What’s the most common question people ask to test your strength?
It’s “how much do you bench?”
Like it or not, it is the most asked question among the millions of meatheads out there. Now, you don’t want to go embarrassing yourself so what can you do to boost your numbers? Start with these 5 strategies.
Remember, veteran lifters may take months just to add a few pounds to their personal bests, so be persistent, meticulous, and whatever you do, don’t give up.
#1 Tweak Your Technique
This seems like a no brainer answer, but the truth is, when you are attempting a record lift for the first time, some of your technique may fly out the window and you just try to muscle up the weight with sheer Primal instincts. You may be doing mostly everything picture perfect, but one subtle aspect may be out of place that is causing you to fail the lift. Small arch in your lower back, shoulder blades retracted, expanded chest, and tight torso are all postural things to look for. Don’t fight the bar on the way down. Pull it into your chest and explosively press it back up. Slow grinding reps will kill your one rep maxes. These are just a few things to keep in mind.
#2 Death Grip the Bar
This is a subtle adjustment that can deliver huger results. Gripping the sh*t out of the bar (and I mean really white knuckling it with everything you got) puts a huge amount of tension on your upper body, especially your arms and stabilizers. This radiant tension allows you to recruit more muscle fibers for the lift, thus you are able to move more weight. This technique goes with any lift by the way, not just bench press and you should be utilizing radiant tension for all of your training.
#3 Build Stronger Triceps
A lot of guys underestimate the role triceps have in your bench press. If you’ve hit a wall, try making your triceps stronger first. Close grip bench press, tricep extensions, heavy overhead dumbbell presses, weighted dips. Stay away from the cable machines. Crank up the weight and hit these early in your workout. Don’t wait to the very end after you are already crushed; you won’t make the kind of gains you need by saving it until the end. Make them a priority.
#4 Master Your Warmup
If you are going to hit a record lift, you have to be warm and your muscles have to be prepared to do the work. But there is a fine line between being warm and being gassed. I usually hit about 4-5 warmup sets before I get into “working” mode. My sets consist of moderate weight, progressively getting heavier, with no more than 5 reps per set. A few of those I may do 3 or less, depending on how I feel. You do not need to crank out sets of 12+ reps; all you are doing is wasting energy and killing your potential for a record lift. Don’t under-do it either. You can’t press heavy weight cold turkey, so take the warmup seriously and prepare yourself for the big weight.
#5 Gain Some Weight
This might seem extreme, but “eat past your sticking points” is a common motto. If you are already putting up decent numbers, you may simply need to gain weight for your body to be physically capable of setting new records. I may very well be at this stage. Currently I weigh in at 175lbs, and have been stuck at a 300lb bench for a few months now. My goal is to jack myself up to 185 and see what I can bench then.
Now this list isn’t exhaustive, but it is meant to open your mind to some things you may not be doing and get you on track to break through your plateaus.
Give these a shot, and I’d bet that doing a few of these together will help you set a new personal best. But remember, success doesn’t happen overnight. You need to be methodical and persistent and put in the work to make it happen. This could take weeks, if not months, but keep on grinding.