By Eric Velazquez, NSCA-CPT Prosource
It's not just about the plates -- it's about the push
We all know that in order to bench more you need to, well, bench more. And you need to do it on a regular basis if you expect to set new personal bests. 205...225...275...315...405? You need to put in the work! But to reach those goals, you can't just press blindly -- you need to become a student of proper technique and strength-boosting protocols.
Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, offers his best four tips that lifters tend to neglect when laying back to bench under a loaded barbell.
"Bench press all work sets as explosively as possible," he says. "Do this in reverse pyramid style. This means do your heaviest work set after a sufficient warm-up, then do some lighter sets for maximum speed. It's important to remember: force=mass x acceleration. Your largest forces can actually be produced with lighter weights because of the increase in acceleration.
MORE AND LESS
"Use more sets and less reps," Bryant says. "Three sets of 10 can become 10 sets of three, for example. We are after a greater one repetition max (1RM). You get way more first reps with the 10 set protocol. Additionally, the time under tension will be closer to what one max rep takes. Furthermore, it's much easier to push with maximal force for three reps than with 10."
"Squeeze the bar tightly. If you pick up the bar with a lax grip, the weight will feel much heavier than with a tight grip. You want to squeeze the bar extremely hard on heavy sets. Gradually increase the squeeze as you move up in weight because it is tiring. This will help keep you tight, make the weight feel lighter and keep your body functioning as an integrated bench pressing machine."
BOTTOM UP STRENGTH
"All bench pressing articles seem to put a special emphasis on the triceps. You have to have strong triceps to be a great bench presser, they'll say. Because of assistant shirts, all efforts are concentrated on lockouts. When you read about people benching 1000 pounds, many times they are wearing shirts that can add up to 500 pounds over what they can accomplish raw. The raw record is 715 pounds. So the point is that this doesn't apply to you unless you are a shirted powerlifter. Just as triceps are important, so is the bottom end of your bench press. If the bar isn't moving quickly off your chest, you will never hit your potential. Bottom half strength can be worked with dead benches (pressing from a dead stop from safety pins), deep dumbbell pause bench presses, bottom end drives and for the thick, barrel-chested type with no shoulder problems, the cambered bar."