Did you read the first bench blog? Check out BENCH FOR NEWBS before reading below.
So we have mastered the basics and here we are.
Where do we go from here?
We build strength, and we build on the technique that you already have!
So you bench and consistently keep you shoulder blades retracted, stay in control of the bar, and keep those feet on the ground. Fantastic, let move forward!
PRE- BENCH BRACING.
Just like when you squat or deadlift you must learn to brace on the bench! Why you ask? The more stable the body the more weight you will be able to bench!
If I asked you under which condition would you be able to bench more? Lying on a stability ball or lying on a bench. You would (hopefully) answer a bench! Of course, that was an easy one.
Same thing applies for bracing! Under which condition would you be able to bench more? With a relaxed body, or a body braced, tight and tense? YOU WANT THAT BRACED BODY!
How do we brace while benching?
We first need to create tension throughout the upper back, lats, and legs. Then we need to fill the belly with air and force it out in all directions just as you brace when squatting and deadlifting.
How do we create tension throughout the upper back, lats, and legs?
We retract the scapula back and down. Squeeze the bar with your hands and think about hiding your armpits to light up your lats. Push lightly through your feet feeling the contact with the ground and squeeze your glutes.
DURING THE BENCH.
The weight is controlled on the way down. You are pulling that bar towards you, coiling the spring.
When you get to the chest you are at the HIGHEST point of tightness. That spring is ready to release its potential energy.
When you are going to bench, DRIVE through your feet and DRIVE the bar towards your head. You do not want to drive the bar straight up. There should be a slight angle in your bar path towards your head.
BENCHING VARIATIONS to INCREASE YOU BENCH PRESS
Exercises: Feet Up Barbell Bench or DB Floor Press
Take away the leg drive!
Why: Build brute strength of your chest. When you are not nearing a competition you want to increase your range of motion, and decrease the arch. You want to build as much muscle as you can in your pecs, shoulders, triceps to help increase the weight you can bench.
Exercises: Board Presses, Slingshot
Why: You will build end range of motion strength, otherwise known as lockout. It also readies your neurological system to hold more weight! It is a huge boost of confidence to take a weight off the rack that you have never benched before and not feel overwhelmed by it because you have already “felt” the weight.
Overload exercises will be anything that you are going to hold and bench more weight than you are able to using a reduced range of motion or an assistance device such as a Slingshot.
For these two exercises you do need extra equipment. The Slingshot is an assistance device that is made of an elastic cloth. You put either side around your arms and the elastic portion will run across your chest. At the top, you are in charge of that weight, as you descend you will stretch the elastic and therefore will receive assistance off of your chest!
Board presses will reduce the range of motion from a small amount 1” to a large amount 4”-6”. Back in the day your best option was to use a legitimate board and a friend to hold it on your chest. You would set up for a normal bench and bring the bar to the board which will limit the range of motion. There are other options, if you have no friends (jk, if you have no boards). You can get super creative with yoga blocks and other fitness equipment, jerry rigging them to your body or the bar. However, there is a company called Bench Blokz which essentially has done the work for you and made block that resemble yoga blocks(but much more dense) and have a cut out for the bar!
Exercise: Tempo and T shirt Press
Why: Achieving and maintain tightness in the lats throughout the bench (especially the descent and pause) is HUGE to a big bench!
My personal favorite exercise is tempo benches. Simply because time under tension and because if your lazy, and lose tightness the lift will be damn near impossible! Start with a 3-2-1 tempo. 3 seconds down to your chest, pause for 2 seconds, DRIVE HARD! Technically, people would call this 0 but I just can’t call it 0 knowing very well, it will take more than 0 seconds.
T Shirt Presses are must like Spoto presses except closer to the body, touching, ever so lightly the tee shirt! You are not resting this on your chest like in a regular bench! Taking away the support of your chest at the bottom of your bench will again help you learn tightness off the chest!
So there we have it my friends. Remember, patience is key. Take time to nail the set up, to get down the brace, and to work with higher rep ranges for the first couple of months to gain muscle. Once you have everything we discussed in the first blog, BENCH FOR NEWBS then move on to BENCH, Please. Again, remember, consistency and patience will be key! Keep working hard!