If you want a bigger bench, this is a post you’ll want to read…
First off, I’ll be honest with you…the bench press is one of my worst lifts. I just don’t have the best shoulder structure and leverage for it.
And if you struggle with your bench press numbers, you might be in the same biomechanical boat as me…there is hope, though!
What I HAVE found, though, is when I really focus on the bench and train for it with a good program, I CAN actually make really good progress even with very little phyisical talent for the lift…as I mentioned, going from a max of 295 lbs to a max of 350 lbs (which is the most I’ve ever done) in a period of 6 weeks.
So yes, even if your bench is brutal right now, there is hope for you!
And that’s why advice from someone like me, who has to fight for every pound on the bar, is going to give you a better return than someone who benched 3 plates the first time they even tried the exercise because they have a barrel chest, thick gut and stubby little Tyrannosaurs Rex arms that give them a 3 inch range of motion to press through…and no, I’m not bitter…well, maybe a little.
Anyway, right now, I want to give you my single biggest secret that helped me boost my numbers…lockout partial training.
I found regular use of lockouts (done once a week for 6 weeks) worked wonders for me.
I would start my chest workout with 4 sets of 4 to 6 reps of VERY heavy partial range bench training in the power rack (ALWAYS use a rack for lockouts – no arguments), holding the locked out position for at least 5 seconds on each rep. I would then finish with 3 or 4 more “normal” sets and that was it for my chest training for the day.
Partial training accomplishes two things…first, it loads and builds the connective tissue and second, it increases the neural drive going to the specific muscles involved in the bench press.
Connective tissue strength, in my case, was a huge limiting factor in my bench press numbers. I had good muscle strength…my muscle fibers were probably already fully capable of benching 300+…just the connective tissue strength was holding me back.
I was stuck at just around 300 lbs as a max literally for YEARS until I started working partial range training. And once I started really using it regularly, my numbers started going up.
Neural drive is also a BIG factor. Your nervous system has thresholds for activating motor units (think of motor units as bundles of muscle fibers that are lit with the same fuse). If the load isn’t great enough, those motor units won’t be activated…those fibers won’t get trained effectively and they won’t be integrated into your bench press movement pattern.
What heavy (and I mean HEAVY, like 50 to 100% over your 1 RM) partial training does is activate those high-threshold motor units, integrating them into the bench press movement pattern, essentially waking them up and teaching them how to fire and contribute to the lift.
If you’ve never done partial-range training, I highly recommend it, especially for bench press. It’s very effective stuff (start with your 1 RM weight and increase weekly from there to allow your connective tissue time to adapt).