THE PERFECT BENCH
When myself and the Bodybuilding Warehouse Team produced a series of instructional training videos for our YouTube channel last year there was one video that stood above all others in terms of views and popularity: 'Chest Training!'
It was hugely flattering that so many people would take an interest in what I had to say / show them about chest training. Off the top of my head I think the video hit over a thousand views in its first 2 days on the channel. What it also told me was that a lot of people out there are wanting to bring a big, strong, muscular chest to their workouts! The techniques I talked about in my previous training video were primarily for hypertrophy, basically concentrating on pumping as much blood into the muscle as possible, focusing on the stretch and squeeze, not really the amount of weight being lifted.
This is the way I train most of the time, as a BODYBUILDER I am always looking to build more muscle and although I can shift some decent weight (180kg on incline press), I have never claimed to be a power lifter or a strongman. Just recently, every so often, I have been training for strength gains too, with the reasoning being that a stronger muscle will subsequently be a bigger muscle, makes sense right?
One thing I will always preach is correct technique! In bodybuilding its not what you lift, its how you lift it. Now although strength training is all about the weight, the better your technique the more you will lift, simple! There is a lot more to a professionally executed bench press than most people realise.
First of all, developing a solid arch will add weight to your bench through reducing range of motion, pre stretching and reducing shoulder stress. Ensure the arch comes from the thoratic spine not the lumbar spine, that is just an invitation for injury. I have found that a light dumbbell pullover can develop mobility for the arch, just focus on expanding your rib cage and bending through the upper back portion of the spine, making sure not to flare your elbows.
you must develop a solid scheme, a big press must have a solid foundation. Plant your feet firmly to the floor, drive with the legs and hips as you explode the bar in an upward motion.
You need to learn how to recruit your lats up into the lift, both on the positive and negative aspects of benching. On the negative, 'ROW' the bar to your chest while forcing your chest to meet the bar. On the positive, begin the lift with a flare of your lats, be warned its not an easy skill to master, but once you do you'll add considerable weight to your benching.
You can incorporate some of these aspects into your bodybuilding training too. The bodybuilding style of bench pressing (with the elbows flared) is a disaster for shoulders, both by not knowing how to recruit the lats and through having poor shoulder mobility. I have found incorporating kettlebell lifts such as turkish get ups and overhead walks an ideal way to develop these weaknesses and turn them into strengths!
As far as set / rep ranges go, I have been using 5x5's. This is basically 5 sets of 5 reps, so 25 reps in total, pretty much the same as 3 sets of 6-8 reps which I would complete in my regular 'bodybuilding' training. I also use a number of assistance exercises to build my bench, including:
PUSH PRESS – pausing the bar on a rack for a few seconds, then exploding up quickly.
FLOOR PRESS – lay on the floor, lower the bar until your elbows rest on the floor then press, this is great for using the lats and triceps.
BAND / CHAIN PRESS – bands and chains will add resistance to the top part of the lift where the arms are extended, this is perfect for generating strength and power through sticking points.
Push ups, incline and decline presses, dumbbell presses and overhead presses can also help bring your bench up, it just depends where your own personal, unique weaknesses are.
Combining Performance Prime and Performance Mass will complement your chest building mission; so give these techniques a try next time you're in the gym and maybe you'll see the same gains in strength and muscle development that I have. Remember, only the STRONG survive, and as always;
Keep it Nasty!!!