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8 Bench Press Tips to Build a Stronger Chest

How much ya bench? If you’re like most of us the answer to that question is “not enough.”

The bench press can be a frustrating exercise. A small percentage of lifters are naturally able to press a ton of weight, while the rest of us struggle to hit 225 pounds for reps. Is there anything you can do to improve your bench press numbers? Absolutely.

Read on. The following 8 tips are guaranteed to help.

Tip 1 – Don’t Grip the Bar So Wide

If these bench press tips were for powerlifters, then a wider grip might be a good idea. This is because it would shorten the range of motion and allow you to lift more weight. But since you’re more than likely a bodybuilder, grab the bar at or just slightly wider than shoulder-width. This is easier on the shoulders and actually gives you more of a contraction at the top of the movement.

Tip 2 – Plant Your Feet

One of the hidden keys to a bigger bench press is leg drive. Stop shuffling your feet, and learn to plant them firmly in a position of leverage and power. Start each bench press rep by driving fromthe floor. If you focus on turning the bench press into a full body exercise, your pressing numbers will improve.

Tip 3 – Get the Right Grip

While you should probably avoid the “false” or thumbless grip (aka the "suicide grip") during benching for safety reasons, you should place the bar in the heel of your hand (directly above your wrist). Notice that if you place the bar more towards the base of your fingers or in your palm, your wrist gets bent back. If the bar rests towards the heel of your hand, however, you can maintain a straighter wrist position and your forearm will line up directly under the bar, giving you more stability and strength. It's also worth experimenting with a slightly narrower grip than many people are used to—just outside of shoulder width. This will allow you to kick in more triceps during the movement.

Tip 4 – Slow Down the Negative

You don’t have to move too slowly, but lowering the bar with a 2-3 second negative will greatly increase the tension put on the pecs. All other things being equal, increased tension means more muscle will be built.

Tip 5 – Explode Off the Bottom

When the bar hits the chest after that 2-3 second negative, explode through the concentric phase of the movement as fast as possible. Contracting the muscle both hard and quickly builds strength and explosive power, as well leads to thicker muscle fiber development.

Tip 6 – Beef Up Your Back

When training for a big bench press you also want to build up your back strength. A powerful back assists your pressing drive, and will also help prevent injuries. When you only train “push” movements and ignore “pull” movements, you create muscular imbalances. The back is your bench press table. Beef it up with heavy rows.

Tip 7 – Create a Shelf

It’s easy to think of the bench press as a chest/shoulder/triceps exercise, but if you want to move bigger loads you better start considering it a complete upper body exercise. Make sure that your abs are braced and contract your lats and upper back. By activating these antagonist and synergist muscles, you will establish a rock solid “shelf” to press from.

Tip 8 –Work The Rear Delts And Traps

Don’t forget the rear delts and traps. Small and weak upper body muscle groups can limit your pressing power. If you want to bench big, build stronger rear delts and traps.