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Improve Your Bench Press

The Bench Press for many is the ultimate test of strength. In fact you’ve probably found that whenever you tell someone that you go to the gym the first thing they ask is ‘how much can you bench?’. This is actually quite a misleading question as someone inexperienced probably doesn’t realise that this is dependent on the amount of reps you do. Do they mean how much do you press, for say eight reps? Or do they mean how much can you press, i.e. your one rep max?

Regardless of this fact, chances are you’re going to want to be able to give an impressive answer either way. Furthermore, as a compound movement (meaning movement that uses multiple muscles in unison) that can be done lying on your back, it’s perhaps the best workout you can do while putting in such a minimal amount of effort (the other two compound movements being the far more unpleasant deadlift and squat).

To improve your bench press then you need to train the muscles involved separately and together, strengthening them individually and improving your technique and coordination. Those muscles specifically are the pecs, the triceps, the traps, the deltoids and the abs, but you use many supporting muscles in your arms to balance the weight.

The first way you can train these muscles is to use a smith machine or chest press. Both of these require the same movement as the chest press but on ‘rails’ meaning you don’t have to balance the weight and can put it up without fear of dropping it on your face. Another similar way to do this is to do press ups, while the weight won’t be that high you can greatly increase the amount of reps you do improving endurance – and it’ll also train your core and balance. If this is too easy then try doing dips instead (on the easy power station), or even weighted dips (show off).

Another thing that might be slowing you down on the bench press could be your symmetry and perhaps one side is putting in more work than the other? A way to counter this is to bench press dumbbells for a while rather than a barbell – that way forcing each arm to work on its own without help from the other.

Now you’re ready to try going up, but when you do make sure there’s a spotter around to help you if you struggle. And don’t worry if you do, it just means you need to put a bit more time in. At the end of the day the best way to get better at doing anything is to do it lots, so just keep practicing!

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