Okay I get a lot of e-mails asking how they can how to bench press more weight. So, I decided to make a whole section dedicated to improving bench press weight. I am not going to list one way, because there are many ways. In fact there more ways than you can shake a stick at. I am going to list what has worked for me, and programs that I have heard about that work.
But first I got to talk about recovery. Many of those bench press programs are nothing but "eat 5,000 calories a day, bench one day a week and do not do triceps or shoulder exercises". Look at them that is what they are. These will work, but you will have a strong bench, big waist, and small arms. Some web sites have bench charts to find out what you should be lifting. Here is how you use those charts: take chart, light match, ignite chart, stir ashes. DO NOT USE CHARTS!!! They do not work. Why Fig? Because not everyone has the same types of muscle fibers, not everyone if 5í10" tall, not everyone has the same endurance. You can use these chart as a estimate of what you can do, but unless you done the weight you think you can do, you cannot tell anyone that is what you do because you can do "x" amount of reps. A lot of these charts have unrealistic goals "yeah 10 pound gain every week?". Screw charts!!! Do not use them.
Instead of charts you should go to the gym and see what you can do for 10 reps in perfect form (with the last rep you have to struggle with). Once you find the 10 rep max, you will remember this number. That is about your 70% max weight. Now add 30% to this and that should be close to your max. In other words you bench 225 for 10 reps, your max should be around 275-315. Now keep that 70% number in your mind. You want to incorporate that number in your workout. The 70% number will be your fourth set in your pyramid. Like this for the 225 pound bencher above:
135x10 (warm up, you pick a weight that is light like a push up)
135x10 (warm up again)
185x10 (this is sort of a warm up too, except now you are getting the body used to heavy weight. This helps to stretch the muscles out.)
225x8 (this is the first heavy set. This is the 70% max weight. You do a couple of reps short of 10 "you should have some steam left over for a few more reps, but you do not do them". This is to get your body fully ready for the working sets)
245x6 (here you are going full bore on your lift)
265x4+ (here you are going as heavy as you can at about 90% of your max weight)
In other words warm up, do 8 reps with your 70% max and then add a little weight and do 6 reps, then add a little weight and then do 4 reps. You want to time yourself between reps. Give yourself between 2 and 3 minutes. For the last set give yourself, 4 minutes. Time yourself!!!
Now the bench uses lots of muscles. It uses the shoulders, triceps, and lats. You have to get those muscle groups growing as well. You also have to space your workout so that those muscles are not over worked. I would never do triceps, the day before chest. That will not work.
Now rep speed for strength is 1 second up and 1 second down. Usually I say 2 seconds up and down, but for power I have to go with a faster lifting speed. In good form without bouncing the weight.
How to bench. First some people put their feet on the bench. This is okay if you have a bad back, but I have never seen a power lifter do this in a contest. Always put your feet on the floor. Before you even sit down on the bench, check the bar. The bar should not be bent. Roll the bar on the ground and see if it is bent. Next check and see if the ends of the bar turn. They should turn, if they do not then you will have trouble balancing it, because the bar will twist in your hands. Next make sure the hex screws at the end of the bar are tight. Now you can put the bar on the bench. When you put the bar on the bench, make sure the bar is centered on the bench. That is the greatest mistake I see!!! Then they lift the bar for the first time and the bar comes down crooked. Next lay ion the bench and make sure the bench is parallel with the sections on the ceiling. That can cause you to lower the bar crooked. Next make sure the bench is flat on the floor and it is not tipping. Now put the weight on the bar. Make sure the weights are pushed all the way to the ends of the collars. To grip the bar find a place on the bar, to where your forearms are parallel to the wall. Now note where your fingers are on the rings of the bar for next time. I always chalk my bar. Always use chalk. Now get under the bar. When the bar is racked you should have the bar under your neck. Now tuck your chin down into your neck. Breath a few times before you lift the bar. Now lift the bar and lower it to your nipples. Keep your butt on the bench and do not arch your back!!! Your elbows should be some what parallel to the bar. Then lift all the way up and just before locking out, lower the weight again. Once you are done rack the weight and then reset the bar.
For a strong bench press I believe that you should only workout the whole body once a week. One bench day a week is enough (there is one program I will mention that does work later.). You should only try to gain at the most 5 pounds a week on your bench press. You can order smaller plates that weigh less than a pound. These work very well.
Now to show you some different programs.
The one on my page that I always use is as follows:
I switch from light to heavy workouts week to week. On my light day I use a slower lifting technique. I concentrate on my form. On my heavy day, I use a fast controlled movement. I do forced reps on my last set. I have the spotter hold the bar and as soon as I start to fail, he starts to help me move the weight at a good fast pace (not a slow pace!!!). The spotter tells me when the weight is too heavy for him to continue spotting me. I do not end the set, he does!!! Usually at 30 pounds of help, he racks the weight. My workout goes like this (NOTICE THE TIME BETWEEN SETS!!!)
For light day I do this:
Set 1: warm
up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 2: warm up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 3: 10x225 (rest 2 min)
Set 4: 8x275 (rest 3 min)
Set 5: 8x315 (rest 3 min)
Set 6: 6x345 (rest 4 min)
Set 7: 4x365 (rest 5 min)
Set 8: 6-7x315
For a heavy day I cut down on the sets and weight and go heavier
Set 1: warm up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 2: warm up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 3: 10x225 (2min rest)
Set 4: 4x315 (3 min rest)
Set 5: 4-6x405 (4-5 min rest)
Set 6: 2-3x455 (forced reps) (5 min rest)
Set 7: 9x315
After I do flat bench, I go do 3 sets of incline dumbbells and then 3 sets of flyes.
I like to do both of these workouts, because the light workout helps build my reps up and the heavy helps my max. You got to do both. The lighter workout also helps me heal up a little after a heavy workout.
The next routine is called the "Westside style" of lifting. I am not going to get into it a lot. What they do is attach a chain to both sides of the bar. Why? Because when you lift the bar up and you get to your strongest point of the movement it will get heavier. I have never tried it, but it sounds really interesting.
I some times use partial reps after I do my regular flat bench. These really help to get rid of your sticking point in the middle of the bench movement. I only recommend you do 1 set of these. These really work the front delts the most. All you do is lift the bar up and then lower it to your chest. Then lift the weight up to half way and then lower it. Do that seven times. Then while you are still in the same set, go all the way to the top and then lower the weight down half way and then do them seven times at the top. Then try to get seven full reps. You can also just do on part of the movement for the whole set. Remember that the bottom movement works your lats and chest and the top works the triceps and shoulders. Just figure out what you lag on.
Power Rack Benching
Some people like me believe that you are limited to your weakest point of your movement. That to me is true. Everyone has their strongest point in their movement. Usually it is the lockout. My lockout is very strong. I can use my lockout to bench the back end of a 82í Escort off of the ground. I could not do that at my mid point. I think if you can get your lockout stronger, then the strength will flow down to your weaker point. You can do this with the power rack. Do not do this as a basis of your workout. Do it as a supplement only. Do it after you do your flat bench. Just go to the power rack and set the pins so they are at your mid point. Then try to lift the weight up. Do not bounce the weight off of the pins. Lower the weight to the pins to the point you hear nothing. Work in the 6-8 reps range.
Bulgarian Style Benching
Once I tried doing this and I got hooked. This program does work. I do not know why. I do this every once in a while. You have to be in good health to do this. You have to be eating like a pig and you have to get a lot of rest to do it. You have to be on a program that only works your whole body once a week. You have to skip shoulder and triceps training while on this program. This program is to be done in one week and you cannot do it repeatedly. You have to give your body a rest of at least a month or two, if you decide to do it again. Here it is: You start on chest day. You warm up and then find a weight that you can do for 5 reps in good form. You use this pyramid:
Letís say this guy benches 225 as his 5 reps max:
Set 1: 10x135
Set 2: 10x135
Set 3: 6x185
Set 4: 5x225
Then on chest day you do 3 sets of incline and then 3 sets of flyes.
Now it is not over folks!!! Now the next day you come in and you just do the flat bench workout and you try to get 5 or 6 reps. Sometime you will only get 4, but keep going. Then you go do what ever you were going to workout that day. Then the day after that you do the same thing and try to get more than 5 reps out of the flat bench and then you do your normal workout. You do this for 3 days after chest day. Then after the last day, you take 2-3 days off. Then you will go bench and usually I have gained a couple of reps on my bench.
The Power Lifterís Routine
This is real easy. Power lifting mags make it sound too complicated. Basically you drop your weight down and raise the reps up. Then week after week you lower the reps and add weight. Just like this:
Week 1 (I will exclude warm up sets):
Do you see how the sets and reps change? That is what they do. Then after that they go back to a lower weight and start over again. This was not really a accurate routine, I just made it up to show you. The weight would be heavier at the end.
5 sets of 10 system
I do not like this system at all. This system does not work!!! Basically you find a weight you can do for 15 reps and then do 5 sets of 10 with it. Do not do this workout.
Three Sets of Eight Workout or the 5x5 Workout.
These are programs used by many power lifters. I have never used the 5x5 system. I have done the 3 x 8 workout. Basically this is just like the Power Lifter routine above. Except you find a weight you can do for 8 reps or what ever the plan calls for. Then you try to get that amount of reps out of the weight as many times as it calls for. Usually you have to descend in weight to do this. Then each month you lower the reps by 2 and then lift heavier.
I do not recommend anyone reverse benching. If you do not know what it is, then good. Basically it is benching with a under hand grip. This will hurt your shoulders. Some people can do this, but I would not try it.
Super Slow Benching
Okay some Darden believers out there are going to hate me. DO NOT GO SUPER SLOW ON BENCHING!!! Super slow is lifting a weight at 15-30 seconds up and 15-30 seconds down. Some movements like bench press must be done with some speed, because the body (OR YOUR ROTATOR CUFFS) are not designed to go super slow. Yes super slow causes a lot of stress on the muscles, but it causes too much stress on the things the muscles attach to. 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down is slow enough. To me good form is a pace that you can feel the muscle through the whole movement. Skip super slow training. I have tried it and it does not work!!! I do not know any power lifters that do that. It does work on some pulling movements like pull ups, but pushing movements seem to irritate the joints and ligaments.
Pause at the bottom Benching
A lot of power lifters do these. Usually they do them after they get done with their heaviest weight on their pyramid. Usually it is done with a descending weight. They do between 6-8 reps. Just bench and as you get to the bottom, just stop the weight there for 1 second and then lift the weight back up. Usually 1 - 2 sets of this after flat bench works well.
Close & Wide Grip Benching
It is always good to change your grip. A strength coach a few years ago told me that I should workout with a real wide grip and when it comes time to max out, I should bring my grip in a 1" on each side. Tell you what, that works!!! He also had me tuck my chin into my neck. That did help for some reason. While you are benching, try different grips.
Smith Machine Benching
That is a NO NO!!! The Smith machine is a good piece of equipment. But, if you want to get your free weight bench up then stay away from it. Some people tell me "hey I bench 350". I say oh really? "Yeah I do it on the Smith Machine." He tells me. First off, just like I said before you always have to pay some where. Yes the Smith machine has itís strengths. It is easy to use, it is safe and you do not need a spotter. But what it does not do or what it really does is this: It puts more stress on the joints!!!, it makes it so your supporting muscles do not work, and it put the person benching in a position that is totally different from free weight benching. The Smith machine will make you use your triceps too much. Basically it turns into a decline bench. I do not even like it for incline. Stay away from the Smith machine on bench. Not to mention how much stress that machine puts on your wrists.
Questions and Answers (Okay I Answer both, but what do you expect?)
Q: Fig what are some exercises I should do to help my bench get stronger?
A: I would use the exercises that you can lift a lot of weight. Like flat bench, incline bench, and weighted dips.
Q: I noticed that you did not include "Decline bench".
A: I really do not think that the decline bench does anything for the chest, that weighted dips cannot do better. Look at the range of motion you get with the decline. It is the same as the dip. But you can get a fuller range of motion with the dip.
Q: Can I use dumbbells and get stronger?
A: Yes you can, but you will not get your barbell bench much stronger by doing so. If I was going to try to win a running marathon, I would not go and do nothing but bike work. I would run. If you want your flat bench to go up, then you got to do flat bench. I am not saying your bench will not go up, I am saying it is a better way with the barbell. Because you can pile on more weight.
Q: My shoulders hurt when I bench. What should I do?
A: First you need to find out what is wrong with your shoulders. Go to my link section and check out the Stone clinic link. There is a self examination chart there. If you just have a mild pain, then you can try this: When you bench, do not lock out. Stay away from the peck dec and flyes. Work real light for a few weeks until the pain goes away. See a doctor if the pain is really irritating you.
How long should the pain in my chest last after a workout?
It should last 3 days. If it lasts more than that then you need to cut down on your sets and exercises. Now if you do not feel any pain, that is still good!!! Only if you keep getting stronger.
That is all, I have right now. I hope it helps you, Fig
Design Your Own Bench Routine With The Kennelly Method!
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