By: Paul Lucas So, you want to benchpress the back end of a station
wagon do ya?!
Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. How about we add
a solid 40lbs plus to your stagnant bench. Well everything
you need is finally here.
Let's get started. First things first, your form!
The first thing you want to do when you lay down is grip the
bar. I'm 5'10'' and I feel most comfortable gripping the bar
with either my middle finger or ring finger on the ring. If
you are taller you can try going a little wider (make sure
that your fore finger does not go past the ring) and if you
are shorter you can bring it in a little.
The rings on the bar should be around 32'' apart. If they are
not you should compensate for the difference. Keep your
elbows in as much as possible, not more than a 45 degree
angle away from your body. Never bench heavy with your
elbows pointed straight out from your body.
Next, you need a good foundation to press from. The easiest
way to describe this is to pull both of your shoulder blades
back. Once you have pulled you shoulder blades back, then I
want you to shrug your shoulders up. Practice this. It will
be awkward in the beginning but will soon be second nature.
Not only does this give you a solid foundation, but it will
decrease the range of motion making the lift easier. Now
that we have that squared away, let's get our foot placement
I prefer to place my feet out somewhat wide. This helps a
lot with lateral stabilization. Right before you unrack the
weight, you should be driving your heels into the floor so
that your body will want to slide up the bench and your back
will arch. Make sure your butt does not leave the bench.
Watch this quick video for an overview on the proper form:
Frequency of training
Bench pressing should be
apart of your bodybuilding program and should be done on
chest day with hardly any other body parts trained, except
triceps, abs, or calves (or maybe even legs as well).
Chest day should be done once every 5-7 days, so you should
only bench press once every 5-7 days. You need plenty of
rest to repair your chest before hitting it hard again.
To Pyramid, or not to Pyramid,
that is the question!
Since the bench press is a
compound movement it should be the centerpiece of your chest
workout, so it should be done first before anything else
(except a warm up). Many people do pyramid sets, which
involve moving up in weight with each set. I am not a
believer in this, because you will lose intensity after each
set until you get to your heaviest set. You will get most of
your gains from a heavy set with maximum amount of
Let me give you an example
of pyramid sets you should NOT do:
work set #1: 150lb
for 6 reps (not quite to failure).
work set #2: 160lb
for 6 reps (not quite to failure).
work set #3: 170lb
for 6 reps (to failure).
What do you see is wrong
here with this workout? For one, where is the warm-up set?
And 2, this person wasted his intensity up doing lighter
weight before he got to his heaviest set! This person will
make very slow gains over time.
Now let me give you an
example of this same person doing the proper way:
warm-up set #1:
135lb for 5 reps (for warm-up only!)
warm-up set #2:
155lb for 2 reps (for warm-up only!)
work set #1: 185lb
for 6 reps (to failure).
work set #2: 185lb
for 5 reps (to failure).
work set #3: 185lb
for 4 reps (to failure).
Now as you can see here, we
saved all our intensity for the first heavy work set and did
a maximum failure with 6 reps. We then did the same weight
for the next 2 sets, but did one rep less with each set
afterwards, because our intensity deceases with each set.
But this workout is more efficient because we overloaded
ourselves with the first work set and this is the method you
want to use to get stronger over time!
Now do you think this
person will get stronger bench pressing 170lb for 6 reps, or
185lb for 6 reps? This is exactly why the pyramid system is
flawed! You will get too fatigued before you get to your
heaviest set! And the heavy weight is where you will make
all your gains at! That is why you make your first work set
the heaviest, then just keep the weight the same.
Me personally, once I am
able to do 8 reps with my first work set, I then move 5
pounds up in weight the next week.
Middle of the week MAX
One tip I recommend doing
but is purely optional,
is that in-between chest workouts, you can do a quick max
out day. This involves doing a few quick warm ups, then
moving to a very heavy weight doing only 1-3 reps to failure
with very heavy weight, and doing only 1-2 sets total. This
will help to improve your strength and will help you improve
your bench press quicker over time.
If you do decide to do
this, then I would make sure chest day is done only once a
week (every 7 days), so you get more time to rest in between
your max out day and your actual chest workout day.
What are your overall
I want to include this
section because other types of workouts can interfere with
your ability to build mass and to increase your bench press
quickly. If your goal is purely strength and not
necessarily getting leaner, then you need to pay attention
to your cardio workouts and make sure you are not overdoing
them. Too much cardio will increase your metabolism
too much to where it will be harder (if not impossible) for
you to pack on muscle and to increase your bench press (or
any lift for that matter). Playing sports like basketball,
soccer, football are also forms of cardiovascular exercise
as well that could interfere with gaining muscle.
All that aside, I still
recommend doing cardio no matter what. If you are
trying to build muscle mass, then it is still important to
keep your bodyfat in check by doing only a few very short
and intense cardio workouts a week, just a few short
interval sprints would do and that's it. Please check out my
article for more info on this.
Your Diet is Key!
All the info above will do
you no good if you do not have the proper diet down.
It would be near to impossible to gain muscle on a
continuous basis if you are not eating enough calories every
day and week, along with enough protein, carbs, and fat. For most
people, the simplest thing they need to do to increase their
bench press is by simply increasing their overall calories!
It is usually this one simple step that all is needed to
make gains every single week.
Just make sure you do not
overdo the calories as you will also pack on too much fat.
Please read my
diet article for more info on how to eat properly to
increase your bench press.