You probably get asked how much you bench at least once a day, if you’re a regular visitor at your local gym. However, the answer to that question is “not enough” every single time, and if it isn’t, it should be. Bench pressing can be frustrating since a small number of weightlifters can lift huge weights, while everyone else tries (and mostly fails) to hit 230 pounds for reps. You’re probably thinking what you can do to improve that, and we have devised a list of 20 things you can do to aid your bench pressing skills. Here is how to go from a hundred to four hundred and more pounds in a few years.
Tip #1 – Row The Bar
Row the bar to your chest as if you’re doing a lat pull down or a barbell row. You will need to keep your back tight and your form perfect and this will help you do it.
Tip #2 – Plant Your Feet
One of the best kept secrets to mastery of the bench press is leg drive. Don’t shuffle your feet and put them down into the ground in a position that will help you leverage yourself and lift with more power. Think of the bench press as an exercise for your entire body and start every single rep by digging your feet into the floor and thrusting upwards. Your numbers will improve immediately.
Tip #3 – Don’t Rush!
Don’t think you’re going to put on 20 pounds of weight to your bench press every four weeks. It’s simply not realistic to think like that, but it is realistic to try and perform an extra rep every set. Over a longer period of time, these little extra reps will rack up to a lot of extra gains, so you should definitely go for consistency over throwing fifty pounds of weight on your bar and doing forced reps, more than likely unsuccessfully.
Tip #4 – Get a Rack
If you don’t have a spotter, use a squat rack. Make sure the pins are safely above you and will catch the bar just below your chest level if you fail on a lift. If your gym doesn’t have a squat rack and you still don’t have a spotter, stay away from the Smith machine and do some dumbbell bench presses instead.
Tip #5 – Work on Your Back
When you want to improve your bench press, you also want to build up your back strength. If your back is sufficiently strong, your drive will improve and it will also help with injury prevention. If you only do pushing movements and you forget the pulling movements, your muscles become unbalanced. You need the rows to make your back strong enough and when it is, it will aid you in your bench pressing.
Tip #6 – Squeeze the Bar!
When you’ve determined your necessary grip and its width, squeeze the bar as hard as you can and try to bend its ends inwards towards your legs. This will let your elbows stay in a far better position, but it will also boost your eccentrics and help you with keeping a nice and strong upper body.
Tip #7 – Don’t Forget the CNS(central nervous system)
Your CNS has a vital role in lifting, so make sure to warm it up. If your brain isn’t warmed up, the weight will feel too heavy. To fix this, don’t put all the weight on the bar at once – instead, add some weight for every warm-up set and only do a few reps per warm-up. Add weight in smaller increments until you reach your necessary lifting weight – this will prime your CNS for the lifting to come.
Tip #8 – Take Your Time
You might need to rest for 3 to 5 minutes every time you do a set, and take your time, don’t rush anywhere. If you’re lifting heavy weight, let your body recuperate before going back to the bar. You are training to be stronger, not faster or more enduring!
Tip #9 – Eat
When trying to become stronger, you will need to stop undereating and worrying about your perfect abs. Get some more food – not to get fat but to eat enough calories per day, with enough protein per day so that you will build muscle tissue and strength.
Tip #10 – Your Triceps Is Important
Bench pressing isn’t just a chest exercise. If you want to lift more, the triceps have an effect on your lift as well, so make sure to make your triceps powerful enough to aid you in your quest for maximum weight lifted. To do this, do some compound exercises like the close grip bench presses and board presses. Also, you can try doing some dips which will help your triceps become stronger and they will also work better than dumbbell kickbacks and tricep extensions.
Tip #11 – Don’t Go to Failure Every Single Time!
You don’t need to go to muscle failure every single workout! You don’t even need to do it at all if you work out right! Choose a rep range that suits you between 5 and 12 reps per set, and try to do more reps per set every training session. You will become stronger and once you do, you can try using lower reps but until then, do not max out!
Tip #12 – Do Your Benching First!
If you want a nice and healthy bench press, do it as the first exercise of your workout. Put all of your power and energy into the bench press and do other exercises when you’ve done what you intended to do.
Tip #13 – Keep an Eye on the Ceiling
When you unrack your bar, eyeball the ceiling for a bit. When you finish a rep, press the bar as hard as possible to get it to the same spot you’ve been looking at every single rep.
Tip #14 – Stop Flaring Your Arms
This might even be the worst benching mistake ever. Don’t flare your arms – it’s bad for your shoulders, it worsens your form and it depletes your strength. Have your elbows at 45 degrees from your body – start there and adjust your form as necessary.
Tip #15 – Focus On Form
You will get stronger by doing the lift properly, not by feeling your chest working when you get to the top of the press. You want to train the lift, the technique, not the muscle tissue. If you focus on your chest and nothing else, you lose form because you’re not devoting enough attention to any muscles that aren’t your chest! When your form degrades, your strength will decrease as well and you might even get hurt! Form can’t be mastered, instead you have to keep paying attention to it and remember – you can always make a mistake and end up regretting it. The “mind-muscle connection” mojo won’t help you here – just train the bench press as any other lift.
Tip #16 – Know When to Explode!
Power needs speed and speed needs force to work. So, don’t try to slowly get your reps up to feel your chest burning – instead, focus on pressing the bar as explosively as possible – you’ll pump out a few more reps and you will become much stronger in the long run!
Tip #17 – Practice Proper Alignment
When the bar is at your chest level, your forearms should be at a 90 degree angle to the floor, your wrists should be above your elbows and your knuckles should be pointing upwards to the ceiling. This is what your body is supposed to look like when you bench press.
Tip #18 – Know Your Weakest Points and Work on Them!
If you want to know what you need to do to become stronger, you will need to find your weakest spots. Is your chest the weakest link in your muscle chain, or are you unable to lock out a rep? Work on your weak spots and you won’t be stagnating. If your chest is weak, do some pause-reps. If you can’t lockout a rep, do some board presses or pin presses to remedy that.
Tip #19 – Perspective Is Important
If you go on YouTube, you will find thousands of lifters lifting hundreds or even thousands of pounds in a single bench press. Remember that these people are using bench press shirts that will put on hundreds of pounds to their lifting numbers and are also not competing in a regulated, anti-doping environment. If you train naturally, a 300 pound raw bench press is an awesome feat, and a 400 pound one is really rare, even if every third person you’ve met claims they’ve done it.
Tip #20 – Work The Rear Delts And Traps
You will need to work on your trapezoids and your rear deltoids. If you want to have the best pressing power possible, you will need to improve your small and weak upper body muscles, so get rid of those little meat flaps and work out as hard as you can. Your back strength is integral to your lift so don’t forget to work on these muscles as well.