Getting better at the bench press is mostly a matter of bench pressing often. But there are also some things you can do specifically to get stronger in the bench press lockout. That’s the hard, last part of the exercise, from pushing up to ejecting the weight. In this article I will go through the most important ‘fixes’ with you.
IMPROVE YOUR TECHNIQUE
Technology is always priority number one. If your entire set-up and ‘off the chest’ are not efficient and stable enough, you will never be able to use your full strength potential at the end of the exercise. So first check your performance point by point, for example with the help of this instructional video by coach Jeff Nippard.
TRAIN YOUR EXPLOSIVENESS
If your lockout fails, it could be due to a lack of explosiveness when lifting the bar. How about that?
A sticky point is a point at which you can no longer move forward and therefore stagnate and stand still. However, to achieve that, the speed is gradually decreasing somewhere before that.
Compare it to a toy car that you can wind backwards, let go and it will shoot forward. At a certain moment the car stops, but before that the accumulated energy has already been lost. The fact that the car goes further than the accumulated energy is due to momentum.
All this means that you must show sufficient explosiveness when lifting the bar. You can train this in different ways, such as with:
FOCUS ON YOUR FAILURE POINT
You can greatly improve your bench press by specifically training the last part and getting stronger in it. In this way you reduce the difference in force between the eccentric phase (lowering the rod) and the concentric phase (pushing out).
Some effective help exercises for this are:
- board press*;
- pin press*;
- floor press;
- bench press with chains or bands (accommodating resistance)**.
* Make sure the board or pin is just slightly lower than where you fail the lockout.
** By means of chains or bands you create more resistance in the last part of the bench press.
STRENGTHEN YOUR TRICEPS
During the last part of the bench press, your triceps do most of the work. So it makes sense to train them specifically with exercises such as:
- (weighted) dips;
- close grip bench press;
- rope pushdowns;
- (unilateral) verhead tricep extensions with cable, dumbbells or bands;
- (weighted) push ups;
- dumbbell skull crushers;
- band pushdowns high rep (25-30 reps per set).
Train your triceps specifically once or twice a week, based on roughly two exercises (preferably one compound, such as the close-grip bench press, and one isolation exercise, such as unilateral cable triceps extensions).
Keep in mind that your elbows already have a lot to endure with heavy benches and variations thereof. For the isolation exercises, therefore, opt for relatively light weights and consequently high repetition sets, in order to limit the load on the joint, while stimulating the muscles for muscle growth.
STRENGTHEN YOUR BICEPS
Since your biceps have a stabilizing role during the bench press, they should certainly not lag behind your triceps. So possibly also do some (extra) insulating biceps work, whether or not paired sets with the triceps exercises. Think of:
If your (main) training goal is based on strength, for example improving your 1RM, then that is the skill you need to train. If you would mainly train in the 10-15 repetition series, then that is not specific to your goal.
Training in higeher repranges is possible in an auxiliary exercise, because you indirectly try to improve your bench press by increasing muscle mass.
However, on the bench press itself, it is advisable to train in the range of 2-4 repetitions. Because although in theory you can achieve optimal muscle growth in every rep range, the range of 1 to 5 repetitions has been shown to be the most effective for strength gain.
FIND A COMPETENT COACH
A coach can help you by providing feedback on your technique, providing technique tips and hopefully by coaching you proficiently to achieve your goal (in this case, improve your lockout). Until after a while you can handle it on your own.
There’s something magical about the bench press. Even many bodybuilders would like to be able to ‘press’ a lot, purely for the ‘much’.
Hopefully in this article I have made it clear to you that in order to make progress you sometimes have to highlight specific aspects of an exercise and try to improve them. So that they ultimately benefit the whole.
Written by Victor Bosch, Victory Coaching .