The bench press is easily one of the most popular modern weight training exercises. So popular, in fact, that they have become the gold standard by which personal progress is often judged. When someone wants to know how strong you are, they will almost certainly ask how much you can bench.
Bragging rights aren’t the only factor that makes the bench press so important. It is also one of the best compound exercises known to man. With one simple movement, you get an excellent workout for your chest, arms, and back. This exercise will also work other muscles to a lesser extent, including the legs.
There Is Always Room For Improvement (Increase Bench Press)
No matter how good your bench press might be, there will always be room to improve. When you are chasing those gains, it can become very easy to injure yourself. This happens because people often forget this good advice: “work smarter, not harder!”
Instead of pushing yourself to the limit, sacrificing both form and caution, you should instead take a look at some of the tricks that we offer. These are not “tricks” in the sense of deceiving anyone, but they might make you feel like you are cheating. All of these little tricks can improve your bench press in terms of weight, reps, and form. The best part is that these methods are relatively easy.
Trick 1: Mental Training
Most workout enthusiasts have a playlist of motivational songs. Without even thinking about it, we all know that music helps to put us in the right mood. However, it is possible to take this concept much farther to achieve even greater results. We could probably write an entire book on this subject, but most of it comes down to two factors: Concentration and visualization.
Concentration is your ability to stay focused on a particular task. Research has shown that concentration leads to more consistent performance in athletic competitions. Further research has also shown that strength can be temporarily boosted through the use of positive mental imagery. A good rule for this kind of thing is to imagine the results that you wish to achieve. Don’t imagine a thing working, imagine it finished!
Trick 2: Use An Explosive Motion
Most people tend to concentrate on the weight itself during a bench press, and upon their body motion. However, you may not have given much thought to the speed and tempo of your bench presses. Research does seem to show that you can achieve greater performance by eliminating the tiny rest period at the bottom of the lift.
In between presses, most people will take at least an instant to re-focus themselves and push the bar upward. However, this study showed that it is better to avoid even the tiniest rest. When the bar reaches your chest, you should immediately thrust it back up with as much explosive force as you can muster. This leads to a faster and more intense workout resulting in greater performance.
Trick 3: Volume Is More Important Than Frequency
How many times a week should you work out? This is a subject that is often debated. The evidence seems to suggest that it doesn’t even matter all that much. However, the total volume of your workouts does matter.
In this study, researchers attempted to determine whether volume or frequency was more important to the building of muscle mass. Since both groups showed similar improvements, it seems that it doesn’t matter if you work out two times a week, three times a week, or whatever. Your total reps per week will make a larger difference, so focus on that instead.
Trick 4: Try The Incline And Decline Benches (How To Improve Bench)
If you only do your bench presses on a flat bench, you are missing out on some of the benefits that you could be obtaining. As we all know, one of the primary benefits of this exercise is the development of the chest. However, the chest is not just one muscle, and you need some variation to activate them all.
Some interesting results have been obtained by hooking bioelectric readers to the muscles of test subjects. By using this technique, scientists are able to measure the relative activation of each muscle group. So, let’s look at two studies of this type.
Both of these studies (and several others) obtained similar results. It was found that incline and decline bench presses did a better job of working the muscles of the lower chest. The horizontal bench press focuses most of its work on the upper chest, so you will need to change your angle once in a while if you want to develop both halves.
Benefits Of Bench Pressing
- Maximum Overload the Chest Muscles
- Build Muscle Mass on Your Upper Body
- Increase Push Strength
- Build Strength for Push-ups
- Improve Bone Density
Trick 5: Change Your Grip Width
The standard bench press is performed with your arms at about shoulder width. However, this is not a hard-and-fast rule. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a wider grip or a more narrow grip. In fact, it is a good idea to change your grip width from time to time so that you can work different groups of muscles.
You don’t need any research to learn the difference between these two grip styles. Just do a few of each kind and you will feel the difference very quickly. The wide grip will put greater strain on your pectorals, while the narrow grip will put much greater strain on your deltoid (upper shoulder) muscles.
If you need some official research, here is just one of many studies on the subject. If you need more proof, here is another. This study found much the same results, except that they also noted a difference in the working of the biceps and triceps.
Trick 6: Change Palm Position
If you’re going to be serious about lifting, you should make yourself familiar with common terms. You may have heard of “supinated grips” or “pronated grips.” The difference between these two grip types of incredibly simple: Supinated means palm-up while pronated means palm-down.
Like grip width, palm position represents another variable that you can control. The palm-up bench press may feel a little more awkward, but it does a great job of lighting up those bicep muscles in a way that few other exercises can.
Trick 7: Avoid The Smith Machine
If you are the kind of person who mostly does your lifting at home, you may not be familiar with the Smith Machine. This machine is good for beginners, but it doesn’t produce the same level of muscle exertion that can be obtained through the use of free weights.
Research seems to be very clear on this: free weights are more effective than the Smith Machine. The Smith Machine might be compared to training wheels on a bicycle. They are only good for those who need them. Sure, this machine does a good job of maintaining a perfectly straight lift, but it also makes the job easier. That is counterproductive.
Using a Smith Machine instead of free weights will surely diminish the results of your workout. This happens because the muscles just aren’t working as hard when supported by the machine. If you want to know how big of a difference it makes, some studies put the number as high as 43%. That is a very large difference indeed, so stay away from the Smith Machine if you are looking for maximum gains.
Trick 8: Try The Lateral Arch
The lateral arch is a technique that is mainly used by professional and competition weight lifters. As you might guess, it involves arching the back as you do the bench press. This type of lift is more common than you might think, but it may or may not be a good idea for you.
First, let’s discuss the technique itself. You begin like any other bench press, except that you bring your shoulders together as closely as you can. This technique is referred to as the “lateral arch” because it should result in a near-perfect arch from shoulder to shoulder. Raise the bar normally, then hold for an instant.
As you lower the bar, apply a lateral (sideways) force to the bar. It should feel as if you are trying to bend the bar in half. Obviously, you won’t be able to bend the bar, but try your best to do so. After a workout or two, you will surely notice that some different muscles are being exerted.
By shortening the range of motion, this variation can allow you to bench press more weight than you normally could. Is it just as effective as the standard bench press? We aren’t sure, but it will definitely change the motion and possibly help you to get past an annoying plateau.
Trick 9: Adjust The Angle Of Your Elbows to Increase Bench Press
Proper alignment of the skeletal system is essential for those who want to exert their maximum strength. So, let’s talk about the position of your arms as you do the bench press. The most common mistake is to allow your elbows to travel forward or backward as the bar is lowered.
When you do this, you are forcing your arms to work in an awkward fashion. This will not only increase the risk of injury, but it will also prevent you from exerting your full potential strength. Therefore, you might be able to add some weight to your maximum bench by adjusting the alignment of your arms.
There should be a straight line between your hand your elbow, with the point of the elbow being directly underneath the bar. The elbow should not be in front of the bar (nor behind it) at any point in the lifting cycle. As for the angle of the arm in relation to the rest of the body, 90 degrees is the optimum angle. Some studies have shown that adjusting the angle from 120 degrees to 90 degrees can more than double the effectiveness of the lift.
Trick 10: Make Good Use Of The Drop-Set Technique (Increase Your Max Bench Fast)
The drop-set technique can be a great way to increase the duration of your workout. As we mentioned earlier, the frequency of your workouts is not that important when compared to overall set volume. In other words, you should go for more sets as opposed to more sessions.
One of the best ways to facilitate this process is to adopt the drop-set technique. It works like this: You start by loading the barbell with an amount that is close to your limit. Lift to exhaustion, and then rack the bar. Quickly remove one weight from each side and re-position yourself for another set. Once again, lift to exhaustion and re-rack the bar. Keep repeating this process until you are down to the bar alone.
The real benefit of this process is that it allows you to reach burnout with every set, leading to greater muscle exertion and faster gains. This study gives you an idea of just how effective drop-sets can be. When measured against traditional methods, they are found to be superior in almost every way. If you don’t believe me, just check the graphs at the end of the above-linked study.
The bench press might seem like a simple exercise, but there is a lot of fine technique that separates an acceptable bench press from an excellent bench press. Also, there are a significant number of variations that can be employed. If you feel tempted to dismiss the variants and stick with the standard method, you might not get the kind of results you want. Hit those muscles from as many different angles as possible, and you will see a definite increase in your gains.
We hope that this article has been helpful to you and that you will be able to increase your bench press to a point where you can impress the entire gym with your mighty lifts! If this sounds good to you, we recommend that you follow us on Facebook for more educational content like this.