The Bench Press is often thought of as the king of upper body lifts, but, in my experience, the vast majority of gymgoers completely botch the bench.
As a result, the bench press is responsible for the majority of pec tears and shoulder problems. I even heard that a guy snapped his funny bone when stalling on a 1RM when his spotter got distracted and failed to come to his help in time.
Benching heavy is cool AF — but most never get there for a variety of reasons, mostly boiling down to exercise selection and improper form.
And today we will go over my preferred exercise selection to get a massive bench press.
Before attempting to bench heavy you need to do so with correct and efficient form.
If your form is crap, if you suffer from shoulder impingement/injuries, if you’re lifting with your ego, make sure that you go back to the drawing board before attempting big lifts.
A 4-wheel-a-side bench press is seen as a massive landmark for many lifters, natty and enhanced.
However, it can be a rocky road getting there.
Best Bench Press Accessories
Let’s jump right in.
Most decent gyms should be equipped with some form of chest-supported row.
Developed lats and biceps assist enormously for bar stability throughout the movement, resulting in a strong and controlled press.
And this exercise does both.
In my humble opinion, the chest supported row is the best upper back movement for a variety of reasons ranging from strength curve, easiness to progressive overload, back development and carryover to other main lifts.
But, in this case, the chest-supported row, set at a height mimicking the negative portion of your bench press, can add tremendous strength to your bar control — assuming that you’re rowing the bar down to your sternum — and power off the chest.
This exercise can be performed in a variety of rep ranges to suit your mood.
As I’ve explained in the past, to get really freakin’ strong as a natural lifter, you have to employ a wide variety of rep ranges placing emphasis on progressive overload. This is because after a few years a natural lifter’s ability to pack on size will become significantly curtailed by genetic limits.
You’re simply not going to enjoy a supraphysiological ability to recover like an enhanced lifter, and training exclusively heavy every week will wear you down and can actually stifle your progress.
You can also mix it up by doing slow negatives with a 3-second eccentric and explosive concentric to further tear down muscle fibers. You can also attempt to pull the weight explosively at beyond 80% of your 1RM from a dead stop to build power.
Ideal Rep Range: 4×8-12
The JM Press
Taken from: https://herculeanstrength.com/the-best-bench-press-and-triceps-builder-youre-not-doing/
Seasoned lifters will be familiar with the JM Press, but I’ve never actually ever seen the JM Press be used in a commercial gym.
It is a hybrid of a close-grip bench press and a skullcrusher, but exceptionally powerful for developing strength and gaining size while being criminally underused.
I am not a naturally gifted bench presser: I have narrow wrists and long arms. Both traits make the bench a harder exercise. But I still managed to bench 4 plates for reps while natty.
Because of the JM Press.
When I first started keeping the JM Press in my regimen as a staple, I increased my bench press by around 40-50lb in 6 months — and I am an advanced lifter.
While there are several other movements in my accessory arsenal I could recommend; the JM Press is a movement both powerlifters and bodybuilder can program into their workouts to great effect.
The JM Press is a lot kinder on the wrists and shoulders than the skullcrusher if you have poor mobility. It is also a lot less technical than the skullcrusher.
By effectively performing a close-grip bench press over your mouth/nose area and pausing before making contact, you will also give your triceps a great stretch at the bottom phase of every rep.
The other benefit of the JM Press is that it can be performed with a variety of rep ranges.
My first few sets of JM Presses were of 10 reps at around 50% of my max bench. Within a few months, I was doing the JM Press at weights near my bench press working sets.
Of course, this isn’t something you can do all the time.
Ideal Rep Ranges: 4×8-12 @ 60-70% Bench 1RM, 3×10-20 @ 40-60% Bench 1RM
The weighted dip is one of the best mass and strength builders for the upper body.
Predominantly, your lower pecs, anterior deltoids, tricep (long head); and, if you retract your shoulder blades, your rear deltoids, rhomboids, and lats will all get a workout — utilizing all the muscles you’ll need for the bench.
I used the throw the weighted dip in as a finisher after my main movement and first accessory to tire myself out.
Sometimes, I’d work in drop sets to fatigue the muscle. For example, start off with a weight, do the exercise to failure, then crank out as many bodyweight reps as possible.
Ideal Rep Range: 3×6-8
Incline Bench Press for speed work
Again, there will be times when you simply cannot train heavy. Some lifters throw in speed work and add bands/chains to shift the strength curve of the movement to be exaggerated in their sticking point.
In my experience, the incline bench press offers the best platform to do your speed work because the range of motion is longer, and thus, the sticking point is longer.
This helps carry over to the flat bench in helping improve velocity throughout the middle of the lift.
Your upper pecs, front deltoids, and triceps will receive ample stimulation. In the past, I have actually improved my bench press by prioritizing my incline bench press.
Ideal rep ranges: 10×3 at 40-60% 1RM, 8×2 60-70% 1RM, 6×1 70-80% 1RM
This one, although not a direct contributor to adding power to your lift, will strengthen your rear deltoids and improve shoulder health as heavy pressing can wreak havoc on your shoulders.
Face pulls act as an antagonist to pressing and front deltoid overdevelopment that can cause issues to shoulder health, posture, and muscular tightness.
99% of lifters have overdeveloped front deltoids and underdeveloped rear deltoids.
Paradoxically, strong and well-developed rear deltoids will contribute tremendously in giving round “3D” shoulders.
Ideal rep range: 3×15-20
Do this exercise from pins at a dead stop and reset between each rep.
I love this exercise because you can execute each rep with near-perfect form, ensuring tightness in your upper back, and keeping a decent leg drive throughout the movement.
If you’re transitioning your form from a bodybuilder’s bench press set up to powerlifter’s you can use the dead bench to practice your form.
Exercises from a dead stop can be more taxing on the nervous system and connective tissue, so it is advisable to use sporadically, sparingly, and tactically cycled with ample rest in between usage.
Ideal Rep Range: 5×5
Some lifters prefer using the floor press to the flat bench if they suffer from poor shoulder mobility or flare out their elbows too much.
What I love about the floor press is that the movement starts at most lifters’ sticking points — a few inches off the chest.
The floor press takes the leg drive out of the equation, making it a raw pressing movement alone.
The floor press is awesome at developing the triceps and correcting suboptimal bar paths if the presser is inefficient.
Although it’s advisable to pause between reps, it doesn’t need to be cycled in training as it is not as hard on the nervous system or connective tissue.
Moreover, it’s fairly easy to track progressive overload with this movement.
Ideal Rep Range: 3×6-10 @ 70-80% Bench 1RM
Even some of the most advanced lifters will struggle in holding a dead hang for a minute.
Dead hangs are a wonderful way to improve shoulder mobility as well as loosening up most of the muscles used for pressing.
Try a dead hang for 3 sets of 20-second holds whenever you feel tight.
There have been a lot of requests for photos/videos to give training visuals. I will rectify this soon as the pandemic has left me with limited access to gym equipment.
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