Weight training is one of the most difficult forms of training and exercise, and at a certain point, almost everyone hits a plateau in their performance and strength.
This is particularly true when working on the bench press, and this popular exercise can frustrate many people who don’t understand how to continue improving their performance and continuing to develop.
There are many ways to help break through barriers and to increase your bench press and in this guide, we’re going to look at some of the best techniques you can use to continue making progress and developing even when you feel as though you’ve tried everything.
What Is Bench Press?
For those who don’t know, the bench press is one of the best exercises for developing the pectoral muscles and is one of the main ways to grow strength in the chest as well as the triceps and shoulders.
Many people find bench press incredibly difficult and it is one of the exercises that places a lot of strain on the body, but its rewards are excellent, as well developed pecs are one of the main goals for many people looking to develop their physique or build strength.
These muscles are crucially important for all sorts of exercise and movements but there are many ways to harness the bench press and to use it to its maximum potential.
What You Can Do
When trying to break through a plateau in performance in any exercise, it’s important to warm up properly and prepare the muscles for the incredible strain they are going to be put under, particularly in the case of the bench press.
Trying to increase weight puts even more stress on muscles, and doing this when they are cold can risk injuries or hold you back, as your muscles aren’t fully oxygenated which will limit how effectively they can work.
Use a Spotter
Another tool to use when increasing weight on your bench press is to use a spotter, and while some people always use a spotter, not everyone does.
A spotter is a partner who stands with you while performing particular exercises, and they are there to assist with certain elements of the exercise and prevent any serious injuries from occurring with more taxing and dangerous exercises where a lot of weight is involved.
Spotters also have the effect of giving added confidence which can be enough to top the balance and provide you with the little bit extra you need to increase the weight on your lifts or go for a new personal best on your one-rep maximum.
Engage The Muscles Fully
One of the things people talk about a lot is the mind-muscle connection and the importance of engaging the muscles correctly when performing a compound exercise like the bench press.
This is particularly important if you want to increase your weight, as you’ll need to use all your strength to not only stay in control and lift the weight but to actually ensure the right muscles are benefitting from the exercise and aren’t at risk of being injured.
Lower The Reps And Increase The Weight
If you’re increasing weight, one tactic you can use is to lower the number of reps you do to allow your muscles the chance to adapt and grow stronger without putting too much strain on them, and this is a popular tactic in weight lifting.
Changing your number of reps from 8 to 6, or even 4 can be a great way to allow your muscles to get a feel for a higher weight and this will accelerate the process of strengthening them, and is a way to introduce some overload even if you aren’t fully ready to step up to the next weight.
Using the technique above you can prepare yourself for a real step up in weight, known as a progressive overload to sports scientists and experienced trainers.
This is the technique of forcing your muscles to adapt and grow stronger by placing them under increasing strain, either by increasing the reps you do at a weight or more commonly increasing the weight in a pre-planned and structured fashion to force the muscles into adapting and ensuring that you can break through plateaus.
Progressive overload is the single greatest tool available for improving strength, and there’s no hope of becoming stronger or increasing your weight without making use of this technique.
Build All Areas of Your Chest
If you still find yourself struggling to increase your weight, it may be time to examine the composition of your pecs and identify areas which may be weaker or underdeveloped, and take some time to focus on these areas to bring them up to strength and provide support to the main muscles of the chest.
Developing the inner pecs and the lower pecs are key to ensuring you can continue to increase the overall weight of your bench press, but the standard bench press mostly targets the outer and upper chest more than other areas.
This means you may need to work in alternative bench press techniques such as incline bench, close grip bench press, and decline bench press to round out your pecs and develop them in such a way as to improve their overall strength as well as their appearance.
Get Plenty of Rest
Rest is very important in weight training, as muscles can only grow, repair themselves and become stronger with adequate rest. Without good rest, muscles will become injured and will make very slow progress even if you work out a lot.
Rest means not working out several days in a row, getting plenty of sleep, and staggering your split in such a way as to allow muscles time to repair even when you’re working out.
It’s also important to rest adequately BETWEEN sets, depending on the type of training you’re doing.
Getting enough protein in your diet is critical for increasing your strength, and without it no amount of weight training or exercise will improve your strength, as your muscles won’t have the fuel they need to become stronger and grow.
It’s really that simple.
If you aren’t eating enough protein, you won’t be able to gain mass, strength or improve the amount of weight you can lift, and this is why protein shakes are so prevalent among weightlifters, as they ensure you are able to give your muscles what they desperately need to keep performing, even if protein farts are utterly deplorable.
Training consistently and sticking to a predetermined plan will go a long way to helping you increase your bench press.
If you train sporadically or don’t stick to an organized split/regime, you will find your progress uneven, and not only will this slow your development and progress, it will leave supporting and secondary muscles underdeveloped, which will hold back your progress in the long term and even cause potentially catastrophic injuries which can leave you unable to train, which is devastating to your ability to increasing your bench press or any other exercise.
Get a Personal Trainer
This option is an extreme one, but for people who are really struggling to progress, a personal trainer can be a huge multiplier and help get you over a particularly long or difficult plateau and get you moving in the right direction again.
Personal trainers can provide tips and feedback on your technique, as well as provide you with dietary plans, regime and program plans, and assessments of your capabilities which can make a huge difference in breaking through boundaries, particularly with compound exercises like the bench press.