To boost your bench press, you need to hone your technique and strengthen your weaknesses. The following three moves build muscle and strength in commonly weak areas for most men. They also help prevent the shoulder injuries that can accompany a lifetime of pressing. Do them as straight sets or a mini circuit following your heavy pressing work and your next personal record will be just around the corner!
1. Chest-Supported Row
Building a big, strong upper back is key for enhancing the base with which you can press from. That’s why many top powerlifters will say you want to “launch the barbell off your chest with your lats.” Pulling movements (which work your back muscles) are also key to preventing the structural imbalances that result from too much pressing and leave you with poor posture and a greater risk for shoulder injuries. I recommend the chest-supported row option because it’s easier to perform and recover from compared to the bent-over row. When you do the exercise, be sure to squeeze the top position for a full count, visualizing hugging a bench with your upper back as you do so. Do 3 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 reps. Rest 1 to 2 minutes between sets.
2. Chest-Supported Overhand-Grip Reverse Fly
Many fitness experts refer to the rear deltoid (the back of your shoulder) as the lynchpin of the upper body: If it’s not properly developed, you’ll be at risk for injury and you’ll bleed performance in every key lift. Using an overhand grip on the reverse fly targets your rear delts the most. When you do the exercise, try to crack a nut between your shoulder blades at the top of the move. I also recommend keeping your arms as straight as possible, which means you’ll need to use a lighter weight. But that’s good, because you’ll get a better mind-muscle connection and prevent bigger muscle groups and momentum from coming into play. Do 3 to 5 sets of 15 to 20 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets.
3. Decline Triceps Extension
If you want a big bench, you need thick, roped-up triceps. It’s science. In all seriousness, most guys miss a rep because their triceps crap out and are unable to assist the bigger, stronger chest and shoulder muscles in locking the weight out. So blow up those bad boys with the decline triceps extension. The slight decline increases your triceps activation at the top of the move compared to a flat bench setup, so use it when you can. Do 3 to 5 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Rest 1 minute between sets.