Tags: Neck training, Grip, Goodmornings
Time to read: 3 min
The bench press is one of the most complex exercises we perform as powerlifters. Many lifters go their entire lifting and training career without ever being able to find the cause of all of their bench press woes. Sometimes it can be a genetic limiting factor, the truth is some people are built to bench and others aren’t. However, a more common issue is poorly written programming that is holding the lifters' strength gains back.
When you first begin benching, strength gains will happen at a rapid pace. As you become a more experienced lifter you develop specific strengths and some lagging weaknesses. Once again, these can be a result of your programming or genetics, but the fact is everyone will experience weak points that need correction at some point during their training journey. Below, we will provide solutions to help correct common points of failure in the bench press.
Weakness at the Chest
Missing bench presses off of your chest can be extremely frustrating. When you load the barbell you expect to at least have a fight with the weight, so getting stapled to the bench press can be a demoralizing experience. Luckily, there are a few solutions to this issue. The first thing we recommend addressing is your overall bench setup. Are you creating proper chest elevation by pulling the scapulas together and anchoring your neck to the bench, or are you letting your chest collapse? Are you putting your feet in the proper position to create a stable foundation for the initial drive off of the chest, or are you moving your feet during the rep? If you are lacking in either of these areas we recommend you address that immediately.
If the form isn't the issue, we move onto identifying the weaknesses causing the issue. Commonly, weak shoulders, both anterior and posterior are to blame. Weak lats will also cause issues generating power off of the chest. Workouts to focus on are shoulder presses using both a barbell and dumbbells, lateral raises, and chest supported rows to address the shoulder weaknesses. To attack the lat weakness we recommend pull-ups, pulldowns, and bent over rows. You can never have a strong enough back, if you’re in the gym and you don’t know what to do, row a barbell.
Missing at the Halfway Point
When you miss a bench press at the halfway point you will often notice a few things will happen. Most lifters will have elbows too flared out, they will contort on the bench, and the barbell will begin to twist with them resulting in failure. As far as form goes, one of the most common mistakes a lifter will make is not keeping their elbows tucked properly. You don’t want to drastically tuck your elbows into your body, however, you do want to properly tuck your elbows to both protect the pec and shoulder, but maximize tricep engagement as well. The added tricep drive you get from maintaining properly tucked elbows can instantly correct a miss at the halfway point. If form isn’t the issue, focus on training the triceps and upper back.
Triceps can be trained at the specific sticking point by using board presses in your training. Adding minibands to the barbell can add an extra bit of intensity to the tricep training, rapidly developing the strength needed to correct the issue. For upper back, we recommend pull-ups, upright rows, and heavy barbell shrugs with both a barbell and dumbbells.
Missing at Lockout
By far the most frustrating spot to miss a bench press at lockout. There is nothing more frustrating than pressing the barbell of the chest with authority, passing the halfway point, only to suddenly feel strength fade and miss the lift. This issue can be attributed to either weakness or fatigue, sometimes a combination of the two.
To correct the weakness we recommend the use of pin presses done near the spot you fading at in your press, heavy JM presses, and close grip bench pausing the weight just before it touches your chest. If fatigue is the issue, we recommend increasing your pressing endurance by adding in high rep dumbbell and barbell pressing exercises. After you are done with your main work for the day, take a light to moderate weight barbell or set of dumbbells, and perform a few ultra high rep sets of 30-50 reps. Doing this once a week can quickly have a positive impact on your bench pressing endurance.