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Improve Your Bench

By Adam Sinicki

Reprinted from: www.the-biomatrix.net – home of self enhancement for bodybuilders, martial artists, traceurs, athletes and transhumanists.

The Bench Press is one of my favourite exercises and I’m not alone in that view. One of the ‘big three’ compound movements but accessible enough to be practiced by non-experts. For this reason it is loved by all and has become a bench-mark (ho ho!) in measuring strength; when sizing someone up for their strength a common question to ask is ‘how much can you bench?’ I actually find that question misleading and annoying. Do they mean one-rep max? Or do they want to know how many reps and sets you normally do during a workout? Do they include the weight of the bar? Do they even know what they mean? Damn civilians!
These retards want an answer though. Normally I do three sets of 12-15 on 80kg (that more reps than most people would advise but that’s just how I role). I’d guess my one rep max to be somewhere around the 150 mark (I once forgot that 6 x 20 wasn’t 80 and accidentally attracted an audience pressing 125kg without a spotter (the bar being 5kg). I managed 6 or 7 which wasn’t at all shabby. Then I got stuck under the bar...).
Most people are pretty sick of listening to me babble by this stage. I don’t know why they ask in the first place as they obviously don’t really know what’s average or good. Maybe they’re just trying to show an intrest? More likely they’re trying to bullshit their way into making you believe they’re a seasoned pro. Still when I give them my spiel they nod and I think they’re fairly impressed.
Here’s how you can improve your bench press and so impress more random strangers, which really is the secret to happiness.

Use a Spotter
Benching heavy weights can be fairly dangerous as it only needs a muscle spasm or cramp to leave you with a bar-shaped hole in your face. For this reason we can only very slowly and carefully increase the weight we pile on. By having a (decent) spotter however we can break out of our comfort zones and so improve much quicker.

Use the Smith Machine
The Smith Machine is like a robotic spotter (like Robocop if he was your gym buddy). It’s not as good, as it makes the exercise less of a compound movement and requires less work from the supporting muscles. However if you don’t have a spotter to hand it’s a good way to ‘test’ going up a weight and also a good way to target the major muscles involved.

Work Your Entire Pecs
Bench Pressing improves your pecs but only from a certain angle. In order to achieve fuller man-tits you need to hit the entire muscle. This is best achieved using incline and recline benches (for top and bottom) and flies for the outsides.

Work Your Shoulders
After your pecs, your shoulders are the main muscles involved in the movement. Shoulder presses and shrugs are good ways to target those deltoids and put a bit of extra power in your press.

Work Your Triceps
Your triceps too play a big role and so you should strengthen these too. Dips and pullovers will serve you well.

Work Your Back
Again your back is used in the movement so train that too. Then when all of the individual muscles are bulging bring them all together for an awesome bench press!

Use Dumbbells
Occasionally swapping the barbell for two dumbbells has several advantages. Firstly it will improve your symmetry, making sure that both arms and pecs are putting in 100 percent effort with neither side letting the team down, secondly it will require even greater use of those stabilising muscles, and thirdly it will enable you to lift heavier on your own - if you falter you can just drop them down by your side.

As with anything a good technique can both improve your performance and reduce risk of injury (well not quite anything... good suicide technique does not reduce injury).
First and foremost you should plant both feet firmly on the ground giving yourself a firm base (unless your raising them for isolation purposes as below). You should position yourself so that you can grab the bar from the rack with your arms straight (not behind your head).

Arch Your Back?
To arch or not to arch - that is a question. Bodybuilders from both camps have argued both that arching your back is ‘cheating’ and requires less work for your pecs and that arching your back can help you lift more weight and so should be encouraged.
The choice is yours, but if you do arch your back you should make sure you put on more weight. This way your pecs will still have to work as hard.
If you want to properly isolate your pecs and arms then you can raise your feet off the floor and bring them up infront of you while you work. My recommendation is to use different methods on different days - this way you’ll get the benefits from each technique.

Do Press Ups
Press ups require all the same muscles as the bench press (with the added extras of abs and quads) and are another great way to increase the amount of weight you can put on the bar. Don’t think of them as second best but as equally important and they have the added bonus of enabling you to train anywhere. If you find ordinary press-ups too easy then you can up the ante in several ways: by laying weight plates on your back (or having a friend sit on you), by doing clapping press ups, by extending the range of movement using two parallel chairs, by going down to each side, by using just one arm... the possibilities are endless.

Obviously the best way to improve your bench press is the same as any skill: do it lots. To put a new spin on a well known phrase...

Shut up and bench!

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