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3 TIPS FOR A STRONGER BENCH PRESS

As a major upper body strength exercise, the bench press develops our ability to PUSH objects and things with greater force. This is important for sports such as shot putting, boxing, throwing sports, and any other movement which requires strength in the chest, anterior deltoid, and triceps muscles.


On a general fitness level, it enhances our appearance by developing strength and size in the chest as well as shoulder muscles.


The bench press, like every other strength exercise, is also a very satisfying movement - as pushing things "away from us" successfully does have an element of "alpha blood" in it :)



Here are my three favourite tips for a stronger bench press:


1 DYNAMIC CONTROL

Having a reasonable amount of control in the movement as the bar goes down is essential for a successful and strong press.


Why?


As we control the weight down, tension is being built up in the prime movers (pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, triceps). Imagine stretching a bow: before the arrow gets released, the string needs to create tension. If we pull the arrow backwards too quickly, it goes slack. If we build up tension in the string under CONTROL, the cord produces elastic energy which gets STORED and RELEASED for the arrow to fly far.


The same applies to the bench press. I suggest you lower the weight down for a count of one full second to produce enough elastic energy. If you make the eccentric phase longer (which has great implications for other forms of training), it will be much harder to get the weight back up. If you plunge the bar down, you will have impaired control over the bar, which disrupts muscular tension and prevents a strong pressing phase.



2 SPEED OFF THE CHEST

There is a so-called "sticking region" in the bench press which is the hardest part of the movement. It happens right after the bar comes off the chest - a few inches high - in which momentum from the bounce-off diminishes and muscles as well as nerves have to fully kick in to press the bar up.


From the distance of the bar touching the chest to the sticking region, the body predominantly relies on a mechanism called the STRETCH REFLEX. Remember the example of the bow and arrow? The same applies to the bench press. Dynamically stored energy is being released by the muscle spindles and fibers with use of the stretch reflex.


Once the stretch reflex goes out the window, the body relies on overcoming "dead intertia" in the sticking region. No more help from momentum, but pure demand on muscle force.


To perform a better bench press, think of a hot plate lying on your chest. You want to get the bar off as fast as you can for it not to get "burned", thus maximally recruiting high-threshold motor units to perform the strongest bench press.



3 ENGAGE HANDS AND ARMS

The bench press is a movement which challenges our "survival capabilities". In other words: the bar needs to go up, otherwise we get crushed.


Placing our awareness actively on PRESSING the bar up by engaging our hands and arms allows for a stronger movement. It's a simple trick I have learned over the years, and I guarantee you it works - especially when you feel you're stuck at the sticking point where the bar "just won't move".


I reckon these tips add around 15-20% extra strength to your bench press.


Every little helps.





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