We have all dreamed about bench pressing 300 plus pounds and being the strongest guy in the gym, but some of us have trouble getting even close to those numbers. We train chest hard, along with the accessory muscles used (shoulders and triceps), but nothing seems to work. We stay at a certain number for a long time, known as a plateau, and do everything possible to exceed that number. It can be frustrating and very demoralizing when you see someone passing you by when it comes to strength, but the solution is much simpler than you think. The answer may be as simple as changing your form and how you perform the bench press. It may feel weird at first changing how you bench and your numbers may actually go down for a couple of weeks as you are not use to the movements. But in the long run, I can promise you that your bench will skyrocket past your previous annoying plateaus.
Tip #1: Bring your shoulders in
This tip is relatively simple to execute and will definitely help improve your bench press numbers. Essentially you want to bring your shoulders blades toward one another and dig them into the bench. This will create a natural arch in your back and will allow you to push more weight. For one, you won’t have to push the weight as far because this movement will bring your chest closer to the bar. Secondly, it will engage your chest muscles more and actually bring your lats into the movement as well. Be careful to keep your butt on the bench when you do this. It is easy to push up with your butt whenever you are trying to push the weight, especially when you are struggling. While this will help you bench more, it is horrible form and can cause injury to your lower back.
Tip #2: Keep your elbows at 45 degrees
This tip is one that I actually neglected for a long period of time, and it was hurting my strength as a result. When I brought the bar down, my elbows would actually be closer to 90 degrees, which engaged my shoulders more than it did my chest. This led to a weaker bench press and sore shoulders after every time I benched (not the good kind of sore either). Lifting with your elbows at 90 degrees leads to less chest and triceps engagements and can cause serious shoulder injury. On the other side, I see some people do bench press with their elbows too close to their side or in other words, tucked in. This leads to less shoulder and chest engagement and more triceps engagement. This also will lead to a weaker bench because the triceps are not near as strong on their own than the chest and shoulders. The perfect way is to have your elbows at 45 degrees, or diagonal from your side. This leads to engagement from the chest, shoulders and triceps and will lead to the strongest bench. While this will feel very weird at first (I know from experience), and your bench may go down temporarily, you will get used to it and your bench will increase in a couple of weeks.
Tip#3: Grip the hell out of the bar
This is a less common know bench pressing tip that I learned a couple of years ago. Since learning it, it has definitely helped increase my bench press. Basically when you grip the bar as hard as you can, it engages more muscles in your upper body by keeping them tense and ready to push the weight up. Don’t believe me? Try this for yourself and you will definitely notice how much stronger you feel.