The bench press is the most sought after lift there is. It’s the first question each guy asks each other. “Hey how much do you bench bruh?”
Increasing your bench press strength takes a specific focus and dedication. I find this where people fall behind. You first have to figure out what is the desired outcome you have? Do you want to actually increase your bench press numbers or just grow your chest? Those are two different goals. While there is overlap, we can grow your chest without putting up huge numbers. If your goal is purely bigger numbers, we can get your pushing more weight without growing a huge chest. So you need to figure out what it is you want out of this.
Assuming it is to genuinely increase the strength and numbers, then it requires a couple things.
Like any other sport, you need to practice it a lot if you want to get better at it. You can’t expect to practice lay-ups one day a week and be a pro. The same goes with any exercise or movement. If you want to get better at the bench press you have to be doing it more than once a week. You should be doing it anywhere from 3-5 times a week! Not all at the same intensity of course, but changing it up. One day you might be focused on light weight so you can hammer down proper technique and ensure your form is good to execute the lift. Another day you might change the load up to work on being explosive and training your muscle fibers to be explosive. Another day might be focused on range of motion, and making sure you can execute that full range to get the most strength out of that lift. Frequency is king in this regard.
Focus on Weaknesses
Increasing your strength, especially on a compound movement usually involves finding your weak points. Some people get stuck at the bottom when the bar is touching your chest. Others get ¾ of the way up and can’t lock out. These all need to be addressed if you are truly trying to maximize your output on this exercise.
Different methods can be implemented to help address weaknesses. You might change up the exercise to hit the chest differently and provide a new stimulus. You may utilize dips to get your triceps stronger on the bottom position. You may use a squat rack and set up the safety pins so you can exclusively work on locking out that last quarter of movement. It comes down to your individual weakness, and being able to effectively diagnose the problem.
Working on Mobility
We are only as strong as our weakest point. In this case, if you cannot take an exercise through a FULL range of motion, or cueing all your muscles, you are leaving energy on the table. For instance, take the shoulder blades. If you cannot properly retract your shoulder blades and create that stable torso, you will not have that solid foundation to push from. If you cannot dig your legs into the ground, you won’t be able to maximize the power to push heavier and heavier weights.
You may find priming exercises help address these. Priming exercises are drills and movements lifters do before the exercises or in between to wake up dormant muscles, and cue proper firing patterns. We need our central nervous system firing on all cylinders if we are going to properly execute the bench press. That means firing all stabilizing muscles and major muscles.