Bench press is considered a staple strength training exercise, done to improve upper body strength. Elite athletes use bench press as a way to compare themselves to other athletes according to the max weight they can lift. People who work out regularly use bench press as tool to strengthen the muscles of their upper body. Bench press trains your deltoids, triceps, pecs, and some back muscles.
Proper technique is crucial for executing a successful bench press. To begin, lie flat on the bench underneath the bar. Line your body up so that your eyes fall directly underneath the bar. You want to ensure that you keep your body on the bench (contact points being your head, shoulder blades, and glutes) which makes for a natural arch and a sturdy base before beginning. Major tip: use your feet as a pushing point, not your back! As you un-rack the bar, squeeze your glutes and maintain a tight core for stability.
One of the most overlooked ways to increase one’s bench press is to use the micro-loading approach. As athletes begin increasing weight on bench press it may feel easy, however after a while, most will hit what is called “the wall” and it will become harder and harder to add more weight to the bar. Many athletes make the mistake of adding too much weight too fast when trying to increase their max. The trick is to take the small approach and add a small amount of weight each time you bench. Slowly but surely increasing your weight on the bar and your max press. This method takes time and patience, but is an efficient way to increase your strength on bench press.
Another successful way to increase your max press is by targeting and isolating the specific muscles used in bench press. Again, these muscles include your deltoids, triceps, pecs, and some back muscles. Exercises like dumbbell bench press, dumbbell flys and chest dips help increase strength in your pecs. Side lateral raises and bent-over deltoid raises help in strengthening the shoulders. Close-grip bench (on a Smith Machine), tricep pushdown, and skull crushers are great targeting exercises as well. These exercises aid in “fine tuning” the muscles you use for bench press.
Research shows eccentric loading significantly improves bench press. Utilizing eccentric isometrics (EI’s) in a workout is a way to incorporate eccentric loading. Eccentric isometric exercise is simply pausing during the lowering phase of an exercise. Another variation is a super slow eccentric motion in which you allow 10-30 seconds for the lowering phase. Incorporating this type of strength training into your normal weightlifting routine will effectively increase strength, mobility and hypertrophy.
Increasing your bench press is possible with patience and proper training. Pressing with proper form is the most important factor to remember. Isolating and targeting specific muscle groups through eccentric loading is incredibly beneficial is assisting your body to reach its max bench press goal.