Small Changes For Big Results in Bench Pressing By Sebastian Burns of the Metal Militia As Published in Monster Muscle Magazine
I am always surprised when I see some of the top lifters making the same mistakes that beginners make. Many times i see the best lifters in the world doing things that could easily be fixed and would propel them to even greater lifts. While editing the Underground Strength Magazine DVD, I scoured over hundreds of hours of video watching the same lift sometimes 100 times in a day, sometimes 1000 in a week. While conducting seminars across the country, I try to stress the importance of making these small changes that can add up to a much bigger carryover. During this article I will try to list as many of these changes as I can think of. In the end, if the reader only applies some of the changes, he or she should see a big change in their bench.
Lockout and Hold All Reps of Every Set
This small change can mean the difference between a good lift or a lift thrown back into the racks. How many times have you seen someone smoke a lift and just throw it in the rack before getting the "Rack" command? These lifters do the same things during training. Be sure to hold all reps in training for extended periods of time (sometimes up to 4 to 6 seconds). Practice holding them lockout out and motionless. Most credible powerlifting federation rules state that the bar must be locked out and held in control, motionless, to a receieve a rack command. So if you don't like red lights, this would be good to practice.
Not Touching During Training
Not touching with your bench shirt on and then trying to touch at a meet will lead to many bomb outs. One easy way to cure this is to stick with a lighter weight that you can easily handle for six to eight reps in a bench shirt. Keep trying to make the weight touch using body manipulation, better set ups and shoulder blade retraction. Also, pushing the stomach up into the shirt is very important. A few sets each workout trying to touch submaximal weights will make touching heavier weights much easier. Don't just say "I can't touch", and proceed to a heavier weight and not touch again. It is during training where these skills are mastered, not on the platform.
Letting Shirt Collapse Your Body
I see this all the time. You must keep pushing your body up into the shirt. The shirt is trying to push you down the weight on it. If you let this happen you are losing 50% of the support you could be getting. by pushing with equal or greater force into the shirt you double your support.
Not Trying to Improve Your Arch
Often Lifters will fall into a comfortable arch and not strive to improve their by getting higher on the traps and more flexible in the hip flexors. It is better to try to get a better arch each and every time you set up on the bench, striving to get just a little higher and just a little tighter. Also, try to shorten your range of motion with arm and wrist angles. Go into the gym and do ten or twenty set-ups on the bench every day. I promise you will improve in one week more than you could imagine.
Not Paying Attention to Grip
I recently was a head judge at a meet and I noticed that an alarming number of lifters just grab the bar, grip it a few times, move their fingers around, and end up with an uneven (and sometime ridiculous) and spacing. This will always affect your lift and should be given the utmost attention. Make sure you know were your grip is on the bar at all times.
Wrap Wrists Tight and In the Proper Area of the Wrist
This will also affect your lift and can even cause injury when using weights with a bench shirt on with improper wrapping. When going for your bigger lifts, be sure to try to put the middle of your wrap in the bend of the joint. When using a bench shirt, this will provide the most support when bending the wrist.
Not Paying Attention to the Collar of Your Shirt
I see people go to great measures to set their shirt up right and get great support, only to set up on the bench and lose all the support they just got by wiggling around and not keeping an eye on their shirt collar. You must know where your collar is at all times- during your set up and before you take the weight. Go through some real slow practice set ups with your shirt on and pay close attention to the location of your collar. This should teach you what I am talking about.
Not Doing Enough Work
People always ask me how to increase their bench and, without going into technique or routine, I tell them to double the amount of work they currently do for bench pressing. They always ask what I mean. My easiest explanation is to tell them, to do their workout then do it again. This will add volume to your workout and will always cause an increase in your bench. Try it for a few weeks to get used to a higher volume. Afterwards, you can start picking out the places where you need work, or aren't strong at, and up your volume in those particular areas. Be realistic with yourself. If you are doing lockouts with 700 and not touching with 500-600 with your shirt on and can't bench 460lbs all the way down, don't spend time with these exercises. Do more shirt work with light weight, learning to touch. No one cares what anyone does on the two-board presses, or what you do in the gym. Practice things that will help you in the meet, not the gym. By making these changes the gear bencher can make 50+ pound increases in a month and even in a day.