Increase Weight, Reps and Results
With These Tips From the Experts
Put any two gym rats in a room and you can rest assured the first question asked won’t be “What’s your barbell row?” or “How much can you do on the leg curl machine?”
In any gym (and especially among bodybuilders) the bench press is king. It’s the accepted standard for determining how strong you are. Given its supremacy on the gym floor, it’s amazing how many people you see doing them wrong. Poor preparation, poor form, and poor rep schemes will keep you from reaching your greatest potential and may even lead to injury. If you want to radically increase your all-important one-rep max, take a tip or two from some of the greatest athletes ever to raise the bar.
1. Submaximal weights are best.
Use maximum force and speed on the lift.
Control the lowering portion.
Bench press weights with maximum force. Force = mass X acceleration. In layman’s terms, how much force you produce while bench pressing is the weight of the bar and how quickly you move it. Lifting submaximal weights with maximum force is called compensatory acceleration training (CAT). Greater amounts of force exerted into the bar will create higher amounts of muscle tension. This will not only build strength but aid in muscle hypertrophy because you recruit a higher amount of fast-twitch muscle fibers (the ones with the most potential for growth). Many scientists believe that heavy training is not the only factor in developing strength. Acceleration, velocity and movement speed are very important factors also.
An experiment in 1996 compared the strength gains of bodybuilders who performed conventional bench presses with a second group that performed explosive bench throws. The bench throw group, on the positive portion of the rep, had 27 percent higher average velocity and a 36 percent higher peak velocity (highest speed reached). While bench pressing is not a speed sport, the average amount of force was 35 percent higher with the bench throw group.
So, what does that mean? Higher forces are produced with submaximal weights. On the bench for your work sets, control the negative portion of the rep and lift the positive portion with max force and speed. High amounts of force are needed to lift heavy weights. This is a great strategy to produce high forces while avoiding overtraining due to using maximal weights on every single set. Because of the strength curve of the bench press, as you push the weight up, the force you are able to produce increases. The key is to produce maximal force through the entire range of motion. This provides sufficient intensity to force a positive adaptation, and you will get stronger.
2. Get bigger arms with a variety of exercises.
Who doesn’t want bigger arms? Let’s put vanity aside for a moment and take a look at how bigger arms can boost your bench. Most people know triceps strength is extremely important to locking out the weight with heavy bench presses. Obviously, the triceps are going to get the best work from compound movements like weighted dips, close grip bench presses and close grip decline bench presses. Single joint movements for high reps should also be included to make your arms grow and support heavy weight for big bench presses. To fully develop a muscle, a variety of exercises and set/rep schemes need to be applied. Curls are for more than girls. Biceps help stabilize heavy weights. Think about a massive storm with very high winds, a tree with a large trunk is much more stable than a tree with a skinny trunk. The same concept applies to heavy bench presses. Think of them as a heavy storm. Furthermore, strong forearms help you squeeze the bar tightly, making the weight feel much lighter in your hands.
3. Try unconventional set and rep schemes.
A max is defined as one rep, unless otherwise specified. Let’s say you are going to do a total of 24 reps on the bench in one workout. An orthodox approach would be to do 3 sets of 8 reps. When doing higher reps, it is harder to produce maximum force rep after rep. You also get a total of only 3 first reps (one each set.) Try rebelling against this traditional scenario and do 8 sets of 3 reps. Now, all of a sudden, you get 8 first reps. It is easier to produce maximal force for only 3 reps. The duration of lifting a submaximal weight with maximal force is much closer to doing it with 3 reps than with 8, when it relates to a 1 repetition max. More sets and less reps is sport specific, if your sport is developing a big bench press.
4. Eliminate momentum cheat with one-rep dead benches.
The dead bench is not an ego lift. You will not be able to lift as much weight this way. On the negative portion of the bench press, your muscles store elastic-like energy that aids in the positive portion of the bench press. This is called the stretch shortening cycle. A practical example would be a vertical jump. Try one dipping your butt down rapidly and then exploding up. Now, try another one from the bottom squat position without dipping down first. You will not be able to jump as high this way. This is because you are not taking advantage of the stretch shortening cycle. The bench press works the same way. A dead bench is done in a power rack. The weight starts at chest level and is pushed up as explosively as possible. The ability to develop force rapidly is known as starting strength. A great amount of starting strength is needed to push huge bench presses off your chest. Give dead benches a try! Only do dead benches for single repetitions; multiple repetitions defeat the purpose.
5. Use visualization to reach your goal.
Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” The bench press is no exception to this. Perception is reality, folks. Your central nervous system cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined experience. Start setting aside some time every day to visualize yourself blasting up huge weights in the bench press. Even go as far as loading the weight on the bar at the gym, staring it down and seeing yourself demolish it. Remember, the more vivid your imagined experience, the more real and beneficial it is. When your name is called to get under that heavy pig iron, you will just be going through the motions. You have already done it in your head.
6. Build your upper back.
“Strong back equals strong man,” says the strongest man of all-time, world champion powerlifter Bill Kazmaier. Upper back muscles are extremely important for stability in the bench press. There are a variety of different ways to work your upper back. Lat pull-downs and pull-up variations are all great, but it is important to remember the bench press is performed horizontally. So get some work in the horizontal plane. This can be done performing bent over rows with barbells, dumbbells, or specialty bars. It’s also important, from an injury prevention standpoint as well as aesthetically, to have a balance between the front side and backside of your body.
7. De-load for full recovery.
If you train with maximal weights week after week, your muscles will not fully recover and your central nervous system will begin to hate you. The key is to follow periods of high intensity with periods of low intensity. This can range anywhere from every 3 to 6 weeks, depending on training intensity, past injuries and, of course, ability to recover. De-loads should generally be about 60% to 70% of total volume and intensity of a heavier session. An easy way to do this is just cut all your working sets down for each exercise by 1 and multiply all your working weights by 60%. Boom. There’s your de-load. If you’re using bands and chains in your training, don’t use them on your de-load.
Those bigger arms you’re seeking will be lost to catabolic activity if you don’t supplement promptly and efficiently with precision-targeted recovery agents. It’s always important to keep blood amino levels high, but never more so than immediately preceding and during your workout, when high-intensity exercise is damaging muscle tissue, depleting glycogen levels, and inhibiting protein synthesis. The key to defeating these counter-productive outcomes is to get proactive with a superior-quality premium protein formulation.
NytroWhey Ultra Elite from ProSource contains an advanced hydrolyzed whey consisting of highly processed di- and tri-peptide aminos that are absorbed by the bloodstream virtually instantaneously providing fuel for protein synthesis and muscle repair. Far and away the most crucial amino to protein synthesis is leucine, and NytroWhey Ultra Elite features a breakthrough leucine peptide technology that renders leucine maximally more bioavailable, enabling it to “switch on” anabolism within the muscle cell. These two technologies, coupled with an ultra-pure CFM whey isolate, generate super-efficient recovery and real growth you can feel after your workout. NytroWhey Ultra Elite is the nutritional power behind some of the world’s most celebrated physiques!
Before and during your workout, it also pays to supplement with a high-quality BCAA supplement. A product like ProSource’s Mega BCAA contains the preferred ratio (2:1:1) of the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which are key drivers of protein synthesis and repair of damaged muscle fibers. Synergistically, these powerfully anti-catabolic amino acids work together to help energize, protect and restore muscle tissue. For best results, you can simply add a four-gram dose of Mega BCAA Powder to your intra-workout drink and consume it while you’re completing your workout. Mega BCAA is also available in a convenient capsule format.
Okay, enough talking, more doing. Time to hit the gym! You’ve been given the keys to build a bigger bench press, so jump in the driver’s seat!
Read more about NytroWhey Ultra Elite here.
Read more about Mega BCAA here and here.
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