Do You Need To Do Speed Work For A Big Bench Press? by Jared Bachmeier for CriticalBench.com
I think anytime you are working on a specific exercise and trying to increase your bench strength or max you need to look at what exactly you think is keeping you from increasing your lifts. Some people have great speed off the chest but struggle during the lockout. Some people need help off the chest and then have no problem locking the weight out. It varies from person to person.
Obviously the faster you get the weight going up the easier it is to complete the whole lift and use as little extra energy as possible to do so. When working with a max effort weight, most of the time if you don't get good pop off the chest while establishing leg drive you will miss the lift somewhere in the middle or towards the lockout.
Very few people have the ability to touch the chest and slowly press a max weight all the way up to lockout. I know my bench relies heavily on speed. If I don't get good pop and a lot of leg drive I will generally miss it. I usually have really good pop and speed off my chest through the lockout so I don't see a real need to do speed work personally. Not that it would hurt though, and I might actually benefit from it and become that much more explosive.
If you find yourself struggling to get that pop and good speed off the bottom you may be a perfect candidate for working in some speed training also know as dynamic effort. I think the best way to do so is to alternate each week. Take one heavy max effort day and the next week do speed work. This tends to give your body and CNS a break from the heavy beating every week. A lot of people will work with 7-10 sets of 3-4 reps with little rest in between sets. I know a lot of guys will either use a narrower grip for all sets or alternate between their normal wide grip and like the pinkie finger on the ring grip.
The guys I train with will use mini bands and use between 40% and 50% of their raw max to do the sets with. You don't want it heavy. The key here is speed, so get the weight moving as fast as you possibly can while maintaining proper form. Try and recruit some of those fast twitch muscles fibers and put them to work for you. You want to make sure to keep the bar movement the exact same as you would a normal heavy bench.
You also need to make sure you tuck your shoulder blades and get your arch as high as you can just as you would a max effort and try to stay that way for all 3 reps. Keep the weight the same for all your sets. I recommend resting between a minute or two between sets. Try and keep breaks short and quick.
I think the other key to really get the speed off the bottom is leg drive. If you don't have much or don't use much you are a lot less likely to have that extra momentum for the lift. Timing is very important. If your legs fire too soon before you get the press command it can hurt the lift. Likewise if they are late it might be too late to help and you won't get much out of it. If you work on leg drive and speed work you are giving yourself two great tools for creating as much speed as you can. This will help you increase your max and help get it moving faster.
Speed work in is not something you will see results from over night. If you don't have the fast twitch fibers already developed it might take time to get them to respond to the speed work. I would suggest alternating heavy day and a speed day for at least two months and see how it affects the speed of the bar coming off your chest and your overall bench.
Don't give up on it too soon. Give it a chance and you should see gains in all parts of your bench. Some people see better gains than other people from speed work. Some people are built different and already have the ability to do certain movements faster with less work. Others that don't have that gift should definitely give speed work a try. It can't ever hurt your bench doing speed work; all you have to do is put the time in and reap the rewards from being able to move weight that much faster.