Stuck? Ok, here are some tips on getting out of the Bench press rut. Now listen, when youíre performing Bench Press routines with percentages or pyramid style and your gains are minimal to none-existent then itís time to try some ďRut BustersĒ make a change.
First, unlike the ďtouch and goĒ way of benching try pausing the bar for a one or two-second count. Yes, you heard me. Pause the bar. Thatís what us meathead powerlifters have to do to get a record attempt in a bench, not the gym touch and go. What am I talking about? Well, I am talking about stopping the bar on your chest, holding it for a two-second count and then pressing the bar to the top and repeat.
Let me explain. If you are doing 2 sets of 6 with lets say 275 then you would now execute 2 sets of 3 reps, pausing each rep for a two second count with the same 275. The best way to perform this is to have a partner or an individual who you can trust count the two-second pause out loud. When you lower the weight down, stop it as soon as the bar touches your chest. Do not relax or exhale. When there is no movement from the bar and it has come to a complete stop upon your chest your partner (or spotter) should immediately start counting; One thousand one. One-thousand-two. PRESS! As soon as you hear the letter ďPĒ explode with all you have, exhaling out, and then at the top take a deep breath, hold before ascending the bar and then repeat. This will take at least three weeks to get used to and then watch your bench blast. Also, accent this routine by performing weighted dips for pauses as one of your auxiliary exercises. Perform your normal warm up sets and then do 2 - 3 working sets for 3, 5, or 8 reps per set, pausing each rep for a one second pause. Start out moderately heavy and then increase the poundage each set, each week.
The objective of the above routine is to work up into the weight that you would normally perform 2 sets of 6, then do a full two second PAUSE with that weight for 2 sets of 3 reps. Remember do not let yourself relax at the bottom of the lift. It is very difficult. I have implemented this routine with several individuals and it has increased their bench maxes dramatically.
Train the Triceps for a Big Bench
Don't let anyone try to tell you the bench press is about pec strength. These people don't know the correct way to bench and are setting you up for a short pressing career with sub-par weights. If you ask a bench presser how to get a big bench, he will tell you to train the triceps. This doesn't mean doing set after set of pushdowns, kickbacks, and other "bodybuilding shaping" exercises.
Here are some exceptionally hard but effective triceps strength gainers for a big bench, heavy triceps extensions and close-grip bench pressing type movements such as close-grip flat bench and incline close-grip bench presses, close-grip board presses, and close-grip floor presses. Various barbell, dumbbell and cable triceps extensions should also be staples of your training program. Bottom line: Train the triceps!
Raise the Plate or Bar! Shoulder development is very important, and so is shoulder strength. There are three type so deltoid movements performed for shoulder workouts Ė a pushing exercise, a side and rear movement. Now if you work regularly on all three movements you will develop a set of broad thick strong shoulders. Take the front delts for instance. They area important muscle for most pressing movements. Plate Front Raises isolate the anterior deltoid heads with minor stress placed on the traps. Start by taking a shoulder width stance. Stand with your arms straight down holding on to the plates right in the middle of the two plates. Resting the plates on your thighs. Keep your torso as motionless as possible through the exercise. Do not sway or rack to get the weight up. If you are doing this itís too heavy, back off. Moving just your arms with some explosion raise the plates to the height of your shoulders. I usually try and look through the hole. Then lower slowly trying not to drop the weight into your thighs. Repeat!
I do front plate raises in my Benching routine. I work my way up to two 35ís for 3 sets of six. I start with one 25 for 15-20 reps as my warm-up. Then pick up and hang on to one 35 for eight reps, and then a 45 pound plate for 6 reps, and then two 35ís for 3 sets of six.
BACK YOUR BENCH. You heard me right, back your bench. I knew that the back played a major role in benching but I never really appreciated the backís contribution until recently. Back training? Working your back will increase bench press power. How does back training increase a bench press max? Easy! If you know proper benching technique and the mechanics involved in benching properly you would see the involvement of back muscles in benching is very pronounced. The back muscles act as stability and anchoring platforms for benching.
The back structure is so large and complex, for the best results, it's preferable to train the back through several exercises for more complete development. Start with chest supported wide grip Chest supported T Bar Rows for 4-5 sets of 6 repetitions. Go heavy on these, but not that heavy that you loose form. T-bar rows are good for the upper and mid back. Next exercise is one-arm dumbbell rows with your knee on a weight bench for 3 sets of 8. Next turn to 3 sets of dumbbell, straight bar or trap bar shrugs with a full range of motion up and down. Shrug in a full range of motion, do not load the bar so much that you canít move the bar an inch. I see people shrug more then they can deadlift or squat. Stop with the egoís gentlemen. Iím not impressed but thanks for the laugh. Finish off with 2 sets of 20 reps of Face Pulls.
Generally you can use lifting straps for most of these exercises. Lifting straps are invaluable for back exercises. Without straps, most lifters can't hold on to the weight for the whole set so start off using a moderate weight. When using straps you can 'feel' the movement working your target muscles. Straps will also permit better form, which is critical for best results. Slowly increase your weight each set but donít increase the weight just to do more weight. Proper technique comes first.
By emphasizing back training in your bench routine you will also add extra width and thickness with increase in biceps and forearm size. I undertook lotís of T-bar (supported chest) rows, seated wide bar rows, face pulls, pull-downs to the chin, D.B. Rows, and wide-grip bar row on bench day.
Benching isnít all pecs, like most everyone thinks. True bench press power involves triceps, the back, and of course the chest. So, the next time you design your bench routine make sure to back your bench and add some heavy triceps training too. So, now, if your stuck in a rut - get out of those bench press blues and give these little techniques a try and watch your bench explode!
Critical Bench Program
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