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Bench Press Blunders
“Don’t Let These 8 Mistakes Sabotage Your Bench”
Did you know that the average strength training enthusiast can barely bench press their own weight? This statistic does not even take into account people who are not working. Pat yourself on the back if you beat the bodyweight bench press. Don’t worry if you’re not there yet, you’re about to learn eight foolproof methods that will help you earn bragging rights in and out of the gym.
So what is so important about the bench press? You don’t play sports or try to compete, why is this legendary exercise so important for an attention-grabbing figure? In fact, for those of you who think the bench press is only for the ego, you are wrong. It’s true that no other exercise is talked about more often. However, it is not so strange when you think about it. The bench press is a basic core exercise for developing upper body strength. You exercise not only the pectoral muscles (chest), but also the anterior deltoids (front shoulders), triceps brachii and latissimus dorsi. If you could only pick one exercise to get a full round chest with some functional strength, it would be wise to go with the bench. You simply cannot develop the same upper body with any other exercise.
As a personal trainer, I’ve seen hundreds of people struggle to bench 300 pounds. The truth is, most people make the same mistakes, but they can be easily changed to help you start your own explosive growth spurt.
Mistake #1: Less is more.
By far the biggest mistake people make is “wanting” so much that they overtrain. It’s human nature if we don’t see the gains we’re looking for, the common sense solution is to work harder and harder. I can tell you from experience that the last time I hit a plateau in my training, I took a week off from the gym and came back stronger than the last time I worked out. Watch out for warning signs of overtraining such as lack of motivation, sleep problems, poor nutrition and of course, lack of progress.
Mistake #2: Exercising the whole body.
Let’s set up a new split where you can give each muscle involved in the bench press the attention it needs. Remember, there is more to the bench press than just the chest. For maximum recovery, you should train each body part only once a week with optimal training splits. If you still think you need to bench two or three times a week, check out mistake #1. You have time to work out 45 minutes a day, 4 days a week, right?
Mistake #3: Self-doubt.
I hope you don’t need a pep talk, but here goes. Excuse me while I impersonate motivational speaker Anthony Robbins for a moment. Your subconscious mind believes whatever you tell it, so do yourself a favor and program it with positive thoughts. Every time someone asks me for a seat, I cringe and get slammed before the elevator even starts. Comments like, “I don’t think I’ll get many reps,” or “I can’t do this much, but I’ll try.” If you’re not sure, fake it and tell yourself you’ll succeed. Trying is part of failure. If you are afraid of failure, you are afraid to try.
Mistake #4: Bad form.
Let’s work on some mechanics. After practicing a few of these techniques, you should be able to increase your bench press by at least 25 pounds.
Widen your grip a little. The wider the grip, the less distance the bar has to travel. Therefore, it makes sense that you would want to grip the bar as wide as possible. If you’ve been benching with a closer grip, it will take some getting used to, but it will make a big difference in a few weeks. To determine your grip, get into a natural push-up position and then push it out about 3 inches.
Another way to reduce the distance the bar has to travel is to retract the paddles. Try to squeeze your shoulder blades together throughout the movement. This will give you a more stable surface for the bench.
Keep your feet on the floor and drive with your heels. If you see someone kicking or swinging their legs in the air as they turn blue trying to push the weight, you’ll know they’re off center and costing them a good pound. Keep your heels on the floor to help generate power.
Arch your back. Your butt, shoulder blades, and head should always be in contact with the bench, but it’s okay to arch your lower back. If this doesn’t come naturally to you, you can place a foam roller under your lower pack for exercise. Many people have asked what the point of this technique is. Again, it shortens the distance the rod has to travel.
Is it cheating? Not at all, this is a control lift. To completely isolate your chest, start and finish with the pec deck machine. It’s good that you’re learning to use more than just your chest when bench pressing. Don’t be surprised if your back, chest, shoulders and triceps hurt two days later.
Mistake #5: Too many warm-up sets.
Don’t get me wrong, you definitely need to warm up properly. However, you should do this with very light weight lifting, push-ups and stretching. You don’t want to exhaust your muscles before you get to working sets. Most people pyramid up and then wonder that they can’t gain weight on their last set. By doing lighter warm-up sets, you save energy for heavier weights and a big finish.
Mistake #6: Neglecting the back.
Strong lats or “wings” are very important for the negative phase of the bench press. Your back is the center of support for the weight as you lower it onto your chest. This is why sniping the back is so important and must not be skipped. Try some T-bar rows or bend over barbell rows to strengthen your back. You’ll notice that this is almost the exact opposite or antagonistic lift to the bench press.
Mistake #7: Lack of goals.
So you want to increase your bench press. That’s the two of us. The problem with this statement is that it is too vague. I want you to get out a pencil and paper. Write down your goal on four separate sheets of paper in bold. “ACHIEVE ______ POUND BENCH PRESS IN ______.” The simple task of writing your goal down on paper will bring you closer to completion. This act will make your goal more specific and increase the likelihood of achieving it. Now place these pieces of paper on your fridge, dashboard, computer screen and dresser to constantly remind you of your goal.
Mistake #8: Lack of variety.
The human body is an amazing system. Whatever you throw at it, it can adapt and learn to handle. Unpreparing, mixing things up and adding variety to your workouts will ensure your body responds positively. Always stay one step ahead by changing your workouts when you feel like you’re not making the gains you expect. If you’re like me and want to look good while doing it and have some strength to back it up, you’ve probably been training with reps between eight and twelve. Try reducing the number of repetitions in bench press sets to six to eight repetitions for a few weeks. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how your body reacts if you haven’t tried it yet.
If you can avoid these common pitfalls and are open enough to try something new, you’ll soon be benchpressing more than you imagined. Take it from me, a man who was in a 275 pound bench press deadlock for over three years! Learn from the mistakes of others and watch your bench press hurt. Your wife or girlfriend will admire your muscular upper body, while your boyfriend will be eager to know your secrets.
Saturday: Watch the game
Bench Blastoff routine
Day 1: Chest/Biceps
Flat Bench Press 4 sets of 6-8 reps
Decline with a barbell 3 sets of 8-10 repetitions
Cable Crossover 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Alternating Dumbbell Curls 4 sets of 8-10 reps
Seated Preacher Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 2: Legs
Squat for 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Leg Press 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Leg extensions 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Leg Curls 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Day 3: Off
Day 4: Shoulders/Traps
Font Military Press 3 6-8 reps
Upright Rows 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Lateral Riases 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Shrugs 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Day 5: Back/Triceps
Pull-ups in 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions
Bent Over Barbell Rows 3 sets of 6-8 reps
Lat Pulldowns 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Close Grip Bench Press 3 6-8 reps
Tricep Extensions 3 sets of 8-10 reps
Day 6: Off
Day 7: Off
Points to remember:
Ø Be careful not to overtrain.
Ø Do the bench press only once a week.
Ø Let go of self-defeating negative thoughts.
Ø Don’t waste energy with excess warm-up sets.
Ø Train your back as hard as your chest.
Ø Set a specific goal.
Ø Try doing fewer reps when benching.
Ø Ride with your heels, widen your grip, arch your back and retract your shoulder blades!
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