How To Increase Your Bench Press With This 6 Week Programme
This 6 Week Programme Will Blast Your Bench Press Through The Roof
The bench press is one of the most popular exercises for upper body strength development. It utilises the chest muscles, arms and engages your core and glutes when performed correctly. While widely programmed into specific strength and generic fitness sessions, often the technical points to optimise bench press performance are misunderstood or not fully utilised. In this article, we will show you how to increase you bench press with this 6 week programme.
Before discussing programming considerations, it is important to establish the correct technique for the bench press to maximise force and power outputs and be able to maximally recruit specific musculature.
During the bench press, we should be engaging the bench with 5 points of contact. These include the feet, glutes, shoulder and the crown of your head. Your feet should be pressing into the floor hard, through your heels, your glutes should be firing to assist with stabilisation of the trunk and help transfer force from the ground to the bar. The shoulders should be in a retracted position while firmly being pressed into the bench and the crown of your head should remain in a static neutral position throughout the lift.
Once you have engaged the 5 points of contact, you should walk your feet backwards while maintaining the points of contact described above. This will generate an arch which will allow a greater degree of activation from the chest and specifically for powerlifters, raise the chest to reduce the range of motion the bar must travel to make a legal repetition. Other benefits of this arched position include reduced risk of a rotator cuff injury due to reduced external rotation around the shoulder joint.
To improve strength through a full range of motion, a smaller arch should be adopted to maximise muscle recruitment and maintain tension over a longer range of motion.
This should be a controlled movement where the body is bracing to limit any non-essential movement. It is important to think of the descent as if you were pulling the bar down to your chest, utilising your lats, rather than as a passive movement, before you press the bar back up. The bar should descend in a linear path from above the shoulders to the sternum. The 5 points of contact should be adhered to.
The body should remain in a strong, static position. If tension is maintained during this phase, the press will be efficient and reduce any compensatory movement. The pause improves concentric force development. A quick decent and a bounce off the chest can utilise the stretch shortening cycle which can improve the weight you can lift. However, it can lead to uneven force development through the range of motion and wouldn’t be advantageous for powerlifters as in competition you must pause to perform legal repetitions. Greater concentric force can be produced over the weaker ranges of motion when performing the bench press with a pause which, can reduce the effects of sticking points.
After a pause, the concentric force required is high resulting in greater muscle fibre recruitment. The elbows and wrists should remain under the bar to directly transfer force to the bar. The feet should be pressed firmly into the floor as force is transferred through the 5 points of contact. The shoulders should actively retract as you press up from your elbows. No matter what the weight is on the bar, you should aim to move the weight as quickly as possible to maximise neural recruitment.
THE VIDEO: How To Increase Your Bench Press With This 6 Week Programme
Now that we have discussed correct technique for the bench press, we need to consider some of the programming requirements to develop strength and power.
Maximal Recoverable Volume (MRV)
MRV is the most training that an athlete can effectively recover from during a session and over the course of a micro-cycle. This can vary widely from lifter to lifter and within yourself. MRV can be used in the context of number of sets within a session or in the context of number of sessions per week. Training beyond your MRV could have a negative impact on your training as you reduce the quality of your sets due to training in an overreached state. Attention to recovery throughout your structured programme is important to prevent overtraining which can have a negative effect on the supercompensation cycle.
Undulating periodisation allows you to train multiple physical attributes throughout your training week (Daily) or between weeks (Weekly), rather than engaging in a linear periodised plan, focusing on one physical attribute over a training block. This allows you to manipulate the intensity and volume training variables to develop a combination of neural, muscular and energy system adaptations. An example for a powerlifter would be training high volume to develop muscle size and composition in session one, while targeting strength adaptation in the second session after adequate recovery (MRV). In team sports such as lacrosse, undulating periodisation can be utilised with the bench press to maintain strength and power attributes over the course of a competitive season.
It is important to maintain progressive loading to avoid plateaus in performance. Increasing load progressively stimulates muscular adaptation through muscular repair and remodelling. As muscles perform resistance activity, microtears in muscle fibres occur, the fibres repair and improve the tensile and contractibility of muscles as well as developing neural and energy system adaptation.
When programming the bench press into your sessions, it is important to balance out the horizontal push with horizontal pull exercises (bench row, single arm row, inverted row, pendlay row etc) to avoid muscle imbalances. Focussing only on the bench press can cause a rounding of the shoulders and poor posture as well are reduced flexibility around the shoulder joint, making overhead exercises much more challenging!
Check out this 6-week programme which you can use to help improve your bench press totals and let us know how you get on!