The bench press is one of the most difficult lifts to master for any lifter. Unless you are genetically blessed with the ability to press massive weight, you will have to intelligently structure your training to constantly address weaknesses to avoid sticking points or injuries. Whether you have weak triceps and always miss at lockout, or a weak upper back and shoulders causing you to get pinned to the bench, knowing what accessories to add into your training to address these issues is important. Below, we will go over a few of the primary accessory exercises we do immediately after a main press movement to produce massive pressing power.
One of the best options for training either off the chest strength, or lockout strength, pin presses allow for a lifter to perform a dead press from a variety of heights. If you are a lifter who constantly fails off of the cheat, then common sense dictates that you would set the pins to allow the bar to be elevated enough to give your shoulders and upper back the ability to brace for the lift, but low enough to force those two muscle groups to initiate the lift. To focus on tricep lockout strength, you would want the bar elevated at or above the transition point where your tricep stake over to complete the lift. To increase the tension in the triceps you can also perform this exercise against band tension, however band tension is not recommended when working from a lower pin position focused on shoulders and upper back. This exercise will typically be performed for three to five sets with reps between five and eight.
If you want to develop starting strength in the bench press, along with a set of incredibly strong shoulders, you need to add strict presses into your accessory work. This exercise is simple, it is a shoulder press without any body movement, forcing the shoulders and upper back to get the weight moving. You can use a variety of different barbells for this exercise. At Westside, we use barbells, axles, dumbbells, and bamboo bars for our strict presses. We recommend rotating through the barbells as you work your way through your programming. Each bar creates adifferent training effect, allowing for accommodation to be avoided and gains in strength to be uninterrupted.
Power Clean and Press
A great way to kill two birds with one stone, power clean and press not only has a positive impact on pressing power, you will also get in a great deal of mid and upper back training as well. Similar to strict press, this exercise can be done using a conventional barbell, or you can use axle barbells as well. If you are new to this exercise, we recommend that you start with one power clean, then press your reps out from there. Once you get experience with the power clean portion of the lift and are confident with your form, we recommend power cleaning each rep to the chest level before pressing. This will ramp up the difficulty level, placing great demand on strength endurance, as well as cardiovascular endurance. Power clean and press is one of the best options as far as primary accessory exercises go for powerlifters and strongman competitors.
When it comes to building effective programming, choosing the right accessories matters as much as choosing the right main exercises. The primary accessory exercise should always address multiple muscle groups, specifically a weakness if one has been identified. Properly organized accessory exercises will always lead to increases in main exercise strength, and PR lifts on the platform. Throw these movements into your upper body accessory work, and reap the benefits of increased pressing power.