FIXING COMMON BENCH PROBLEMS

FIXING COMMON BENCH PROBLEMS

Nov 21, 2013

 

As most of you know I hate to do long posts.  1) because I can’t type fast. 2) Because I don’t feel I should have you read a bunch of crap that puts you to sleep before you get to the answer you’re looking for. So lets get started.

Lately I have been getting lots of questions from athletes on facebook and in person about bench problems, so instead of saying/typing the same thing over and over I will just try to answer the most common questions and problems I get here in this article. This is not a routine. I am simply going to give suggestions on how to fix  bench problems that you may be having.

SPEED OR POWER OFF THE CHEST:

If you have no speed or power off the chest there are a few things that could be done to fix this but first lets talk about what muscles you’re actually using right off the chest. If you are benching correctly the muscles that should be used the most off the chest are front delts, triceps and lats. Yeah you read right. I said front delts and not chest. 99% of the time I see people that have no pop off the chest is not from a weak chest, its weak triceps and shoulders.

Solution: Do seated not standing shoulder press with a pause at the bottom or sit the bar on pins at just below your chin. Sets of 5 to 8 then after a month start to bring in reps of 2,3 and 4. The majority of your time should be spent in the 5 to 10 rep range. If you’re new to this really build up those delts through volume. Don’t just stop there. Delt raises of all kinds are awesome for stability in the shoulder and improving your bench as well.

Now that your shoulder problem is most likely fixed, lets dive into those spaghetti strands you call triceps. I know lots of people will say that the best movement that carries over to your bench is close grip. This movement does work, but if you’re already doing this and you’re not improving then try  isolating your triceps. If you want brutally strong Triceps you better be doing heavy skull crushers and Push Downs ( you’re damn right I said push downs!!!) and my favorite, “Jack Extensions” http://ironauthority.com/bench-deadlift-training-and-how-to-do-the-infamous-jack-ext/

I made these up about 15 years ago and have not stopped using them since. I guarantee your bench will go up just from these. Plus the added side effect of getting huge arms doesn’t hurt.

Solution: After your bench, add in some heavy Jack ext for sets of 8 to 10 for the first month, then start adding more weight and doing sets of 6 to 8, and they better be heavy. This isn’t a Jazzercise class! Man up and put some damn weight on the bar! Mix it up. Throw in some heavy push downs.

OK, last but not least are those  baby fruit bat wings you call Lats. Your lats are the base that you lie on. This is what your triceps are pushing off of at the bottom. Your lats are what keep you stable throughout the bench. If you have no lats, all that pressure is on your chest ,tris and shoulders. When you pause at the bottom, your lats should be taking 90% of the load.

Solution: Good old fashioned pull ups. Not the under hand  kind. Wide grip weighted pull ups. Sets of 10 to 15 . You can do these on your back day

One more thing.  Train your Biceps! The bigger your Biceps the more of a shock absorber you have. The biceps help lower the bar under control. When you lower the bar and it’s on your chest, your forearms will be smashed against your biceps creating a rebound effect. Believe me when I say all these little things add up.

MID RANGE PROBLEMS:

This is where your Lats, Lateral/ rear delts, chest and Triceps really come into play. If you’re not trying to spread the bar with your lats and delts while squeezing your chest and driving with your Tris at the same time, then it can all break down FAST!

Solution: It is actually very simple. First you better be video taping yourself to see where you get stuck. Now that you know this you can start to apply your plan of attack. If it is around a 2 board then I prefer doing dead stop pin presses from the height you are getting stuck or just below. Rep range 3 to 6. If its at a 3 board or higher depending on arm length then you have some options. You can either do 2.5 to 3 board work (don’t let the weight sink in), pin press from the un rack position to the height or just below for  sets of 3 to 6. I believe  the best assistance movement for this and Lockout is reverse band work. Use a band that will keep the weight close to your regular bench. If you’re a 300lbs bencher I would use minis. Dont take off more than 50lbs at the bottom and no more than 10lbs at the top. If you are a 400 lbs bencher then light to average bands depending on set up. Don’t take off more than 75 to 85lbs off the chest and no more than 20 at the top. If you can have the band almost completely deload at the top.  This will teach you to drive right through those sticking points. These are very taxing on the joints so no more than sets of 5. I prefer sets of 2 to 3.

LOCKOUT PROBLEMS:

Lockout problems are caused by different things. You could have weak triceps, not enough muscle endurance to be able to fight through the weight or something as simple as bad starting position. ( I’ll get in to positioning later.)

Lock out goes back to those triceps.

Solution:Work those Triceps like there’s no tomorrow. Follow the Triceps movements that I listed above. The reverse band bench is going to save your bench if this is where you get stuck assuming its strength and not muscle endurance. If it is muscle endurance then you can still do the Reverse bands, just do more overall volume. 5 sets of 5 to 8@9 RPE is a good start. This will teach your body to handle heavier weights at the top through a Full ROM for many more reps in turn fixing your problem. There are great products out there like The Titan Ram that can help too but make sure your normal form is not compromised. I also don’t feel that high pin presses or board work will help as much as the reverse bands simply because your not learning through the full ROM. Something that is overlooked but equally important is to be patient at the top. Sometimes it’s a fight and not all fights are like Mike Tyson’s 5 sec KOs. Sometimes you have to just have to be patient and let the bar drift back to the optimal position to finish it.

Positioning:

Lets work from the hands down.

1)First things first. Grabbing the bar. When grabbing the bar, assuming you have the best possible grip width for you to move the most weight, should feel like your trying to leave your finger prints in the bar. I mean it! Squeeze the bar like your life depends on it. This will activate more muscles and keeps you tighter throughout the entire movement.

2) Arching your back. First I want you to put lots of chalk on your upper back/traps. Now that you’ve done that I want you to lay down with your feet on the bench while driving your butt into the air and getting as much of your traps on the bench as possible. Now that you’ve done that keep driving your traps into the bench while arching your back. Now put your feet as far back as you can on the floor. Don’t let that pressure go (this is where the chalk comes in to play, so that you don’t slip.) Think of driving your body back towards your head instead of driving your butt in to the air.

3)Now that you have your five finger vice grips on the bar and an arch in your back it’s time to squeeze your shoulder blades together. To get as much of yourself on the bench as possible( do this while Arching.) Think of pulling your shoulder blades together and down as if to tuck them under your ass.  This does a few things. 1) It protects your shoulders by taking the humerus and shoving it securely in the shoulder socket. 2) It takes the force of the weight and puts it in to the bench instead of just your shoulders which allows you to apply more force to the bar 3) Shortens the ROM.

4)Squeezing your lats against your triceps. How do I do this Jack? Simple. Think of spreading the bar apart. If you’re still having a hard time put some bands around your wrists and grab the bar while trying to pull the bands apart. To help feel the muscles you should be using, have a partner put their finger tips in your armpits in the back where your triceps meets your lats. Now try and squeeze their finger in there.  Again, this is where big lats help.

5) Expanding your chest. Think of bringing your chest up to the bar. Not your stomach. You can do this by arching you T-spine not your L-spine. If you can’t arch your T-spine then get on that foam roller and get limber. This will save you up to 3 inches depending on how thick of a person you are.

6) Now that everything is tight and coiled like a spring all you have to do is get that bar down to your chest and explode. Un-rack the weight by pulling the bar out not up. If you push it up your going to un-tuck your shoulders and go flat, so make sure you use your lats to do this. Now that the bar is at arms length you should be spreading the bar and everything should be tight. Take your breathe and expand your chest. Start to bring the bar down using your lats while keeping your wrists straight and your forearms straight under the bar. All you have to do is keep squeezing your triceps in to  your lats and your lats will do the majority of the work . Now that the bar is on your chest your forearm position should be slightly angled back to really load up those triceps for blast off. “PRESS!” Be a crazed beast and EXPLODE! Make sure the bar path is the same path you brought it down in. A bar path for maximum strength is never really a straight line. Yeah, yeah I know the shortest distance between  2 points is BLAH BLAH BLAH! I f you pushed straight up from your chest, the bar would be in front of you and now your triceps are out of the lift and your desperately trying to recover with just your front delts. You need to let it drift back towards your face in order to maximize your best leverages.

I hope this answered some of the common questions/problems. If you have any questions feel free to comment. Remember “THE ONLY THING STOPPING YOU IS YOU!!!”

JACK DIBENEDETTO  CPT-CSCS OWNER OF BRICKHOUSE FITNESS & POWERLIFTING

If you are interested in personalized training just click on the BRICKHOUSE VIKING on the right of your screen.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

 

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6 comments

  1. This is very helpful and informative!

  2. This article is very clear, easy to read and understand! Write a book, make a video! Do something to share your unique knowledge. From personal experience, I know you love helping people reach their true potential and this article is a true testament to that! Great work!

    • Thanks Armand! I have been thinking of writing a book/manual for some time now. If and when I do it will be filled with lots of stuff to help make people better lifters and actually teach them rather than just a set routine that says do this and that and you’ll get strong. For now I love writing programs for people and training them hands on. It’s a great feeling watching someone get a PR knowing they worked really hard for it.

  3. Dan Liebster /

    Thank you Jack for the clear points and illustrations! I now have homework for a couple of months 🙂

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