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Bigger Bench Press – Bigger Chest!

Tips To Bench More Weight, And Make More Gains!

Posted by JoeHurricane - July 6th, 2015

If there is one area all us guys are desperate to build muscle in and make huge, it's most probably THE CHEST. Abs are great, and being able to put on a gun show is desirable too, but getting that big chest makes it all come together, and promotes that aesthetically pleasing v-taper. There's one exercise we think of when it comes to growing those pecs: The bench press. There's nothing like the feeling of tearing your chest apart with some pressing. If you are struggling to get that chest to grow though, here are some tips that could help you maximize your chest gains!


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You're ONLY utilising the Barbell Bench Press

If you want to build some serious muscle, and I am talking any muscle here, you need to work with more than just one exercise. Sure, spending a day doing just bench presses, just squats, or just deadlifts, can put your body under serious stress, and cause that muscle damage we want in order to grow. However, that is not something you should be doing on a regular basis. For your chest, that means avoiding hogging the bench press for your entire chest workout. Some are fairly straight forward, others you might not have even thought they could deter your benching progress.


You've got the flat bench, the incline bench, and the decline bench press, not to mention flys at similar angles as well as the ability to use barbells, cables, machines or dumbbells for nearly all of these exercises. If you want your chest to really grow, you should use all of these exercises at one point or another. Different angles focus on different areas of the chest, and stimulate more muscle fibres.


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The equipment you use is pretty damn important too. Will you be able to lift heavier weight with a barbell? Probably. Will you find dumbbell presses more difficult? Probably. But that just makes dumbbells that much more tempting. Dumbbells require you to activate a lot more of your stabilizers. Balancing a weight in each hand is a lot tougher than holding a barbell. The more you can increase the weight you use with dumbbells, you will likely find that, inevitably, you will be able to lift more with the barbell. So, if you want to improve your barbell bench press...do some dumbbell bench pressing. It sounds weird, but try it out.


You'll also want to switch up how you are going about using these exercises. Always start your chest workout with some heavy flat pressing? Well, next time, start with some heavy incline pressing. Most people prefer to burn their chest out with the flat first, because they can lift more weight that way. However, when you think about your chest, which is the biggest portion? The upper half. And what trains the upper half? The incline bench. If you can increase your incline max, your flat bench max will probably go up too.


You're ONLY Training For Strength

Obviously strength training is going to be your go-to option when it comes to increasing your max. However, if you are only doing strength training, and avoiding hypertrophy, you're not only missing out on a method of increasing your strength, but you're actually potentially making it harder for your body to improve in strength at all.


If you are constantly working on performing 1RMs with your bench press, that can take its toll on your CNS. Whether you are eating well and sleeping well or not, if you are pushing your body to its absolute max, week in, week out, and more than once a week, you simply aren't giving it enough time to recover some much-needed energy, which is required to increase those max lifts. You should look to space your 1RMs at least a couple of weeks apart, so that you give yourself some time to get back into the groove.


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It's also worth noting, that if you're training for hypertrophy (muscle gain), there's a good chance you'll get stronger as well. Now, bigger muscles don't always equal stronger muscles, but the reality is that using progressive overload often sees people aiming to increase their weights, and that as this happens, it's no surprise that your muscles get bigger too. If you can increase the weight you use to perform 8 reps, then inevitably you should be able to increase the weight you use to perform 1 rep.


You're Using The Wrong Muscle When Benching
It's a common complaint – “When I'm benching, I don't feel it in my chest”. This pretty much comes down to your Mind Muscle Connection (MMC), which is covered in the video below. If you aren't trying to bring your arms together as you press the weight up, and if you aren't squeezing your  chest, you probably aren't lifting as much as you could. Don't forget, that you should also be activating your glutes and keeping your core tight to maintain a stable structure

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A lot of people complain about shoulder pain during benching, and this probably means you aren't retracting your shoulder blades properly, and you're forcing your shoulders to do most of the work. Your deltoids are a much smaller muscle than your pecs, and using your shoulders instead of your chest not only means you will find it tougher to lift more weight, but it also means your will put them under some serious pressure, which can lead to a serious injury.

Your Set-Up Isn't Optimal

A lot of people will just lie down on a bench, grab the bar, and start pushing out some reps. If you want to lift as much weight as possible, you need to be a lot more methodical about how you set yourself up. If you take a look at proper bench press form, you should have a bit of an arch in your back, those shoulder blades need to be retracted, and your toes should be almost under your butt. That arch in your back is super important.

You're Not Utilising A Spotter

Sometimes you simply can't get past a certain sticking point during a lift. For the bench press, it might be just after you touch the bar to your chest. In order to get stronger and get past that sticking point, get a spotter to help you perform FORCED REPS. Utilising a spotter isn't something to be ashamed of, it's simply one of the best ways to make sure you are giving absolutely everything you've got.


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If you can still control those negative reps, the eccentric motion, that is almost more important than the concentric portion of the movement. You will still be using your own energy to lift some of that weight, and this is a great way to make your muscles adapt to heavier weight. So you might have a spotter to help you attempt 225lbs, but you'll soon find you can handle that weight without the help of a spotter, and instead you'll be attempting 235lbs with a spotter, and so on and so forth.


Your Diet Isn't On Point

Just like your muscles want food to get bigger, they want food to get stronger too. If you want to bump up the weight on your bench press, you might have to bump up the amount of food you put on your plate too. If you're going into the gym without that crucial energy, there is no way you will be lifting as much as someone who gets a good amount of food in them before they lift. Remember though, it's still not a case of just eating lots of crap food in order to have plenty of energy, it's about eating good food to maximize your potential. Building your meal plan is going to be key to whatever your goals are.

Conclusion

These are some of the best methods you can use to make sure you're benching as much weight as you possibly can. Don't spend your days in the gym thinking about benching more weight, get out there and do it. Build a chest to be proud of Nation – whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right.


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 Muscle Hypertrophy Explained

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MEMBER COMMENTS
Sean1183
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I have always started off with incline press rather than a flat press. I do find it extremely easy after, for me to pump out at least 10 lbs more than the incline and do the reps like it's nothing. I believe starting with incline is the best way to increase your flat tbh.

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Nice @sean1183! As long as you have found what works for you! #HTH

Hawk_Given
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Good read!  I would like to see more guys/gals doing underhand or reverse-grip db chest-presses.  So much better on your shoulders and engages the chest muscle fibers more intensely.  I do these and it really helps keeping those shoulders in check. 


https://youtu.be/bxQqbnF30-8 (Title: Reverse-grip by Incline db Press by Dr. Jim Stoppani).

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Interesting @hawk_given. I have seen similar movements, but whenver I see someone doing a reverse grip like that, they are doing it to target the triceps, not the chest. Therefore they have their grip a lot closer.

NilsFearons
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Ive been using a slingshot to help with my bench at the end of my working sets, great for getting in more volume especially as my right side weakens where I have an AC seperation

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Nice @nilsfearons! Those slingshots sound pretty good...an AC separation doesn't sound good though haha

ohawkey
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Good article! I've been prioritizing upper chest for 3 months since that's my weak point

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Thanks @ohawkey! Yeah I have kind of been doing the same thing, although my incline press has always been relatively good in relation to the weight I use for my flat bench press. Been lifitng heavy on the incline, something I never used to do, and it makes the weight for the flat bench feel a lot lighter.

Adawg38
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Great article Jordan! I love DB Presses also and people really need to pay attention to where you talk about Mind Muscle Connection. To many people with myself included when I started just want to pound out as much weight as possible all the time which takes to much away from the chest and uses your tris and shoulders more. You got to leave the ego at the door and really concentrate on slow controlled movement, squeezing your chest at the top and you will see a huge overall difference.

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Right on @adawg38, I think everyone has that ego issue in the beginning. They need to make a little thing at the entrance to all gyms, like when you check in and out of work for some jobs? Except in the gym, it can just be a way to check your ego when you arrive, and pick it up again when you leave :D

AnabolicAliens
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Just got around to reading this! Very in-depth and well done!

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Thanks @anabolicaliens! Maybe this will help people bench as much as Mike :D

Snake_Griffin
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Solid article!

jmboiardi
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Great article Jordan.  As a huge fan of dumbell chest work, I can atest to variety as well as not focusing solely on BB bench press to build a decent chest :-)

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

Thanks John! I actually preferred dumbbell chest presses to regular BB bench presses for a long time :)

ycaner
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Thanks for article ,Joe. i have problem with chest and dont miss a chest article :) next round i am gonna try scott chest workout for getting wider to my lower chest!  dat pic!!!!

JoeHurricane Edit Delete Close

You're welcome @ycaner! Go crush that chest! #HTH

Idris
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Chest and arms are first two body parts people notice when they look at your shirt.  Chest workout incorporate a variety of exercises: Dumbell, Bench Press, Chest Press (Machine), The WIre, Push Up.  Excellent article with lots of informative and pertanent information!

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