A lot can be said about the bench press. After all, it’s the most popular way of comparing strength among gym bros. But whether you want to increase your bench press for the sake of gym superiority, for upper body strength development, for chest development, or simply for the sake of benching more, you’ll need to make sure your form plays to your advantage.
A weak bench press can be really frustrating. And by weak, we mean anything below your bodyweight.
Some lifters have a weak bench press due to anatomical disadvantages like having long arms, narrow shoulders, or both. If you’re one of these, you have no choice but to work much harder. Oh, and never use your genetics as an excuse.
Other simple factors that could hold back your bench press include:
- Weak triceps or front delts
- Weak lats and upper back
- Incorrect grip (too narrow)
- Flared elbows
If you suspect any of these weak links in your bench press, fix them first. For instance, if you’re weak in the lockout phase, your triceps are to blame. In most cases, your chest might just not be the culprit.
You have to understand the bench press is a compound upper body movement, not a chest exercise. So for a strong bench press, the goal is to maximize the muscular resources available to move the weight up.
Using this idea and a technique derived from it, you can increase your bench press by as much as 10% (e.g. 160lbs to 176lbs) – or even more for terribly uncoordinated lifters!
Here’s the secret:
Implement the following two tips/cues to your bench press (if you haven’t already), and you’ll see a guaranteed increase of around 10% in your bench press!
Tip 1: Position your feet under the hips, or as close you can get being under the hips, and lift your heels from the floor.
By doing this, it becomes easier to initiate leg drive – which is the secret to a big bench. Some people might feel more comfortable with heels on the floor, but for most lifters, it’s easier to push through the balls of the feet.
Moreover, by putting your feet under the hips, your body will naturally arch and will act as one unit to move the weight. Muscles of your back, abs, and lats come into the picture even more. This is why powerlifters arch in the bench press, enabling them to lift more. But unless you are one, don’t arch too much that your glutes come off the bench. A slight arch and proper leg drive will be enough to do you wonders.
At the bottom of the bench press, synchronize your legs and push the ground with the balls of your feet as you move the bar back up. This leg drive will automatically add a handful of pounds to your bench press, especially once you master the timing and synchronization.
Tip 2: Bury your back and rear delts into the bench and push your back hard into the bench as you move the bar up.
Now that your feet are set, you need to one more cue to really optimize your bench press. As you push the bar up, don’t think about pressing it away from you; instead, think about pushing your upper back deep into the bench. This way, it’ll be much easier to get the bar up.
The two aforementioned tips need to be done in sync and in perfect timing for them to be effective. When you do nail them after some practice, you’ll walk away with extra pounds on your bench press.
The picture below perfectly illustrates how these two cues are executed in a correctly performed bench press:
Notice how his feet are under his hips, and he pushes through the balls of the feet, not the heels. The mental cue here is to imagine pushing your feet forward – this will create a reactive force to help you push the bar up. Simultaneously, he pushes his upper back into the bench to get the bar up.
The key here is really to time the upper back push and leg drive perfectly as you initiate the upward motion at the bottom of the movement. When you do this correctly, your body will feel like an elastic “spring” and the lift will become much, much easier.
Chances are, you currently don’t use any cues or techniques when you bench press. Maybe you don’t think about anything, or maybe you think about your pecs getting sexier with each rep. Whatever it is, by using these two tips and thinking about the aforementioned cues, you will surely increase your bench press by as much as 10%!
Although not mentioned in the article, one other factor that hinders the bench press is weak forearms and wrists. What happens is your wrists bend as you bench the bar up because the weight is too heavy for your wrists’ liking. This transfers some activation from your chest and shoulder muscles to your forearms, resulting in loss of power.
If this sounds like you, you can easily remedy this by investing in some wrist wraps. You can get them for cheap on Amazon:
If you liked this article, share it with fellow lifters. And as always, don’t forget to live stronger and help others live stronger!