After bench pressing for some time, you might have noticed that your maximum bench press has stopped increasing. You have reached a plateau in your training. Plateaus can occur for several reasons, including poor technique and underdeveloped secondary muscles. With consistency in your bench press training and further developing your shoulders, you can increase your bench press by 50 pounds in 10 weeks.
Check your technique. Changing your technique might result in an immediate increase in your one-rep max. Proper powerlifting bench press technique involves gripping the bar with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and feet planted flat on the floor. Your butt should remain on the bench throughout the movement, and your shoulder blades should be squeezed together, causing your back to arch and your chest to puff out. Lower the bar to your lower chest, then press your arms up until fully extended.
Complete the bench press first in your routine, beginning with four warm-up sets prior to your one-rep max set once a week. Base each set on a percentage of your current 1RM. For example, 90 percent of a max bench press of 100 pounds is 90 pounds. For the first set, complete 10 reps at 50 percent of 1RM. For the second set, complete six reps at 70 percent 1RM. In the third set, complete four reps at 80 percent 1RM. In the fourth set, complete two reps at 90 percent 1RM. And in the fifth set, complete one rep at 100 percent 1RM.
Increase your bench press by only 5 pounds each week over the course of 10 weeks. For example, after successfully completing a 1RM of 100 pounds one week, change your percentages for the next week based on a 1RM of 105 pounds. Do not attempt to increase your 1RM too soon or it could result in regression or further plateauing.
Avoid overtraining your chest when attempting to increase your bench press. Train your chest no more than twice a week. If training twice a week, use light weights and high reps. Ideally, you should train your chest once a week, allowing a full week's recovery between workouts. Furthermore, including additional chest exercises following your bench press routine, such as incline press or dumbbell chest press, will further develop the muscles.
Focus on improving your shoulder and rotator cuff strength on days you are not bench pressing. The rotator cuff consists of four small muscles in the shoulder that work to stabilize the shoulder joint during pressing exercises. Mike Westerdal of Critical Bench.com notes, "It's not uncommon for a trainee to add 20-plus pounds to their bench press simply by strengthening the rotator cuff muscles." Additionally, training other muscles used in the bench press, such as triceps, back, quadriceps, glutes and core, can help increase your bench press.
- Practice proper bench pressing technique using a light weight until you have mastered the proper form before attempting a maximal lift.
- Always use a spotter when performing maximal lifts.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.