Part 1 of 3: 3 Reasons Your Bench Press Hasn’t Progressed & It’s Not Your Programing!

Have you been trying to figure out why your bench press is stuck, progressing extremely slow, or, worst of all, regressing a bit despite all the toys you’ve added to your training and the programming tweaks you’ve made in the last year?

In today’s article we’ll talk about the first of three KEY things regarding your bench press TECHNIQUE that can be a game changer for your bench press without making programming adjustments or adding in fancy toys.

Chances are you’re loose in your set up and getting tighter can make all the difference to your bench press taking off again.

Getting “tight” for the bench press serves to provide a stable base of support from which we push weight. During the descent of the bench press our body and muscles develop stored energy that is turned into explosive energy at the turn around to help with the press portion of the lift. Creating tightness through arching your back, pulling down your shoulder blades and taking a big breath, creates a near immovable base that the load encounters before it is pushed upwards and back to the start position. However, this is just one portion of “getting tight!”

While most lifters are good at arching, pulling their shoulders down and back, and taking a big breath, many lifters fail to STAY tight at the turn around and over the course of many reps.

So, what are we looking for beyond arching, setting our shoulders and taking a big breath? Well, we are looking to NOT lose any of that stored energy by letting the bar deform the chest.

How can you identify if you’re losing some of your stored energy while your benching? We’ll look at a few things when the bar meets your chest:

  1.  Does the bar sink into your chest?

  2. Do your elbows swing back towards your head?

  3. Do your shoulders change position?

  4. Does your arch flatten?

  5. Are your legs uninvolved?

If you see one of these happening while you’re benching then you have a small energy leak to the system. If you see some, or all of these things, happening while you’re executing your bench press then you have a major energy leak to your system.

Cleaning these up is a guaranteed way to boost bench press progress without making significant programming overhaul and spending money on new equipment.

Here’s how you fix it!

  1. Fixing your sink:

    a. Puff your chest up to the bar as the bar comes down to your chest and KEEP it puffed up while the bar contacts your chest.

    b. Think about keeping the load entirely in your hands and do not let your chest accept the  load.
  2. Correcting chicken arms: Simple…

    a. Fix #1 above.

    b. Think about keeping your elbows directly under the bar OR pointed towards the ground, or both.
  3. Keeping your shoulders in one place: If you’ve fixed #1 and #2 then you’ve probably already done this, so go back and make sure those are addressed.

  4. Re-inflating your arch: Like #3, this will usually correct itself with #1 and #2.

  5. Engaging your legs: we’ll talk about this in the next article in this series!

I have repeatedly found these 5 things to add pounds to the bench press without changing programming or adding in crazy tools. The other really great thing about these tips is that they almost always decrease “pain” when someone comes to me with injuries surrounding the bench press.

You may notice a dip in performance for a week or so while adjusting to technical changes, but do not worry! Give these technical adjustments the time they need to adapt and trust that you’ll see a stronger bench press on the other side of the adaptation.

Document where your bench press is now before implementing these changes. Take a video from the front oblique angle as well. Save it in a safe place.

In 8-12 weeks do the same thing: take a video from the front oblique angle and document where your bench press is now.

Share your video with me on Instagram (@rorimegan or @prorehabstrength) or email it to me (info@progressiverehabandstrength.com) and we’ll show the world that technique can, in fact, improve your lifts rather than the program or lack of toys being the issue!

In the next part of this series we will discuss the importance of leg drive, how to assess if you’re doing it correctly, and how to implement technical corrections if you’re not. Be sure to sign up for the Pro Rehab mailing list to stay up-to-date on news, events, and articles with the PRS coaches and athletes!