Bench press is a very popular lift for most gym goers and many athletes. It’s great to building muscular strength and endurance in the chest and aesthetically it’s useful for improving those much sought after mirror muscles.
Having said that, it’s also a weak point for many people as they struggle to get any real traction with their progress. In this short article, we will cover a few easy tweaks that can help you to start to see those much wanted improvements.
This method requires changing the angles slightly and variably for the press using very light dumbbells to emphasise different muscle fibres in the pectorals. The three dimensional approach steers us away from traditional straight line pressing and allows us to maintain healthy range of motion at the relevant joints.
The trick allows us to get used to slightly different movement trajectories whilst actively increasing our proprioceptive ability and neuromuscular control. It also allows us to keep joints healthy by avoiding over repetition in the same plane of motion which is a big culprit for repetitive strain injuries.
The caveats here are that we must go light, we must be controlled and we must be sensible. We don’t need to perform more than 2-3 reps per trajectory and we can work within our normal sets and rep ranges. It may even be more beneficial to perform this one armed as this gives us more room to play with on crossover pathway variations.
This extra neuromuscular control allows us to have better control when with go back to our more traditional variation and is something that may be used in and around a de-load week for maximum effect.
Learning To Feel The Contraction / Mind-Muscle Connection
A simple way to get better at the lift is to be present in every rep and set. When we are distracted and our mind is elsewhere we increase the risk of injury, we reduce performance output and we don’t feel the lift as much as we could. This is why learning to feel into the movements is vital if you want to get the best results possible.
If you are strong with visualisation you can take this a step further by visualising your next set and what it will look/feel like during your rest periods. Another way to feel into the movement better is to slow the eccentric (lengthening) tempo down so you create more time under tension. To do this, you will usually need a lighter weight than your normal 1RM% to pull it off effectively – 20% less is a good place to start.
Arch The Bar (not your back)
Optimal bench press trajectory requires us to move the bar in a slight arc pattern rather than pushing in a completely straight line. This doesn’t mean arch our back but it means keeping a neutral back as much as possible and changing the pathway of the bar so that it ends up closer to our neck and returns to around the nipple line. This change allows the scapula’s to move properly in the upward and downward motions they naturally want to do rather than forcing them to become resistant to the straight line movement.