Bench pressing is the optimal exercise for anyone starting out in the gym who wish to add muscle mass and improve strength to their upper body. If you want to increase your overall bench press numbers and push through any plateaus, there are numerous factors to consider and address before you commit to achieving this goal.
There’s nothing more frustrating than hitting a plateau and no matter how much you try and press more weight, you cannot break through it. You can quickly increase your bench press numbers by doing the following:
Incorporate accessory exercises
Exercises such as the close grip floor press and seated tricep extension will help to isolate the triceps whilst eliminating some stress from the shoulders. These exercises are also conducive to improving elbow strength. By working on building the triceps and elbows can offer good carry over to the bench press.
Focus on leg drive
All to often a bencher will place most, if not all, emphasis on the chest and arms during the bench press movement. However, by engaging the legs and maintaining tension throughout your entire body will offer a significant increase in stability and power, helping to drive much more weight off of the chest.
Retract the shoulders
By keeping the shoulders tucked back during a bench press will ensure that the weight load remains on the chest with little on the shoulders. You will generate more power from your chest helping to press more and reduce the likelihood of any shoulder injuries.
Check your bar path
Another common mistake, even amongst seasoned lifters, is poor bar path. By following a bar path whereby you press up and back (towards your spotter) you should notice a difference in so far as being able to press more weight and being able to do it quicker. This is because there are less forces against gravity when compared to simply pressing in a vertical motion.
Use a spotter
Don’t expend energy trying to un-rack a loaded barbell. Enlist the help of a spotter to pass out the bar when you’re in position. Not only will this mean your energy is better utilized on the actual press but you’re also reducing the chance of any shoulder injuries.
Why Is My Bench Press So Weak?
If you have a weak bench press, this is a result of numerous factors, which include weak muscle groups such as shoulders, triceps, and chest. It may also be a result of poor or incorrect form and even the result of a muscular imbalance.
All these individual factors will play a part in the overall weight you can lift during your bench press. So, let’s look at some of the primary reasons you have a weak bench press.
· Weak Triceps
The triceps play a large part in how much weight you can bench; thus, you’ll struggle to lock the weight out if you have weak triceps.
If you notice that you’re struggling on the way up and your arms are either burning out or failing, it’s necessary to build strong triceps, which will help you maximize strength.
· Weak Chest
The bottom range of movement on the bench press depends on having a strong chest; thus, if you have a weak chest, this will result in a high level of failure during the eccentric contraction aspect of the exercise.
This is typically apparent with beginner lifters with much less gym experience who often have less developed musculature.
· Weak Shoulders
During the midrange aspect of the bench press, the shoulders play a prominent part in successfully executing the exercise. If you have weak shoulders, you’ll struggle to add weight to the barbell due to your shoulders failing.
You can increase your overall shoulder strength by focusing on exercises such as the dumbbell press and Arnold presses. By utilizing these exercises, you’ll build up shoulder strength that can be carried over to your bench press.
· Incorrect Form
Incorrect form is another primary reason why you have a weak bench press. There are a lot of factors to consider when correctly executing the bench press, and if good form is not adhered to, this can lead to a weaker bench press and even injury.
When executing the bench press with correct form, you want to ensure that you have a slight arch in your back and that your scapula is retracted while simultaneously pushing your chest forward. Ensure your shoulders are under the bar to maximize the mechanical advantage and control the lift on both the eccentric and concentric contraction.
· Muscular Imbalance
A muscular imbalance is another primary reason why you may have a weak bench press. Each muscle involved in a bench press plays an important role, and if one pec, shoulder, or tricep has an imbalance, this can affect the amount of weight you can push.
Weak triceps, for example, will inhibit one-half of your lift and hold you back from placing additional weight on the barbell. This is also true for a weaker shoulder or pectorals; thus, ensuring that you work on muscular imbalances is a great way to improve your overall bench press weight.
How Long Will It Take To See Improvements In My Bench Press
There’s no specific timeline for how long it will take to see an improvement in your bench-pressing capabilities. However, several factors will play a role in how long it takes to add additional weight to the lift, such as genetics, your workout structure, how fast your muscles adapt to increased weight, and your previous experience.
A weightlifter returning to the gym after an extended break will have past experience and usually will be able to increase their weight faster than an inexperienced lifter. Determined beginners may see a quick peak where they make significant improvements in their first month.
However, experienced lifters will eventually hit a plateau, and with this, they may struggle to add more than a single kilo in weight per month.
When Should I Increase The Weight Of My Bench Press?
There’s no specific time to safely increase the weight on the bench press, as it largely depends on your goals as a weight lifter. Once you are comfortable lifting the weight in excess of your targeted rep range with the correct form, it’s a good sign that it’s time to move up.
Powerlifters aiming for around six reps on a specific weight will know it’s time to increase the load whenever they achieve this every set. However, this won’t be the same for a bodybuilder whose main aim is focusing on muscle contractions.
Bodybuilders who aim for 8-12 reps should ensure that they can first control the weight and squeeze for maximum muscle activation before they increase the weight.
Once you’re ready to increase your weight, starting small is a good idea, as this creates short-term goals that can be achieved in as little as a week. You may opt to add 1kg per lift until failure slowly, ensuring you have a good idea of your capabilities. Consider making use of change plates which will allow you to make very small increases to your maximum lift.
Why Is My Bench Press Decreasing?
You may notice that the maximum weight you’re able to lift is decreasing on the bench press, and there can be a few causes of this, such as over-training, poor nutrition, and stress. The most common reasons for this will be listed below.
- Overtraining is one primary reason why your weight decreases on the bench press. If you continuously train without rest days, the central nervous system will begin to restrict muscle contraction and the release of serotonin.
- Poor nutrition is another factor that can affect your strength. Ensuring that you get adequate nutrition and hydration goes a long way for weightlifting.
- Muscular instability will affect your lifts as if any muscle, whether the deltoids or pectorals are not strong enough, they will fail you during your lift. Assistance exercises will help improve the instability in these muscles.
- Stress is another primary reason why you may perform poorly. This hinders your potential in the gym both in strength and concentration and causes inflammation due to your immune system being overruled.
- Sleep is one of the most critical factors in weightlifting. If you are not getting adequate rest and a good night’s sleep, your potential muscle growth is decreased and, thus, your strength.
So, from this article, you’re now aware of the numerous factors that can help you improve your strength on the bench press, including; correct form, ensuring you control the reps and achieve full muscle activation, proper nutrition, and rest, among others. All of these factors, if executed correctly, will help you improve your overall bench press numbers and help you to break through any plateaus.