Have you ever said anything about your bench press?
“I was almost there, I just grooved the elevator wrong.”
“I’m always pinned to the bottom of my bench.”
“I can touch that weight and walk, but when I stop my bench I’m so much weaker.”
“My overhead press and other bench accessories all got stronger, but my bench stayed the same.”
These are comments I hear a lot from people who are having trouble increasing their bench press.
The good news is that they can be easily fixed by identifying the underlying problem and implementing effective solutions to address it.
When people fail, their bench pushes a few inches away from their chest for one or more of these reasons.
- Weak pecs relative to shoulders and triceps.
- Inability to quickly pick up and reverse the direction of the load.
- Bad technique.
When the bar touches your chest, your chest muscles are stretched and are in a favorable position to create force and reverse the load.
In the same lower position, however, your shoulders and triceps are at a disadvantaged leverage point.
Their main contribution is closer to the middle area and upwards.
This is generally where we see the elbows feel like transferring the load needs from the chest muscles to the shoulders and triceps to complete the lift.
I’ll provide an overview here, but if you need to work on your own specific goals or have other issues, just contact me on Stacked Strength.
Weak chest muscles
When a lifter improperly creases a lift directly from the chest, it often indicates weak chest muscles.
Because the pecs cannot generate enough force to push the weight up, the elbows flare excessively to shift the load demands on the triceps and shoulders.
As mentioned earlier, at the bottom of the repetition, the triceps and shoulders are in a disadvantageous mechanical position to push the weight.
For example, weak pecs are usually the culprit when an athlete fails a rep a few inches from the chest.
However, this is often accompanied by an inability to effectively take the load and maximize the strain reduction cycle. If the athlete lowers the bar, and the eccentric and isometric strength is insufficient, then he will not take the load, which will lead to a decrease in elastic energy.
This energy, if not lost, would be used to quickly reverse the weight of the chest.
Another important factor in failure is bad technique.
However, there are several articles and how-to videos on how to optimize the bench press technique based on your levers and experience.
Hence, technique will not be the focus of this article as it is assumed that technique is not the limiting factor.
Here, I’m going to teach you a simple strategy that addresses these two main problems so you can start developing new PRs.
Who will benefit?
But let’s talk first about who this is for. As mentioned earlier, if you fail your chest, or if you frequently exercise improperly or struggle with paused reps and assume your technique is decent, then you likely have weak pectorals.
Also, you likely lack the specific eccentric and isometric strength to both absorb and reverse the weight.
If this sounds like you, this strategy can help. The people who mainly have these problems are beginners and advanced learners.
Advanced athletes are a bit more complex, which can make the solutions equally complex. But I digress.
Below is a video demonstration of an effective exercise in fixing the above issues.
The strategy I am discussing can be implemented with great success using various press exercises and is not limited to the demonstration below.
An additional benefit of using the tempo while eliminating its mechanical advantages is the following It places higher demands on the target muscles and connective tissue without generating the same level of fatigue.
This is because, while the exercise feels challenging, absolute loading is easier than doing a full powerlifting setup and choosing a load of the same relative intensity.
For exampleWith a proper powerlifting setup, you can do a set of 8 at 100 lbs, but when you’re doing a set of 8 at 70 lbs at pace, it may not feel any easier.
Same relative intensity, but less absolute stress.
This reduction in absolute stress reduces the stress on your body. This allows you to do more productive workouts within a micro cycle without exceeding your ability to recover.