Best Bench Press Variation
Bench pressing is one of the more enjoyable tasks in a gym. Slamming plates on the bar, the metal clanging and the bar bouncing off the chest while the pecs are lengthened and the triceps feel YOKED and ready to blow up. But what happens when the press is stagnant? You haven’t hit a PR in years, your chest is withering away and instead of actually getting bigger, you just keep buying smaller shirts and throwing in the dryer on high heat. Is there a special way to fix your bench? Is there a catalyst waiting in the depths preparing to blow up your pec fibers? Maybe there is...
Bench Press Movement
The bench press isn’t overly complicated although there are still some technical aspects involved in the entire movement. If the set up is proper, the shoulder blades should be packed onto the bench while hugging the spine and the lats should be active. The lats are the antagonist group to the pecs, making a cocontraction to lead to a more stable shoulder joint, prepared to blast a shit ton of weight off the chest.
As the bar moves from the lockout position, the movement should be controlled, the slower eccentric will stimulate satellite cell growth and ultimately lead to the release of HGF! This slow eccentric will not only engrain proper movement and groove position of the lift, it will also get those satellite cells prepared to help with recovery!
As the bar gets close to the chest, the coupling time or turnaround period starts. This is the point in the lift when contraction shifts from an eccentric to isometric to concentric contraction. As the bar is in this phase, the mindset should be to move the bar as rapidly as possible. The stretch shortening cycle from the eccentric to concentric will ignite neural pathways and then as the brain focuses on a rapid intent, the bar should be moved as fast as possible. When the intent is to move fast, the contraction force will be higher and lead to more motor unit recruitment.
Now, this is for a traditional bench press. What can we do to stimulate further growth to enhance this patterning?
More Range of Motion
Enter more range of motion! How can we possibly get more range of motion?
First off, what would be the benefit of more range of motion? My old adage...Lengthening is strengthening. If the pecs can lengthen further and the deltoids lengthen further AND the triceps get longer, then we know that the muscle spindles will sense greater tension as will the golgi tendon organ and this will lead to an afferent signal to our brain to recruit SERIOUS motor units to contract and protect the joint and muscle from tearing.
The efferent signal sent from the interneurons to the muscle will stimulate more high threshold motor units which will then be able to be fatigued. Greater range of motion = more damage during a longer eccentric, more motor unit recruitment, more muscle stiffness and more strength! How can we get more range of motion to blow up the bench?
1 and ¼ Dumbbell bench, ideally done with a neutral grip! This movement will single handedly change your bench pressing career. What do we know about unilateral dumbbell work? We know that unilateral work creates more tension and stiffness in a joint, we know the perturbations from dumbbell work leads to more satellite cell mobilization, the neutral grip will ease shoulder stress and aid in deeper movement. Meanwhile, the pecs will be BLASTED to grow, leading to massive growth and stabilization.
Now enter the ¼ rep. The ¼ rep will be done AFTER the first eccentric portion. The dumbbells will be lowered under control, then a press of 6-8 inches will occur before another eccentric or double bounce is stimulated and then the groove is reset to the traditional concentric drive. This recruitment will stimulate nearly all of the fast twitch fibers over 3-4 reps and the bench will be easier to smash weight than normal. I recommend doing 1 and ¼ DB Benchess for 6-7 sets for 5-7 reps. Then a drop set of 17 traditional reps will continue the fatiguing aspect of the HTMU motor units. A workout may look like this:
1A) DB Bench 1 and ¼ 5 x 5-7 reps
1B) Pull Ups 5 x 5
2A) DB Bench Unbroken 2 x 17
2B) Pull Ups 2 x fail
This will generate a massive pump and massive strength gains that will push your traditional bench to new heights!
Understanding physiology and mechanics is key to understanding how to spark continued growth in various lifts. The human body has various defense mechanisms that can be used to the advantage of the strength coach, finding those mechanisms and using them properly can lead to MASSIVE gains in those specific areas. Get creative and try the program above and COMMENT BELOW with how big of a pump you felt!
Want more information on blowing up the bench press? Check out the video here:
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of elite athletes building comprehensive programs for strength and sports performance. Several times a year he leads a seminar for coaches, trainers, and athletes.
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