- Category: Lifts
- Published on Sunday, 12 February 2012 13:08
- Written by Matt
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11 Tips for bench pressing
Matt Wenning M.S.
Ludus Magnus Performance center
I have been competitively bench pressing for almost 20 years now. This journey has allowed me the pleasure to be around some of the best bench pressers to ever be involved in the sport of powerlifting and performance training. With that being said, I have benched over 800lbs many times in national and world level competitions and learned many secrets to not only bench literally a ton of weight, but do it safely. In this article we will discuss some major points to be familiar with. Regardless if your goal is to bench 500lbs or to bench 100lbs, these tips will ensure you make progress quickly and effectively.
Tip 1 Never train with improper form or undermine technique
As you can see in this picture, your best hand position is usually a slight grip outside of the shoulders, and your wrist as straight as possible
Technique will not only allow you to hit bigger numbers, but allow you to make progress for many years. Most beginners will try to bench with their wrists turned backwards, which not only causes wrist problems later, but also puts added pressure on the forearm bones and muscles. It is important for benching to make your arms (triceps) the primary pressers, and build a strong upper back to protect shoulders, and make a long lasting base. This is true regardless of your goal. This leads into tip number 2.
Tip 2 your arms have to be strong to press big weights, and to protect your shoulders
As you can see above, tricep training is a major tool to making sure your bench press form is spot on, and you’re not spending time at the doctor with shoulder issues.
Tip 3 your small muscles are your limitations
This is the chaotic method as shown above. This method develops the smaller shoulder muscles and stabilizers for a great base, and decrease in injury. (USE SPOTTERS)
It is important with bench pressing to have all small muscles prepared, conditioned, and flexible. Much of our training after benching is dedicated to conditioning and strengthening the smaller muscles (triceps, rear delts, rotator cuffs etc). This ensures that we press correctly while maximally straining, and do it safely. Using fat ropes, different bars, etc will optimize performance and decrease symptoms of overuse, which leads into Tip 4.
Tip 4 Training must have a plan
This picture shows a simplistic version of the importance of training smart. As you can see the body adjusts from training in various ways. Finding optimal is the key to success.
Positive progress takes smarts and time to reach true potential. With that being said it is important to understand that there are different methods of training that need to be utilized.
One of the biggest variables is making sure rest is optimal. Upper body muscles need a 72 hour break in between training days. That means if you bench press on Monday, then Thursday is the next day you should train those muscle groups. Next you should know what methods you can use to bench (tip 5).
Tip 5 Know the 3 major methods of training
Many exercise enthusiasts do not understand that there are 3 major methods of training and that you cannot ignore for too long or they will affect one another. Regardless if your goal is to bench more, bench safer, or gain muscle mass, training must represent these methods of training in a weekly cycle. Going too heavy, too light, or too much volume can cause major issues.
Maximal Effort Method This needs to be utilized to learn to strain and create a high level of strength 90% and above intensity
Dynamic Effort Method This method creates high levels of force F=MxA, and is done with 30-50% intensities
Repetition Effort Method This method is the most commonly used, and is the main source of hypertrophy (muscle mass) it is done with weights between 5% and 85% intensities
These methods were first studied in the Soviet Union in the 60s, and were mastered by the 80s. Most of the soviet science in exercise was dedicated towards the anaerobic abilities (Sprinting, lifting, etc.).
Most trainers, and gym enthusiasts utilize the repetition method, but often ignore, speed and maximal effort training. Over time this creates stagnation, eventually overtraining and injury. The major key is to have knowledge and many tools to make progress.
Tip 6 Use many tools to train your bench press
There is more to bench pressing than just using regular weights. As seen earlier in the article with the kettlebells there are many great tools, and much needed to obtain higher numbers.
This picture shows the use of 200lbs of band tension attached to the bar. It is important to use many different types of resistances in order to keep the muscles growing. Once a muscle memorizes a certain environment, its potential to grow becomes limited with that stimulus.
Tip 7 don’t forget your back muscles
Lat pull downs are a staple for back training (fat v-bar shown above)
Back muscles are just as important to benching as muscles in the front of the body. This means that lots of back exercise is mandatory for a better bench press. As you can see in the picture above, it is an awkward bar that builds up forearm strength while doing back work. At Ludus Magnus, we have 10 different ways to do a simple lat pulldown. Back training is so important in fact that we try to double the volume on the back muscles that we have done on the bench press, which leads into tip 8.
Tip 8 Do double the volume on your back muscles that you do on bench press
135lb bench press for 4x10 total front volume 5400lbs
Lat pulldowns 3x10 with 100lbs 3000lb
Dumbbell rows 3x10 with 50lbs dbs 1500lb
Row machine 3x15 with 130lbs 5850lb
Total back volume 10,350lbs
This is a sure way to keep shoulder problems far away from your future, and help with constant progress in your training. This is a simple tool in order to make sure that you’re doing plenty of back work in your training regimen.
Tip 9 Find a reputable trainer to help you start or fix current issues
This picture shows me coaching proper bench form to the U.S. Army mountain officers at Ft. Carson Colorado
Sometimes you just have to know when to get help. It is important that you find knowledgeable people to help you reach your goals. So many times bad habits can be prevented, as well as injury by just consulting professionals. Do you invest your own money or consult professionals?? Chances are you have assistance with taxes, investments etc Why? It’s hard to know all of the small details of those things. Now take the complications of that and times it by TEN! To understand the human body takes years of education, and experience, make sure you utilize people that have done their homework.
Tip 10 Be patient
This is one of the toughest obstacles to some people. Anything worth doing takes time and this is no exception. Remember that when getting stronger, the body adjusts to training over long periods of time. Be wary of trainers, and programs that offer the world in 60 days. It takes patience to become strong, and do it safely.
Pushing too hard too fast can cause shoulder issues
Tip 11 Use Spotters
This is very important to be able to push your limits. Spotters allow you to safely train much harder than when alone. Many times people’s workouts are cut short due to having to save some in the tank for the effort of putting the bar back in the rack. Find others to train with, and find out how much you have had to conserve. Most top lifters train with 3 or more other partners in order to be safe lifting, spotting, and watching technique of their comrades.
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