All of us–men and women alike–who spend time at the gym know the value of benching more. Not only does it help you to look good among your fellow gymgoers, but it develops those big chest muscles that give you the appearance of strength and power. But what do you do if you just can’t get your bench up to where it should be? How can you start benching more? Here’s what you need to know:
Focus on the Lockout
That first movement when you lift the weight is the same as the final movement when you place it back on the rack–it’s called the lockout. This is actually one of the most important parts of the exercise, as it helps you to build strong triceps, one of the muscles that play a huge part in your bench press.
If your goal is to start benching more, spend some time working on your lockout. Do a few sets of rack lockouts, and feel your triceps start to burn. You’ll find that you can bench a whole lot more in the long run thanks to the fact that you have an easier time pushing the weight. Or, as an alternative exercise, try doing Close Grip Bench Presses. This is another wicked workout for your triceps, and it will hit them hard enough to make them grow.
The way you breathe can have a huge effect on your ability to bench press properly. Many lifters make the mistake of holding their breath when they press, but that just increases intra-abdominal pressure and places a greater strain on your back. The key is to inhale when you lower the weight and exhale as you push up. That will help you to oxygenate your blood so that by the time you’re ready to push, your muscles have the energy they need.
Focus on the Low Point
Are you getting stuck when the bar is at your chest? This “lowest point” of the exercise is where your chest does most of the work, so if you’re failing here, it may mean that you need to focus more on the outer portion of the chest muscles (the part beneath your armpits). Doing Wide Grip Bench Presses can help you build the strength you need to push back up at the low point.
But it may not be your chest muscles at fault at all. Instead, it could have something to do with your upper back. Your chest and back muscles work in opposition, but instability in one could lead to weakness in the other. Working your upper back muscles is a good way to help you get more benching strength, so it’s worth doing more Rows and Chin-Ups on Back Day.
Focus on the Mid-Point
If you’re failing when your elbows are at a 90-degree angle and you are pushing the bar back up, the fault usually lies with your triceps. Your chest has just made the huge effect to push the weight up, but your triceps aren’t quite able to handle the load.
The best way to deal with this is to do more exercises to build strength when in that “no man’s land”. For example, Floor Presses (bench presses lying on your back on the floor rather than a bench) are excellent to help you build the strength needed to push the weight that last little bit until your triceps can fully kick in and straighten your arms. Pay extra attention to the muscles that engage at this mid-point, and you’ll find yourself benching more in no time!