downs are all going to help build a bigger bench.
If you really want to amp up your progress, hit some bent over barbell rows. Try to properly row as much (or more) as you can bench.
There are plenty of people who can attest that bent over barbell rows directly correlate to a stronger bench.
There’s no magic pill to help you get stronger at pressing (technically) but these tips will help fix some major flaws in your form.
Seriously, record a session of benching and really look at what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. You may not see that you are dumping your wrist on one side, causing everything to become unstable.
Invest in a good set of wrist wraps and take the time to improve your form. The more efficiently and effectively you can move that bar in your groove, the more you’ll be able to lift.