4 Auxiliary Exercises To Help You Improve Your Bench Press
Everyone loves to bench. But just about everyone also runs into sticking points and plateaus in their quest for bigger numbers. When you hit the wall and your bench max just isn’t moving, despite repeated attempts, the solution is usually not to just keep doing your same routine. Usually, the problem is that there are some weak links among the various muscles used in the bench press, so isolating those various muscles and working them from different angles is key.
The following four exercises will help you build those secondary muscles and eliminate weak links that are holding back your maximum bench weight.
1. Parallel Bar Dips
Dips are one of the most underrated upper body exercises out there, as they do a phenomenal job of working your deltoids, triceps and lower pecs. If your strength level allows, use a full range of motion to fully stimulate the pecs and get that deep stretch at the bottom portion of the rep, then come up to full lockout.
Some guys like to add on extra weight, and that is okay to do for some of your sets, but be careful with that. The added weight can actually increase your chance of shoulder and elbow injury when going really deep, so it’s probably best to only perform partial reps when adding weight.
2. Rotator Cuff Exercises
Weakness in the rotator cuff holds a lot of guys back from reaching their bench press potential. To combat this problem, perform light, high rep internal and external rotations using a cable pulley set at belly height.
The range of motion is only about 45 degrees or so here. Anything more, and your elbows will be drifting too far out to the side, taking the stress off the desired muscles.
3. Push Press
The push press is a fantastic strength builder for your shoulders and triceps, as the momentum used to get the bar moving allows you to use much more weight than your usual shoulder presses, and this heavy weight stimulates muscle growth amazingly well.
Be careful not to bend your knees too far at the beginning of each rep, though. This is not a squat press, and it’s not a snatch either, so don’t drop down under the bar to get it up either. Just work up to your usual shoulder press weight during your warm up sets, and then increase the weight by about 20-40% as you bring in the momentum.
4. Close Grip Bench Press
Many lifters find that they have difficulty locking out at the top of their bench press, and the reason for this is often a lack of strength in the triceps. To overcome this sticking point, introducing some heavy triceps work is an excellent solution.
The close grip is a little-used variation of the traditional flat barbell bench press and is one of the best triceps exercises on the planet. Execution is really no different from regular bench presses, though. The only difference is that you use a much narrower grip, where your hands are spaced between 6 to 10 inches apart. This hand placement throws a lot of the stress off of your pectoral muscles and onto your triceps.
At the bottom of the rep, don’t force a full range of motion to make the bar touch your chest. This can place too much stress on your wrists, due to the awkward angle at which they are working. So just come down as far as comfortable, pause, and then press back up to full extension. Also, keep your elbows in nice and tight throughout the movement to minimize pectoral involvement.
The solution to a stalled bench is usually found in the gym, but if your diet isn’t clean and consistent or your life outside the gym is stressing you out, then you need to address that too. Vitamin supplements for your health’fitness and training gear can help address those issues that lie outside the gym.