How To Add Pounds to YOUR Bench
I love squatting and deadlifting just as much as the next powerlifter but ever since my first trip to the weight room, I’ve been a bench presser. I can remember walking into the gym when I was in middle school and having 25s on the bar and getting stapled. I know it’s been over 10 years but I’ve definitely come a long way. Benching is just like anything else in life, you don’t just become good at it overnight. It takes studying, hard work, proper nutrition, the right accessory exercises in your programming, and trial and error. I’m going to go over all of my experiences and everything that I believe helped get me to where I am today. I’ve added almost 100lbs to my bench in the past 2 years and this is how.
No matter what people say, the bench press is just as complicated as the squat and the deadlift. There are TONS of tiny mistakes and miscues that can knock serious weight off your one rep max. Everybody is different. Not one person on this earth is built the same. This is what drives me INSANE. I see people all the time trying to mimic their favorite lifter or someone who is much better than them at whatever lift it is that they’re performing. DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOU AND THEN PERFECT IT. Don’t follow some cookie cutter program or listen to someone on a podcast or YouTube when they say that this or that is how you HAVE to do something. I’m going to be giving you guys some different things to try out from my experiences and what works for me as well as things that don’t work for me that may work for you. It’s all about trial and error, guys. Put in the time and put in the work. You’ll learn what makes YOU strong.
Now, I’m going to contradict myself here and say that even though everybody is different, there are still many things that everybody must do to have a strong bench press. Some of these are a tight back, tight core, leg drive, and so on. Some things that will differ from athlete to athlete will be grip on the bar, back arch, foot placement, and foot drive off the floor (heel or toe.) To me, this is all where the trial and error comes in. Just because you watched a guy on YouTube bench press 700lbs with a wide grip, no arch, and heels on the ground doesn’t mean that a setup like that is going to make YOU bench press 700lbs.
I was always a firm believer that it doesn’t matter what type of programming you use as long as you went in and worked your ass off. Well, the more that I’ve gotten involved with the powerlifting world, I learned that it does matter... kinda. Now again, what works for someone doesn’t work for everyone. Remember that. Everybody says you have to lift Westside (conjugate method) to lift heavy weights but then you see people like Stef Cohan who does olympic lifts, no bands or chains, no crazy bars, and she deadlifts and squats more than most 200lb men and she weighs a buck twenty. I can’t repeat myself enough, it’s about what makes YOU stronger. Trial and error, guys. When I say that it matters, I mean that you have to have a goal in mind, you have to gear your programming towards that goal, and you have to attack that shit head on. Don’t hold back.
What people struggle most with is finding their weaknesses. Even when they find them, they don’t know how to set up their program to fix them. This is where all those crazy accessory videos come into play. Those “do it for the gram” videos that you see all the time plastered on social media. These are all helpful in their own way, the key is to find out which ones work for you. Me? I like to stick to the meat and potato accessory exercises that have been apart of the sport for decades. Which is why you’ll hardly ever see any accessory work on my Instagram. It’s not that flashy and it won’t get very many likes!
When trying to figure out what type of accessory work to do, you have to look at your bench itself. Where are you failing? What is your weakness? Are you getting pinned at the bottom? Are you failing at your sticking point? Is the bar flying off your chest but you can’t lock it out? Are you slow out of the hole? Bar shaking and feeling out of control on way down? These are the things that you need to ask yourself. This is how you identify what you need to work on. Why focus on what your good at? You have got to hit weaknesses. A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. Here are some ways to help identify your weakness.
Back- elbows flare out in the hole, bar shaking on the eccentric phase of press, bar windmills on concentric and eccentric phase of press.
Triceps- fail at lockout, bar fades over your face on concentric portion of press. elbows flare after sticking point.
Once you identify what you need to work on, it’s important to understand the workload that’s needed. If you need to build muscle in that area you’ll need low intensity and high volume or hypertrophy. If you have the size and muscle and need strength you’ll need low volume and high intensity. Identify, plan, and attack.
From my experiences here are some movements that I feel have taken my bench press from 335-420 in a little over 2 years without my body weight fluctuating more than 20lbs either up or down.
•Dumbbell fly (low volume/high intensity)
•Standing banded fly (high volume/low intensity)
•Cambered bar bench press (low volume/high intensity)
•Heavy floor presses with pause (low volume/high intensity)
•Dirty 30s (high volume/low intensity)
•Pin presses (low volume/high intensity)
•Heavy dips (low volume/high intensity)
•Overhead extensions (high volume/low intensity)
•Seated row/lat pulldown (high volume/low intensity)
•Weighted back extensions (low volume/high intensity)
•Bent row (low volume/high intensity)
•Pull ups (high volume/low intensity)
There are a ton of things that you can do but those are always staples in my programming. I also do a dynamic day once a week where I’ll do band or chain work but I’ve gotten away from doing it for speed and geared it more towards a max effort day just because me personally don’t feel like it helps me with my bench but to each his own!
I could go on and on but I tried to make this as short and sweet as possible. Remember, do what works for YOU!