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Increasing Your Bench Press with Assistance Exercises

Generally when you start a new workout routine you will make good progress and you will be able to increase the weights that you are lifting from week to week. But then after several weeks you’ll find that you are no longer making steady progress and eventually you may find yourself struggling to lift the same weights that you previously lifted with ease.

For most people they will get about 6 weeks of good solid progress when they start any new workout routine. After that the gains will slow down. Now of course some people may be able to go longer then 6 weeks and still make good progress, and others may start to plateau before the 6 week mark, but 6 weeks of good progress is typical when starting a new routine.

If you look back over your training log you can most likely relate to this. For example, when you start a new exercise the first workout you are basically just going through the motions and learning how to do the exercise properly. The second workout you can go a bit heavier, but you are still working on getting the technique down pat. By the third workout you will have a good feel for the exercise and be able to lift heavier. Then for each workout after that you will be able to make steady strength gains in the exercise for about 6 weeks before you start to plateau.

The key to avoiding this pitfall is to change your major muscle group exercises every few weeks. This way you can still work the muscles hard and make consistent progress by strengthening different areas of the muscles before your body adapts to the exercise. Another key benefit to changing up your exercises every few weeks is by working the muscles and joints with different movements and along different angles you can avoid injuries that are caused by doing repetitive movements.

In this article I’ve outlined a bench press assistance exercise routine that will work the muscles used when benching and help strengthen the flat barbell bench press without actually doing the exercise. So if you have been regularly pounding away at the regular barbell bench press with little or no gains to show for your efforts give this routine a try.

This routine would be used in place of the regular chest, shoulder, and tricep exercises that you are currently following.

Bench Press Assistance Exercise Workout

Bradford Press

 The Bradford press is like a combination of the military press and behind the head press. You begin with the bar in front and press it just enough to clear your head, then touch it to the back of your neck. Then you again press it just enough to clear your head and return to the starting position. This is a great exercise to work all areas of the shoulders. This is used as a good general warm up and to prevent shoulder injuries that are quite common with heavy bench pressing.

Do 1 light warm up set of 20 reps (10 reps each side)
Then do 2 heavier sets of 10 reps (5 reps each side)  

 Reverse Grip Bench Press using the Smith Machine 

This is the main power movement of the workout. The reverse grip bench press works the chest and triceps heavily, but doesn’t involve as much shoulder rotation as a regular grip bench press. I normally don’t recommend doing exercises in the smith machine, but this is an exception. The smith machine will force you to press the bar in a straight line and make it easier and safer for racking the weight. Position yourself on the bench so that you lower the bar to your upper abdominals. Keep your elbows tucked in close to the sides of your body at the bottom of the lift.

Do as many warm up sets as needed to get up to your working weight.
Then do 5 sets of 5 reps. Keep the same weight for all sets.
If you can complete all 5x5 then up the weight by 5-10 lbs. for your next workout. 

 Dumbbell Bench Press 

This is a great bench press assistance exercise that will really help to strengthen the bottom portion of the bench press. It will also help improve balance and control by strengthening the stabilizer muscles in the chest and shoulders. Again keep your elbows tucked in close to your sides at the bottom of the lift, don’t let them flare out wide, as this will just place unnecessary stress on the shoulder joints.

Do as many warm up sets as needed to get up to your working weight.

Then do 4 sets of 8 reps using same weight for all sets.
If you can complete all 4x8 then up the weight for your next workout. 

 Elbows Out Dumbbell Extension 

This is a great tricep exercise that simulates locking out a bench press. For this movement keep your elbows pointed out to the sides at all times. Lower the dumbbells down so the ends of the dumbbells rest flat on your chest. Keeping the dumbbells held close together during the entire exercise, lift them up and fully lockout your arms at the top.

Do 3 sets of 10 reps using same weight for all sets.
If you can complete all 3x10 then up the weight for your next workout. 

 100 Push Ups  

 Push ups are an excellent finishing exercise to do at the end of a chest workout. They are great for strengthening the chest and triceps. Exercises where you move your entire body through space are much more demanding and provide a greater level of nero-muscular activation then exercises where you just move your limbs.

Do a set of as many push ups as you can do, rest a minute, then do another set of as many as you can do, rest a minute, etc. until you have completed 100 total push ups.  

 100 Rubber Band Reverse Flyes  

 This exercise will develop the rear deltoids and entire upper back. Reverse flyes help to balance out the shoulder development and prevent injury. Most people are really strong at brining their arms together as in a regular fly motion, but very weak at opening their arms apart as in a reverse fly motion.

Do this exercise the same way as the push ups above. Do a set for as many reps as you can do, rest a minute, do another set, rest a minute, etc. until you have completed 100 total reps. You can even do the push ups and reverse flyes in a superset fashion until you compete 100 reps of each exercise.

Keep records of the exercises, weights, sets, and reps that you do. Each workout try to beat what you did for your previous workout.

Strive to add 5-10 lbs. per week to the reverse grip bench press.

Dumbbell exercises don’t easily allow for small increments in weight (i.e. 5 lbs. per dumbbell is the smallest increment). So depending on the difficulty of the exercise you may have to work up doing higher reps for a couple workouts before moving to the next heaviest set of dumbbells.

For the push ups and reverse flyes try to complete the 100 total reps of each exercise with fewer sets each workout.

Stick with this routine for 3 to 6 weeks and then you will be able to return to your regular chest, shoulder, and tricep workouts with more strength and help you take your pressing strength to a new level.