Hunched over, teeth showing, hair mangled, king of the congregation of beasts and broccoli. The hood’s coming off; it’s time to put an end to this monstrosity. We are taking back the bench press. Evolve or forever be forgotten, as you drown in mediocrity, among the half reps and sub 3 plate feats of strength. Become stronger, and build a chest that rivals any animal of the iron jungle with our 4-part “Big Bench Blueprint”. For today’s article, we asked Coach John Davies, founder of Renegade Training, to discuss the "bench" foundations that have somehow been forgotten.
The paradox for developing a better bench press and, ultimately, pectoral muscles starts not with the chest but the back. A strong back and stable shoulder capsule is the foundation of developing a bench press. To develop a powerful bench press, priority must be placed upon learning proper technique and developing the rear deltoids (and shoulder capsule), triceps and upper back.
Bench Press Technique for Bodybuilding
The first step of developing your Bench Press must be technique and ensuring optimal mechanical function which will lower the risk of injury. Once technique is secure and the individual possesses sufficient shoulder capsule and upper back strength, subtle changes with bench angles can have a pronounced effect upon muscular growth and development.
- Fix your mind and envision the press.
- Sit on the bench with feet flat on the floor, spread sufficiently to provide a stable platform. Do not place feet on the bench haphazardly or this will GREATLY increase the risk of injury. It will NOT improve isolation of the chest musculature.
- Pinch the shoulder blades back firmly as you lay down, sliding upwards on the Bench such that eyes are approximately underneath the line of the bar.
- Think ‘tight torso’. With a 'tight torso' and proper placement of the feet, a modest and natural arch of the back will occur.
- Reach up and FIRMLY grasp the bar across the heel of the hands. The thumbs ABSOLUTELY must be wrapped around the bar; otherwise, you can run the risk of a LIFE THREATENING injury.
- Vary grip width to avoid adaptation. It should be noted that most bodybuilders will naturally lean towards a wider grip for greater emphasis upon the pectoral muscles and less upon the triceps.
- With your dedicated spotter, prepare and count down for a proper ‘lift off’. The emphasis here is upon a ‘dedicated’ spotter who controls the bar out of the forks and only disengages when signaled by the lifter.
- Lower with CONTROL and NEVER BOUNCE the bar.
In my early training days, to learn proper control, a piece of balsam wood would be placed on the chest with firm instruction that the bar should touch but not break the wood. CONTROL the bar, do not let it CONTROL YOU.
- Lower the bar with complete control, in essence ‘pulling down’ with your ‘lats’, to approximately nipple- level with a momentary pause (remember to maintain absolute control and muscular tension) before driving upwards with speed.
- Remember to place emphasis upon the eccentric phase.
- For optimal muscular size, it is best to keep the rep range of the bench press on the higher side, i.e., 8 to 15 repetitions. Given the emphasis upon the eccentric portion of the movement (two to three times faster than the concentric), this will provide an optimal ‘time under tension’ setting.
Training the bench press within bodybuilding is generally best within a five day split, but I cannot say it enough; it is critically important to develop the shoulder capsule and upper back! In addition to pull-ups and chin-ups, a regular component to all Back training, the STS™ system, will greatly assist shoulder capsule strength.
Big Bench Blueprint Workout
Dumbbell Bench Press: 4 sets x 10-12 repetitions
Dips (angled bars | weighted preferable): 4 sets x 6 repetitions
Incline Flies (45°): 3 sets x 12 repetitions
Barbell (or E-Z curl bar) pullovers: 3 sets x 12 repetitions
Prepared by John Davies
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