Talk to any seasoned powerlifter, and there’s one question they hear on repeat: “How much can you bench, BRO?” The barbell bench press is our world’s benchmark of strength, our bragging rights. Your position in the gym’s food chain? Dictated by how many plates you confidently press off your chest.
But look, it’s not all about bench pressing. I get it – it’s the classic test for the everyday gym-goer. But we powerlifters have long known that the bench press is not only about bragging rights; it’s one heck of an exercise to build raw strength and bulk up the upper body. You’d be hard-pressed (pun intended) to find another exercise that lets you push so much raw weight. And while not everyone’s suited for barbell work, its spot as one of the powerlifting’s “Big 3” movements makes it a staple in any serious strength regimen.
If you’re looking to up your bench game, it’s not just about form or sheer willpower. We’ve all been there: riding the high of those initial gains, only to smack into a plateau that seems insurmountable.
A common pitfall? Throwing yourself at the bench, time and again, hoping to break that barrier. It happened to me. For a moment, I was lost, thinking the only way out was more and more bench presses. The reality? Diversifying and hitting those supporting muscles was my ticket out.
Now, let’s get down to the meat and potatoes of boosting that bench:
Understanding Your Chest Muscles
To master the bench press, you’ve got to be intimate with your chest. The chest has two parts: the sternal and the clavicular. The sternal is that meaty bit we all want popping out our shirts, while both parts connect near the shoulder. But they differ in function. The clavicular helps with overhead motions, while the sternal plays a big part in movements like a chest fly.
Supporting Muscles Are Key
Pumping the bench with endless reps won’t cut it. In fact, it can lead to some nasty injuries. Remember, it’s not just your chest doing the work. Your anterior deltoids (front shoulders) and triceps are right in the thick of it. Your delts prep the shoulders, and your triceps? Essential for locking out and raising that bar.
The Secret Ingredient: Energy Transfer
Ever felt your glutes, quads and back after a heavy bench session and wondered why? It’s all about the energy transfer. When benching, your contact points – feet, head, back, and glutes – create a powerhouse of energy transfer. This isn’t just an upper body game; your entire core gets involved, acting as the bridge between your feet and upper body. It’s all about stability.
Exercises to Boost Your Bench Game:
- Barbell Row – It’s about posture and strengthening those lats.
- Floor Glute Bridge – Remember that energy transfer? Get your glutes in on the action to maximize power.
- Shoulder Press – Bolster those anterior deltoids. If they’re weak, your bench will suffer.
- Close-Grip Pushup – A tricep powerhouse move. Get these right, and you’ll feel the difference in your bench.
- Dumbbell Pullover – A secret weapon for improving posture and mimicking bench movements.
In the world of powerlifting, it’s about technique, knowledge, and pure, undiluted grit. So next time someone asks, “How much can you bench?”, you’ll have a number that packs a punch. Keep lifting.