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Becoming A Juggernaut In The Gym - The Press

Increase Your Gains By Gaining Strength On The Weaker Part Of The Lift!

Posted by DanWynesFitness - July 27th, 2015

Last week we looked at how you can improve on your sticking points within your deadlift. This week we will be looking at how you can improve your pressing movements, the bench press and the standing military press, by discussing why you may have sticking points with these exercises and how to overcome them.

The Bench Press

Where you struggle during the bench press will make a difference in determining what you need to do to overcome your weakness. If you struggle at the bottom of the movement as the barbell gets closer you get to your chest, you are weakest at the bottom of the bench press. In this position your chest is fully stretched and the triceps are almost completely taken out of the movement and this puts you in a very vulnerable position.

Personally, this is my sticking point. If you find that you can’t press the barbell from the bottom of the movement as well, then you need to either make sure you are not "ego-lifting" with too much weight or accept that this is also your sticking point and there is work to be done to get stronger!

Exercises To Overcome The "Bottom" Sticking Point: Bench Press

The Dumbbell Bench Press is a perfect exercise to increase your range of motion as well as individually focus on strengthening and recruiting more muscle with each arm. Beginners would greatly benefit from this exercise as well because most people have a dominant side in terms of strength and this movement will help balance them out.

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As you can see the dumbbells allow you to go a bit deeper at the bottom of the movement when compared to a barbell press as your chest doesn’t block the range of motion.

Another great exercise is the Pause Bench because it involves removing the "elastic effect" of your pecs while performing the movement. This is accomplished by performing the movement as you normally would but when you reach the lowest point you are going to pause for 1 - 3 seconds and then press the dumbbells back to the starting position. You will find that even with light weight that the pause at the bottom of the movement greatly increases the intensity of the exercise.

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A similar alternative is the Rack Press. These exercises allow you to start from the bottom of the movement which will give you a very similar effect to the pause press. Just make sure you set-up your racks so that the barbell is as close to your chest as possible before starting the exercises.

Exercises To Overcome The "Lockout" Sticking Point: Bench Press

Just as many find that they are weakest during the "bottom" of the movement, there are others who struggle with the "lockout" or top of the movement. Some people are naturally weaker due to genetics or their current training schedule while others simply can't handle the same amount of weight as they become fatigued the more repetitions they complete. If this sounds like you, we have some great exercises below to help you get through this sticking point.

The Reverse Band Press is a really great exercise as it teaches your body to explosively press the bar up from your chest leading to a solid lockout. This is because the tension in the bands will increase as you lower the barbell so you can save as much energy as possible at the bottom of the movement allowing you to focus on a strong lockout. To set-up the exercise you will need to attach a resistance band to each side of the barbell. Make sure they both have the same amount of tension and that they are safely secured to the top of your power rack.

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With this exercise you should be able to bench a bit more weight than normal, but remember to always explosively press the barbell from the bottom of the movement or you will no longer benefit from the assistance of the band.

The Board Press is another great exercise that removes the lower part of the lift to help with your lockout. For this exercise you unrack the barbell as you would with a normal bench press as a spotter holds a board on your chest. The board is usually a solid piece of wood that you bring the barbell down on top of to restrict the range of motion of the exercise. At my gym I don't have access to a board for this movement so the alternative is the Pin Press. Instead of having someone hold a board on your chest, with this exercise you set-up your power rack to catch the barbell about halfway down the range of motion. This variation is much safer and preferred if you have the set-up in your gym to perform the exercise.

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The Military Press

Now we are going to discuss the standing military press which is an amazing compound movement for your upper body. Like the bench press, some of you will have a hard time pushing through the bottom of the movement while others will have a hard time with the lockout.

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However, the most common reason for both weaknesses originates from having a weak core. An easy way to spot this is to see if you find yourself leaning back or falling forward during the movement, even when using light weight. To combat this you need to incorporate more abdominal and lower back exercises into your workout routine, learn how to properly use your "internal belt", or both.

Let's begin by first working on increasing your strength throughout the entire range of the movement. A great way to do this is to switch to a Dumbbell Shoulder Press. This exercise will allow you to bring each dumbbell all the way down to each shoulder whereas with a barbell military press your range of motion stops as soon as the barbell touches the top of your chest.

Exercises To Overcome The "Lockout" Sticking Point: Barbell Military Press

The Reverse Band Seated Press is a great exercise to work on your lockout. Set-up for the exercise the same way you would for the Reverse Band Bench Press. This will provide assistance at the lowest portion of the lift allowing you to explosively push the barbell up and over your head through the lockout position. You should be able to use a bit more weight than normal when performing his exercise as well.

Another exercise to help overcome the lockout sticking point is the Partial Press. The set-up is the same idea as the Pin Press. Adjust the arms of your power rack so that you start the movement at the halfway point. This means you will begin each repetition from a dead stop which will eliminate the elastic effect of your muscles due to not being able to use any momentum. This will also help you to focus all your energy into a strong lockout with each repetition.

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So next time you reach a plateau with your Bench or Military Press you have all the tools here to overcome it. Remember guys, progressive results come with variation and being clever when you train. Don’t hesitate to get in contact to let me know how these exercises have helped you with your training!

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Related Articles:

Becoming A Juggernaut In The Gym - The Squat

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Becoming A Juggernaut In The Gym - The Deadlift

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Related Videos:

How To: Barbell Bench Press (The Set-Up)

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Awesome job @danwynesfitness!  I am currently using these tips to get my 315lbs!


Great article!!


No more sticking points on the bench press with these tips! Great information @danwynesfitness!

DanWynesFitness  Edit  Delete  Close

@joehurricane thanks a lot bro, I'm going to focus on some nutrition articles next.  


and the triad is complete! looking forward to more articles or series!

DanWynesFitness  Edit  Delete  Close

Thanks @whisper got some good Nutrition articles planned.