If you want to know how to do it right and how to increase the bench press, this article will tell you everything you need to know about it.
"How much are you squeezing?"
If you have been training for a certain period of time, then you have often been asked this question. And you know, without clarification, that they ask about the results in the bench press.
Whether you like it or not, nothing attracts people's eyes so much as lifting an impressive weight in a bench press. And, it seems, nothing is so upsetting for beginners as the poor results in this exercise.
There is a reason why every well-designed workout program includes a bench press as one of the main exercises. The importance of this exercise is hard to overestimate.
The fact is that the bench press is one of the best exercises on the upper body, which develops the pectoral and latissimus muscles, shoulders, triceps and even to some extent the leg muscles.
If you are reading this article, then perhaps all of this is not news to you. You are here because you want to improve your results in the bench press, and I can help you with this.
The first thing you need to know, although it may sound quite simple, bench press is an exercise that requires a certain technique. If you do not know what and how you are doing, then sooner or later stop in progress , unless of course you manage to avoid injuries before that.
In this article, we’ll talk about everything you need to know about the bench press in order to increase your bench press performance and get the most out of this exercise.
Video about how to shake the most.
Let's start by discussing the technique.
The correct bench press technique
The bench press looks like a fairly simple exercise, but how to do the bench press correctly?
You lie on a bench with your feet on the floor, remove the bar from the racks, lower it to the center of the chest, and then press it up.
This exercise can be performed in various ways, but, unfortunately, in most cases it is not performed correctly.
Therefore, in order to analyze this exercise in detail, let's start with the equipment.
What equipment is suitable for a bench press?
Properly selected equipment has a significant impact on the performance of the bench press.
First, if possible, do not use Smith's simulator .
The main disadvantage of Smith's simulator is that it provides a smaller increase in muscle mass and strength compared to free weight.
One of the main reasons for this drawback is the movement of the neck exclusively along a vertical fixed path. On the other hand, the free weight must be stabilized to prevent it from deviating from the correct path.
When I used to do a bench press in Smith's simulator, I never lifted more than 110 kg in several repetitions. But when I first switched to free weight, I was hardly given 80 kg.
This was a few years ago, and since then I have been squeezing up to 130 kg in 2-3 repetitions. The result is not outstanding, but quite decent.
Power Frame - The Best Choice
The usual power frame will be a great choice, provided that you train with an insurance partner, because if you train without it, you probably will not be able to lift the maximum weight for yourself because of fear of dropping the bar on yourself.
Even if you are an experienced athlete and know your strength well, when training to muscle failure , a situation may arise when you feel that you can do another repetition, but fail.
Train in a power frame. Here is a classic example of a power frame for a bench press.
Safe this simulator makes the control system of the lifting bar. Set the limit bars to the desired height, and they will not allow the projectile to fall on your chest when you do not master the repetition.
Here's how to do it:
Bench for bench press and bar also matter
Once it came to equipment, let's talk about the bench and neck.
You must make sure that the bench is large enough to hold the upper back and remain stable during the exercise. A 30 cm wide bench is a good fit.
And again, I recommend the classic bench:
If you exercise at home, I advise you to purchase a high-quality neck with sleeves that can rotate independently of the neck bar. Thus, the cargo disks can rotate without rotation of the neck, which could give a greater load on the wrists.
Correct posture with bench press
When the equipment is ready, it is time to talk about the correct position of the body when doing the bench press. The first two steps are the following:
- Lie on a bench with your eyes under the bar.
- Lift your chest, squeeze the shoulder blades together and press them against the bench.
You should feel tension in the upper back, and you need to maintain this position throughout the exercise.
- Grasp the bar with a grip slightly larger than shoulder width.
Take the bar in your palm closer to your wrists than your fingers and squeeze it as tight as you can.
The wrists should be straight and not bent toward the head. This will help prevent wrist pain.
A good way to check your grip width is to ask someone to stand behind you and look down on the position of your forearms at the bottom of the exercise.
The forearms should be perpendicular to the floor. That is, like this:
As you can see, in the leftmost photo - the position is too wide, in the middle - too narrow, and in the far right - right.
- Bend your lower back slightly and place your feet shoulder-width apart at right angles to your knees.
The back should not lie flat on the bench, and at the same time you should not bend it so that the pelvis is almost under it.
Just maintain the natural bend that occurs when you bend your chest.
- On straight arms, remove the bar from the uprights, and then move it in a horizontal line until it is directly above your shoulders.
You are now ready to do the bench press.
Do these movements every time you do a bench press, regardless of whether you are warming up or preparing to set a personal record.
It is good practice to practice the correct technique, which will not only have a beneficial effect on the exercise, but also reduce the risk of injury.
How to lower weight properly
The first thing you should know about hand movements when doing the bench press is the correct position of the elbows.
Many people make the mistake of spreading their elbows to the sides, which can lead to shoulder injury . This mistake is the main reason why the bench press is considered a dangerous exercise for the shoulders.
A less common mistake is to place your elbows too close to your body, which deprives you of stability and the ability to exert maximum effort.
It is necessary that the elbows are located at an angle of 50-60 ° to the body. This will prevent the risk of injury, and is also a stable and reliable position for the exercise. To better imagine this, look at the diagram:
If the elbows are located at an angle of about 20º in the lowest phase of the exercise, then this is too close a position, and at an angle of 90 ° - too wide. An average position at an angle of about 60 ° is optimal.
So, now that you know the correct position of the elbows, let's go back to the exercise.
Keeping the correct position of the elbows, lower the bar to the lower part of the chest in the area of the nipples.
Yes, the bar should touch your chest! Forget about incomplete repetitions!
You should control the movement of the neck at the time of lowering, but you should not lower it too slowly, because this does not affect the set of muscle mass in the best way. Lower the bar for about 2 seconds.
How to remove the bar and put it on a rack
Now that the bar has touched the chest ( touched , not bounced from it), you are ready to push the bar up.
Although the name of the exercise suggests that you should “squeeze” the barbell, it’s better to imagine that you are pushing it.
That is, imagine that you are pushing your body away from the barbell, and not vice versa. This will help you maintain the right technique and make maximum effort.
The vulture should describe a small arc, moving from the chest to the starting position, in which it is easiest to balance.
Bend your arms at your elbows, and do not keep them slightly bent. This will prevent the risk that you will lose weight.
When lifting the weight, the body retains the above position: the shoulder blades remain pressed to the bench and brought together, the elbows are at the right angle to the body, there is a slight deflection in the lower back, the buttocks are on the bench, and the feet are on the floor.
How to put the bar on the power frame
Do not try to put the bar on the racks, squeezing the weight towards its limiters, as you risk dropping the projectile on your face.
Always, finish the repetition first, and when the bar is located over your shoulders and your arms are extended, move it horizontally to the uprights.
We summarize the above
To better imagine the whole process, watch the video. Here's how it all looks in action:
Types of bench press
The standard bench press with a barbell is the main exercise in many strength training programs, but it is usually accompanied by several varieties.
Let's look at the most common options.
Dumbbell Bench Press
Although this exercise is not a direct replacement for the bench press, nonetheless, the dumbbell bench press is an exercise that deserves attention.
One of the main problems athletes face when doing this exercise is supporting the heavy dumbbells in the correct position.
Here's what it looks like:
If we talk about the training program, I usually alternate a dumbbell bench press with a barbell bench press for shoulder training .
For example, I do 3-4 approaches in a dumbbell bench press on an inclined bench, 3-4 approaches on a horizontal bench, 3-4 approaches push-ups on weights with weights for 8 weeks. Then for 8 weeks I will perform 3-4 approaches in the bench press on a horizontal bench, 3-4 approaches on an inclined bench and 3-4 approaches in a dumbbell bench press on a horizontal bench.
The narrower the grip, the more load falls on the triceps.
This grip is undesirable if you focus on chest training, but this is one of my favorite ways to train triceps. And by the way, strong triceps guarantee good results in a standard bench press.
A narrow grip means you should grasp the bar a little narrower than shoulder width.
You can see how some athletes hold the bar, spreading their arms just a few centimeters apart. This is a bad idea, because such a grip puts your wrists and shoulders in a very weak and risky position.
All other recommendations regarding the technique of performing the exercise remain the same: the shoulder blades are firmly pressed to the bench, a small deflection in the lower back, feet on the floor, the neck describes a small arc when lowering, touches the lower chest, and then rises back.
If you feel discomfort in the wrists or shoulders in the lower phase of the exercise, then just make the grip wider by about the width of a finger and continue the exercise.
If you still feel discomfort, increase the width of the grip by the width of the finger again and repeat this until you find a position that is convenient for you.
Here is a good tutorial video:
The discussion on the upper chest is one of the “controversial” aspects of bodybuilding.
Do I need to perform exercises for the chest to work out the upper part of it? Or do all the exercises on the chest to pump all possible muscle fibers? And even more - is there such a thing as “upper chest”?
I will try to explain briefly.
There is a part of the pectoral muscle, which is what we call the “upper chest”. It is located in the clavicle and looks as follows:
Although these muscles are part of the pectoralis major muscle, their fibers are quite different. Thus, some exercises can focus on the main muscles of the chest, while others - on its clavicular part.
Notice that I said to emphasize rather than isolate, because the exercises that work out the first or second part of the muscles affect both parts to a certain extent.
However, the proper development of the muscles of the chest requires the study of the muscles of its upper part for two simple reasons:
- working out these little stubborn muscles takes longer;
- The best exercises for these muscles are also great for developing the pectoralis major muscles.
The best way to ensure that the top of the chest is not behind the rest of the pectoral muscles in development is to often perform a bench press on an incline bench.
The back grip press will also help you with this, and we will talk about it soon.
That's why the bench press on an incline bench occupies such a large place in my programs “Larger, Slimmer, Stronger” and “Larger, Slimmer, Stronger” , therefore I will recommend the same to you here.
When performing a bench press on an inclined bench, the angle of inclination of the bench should be 30-45 °.
I prefer an angle of 30 °, others like an angle of about 45 °. I recommend that you try different tilt angles in this range and choose the one that suits you best.
All other recommendations regarding the equipment and techniques for performing the exercise remain the same as with a regular bench press, with a few exceptions:
- The bar should go past the chin and touch the body just below the collarbone. This will provide a vertical trajectory of the neck.
Here is a video showing the correct execution of the bench press lying on an inclined bench:
And also with dumbbells:
Bench press on an incline bench upside down
The upright bench press is a popular exercise among some athletes, but I'm not one of them. Due to the decrease in the amplitude of movement, this exercise is less effective compared to a conventional bench press or bench press on an inclined bench.
The main argument in favor of this exercise is that it develops the lower part of the pectoralis major muscle, but for this I prefer to do push-ups on the uneven bars.
The bottom line is that you will never pump up a cool chest, if you only perform the bench in an inclined head down.
Reverse Grip Bench Press
The back-grip press has its own advantages, which are often not paid attention to.
You should clasp the bar with your palms facing you, which will not only reduce the burden on your shoulders, but also work your upper chest more efficiently .
Here's how to do it:
Calculator to calculate one rep with maximum weight (1PM) in the bench press
The only absolutely accurate way to find out how much weight you can lift in the bench press in a certain number of repetitions is to simply perform the exercise. But there are several formulas that can predict results with a fair share of tonality.
The most commonly used formulas are Brzycki , Bechley and dos Remedios .
Use the calculator to predict your 1MP.
Lifting Weight: _____ ○ pounds. ○ kilograms.
Number of repetitions: ____
|95% 1PM||90% 1PM||85% 1PM||80% 1PM||75% 1PM||70% 1PM||65% 1PM||60% 1PM|
|Estimated repetitions and weight based on 1PM|
If you are wondering how to measure your performance, here is a handy reference.
The following figures are indicators that can reasonably be expected from people with different levels of training.
|1PM bench press for adult men|
|Body weight||Without preparation||Newbie||Average level||Advanced||Professional|
|1PM bench press for adult women|
|Body weight||Without preparation||Newbie||Average level||Advanced||Professional|
The “no preparation” column shows the expectation from those who have not performed the bench press previously.
The “average level” column shows the standard level of strength for those who have several years of experience with the bench press.
The “professional” column contains indicators for competing athletes (1% of athletes).
10 scientifically proven ways to improve bench press performance
Knowing the right technique does not guarantee that you will increase the weight you lift over time.
On this path, your progress will stop, and these 10 strategies will help to avoid such situations.
The correct psychological attitude
The correct psychological attitude will positively affect all your results.
Do not be lethargic when doing the approach. Catch pumping and drive (the right music can help a lot).
One study showed that all this can increase efficiency. It also found that distraction, on the contrary, reduces efficiency.
Before you start the approach, put on your headphones, set yourself up, and at the same time the whole room as it should, and go!
Another simple but effective “trick” to increase strength is to visualize the success of the approach before you do it. I know, I know that this sounds unconvincing, but studies show that visualization actually works.
Use heavy weights
Ronnie Coleman said the best thing about it:
The debate about the “ideal” number of reps for building muscle is endless, but there is little argument that heavy weights are best for increasing strength.
But what then means "heavy"?
The “power” range of repetitions usually starts around 80-85% of your 1PM or around 4-6 reps and increases in accordance with 1PM.
If at the moment you are doing bench press mainly with light weight (for example, doing 10-12 repetitions), then you can get much more benefit by focusing on heavy weights. You should not completely stop doing your 10-12 reps, but do them better after hard approaches.
Here's how I would do it in my training:
Bench press on an incline bench: warm up, then 2 sets of 2-3 reps (≈ 90% of 1PM).
Bench press on an inclined bench: 3 sets of 4-6 reps (≈ 80% of 1MP).
Dumbbell bench press on a horizontal bench: 3 sets of 4-6 reps.
Bench press on a horizontal bench: 2 sets of 8-10 or 10-12 reps (≈ 70% of 1 PM)
This method is known as the “periodization" of training, which you can read more about here .
Lift weight with explosive force
Many trainers advise you to do repetitions very slowly to better build muscle, but studies show the opposite.
- A study by scientists from the University of Sydney proved that those who performed the bench press at the traditional “fast” pace built up strength faster than those who performed the exercise slowly;
- A study by scientists from the University of Connecticut proved that those who trained at a very slow pace had lower peak strength and energy compared to those who trained at a normal pace.
- A study conducted by scientists from the University of Wisconsin proved that even untrained people who performed workouts at a regular pace had higher strengths in squats and showed greater peak effort in high jumps.
- A study by scientists at the University of Oklahoma proved that 4 weeks of training at a traditional pace were more effective in increasing strength compared to training at a very slow pace.
In addition, studies show that when performing a bench press, quick lowering of the neck (within 1 second), and then, without a pause, its explosive rise leads to a greater increase in strength than when slowly lowering, followed by a pause and explosive rise.
Do not make the mistake typical of beginners by forcing the bar to bounce off the chest in the lower phase of the exercise. This is incorrect and may result in personal injury.
How to lower the bar
Here is another old tip from the powerlifters, which has found its scientific confirmation.
The idea is simple:
- When lowering the bar, do not let it just fall down.
Instead, imagine that you are pulling the bar toward the chest in a controlled manner. This will help to maintain the correct position of the body and generate maximum force in the vertical direction.
- When you lower the bar, imagine that you are bending it in half or tearing it apart.
To do this, it is necessary that the blades are in the correct position, that is, they are brought together.
The latissimus dorsi muscles will help generate greater vertical force during the lifting of the bar. It is for this reason that you can lift more weight with a barbell press than with a dumbbell press. You cannot make such an effort with dumbbells because they require stabilization during the exercise.
Do bench press more often
The ideal frequency of workouts for gaining muscle mass is a contentious issue. And here is what we can know for sure.
If you want to succeed in any exercise, you must often do it.
That's why any training program is valuable if it includes squats, deadlift and / or bench press 2-3 times a week. Many programs for bodybuilders, like my “ Slimmer, Stronger” programs , include them.
You see, while an increase in muscle strength is an integral part of the overall growth of the body, muscles can become stronger without an increase in size .
This is mainly due to neuromuscular adaptation. Muscle fibers can "learn" to work more efficiently and energetically, and, as with any type of physical activity, the more often you do something, the better you get it.
So, if you are doing a bench press once a week, then doing this exercise 2-3 times a week will increase your strength.
However, when you increase the frequency of an exercise, remember to do it carefully to avoid overtraining .
Read this article to learn more about it.
Change the grip width
This also came from the world of powerlifting, and there are studies confirming the effectiveness of this method in improving results in the bench press.
Studies show that a grip exceeding the width of the shoulders by as much as centimeters allows you to shift the focus to the larger muscles of the chest, while a narrower grip shifts the focus to smaller muscles such as the triceps and shoulder muscles.
By practicing both grips, you can work out and strengthen each of these muscle groups. This, in turn, will help you overcome possible stumbling blocks in this exercise.
An easy way to do this is to include 2-3 sets of bench press with a wide grip and 2-3 sets of narrow grip in the program of training your arms in the program of training your chest .
Consume enough calories
Whenever someone complains that he cannot gain weight or increase strength, I immediately suspect that he is not eating enough food. And very often I am right.
There is one simple fact about muscle growth that many do not understand:
If you want to gain weight and build muscle as quickly as possible, then you need to consume enough calories . If you don’t do this, you will never gain mass and build muscle.
For example, I know that I need to consume 3300-3600 calories per day in order to consistently gain weight. It may seem like too much, but it is not.
I can’t complain because I saw the situation much worse. I worked with hundreds of skinny guys who could not gain a single kilogram until their diet began to exceed 4000-4500 calories per day. Everyday! Seven days a week!
It’s just that some people’s body burns calories very quickly, and they need them in large quantities in order to maintain weight and muscle gain.
Therefore, increasing calorie intake is an easy way to improve your weight gain and strength.
At the same time, you should not eat everything indiscriminately. If the process gets out of control, you will start to accumulate fat in large quantities.
Here's how to do it right.
Practice the rest-pause method
In general, I am not a fan of all kinds of drop sets, supersets, giant sets, etc., since I believe that it is better to perform heavy power sets instead.
However, one “unconventional” method should be included in the training program. It is called a "rest-pause," and I will now tell you what it is.
You perform the exercise before muscle failure (the moment when you cannot perform another repetition), and then rest for a short period of time before doing another set. Then again a short rest and a new set to failure, etc.
This method, like many others described above, came from powerlifting, and studies prove that this is an effective way to increase strength.
Some tips for incorporating the rest-pause method into your training program.
- Perform such sets with a heavy weight of 80% or more of your 1PM;
- If you use 80-90% of your 1PM, then rest for 20-30 seconds between sets. If you use over 90%, then rest for 45-60 seconds;
- Do not complete more than 3-4 of these sets per workout, as they require a lot of effort.
What is a microload?
If you want to gain muscle mass and increase strength, the number 1 goal for you should be to increase your working weight over time.
The bottom line is that if you want to get bigger, you have to get stronger.
A good way to do this is to work in a given range of repetitions (for example, 4-6) and, as soon as you can afford it, increase the working weight. That is, as soon as you were able to do 6 repetitions with a certain weight, add 2 kg (if you are training with dumbbells) or 4 kg (if you are training with a barbell) and work with this new weight until you can do 6 repetitions, etc.
Repeat this simple process many times - this will ensure you progress in your workouts.
Sometimes this process can stall, and you will realize that for several weeks you are working with the same weight and cannot increase it. This is where micro-loading can come to the rescue. This term was coined to mean adding less than 2 kg to a bar.
For example, suppose your bench press progress has stopped at 80 kg in 5 repetitions and has not changed for several weeks. You tried to increase the weight to 85 kg, but can not perform more than 2 repetitions.
Using cargo wheels with a small weight, you can add 1 kg to the bar, bringing the weight of the projectile to 81 kg. Suppose you can do 4 reps with this weight.
Then, a few weeks later, you squeeze 81 kg in 5 repetitions and at that moment add another 1 kg per bar. Now you can do 4 reps again with this weight and continue to build up your strength.
This is a useful strategy.
Here are some high-quality discs that I recommend:
Strengthen triceps and shoulder muscles
Many athletes believe that progress in the bench press is restrained by underdeveloped chest muscles. They do not understand that the reason is in the muscles of the shoulders and triceps.
The front deltas play a huge role in breaking the bar from the chest, and triceps are active in the upper phase of the exercise.
So if any of these muscles lags behind in development, then there will be no progress in the bench press. Strengthen them, and the results in the bench press will follow.
- Army bench press is the best exercise to strengthen the muscles of the shoulders. You should do it at least once a week.
- My favorite exercises for developing the strength of the triceps are the bench press with a narrow grip, the French bench press , extension of the arms from behind the head while sitting, and extension of the arms in the crossover . You should perform at least 2-3 such exercises once a week.
Simple and effective workout program for the bench press
Before finishing the article, I want to share with you a simple and effective training program for the bench press, which will help make your breasts bigger and stronger.
There she is:
- Bench press on an inclined bench: warm up, then 3 sets of 4-6 reps (80-85% of 1PM);
- Dumbbell bench press on an inclined bench: 3 sets of 4-6 reps;
- Bench press on a horizontal bench: 3 sets of 4-6 reps.
- Narrow Grip Bench :: 3 sets of 4-6 reps
- Bench press on a horizontal bench: 3 sets of 8-10 reps (70-75% of 1PM);
- Army bench standing or sitting: 3 sets of 4-6 reps;
Yes, only 15 heavy sets per chest per week. Such a load may seem easy to you, but try to do it - it's harder than you think.
Rest 3-4 minutes between sets.
This time will allow the muscles to recover, so that you can put maximum effort into the next approach.
As soon as you can perform the required number of repetitions in the approach, increase the working weight.
For example, if you do 6 repetitions in the first approach when doing the tilt press, add 2 kg on each side of the bar for the next approach and work with this weight until you can perform 6 repetitions, etc.
When performed correctly, the bench press is one of the best and most useful exercises for increasing the strength of the upper body.
If performed incorrectly, this exercise is not only ineffective, but also dangerous.
Therefore, learn the correct technique for performing the bench press, apply the strategies described in this article, and also be patient. Building a strong body takes several years, even if you are doing everything right.
What is your opinion on the bench press? Want to share your opinion? Leave your comments below!