The age-old weak bench press discussion
- 02-08-2012, 09:37 PM
The age-old weak bench press discussion
What is up everybody!
This is literally my first post on AM ever and, unfortunately, it's going to be an annoying one.
A few stats about myself:
Lifting experience: 3 years (1.5 years "serious" lifting)
So, simply put, my bench press sucks, and it's driving me up a ****ing wall. I've been making progress in nearly every other facet of training besides the bench press, even including other chest exercises. It's always been a problem for me, and I've been trying to figure out every way to improve it. I've modified my form time and time again. I'm squeezing my upper back, slight back arch, elbows tucked, legs firmly on the floor with heels to the ground, squeezing the **** out of the bar, then slowly bringing the bar to my lower chest and exploding up. i'm beginning to think it's just psychological. My max was 225 when i weighed 170 a year ago. I gained about 20 pounds since and now it's 230. What. The. ****? As you all know, the bench press is the holy grail of all lifts; meaning nobody cares about how big you look, just what you can bench. I just feel incomplete as a weightlifter to have such a ****ty bench press. What do you guys think?
- 02-08-2012, 09:43 PM
Some have it and some don't. I'm one of those dont's. Try doing heavy negatives with a spotter with about 10% percent over your max. Helps me to get acclimated physically and mentally to the heavier weight. Make sure you're doing some weighted dips too, those are a wonderful for strengthening the whole upper torso with focus on chest and tris.Remember why you started.
02-08-2012, 09:49 PM
02-08-2012, 11:27 PM
I'm weak in the bench as well; fwiw, last year I made use of push-ups, either on the floor or with handles, and even incorporated bands with Lifeline USA's "Power Push-Up". I also did dips, which progressed to weighted dips (+25lb) and they may have been synergistic.
After a few months of that, I finally did 165lb on bench before I stopped and lost focus on exercise in general. Now, I'm working back up from 110lb at the same body weight of 144lb & I can barely perform dips at body weight. However, I've got faith that I'll fix this and go even higher by summertime.
02-08-2012, 11:39 PM
You just have to work at it man. I'm 20 and weigh 190 and last time I did a 1rep max I was at 360. How long are your arms? When u bench do you do slow and controlled reps or just muscle it up ASAP?
Always willing to learn :D
02-09-2012, 12:15 AM
02-09-2012, 12:28 AM
02-09-2012, 05:19 AM
02-09-2012, 06:35 AM
Are you doing other compound movements as well? I noticed once I started going hard and heavy on squats and deadlifts my bench increased exponentially.
02-09-2012, 11:18 AM
how often do you bench press?
have your other lifts gone up in this time period?
how much has your squat increased? DL? press?
02-09-2012, 11:34 AM
I agree that building upper back and delt strength will obviously help and if you've got long arms, it's just gonna blow, man. I had a friend who was probably 5'6" and he started lifting well after a friend and myself, but eclipsed us after a few months because he had almost no ROM lol.
Negatives, as mentioned, will help and also working with some resistance bands will, too. You may also want to consider weight acclimation to warm up. I'm assuming you lead whatever day you're benching with bench press being the first workout. A lot of people will do workout sets with lighter weight (e.g. 135x12). If I'm lifting heavy, I'll start off by doing 1-2 reps of weights leading up to that. If I'm going for 295 on bench, I'll do 135x4, 205x2, 255x1 and then hit my 295 for reps. Don't fatigue your muscles with a bunch of light-weight reps when doing what I just mentioned will allow you to work up to the weight you need without wasting as much energy.
Also working with whatever amount of weight you can push off the rack / hold up and just holding it at the top position will aid in some gains over time.
02-09-2012, 12:37 PM
I would extend your first question: what does your (op) routine look like as a whole? Are you constantly training to failure? What does your volume look like? Do you have any sort of periodization in your training?Originally Posted by dday39
And not to be picky, op, but weightlifting is a sport that involves the clean and jerk and snatch--no relation to bench (many of my weightlifting friends don't bench at all, but that's another discussion). You may call semantics, but weightlifters and powerlifters can be quite defensive about misrepresenting their sports. I digress.
Also, how's your squat and bent over row?
02-09-2012, 12:56 PM
This is the one sport where my short arms and legs kick ass
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02-09-2012, 01:41 PM
02-09-2012, 01:48 PM
As far as periodization goes, I'm currently on a bulking phase so I'm going with heavier weights and lower reps, like 5 sets of 80-90% of my 1rm for 3-5. My squats and deadlifts have been increasing steadily, but I will admit that I only began DLs 3 months ago or so. I don't always train to failure but lately i've been trying to increase my weight so badly i usually fail on the 4th or 5th rep of my last set
02-09-2012, 01:48 PM
But as to my explanation of weight-acclimation for warming up (taken from Jeff Willett and AST's Max-OT training), why would you want to waste all of your energy on the "warm-up weight"?
I didn't list out the full workout, so perhaps that was part of the issue.
During my heavy week on chest day, I'd do something like:
Incline Barbell Bench Press: 3x4-6
Regular Barbell Bench Press: 3x4-6
Weighted Dips: 2x4-6
So if I'm aiming for 275lbs for reps on incline, I'm going to ease into it, but there's no reason to do 10 pound jumps. But you don't want to go right out the gate into taking that heavy weight; you want your muscles to have eased into it. That's done with minimal reps beforehand, but with ample increasing of weight.
What I'm trying to illustrate is if your workout program calls for 4x12 or 3x6 or 5x5, you don't want to waste your strength on anything outside of that. Your main results are going to come from that program (there's a reason you're following it), so it's counter-productive to spend 3 sets of 10 or 12 at lower weight if you know you ultimately want to hit that heavier weight.
02-09-2012, 01:58 PM
02-09-2012, 02:07 PM
To be fair, I'll sometimes hit about 8 reps with a really light weight.
An example would be on my delt workout; the first thing I do on high intensity (non Max-OT week) is seated DB shoulder presses. My active weight might be 65's x 12 for 4 sets with 60 seconds rest in between. I don't just hit 65's right out of the gate. I might start like this:
30's x 8
45's x 4
55's x 1
Then start my actual planned lifting.
That's not an exact template to use, but the point is that first set isn't enough to affect my strength or endurance and the other 2, being so few reps, also won't. What it allows me to do, though, is be ready to hit my target weight for reps while having my muscles be ready for it.
I only do that for my first lift of the session. So for my side DB lateral raises that I'd do next, I just jump right into the target weight. I (personally) don't have a need to do weight acclimation outside of prior to my first lift.
The main takeaway is just getting your body primed/ready to accept the weight you're going to use without wasting any energy/strength on lower weight sets that you don't really want, anyway.
02-09-2012, 02:14 PM
Much of the other advice here looks solid. I won't rehash. However...
One of the limiting bench factors I've seen in otherwise strong individuals is rotator cuff strength. You might benefit from Googling some rotator cuff exercises and making them a part of your regimen.
02-09-2012, 02:27 PM
Not one mention of technique so far. Technique is everything and most people have awful bench technique.
M.Ed. Ex Phys
02-09-2012, 02:29 PM
02-09-2012, 02:32 PM
M.Ed. Ex Phys
02-09-2012, 02:39 PM
02-09-2012, 03:25 PM
I'm not suggesting 5 or 6 sets of warm-ups. Typically, following a general warm-up, 2 sets at 65 and 85% of your work weight for the day will suffice (except on lifts such as dead lifts or if you're able to squat a fair amount) for most lifts. This doesn't occur on every lift either. I generally perform two warm-up sets for my first and second primary lifts for the day. After that, I may perform one with the same reps on a particularly heavy secondary lift.
Also, rest periods will have an effect on this. I train for strength/power, so my rests are typically ~3 minutes long (working sets only; a little more leeway in warm-ups). In your example, your rest periods are much shorter. In such a case, yeah, you don't want to engage in loads of volume that close together. I would wager, however, that if you increased your rest periods by even another 30s, you would see a change in your tolerance for higher warm-up volumes. If it's a time management thing, I understand, but from an aesthetics point of view, you can still see similar benefits from slightly longer rest periods (via higher force production each set, which will allow you to increase weight lifted per set as well as total volume for the day).
Just my two cents.
02-09-2012, 03:35 PM
Finally, how often are you hitting that failure point? Every training session? Every few weeks? Research has suggested you can still make gains without training to failure. In fact, constantly failing really beats you up, both from a muscular and neurological point of view. I won't say never fail and/or test yourself, but don't kill it every session. Emphasize recovery outside of training and you should see improvements.
02-09-2012, 04:03 PM
I understand my take on a lack of warmup sets isn't that popular. But what I'd propose is: if you're counting on them so much, why not just not refer to them as "warm-up" sets and include them in the scheme (6x12 or 7x12 instead of 4x12)?
I lifted with warmup sets when I was in college and lifting on my own after baseball. Anymore, I've noticed just as much or more progress in allowing myself to hit higher weight at the volume I've specified for the workout (whether it's 3x15, 4x12, 3x5, or something else).
02-09-2012, 04:51 PM
They are included in the scheme. They aren't listed in the work sets, but they are accounted for in the recording process. I currently have an Excel sheet set up for up to 8 sets (5x10s), so all volume performed in a week is recorded. I feel (whether it's true or not I don't know; I just know my brain thinks this way) 7x12 could be misconstrued if someone isn't given explicit instructions as to what it means. Maybe I don't have enough faith in the people I'm giving the programs to, but I've generally found Murphy's law to be pretty accurate on improperly explained strength training. Thus, two asterisks next to an exercise and a notation that explains those asterisks stand for two warm-up sets at 65&85% of work set weight has provided the best results with the individuals I work with. Now when you're writing your own stuff, as long as you know what it means, meh. Write it how you want.
Anywho, like I said before, there are times when it isn't a hard rule (super short rest times, very heavy weights, very explosive movements such as snatch, max-effort sessions, etc.), but it works well a majority of the time and with a majority of people.
02-09-2012, 04:51 PM
Sams- I've been following a routine for about a month called "power, muscle, burn". I'm not sure if you're familiar but it had a good amount of positive feedback from the reviews I read. I've been seeing some steady progression as far as strength and size goes, as well. I generally do hit failure on my first "power" sets, which include squats, deads, and bench
02-09-2012, 05:17 PM
I'm not a huge fan of programs such as that (read a quick summary of it on **********************), but given your relative lack of training, you'll likely respond well to it for a while. My beef is that it tries to emphasize too many factors at once, and if you're further along in training, you need more concise training goals for a given block of training. Don't get me wrong, the other elements are still there, just in diminished capacity. Think of it like a stove--you might have one eye set at 8 to cook chicken, another at 3 to heat the green beans, and another on simmer to keep the gravy warm (yay for Southern examples). The gravy wasn't always on simmer, though, and the chicken won't always be at 8--shifting emphasis depending on what your main focus for the block (dinner) is allows you to emphasize certain aspects of training and build concurrent blocks that take advantage of previous training periods.
I do encourage you to have a down week in there every 4-6 (maybe 8 depending on how you're feeling) weeks, as the way the program is written, it seems to encourage ever-increasing step-wise progressions on weights. It sounds great on paper, but you can't do it forever--a lot of physiological factors get in the way. Anyway, as the weights/your training progress, you'll get closer to a down week every fourth week. It will do wonders for your recovery and will ultimately aid you in your training.
02-09-2012, 05:23 PM
I just place higher importance on the working sets if the warm-up actually hinders them.
All about finding a balance, I suppose.
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