When you first start out with the bench press, everything feels fresh and exciting. You are making a good progress and your strength gains are rapid and steady. But then something changes. Your bench press gets weaker and seems to continue doing so the more you train. It feels like you can’t lift as much weight today compared to yesterday and there could be several reasons for that.
Your bench press can get weaker if you are deconditioned, using improper form, fatigued from over-training, or due to a poor-quality diet. Also, if you don’t give your body ample recovery time, or you train the back or shoulder muscle before bench pressing, you may experience weaker presses.
At least you now have an idea of what the potential causes are that could be hampering your bench press efforts. However, you also need to understand how you can reverse it, so that once again your bench press continues to progress, allowing you to build muscle and strength.
Muscles used in Bench Press
To further understand the potential causes for a weakening bench press, it is important to know the different muscles that are involved in this type of exercise. These include:
Both the lower and the upper pectoralis major are the primary muscles engaged during a bench press exercise.
The front delts come into play during pressing movements and offer stability throughout the exercise. If the lifter is performing an incline bench press then more shoulder activation takes place when compared to flat bench pressing.
All three heads of the triceps brachii are engaged during the eccentric phase of a bench press giving the lifter stability. The bench press is an excellent compound movement to work the triceps more so than isolate exercises as you will typically be able to lift more weight allowing for better tricep gains.
When you’re bench pressing, your core muscles are engaged as they help to provide stability and will allow you to brace prior to pressing. This helps you keep proper form and limits any potential for injury.
Your glutes help you bench press when you’re contracting and pressing them throughout the set. That’s also why your glutes are involved in pretty much every single lower-body exercise.
Reasons for Weaker Bench Press
Having understood the different types of muscles that get involved either directly or indirectly, here then are the reasons why you may be suffering from a weaker bench press:
If your bench press suddenly decreases every now and then, it might be because you’re deconditioned. Deconditioning occurs when you don’t perform exercises enough to stay in shape. When you don’t bench press consistently, your upper body muscles lose strength and endurance.
To remedy the situation, you should lift weights at least once a week to keep your muscles strong.
One of the reasons why your bench press is weaker is that you could be executing the movement with poor form. Regardless of the type of bench press you are doing, whether that be a barbell or a dumbbell press, correct form is vital, not only for proper muscle activation but also to reduce the chance of injury.
You should also make sure that you’re lifting the appropriate weight. When you are lifting too heavy, or you’re not using proper form, this can result in overworking of the muscles, another cause of a weakening bench press.
Correct technique involves bending your knees, keeping your back pressed against the bench, and using a full range of motion where you lower the bar to around nipple level and then press back up again.
If any of these things are off, then you can expect your bench press to suffer. For example, if you are keeping your knees too straight, your glutes and hamstrings might not be doing their part to help you push the weight. Drive the knees out (as you would a squat) this then engages the hamstrings and glutes leading to a much stronger bench press.
Diet and Nutrition
Compound movements (those that work multiple muscle groups) expend a huge amount of energy and work the central nervous system. When you’re bench pressing, you are burning up a lot of energy and if you don’t take in enough calories, this could lead to a reduction in your strength over time and that can weaken your bench press.
Your diet and nutrition play a huge role in your overall health and fitness and if you are not eating enough good quality proteins, carbohydrates and fats, this can lead to a reduction in your energy levels and make your workouts less enjoyable and effective.
Your dietary choices can also affect your muscles directly. Research shows that a poor diet can cause muscle loss or atrophy. If you’re eating too few calories and not consuming enough protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, your muscles can start to shrink.
Therefore, you need to eat properly if you are to maintain strong bench presses throughout your entire sessions.
Your muscles can get fatigued when you perform the same exercise over and over again. By bench pressing too frequently, you can cause your muscles to get weaker instead of stronger.
However, you can counteract the effects of fatigue by resting your muscles between sets and by altering your exercise routine every few weeks. You could try alternating between heavy weight and few reps with lower weight and high reps.
You Are Stressing Other Muscles Other Than Your Pecs
If you are increasing the weight you are lifting every single time, your bench press will naturally improve. But not all progress comes in the form of increased loads lifted. If you are feeling like your bench press is getting weaker even with the same weight, it could be because you are not targeting the right muscles.
Your pectoral muscles are some of the largest in your body and the primary muscles that are being worked out during this kind of exercise and if you are not focusing on working these muscles, then you could be doing it incorrectly resulting in a lack of progress.
By addressing each of the potential issues above, could help you to identify the reason why you are not making sufficient progress with your bench press and allow you to make the necessary leading to bigger and better gains.