If there is one movement that defines strength, it is the barbell bench press! The barbell bench press has been a hallmark of strength, since the beginning of time. By building a stronger bench, you inherently increase the size of your chest (pectoral muscles), shoulders (deltoids) and triceps (upper arm). These muscle groups are all very visual from the anterior and well defined upper body is a symbol of strength, power, masculinity and hard work. The big question is? How do you improve your bench?
Here are Scorpion’s top tips to add kilos to your bench.
Tip 1: Learn correct technique
Learning the correct bench press technique will immediate help you add kilos to your bench and lower the risk of injuries. A good set up is fundamental for long term gains.
- Set your feet
Foot placement, on the bench press, is just as critical as it is for other compound movements such as deadlift and squat. Your feet are the starting position for the production of power/force and a strong base will allow you to maximise strength and power while minimising the risk of injury. Try to keep your feet back and towards your glutes, as far as you can while still keeping them flat on the ground while you perform your bench. Depending on your height and body type, this is going to look different for everyone. The main cue to focus on is to plant your feet firmly on the floor, and aim to push the ground away.
- Position yourself under the bar
Just like your foot placement; your back position is going to be unique to you, based on your body type and mechanics. Position yourself far enough underneath the bar that you are easily able to unrack the bar, but not so far under the bar that you hit the racking during your bench movement.
- Scapula Retraction
During the bench press it is critical that you squeeze your scapula as tightly as possible (Pinch the grape). By squeezing your shoulder blades together, you create a tight, stable platform for your upper back. This will pull your shoulders back and down, into their safest biomechanical position. Also by retracting and depressing your shoulder blades you shorten the movement arm which places your upper body in a stronger bio-mechanical position.
- The Arch
While the arch has been somewhat of a controversial discussion point among gym goers, research is clear that by retracting your scapula and creating an arch through your thoracic spine, you are in fact creating a more natural spinal position which is bio-mechanically safe and the most effective position to maximise your bench press. If you are not a powerlifter, your back arch does not need to be exaggerated.
- The Grip
Grab the bar tightly with authority. Every time you grip the bar, grip it like you are going to be lifting your max load. Hold the bar as far down your palm as possible. If the bar is positioned too high in your hand (or in your fingers), then you will increase the amount of flexion in your wrist. You only want the slightest amount of wrist flexion.Your grip width will be determined by your body type and specific goals. Individuals with longer arms will need to take a wider grip, as will people aiming to exert maximise force, such as powerlifters. Most individuals should be aiming to grip the bar on or just inside the barbell rings. Make sure you always wrap your thumb around the bar.
Tip 2: Learn the movement
Learning the correct movement pattern is critical to developing and improving your bench press mechanics.
- Brace and unrack
With one big breath of air, inhale then unrack the bar so that your wrist, elbows and shoulders are all aligned. Then let a slight breath of air out. If you have a training partner, ask them to help you unrack the weight. If you do not have a partner, drive your back into the bench hard so that the bar just pops off the rack. Maintain rigidity throughout your whole body.
- The Decent
Firstly, take another big breath of air in, and force the air into your abdominal wall. As you do this, grip the bar tight and imagine bending the bar into a U shape to increase tension in your lats. Slowly lower the bar down to your chest while maintaining tightness through your upper body. It is important that you don’t let the bar fall onto your body. Control the decent.
- Maximise your press with leg drive
Once the bar has made contact with your torso, initiate the ascent by squeezing your glutes and driving your feet hard into the ground. As you reach your sticking point, exhale as hard as you can, to power through to the starting position. The bar position should return to its initial position directly above your shoulders. Then repeat for your allocated amount of repetitions.
Tip 3: Assess for weaknesses in your lift
There is an old saying “You are only as strong as the weakest part of your lift”. By working out what exactly are the weak areas of your lift, you will then be able to adapt your training program to correct the issues.
Ask yourself the following questions?
- Do you fatigue at the bottom of the lift? If you can’t get the weight off your chest, you need to become more explosive at the start of the movement. Try incorporating explosive pressing one day a week, in-conjunction with your main training to correct the weakness.
- Do you fail to complete the lock out? If you do focus some training on explosively benching off a block.
- Are you set up correctly? Have you maximised your bio-mechanics? Work on building up the consistency in your set up and movement patterns. Remember that Rome was not built in a day and bench pressing is a skill set. The more time you spend correcting and refining your technique, the faster and safer you will progress your bench.
- Do you use bench press equipment? If you don’t, try investing in wrist wraps, foot wear, chalk and a belt. Equipment is designed to help you lift more effectively and safer. Lifting equipment helps you enhance stability. The stronger your base, the stronger and safer your lift is.
Tip 4: Make sure your program is progressive
While there are many factors that can make or break improving and progressing your bench, one of the most important is how you design and implement your program. The training program should have the following areas covered and be specific for you and your goals:
- Is your program specific? Are the components of your programming such as your reps, sets and volume matching your specific goals?
- Are you focusing enough on skill acquisition? Or too much? A moderate amount of bench pressing is required to improve your skill while still having enough volume focused on accessories to help improve weak areas is also required.
- Are you maximising potential training volume? How much bench pressing are you doing? Is it once, twice or three times per week? How much do you need? This is very individualised abut is important to work out so that you can maximise training stimulus and recovery for adaptation and growth.
Tip 5: Supplements can help boost performance
Along side a progressive training program, a nutrition plan which is aligned with your specific goals and a recovery plan, sports supplements can help improve your performance, recovery, build lean mass and fast track you towards your goals
- Scorpion Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine Monohydrate is regarded as the most effective sports supplement ever developed due to its ability to assist athletes of any sporting code. Creatine’s popularity has soared over recent years as more and more athletes experience the amazing benefits of this super supplement. Creatine assists on all anaerobic levels; it is the first choice supplement for muscle growth and strength gains!Try it today at:
- Scorpion Whey Protein
Scorpion Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) is an elite level, lean muscle builder and general health protein which is designed for those hard training persons and people looking to improve health and vitality. Derived from NZ grass fed cows, Scorpion WPC has a very high protein percentage (80% vanilla) which will deliver a full spectrum of desirable amino acids that will benefit your body. Blended intoOUT OF THIS WORLD flavours (including 100% naturally sweetened options), Scorpion 100% Whey tastes amazing and mixes easily after a few shakes! Scorpion 100% Whey is the ultimate protein source!Try it today at:
- Scorpion Disturbed Pre Workout
To trigger unearthlyworkout intensity, Scorpion Disturbed is the supreme ergogenic muscle enhancer that delivers a massive 300mg of Caffeine (per serve) that triggers insane instant energy and combines potent mega doses of Beta-Alanine, AAKG, Taurine and L Tyrosine to enhance nitric oxide production, which assists in giving you out of this world muscle pumps. Disturbed is one of the most potent pre-workouts on the market.Try it today at: