Saturday, June 28, 2014

10 reasons your bench may be stuck

A lot of guys struggle for a long time on getting their bench to move. And there are a few reasons why the bench can be a slow mover in comparison to the squat and deadlift.

1. The bench is a bit of a "maturity lift". 

Meaning, it can take quite some time to really get the musculature involved in the bench to develop enough to bench bigger weights. The legs and back tend to respond to work quite well, even right out of the gate. However the upperbody can be a bit slower to develop for a lot of guys. So you'll just have to put the work in and be patient.

2. The bench responds really well to weight gain.  

A lot of guys are too afraid to let go of their six pack in order to get their bench to move. If your bench hasn't moved in a really long time, ask yourself when's the last time you gained an appreciable amount of weight. If the weight scale hasn't moved in a while, and your bench hasn't either, then you probably have your answer.

3. Your technique may suck. 

Every seminar I've done more than half the people there don't get the bar moving in the correct path. Usually their wrists are not lined up over their elbows. The bar should be hitting you below the pec line, and your elbows should be creating a line that runs right down to the elbow. Have someone video your bench from the side. If your wrist is higher than your elbow (meaning your wrist is closer to your face in relation to your elbow) then you're essentially trying to do a modified tricep extention to bench press.

4. You're not tight enough on the bench. 

Lots of guys flop down on the bench and then just try to press with no regards to "getting tight". You need to have strong scapular retraction (pulling your shoulder blades back), your legs need to be tucked hard up under you, and your lower back should be arched, and your lats flexed. The body works in synergy. So if you're not creating enough tension throughout the entire body when you bench, then you will press less.

5. You need to bench more. 

A lot of guys follow programs that have them doing 1 or 2 top sets of bench. And the fact is, that's just not enough work to get your bench moving if it's been stuck. After your warm up sets you should be doing somewhere between 4 and 8 sets of bench pressing with your "work weights".

6. You're not doing enough reps. 

If you look at all of the great benchers of the past, they did a LOT of sets in the 5-12 rep range. I see far too many guys doing singles, doubles, and triples too much on the bench, then they wonder why their bench won't move. You need to do a lot of sets AND a lot of reps on the bench to get it moving.

7. You're not accelerating hard enough off the bottom. 

Generally you miss a bench because you didn't create enough force off of the bottom in order to carry the rep through the sticking point. If that's the case, then you need to learn how to press with authority off the bottom, and do a lot of paused reps in order to build that bottom position strength. Doing board presses isn't going to help your lockout if your bottom position is weak and you can't generate enough force to carry the bar through the sticking point.

8. You don't have leg drive. 

 Leg drive can be hard to master, but learning it will add a lot to your benching power. The force from leg drive will carry up through the body and into the bar and help create more force off the chest. A great mental cue is to think about driving your body up the bench with your legs.

9. Your pecs are weak. 

Regardless of what you read on the internet, you PRESS with your pecs, shoulders, and triceps. If your pecs are the weak link then you need to include things like db flyes and lots of db bench and incline press to get the pecs up to par.

10. Your shoulders are weak. 

Up until the last few years, the overhead press had taken a bit of a backseat in most guys routines. Thankfully, it's come back a lots of dudes have realized that it's important to have strong shoulders in order to bench more. If you're not doing overhead work and shoulder specific work, then make sure you figure that into part of your pressing routine.

1 comment:

  1. "5. You need to bench more."

    Yes yes yes. My bench was stuck for years. Finally ran a smolov jr cycle and hit a PR. Dialed in my technique somewhat. Some people poo poo the smolov cycles, saying it's hard to keep the gains, since a lot of it is just due to practice/frequency/neural pathway bs. But I don't think so. Since then, I've kept high volume benching as part of my full body splits. Whereas I used to do something like 531 with an all out stop set (which still has merit imo) or a 5x3 thing... now it's doing 8x4 or 7x5. Way more volume.

    If you're stuck, volume is king, at least for a little while.