January 15, 2018 3 min read

The bench press is one of the primary lifts on which your strength is judged. For many gym goers, it’s also one of the first exercise people try and aim to get results on. It’s also one of the best exercises for your upper body and incorporates a range of muscles. It’s one of the big compound lifts, like deadlifts, military press and squats, that add to your overall size and strength. Like those big exercises, form is key and will help you break through plateaus and up your lifting weight. Take note of these tips to improve your form and lift.  

Stay Focused

For a big lift like the bench press, you need to be mentally focussed, especially when lifting big weights. Leave your phone and home or in your gym back because if you let it distract you, you won’t have the focus and motivation there to perform a strong lift. Don’t waste your time at the gym, you’re there for a reason so get down to business or come back later when you’re in the right headspace.  

Lift Explosively

This is linked to being focused. Think about what you are doing. Don’t bounce the bar off your chest, keep it controlled and push the bar up explosively. Don’t just go through the motions, but get angry at the bar and explode out of the lift.  

Begin With Bigger Lifts

A proper warm up is extremely important and will help your lift significantly. That being said, do exercises like the bench press early on in your workout. Some people recommend doing pectoral flies to begin a chest workout as it zones your body in on that particular muscles group and gets your brain engaging with your chest muscles. Don’t do dumbbell and incline work first though, it will fatigue your muscles and lower your force output.  

Pay Attention To Your Upper Chest

The clavicular pectoralis are more fully engaged when doing exercises like incline bench and dumbbell presses. A strong upper chest will also help your shoulder lifts and will help stabilise and increase your bench press. Incorporate incline chest work into your weekly chest workouts.  

Vary Your Grip

Varying the width of your grip can help improve your overall lift. A wider grip will put more emphasis on working your larger muscle groups such as the pectorals, while a narrower grip will put more focus on shoulders and triceps. All of these areas work together to give you your maximum lift, so incorporate different grips into your workouts to strengthen each group. Triceps play a significant role in the bench press so make sure you are working on them on separate days and including close grip bench presses to build your triceps strength.  

Practice On Lower Weight

It can help to do training sessions where you drop your weight to 60% of your maximum and focus on form, speed and power. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and draw the bar down as if you’re are trying to bend it in half. From this position, keep your elbows in and push the bar up explosively. Sometimes taking the ego out of a lift and dropping the weight can make a world of difference to correcting poor technique and bringing the focus back to the muscles you are training. Train your chest every 5 to 7 days and keep the bench press as a significant part of your routine. Taking a break from the bench can have detrimental effects on your lifting ability and max weight. Keep it at, focus on your lift and break through those plateaus!