Whether in the gym, the pub, or just getting caught randomly in the shopping mall, you've probably had someone ask you "how much ya bench?", especially if you look like you lift weights regularly. Even with the focus being more on overhead with the increased popularity of strongman, people still tend to use the bench press as a mark of how strong you are.
So, let's look today at how to get the bench press up. I have personally benched 260kg in the gym , 250kg in competition and 240kg in competition with a reverse grip. Safe to say I enjoy this lift. I've also coached multiple athletes to 220kg+, as well as multiple female athletes to 100kg+ and one female athletes to 140kg+.
The main thing people do wrong is they don't bench often enough. If you want to get proficient, bench at least twice a week. Learn the lift as a skill. Find your optimum grip, your optimum arch and your optimum foot position. One size doesn't fit all. This is where a coach with an eye for biomechanics comes in, it can save you lots of time by finding your best setup for bench straight away.
Most people go to failure too often. Never fail a bench in training. Leave a rep or 2 in reserve. Keep the line consistent and perfect on every rep. Something like 6x3 with increasing weight each session will work great, that's 18 chances to improve your technique with heavy weights.
A lot of lifters consider the bench a chest exercise. It is, but it also incorporates the lats, triceps, traps and upper back. I've never seen a big bencher without a thick back. Once you've benched, row, row heavy and then blast your triceps to finish. Performing rows that are an exact mirror of the bench will give you the best results. So seal rows, Prone rows, inverted rows and barbell/pendlay rows should form the bulk of your back work.
Onto assistance exercises for bench. The key here is out where you're weak, then program assistance accordingly. Once again, a coach can spot these weak points quicker.
If you struggle off the chest, look into long pauses on the chest and pin presses. Work on generating force from nothing. If you rely on a bounce to be strong, you'd also benefit from this to develop your starting strength. Explosive static strength is a rare yet wonderful skill. It can be refined quicker than people expect with regular work. You can also do paused Incline dumbbells where you pause at the bottom. Everybody will benefit from this, as will your pecs.
Those of you that struggle near lockout would benefit from speed work. Work on moving the bar as fast as possible for 8 sets of 3. Weight doesn't matter here. Just speed. Add bands and/or chains if you so wish. If you stall at lockout you might also want to hammer your triceps. Spoto press, Incline dumbbells with palms facing, rack lockouts, JM press, and heavy pushdowns and extensions are your friends.
If you have trouble maintaining a good bar path, you can implement slow eccentric work. So many free gains are there ready to be unlocked by doing this. It gives you more time under tension practicing the skill, too. As I mentioned earlier, bench is also down to your back. If your line is off, get your row up, and it'll automatically correct itself. As always, big back, big bench.
Rear delts are often overlooked. Do 4x20 Face pulls every day and watch your bench skyrocket , and general shoulder discomfort and pain go down. Lifters also have a tendency to overlook bicep work with regard to getting a bigger bench. Hammer curl heavy and often and watch your control of the bar improve, especially on the eccentric.
It's worth looking into a good pair of wrist wraps to maintain a good bar path on bench, too. I like Cerberus Rebounds, anything stretchy and able to wrap a few times around feels best for me. Again play around and discover what you think feels best. Wrist wraps are legal in competition. Elbow sleeves are not, but they are a fantastic addition for volume work in the gym, for me using them prevents any elbow pain so I tend to do my heavy sets without them, then any volume with them. I also use them for elbow intensive assistance work like tricep stuff. The kit is there to help your body stay healthy so take full advantage of it.