If you happen to have an avid interest in weight training, resistance training, bodybuilding, and general strength training, you’ll know firsthand just how beneficial compound exercises can actually be, not only for increasing muscle mass, but also for improving functional strength as well. If you’re unfamiliar with compound movements, basically a compound exercise is an exercise which incorporates, and therefore works, more than one body part at once. Now, as far as popular compound movements go, you’d be hard-pressed (pardon the pun) to find a more popular and arguably more beneficial exercise than the barbell bench press. The barbell bench press is primarily designed to focus on the pectoral muscles in the chest, and whilst it does indeed work them, it also works several other major muscle groups as well. The deltoids, the core stabilizer muscles, and the triceps also get a great workout thanks to barbell bench presses, though sometimes this exercise can be pretty frustrating. Making progress on the barbell bench press is a great motivational tool as it feels great to break personal records and record new personal bests. Obviously however, we can’t make progress every single workout, or every single week for that matter, and because of this it’s natural for us to hit plateaus in which we can’t seem to make progress and lift any heavier weights, or even perform any further repetitions than we did previously. If you’ve hit a plateau on your barbell bench press and would like to begin making new progress once more, here are a few proven sure-fire ways of boosting your bench press.
Get mentally prepared
Numerous studies have revealed that those who are mentally focused before performing certain tasks are far more likely to succeed and perform to the absolute best of their abilities than those whose minds are simply not focused. Before you begin your working sets on the bench press, clear your mind and then focus your thoughts solely on you completing the lift, and convince yourself that you CAN and WILL do it! It’s no good getting ready to perform your working sets whilst thinking about what you’re going to watch on TV later that night when you get home. You need to visualise yourself completing the set and actually lifting the weight.
Mix up your repetitions and weights
Another very effective proven strategy for increasing your bench press is to mix up your repetitions each time you perform the exercise. So, for example: One workout you may complete 4 sets of 8 reps, whilst the following session you may complete 6 sets of 5 reps, and following that 2 sets of 20 reps. Obviously this will also require you to mix up the amount of weight you can lift as well. For the higher rep days go with a lighter weight, and for the lower rep days go with heavier weights. The body has a great knack of remembering and adapting to things which is why it’s so important to keep it guessing so that it doesn’t become complacent. Constantly changing your workouts will keep your body on its toes so that it won’t know whether it’s coming or going.
Complete explosive repetitions
Another very effective strategy for improving your bench press strength is to complete explosive repetitions during your working sets. Explosive repetitions require users to slowly lower the bar down on the negative part of the movement and then, without pause, quickly power the bar back up to the starting position on the positive part in an explosive movement. Explosive movements incorporate more fast-twitch muscle fibres, which in turn generate more explosive strength and power. With all that being said, make sure you never bounce the bar from your chest, and that you slowly lower the weight downwards, as if somebody is trying to keep hold of it and prevent you from doing so.
On days when benching, make sure you prioritize the exercise
On days when you are bench pressing, make sure you prioritize the exercise and always start with it after you’ve warmed up. If you’re planning on going heavy, you want to get the heaviest exercises out of the way first because that is when your glycogen (energy for cells in the muscles) stores are at their highest. If you’ve already performed several different exercises and then decide to try benching heavy, by the time you do actually perform the exercise you will already be tired and fatigued and will therefore not be as strong as you were previously.
Go up in small increments in weight
Another great tip for increasing your bench press is to set aside a day in which you will simply gauge your 1 rep max by slowly increasing the weight in small increments. Many people will make the mistake of repping 225lbs for a couple of reps, then adding another 45lbs to the bar, and struggling because the weight increase came as such a shock to the system. Instead of doing this, simply add a 2.75lb plate to either side of the bar, complete 1 full rep, and continue to repeat until you physically cannot perform 1 rep unassisted. Small plates are incredibly useful and should most certainly not be overlooked.