General Health

5 Bench Press Hacks to Increase Your 1RM


When it comes to training in the gym, we all have our favourite, and least-favourite exercises. Some sadists for example, enjoy squats, while others prefer deadlifts. In terms of popularity however, there is one exercise that stands tall and has reigned supreme for decades upon decades. That exercise is none other than the mighty barbell bench press. There is just something about bench pressing that gym rats worldwide seem to adore. We know that this exercise is perfect for adding mass and thickness to the chest, but for many it does so much more than that. The bench press is am exercise that provides individuals with great bragging rights, if your numbers are decent. Get any group of gym-goers together and discussing training, and it won’t take long for them to begin discussing how many each of them can bench press for a one rep max (1RM). People are intrigued by this exercise, yet if your bench press is one of your weakest lifts, you’ll probably want to change the subject pretty quickly. If your bench press does suck however, then worry not, because we’re here to help. Below we’ll be listing a series of bench press hacks, created by experts in their respective fields, designed to help you increase the amount of weight that you can bench press in double-quick time. For those of you looking to add pounds to your bench press, take a look at these useful hacks.

Up your triceps game

Hang on! We’re talking about bench pressing here, and the bench press is an exercise that targets the pectoral muscles in the chest, so why are we talking about training triceps? We haven’t gone mad and we haven’t decided to spontaneously change the content of this article either. The reason why we’re talking about training your triceps is because doing so will help you to bench press heavier weights. Flat bench barbell presses are compound exercises. Compound exercises are exercises which rely on and recruit multiple muscle groups at once, to execute the lift. When you perform barbell bench presses, although the primary exercises recruited and targeted are the pectoral muscles in your chest, your triceps also do a lot of the work. Because of the mechanics of the lift, it is therefore beneficial to work and strengthen your triceps to assist you in performing the lift. Instead of your typical finisher set of rope pushdowns after training arms, try to dedicate an entire session each week to training your triceps. There are many triceps exercises out there, yet people often seem to always do the same ones – usually those performed on a high cable machine. Instead, try mixing things up and doing different exercises. Some effective triceps exercises include: skullcrushers, triceps dips, triceps kickbacks, overhead triceps extensions, close-grip bench presses, dumbbell French presses, rope and bar pushdowns, and more.

Arch your back ever so slightly

Generally when lifting weights, arching your back is the last thing you should be doing, as it can obviously put you in danger of injury. When bench pressing however, it is not only okay to arch your back, it is actually recommended. The reason for this is because the bench helps add support, so, as long as you are careful, you are in no danger of tweaking your back. When you perform bench presses with your back completely flat on the bench, not only can you generate less power, but you also put your rotator cuff in danger as it will be under extra pressure. To correctly and safely perform a bench press, and instantly generate more power, try adopting more of a powerlifter themed stance and arch your back ever so slightly.

Extend, extend, extend

Another great hack for people trying to lift more weight when benching, is to extend your back and your elbows, as soon as your spotter (yes, always work with a spotter when benching heavy) has handed you the bar and removed their hands. As soon as you extend your back and elbows you will be able to drive the bar into the air quicker and will also generate more power. This explosive style of lifting is nothing new in the bodybuilding and powerlifting world, but if you’ve never tried it before, it is something that is well worth considering.

Position your elbows correctly during the lift

A lot of people seem to think that your elbows should remain tucked firmly at your sides at all times during a bench press. They shouldn’t. In reality, you should actually flare your elbows outwards at some point, but when? Well, during the negative part of the movement as you lift the bar, and for the first half of pressing the bar into the air, your elbows should indeed remain tucked firmly at your sides. This is to ensure that you maintain tension and remain planted firmly in place. However, once the bar is half way up during the pressing motion of the lift, now is the time to flare the elbows slightly as you extend them. By doing this you provide yourself with improved leverage and can generate slightly more power. Remember to only flare them ever so slightly, otherwise you could injure yourself, or lose your line of motion.

Use your legs!

When benching, a lot of people forget about their legs completely and will simply place them wherever they like, and often will move them all over the place as they complete the exercise. Driving with the legs however, is the secret to really increasing your numbers on bench press. Try to plan your feet firmly on the ground, so as to drive with the legs without moving them. If your drive is performed correctly your hips will be planted onto the bench, your arch will not be compromised and will actually be improved. This in turn will ensure that the force you create from your legs is sent up from the legs and into the bar, meaning you can generate more explosive power and can lift heavier poundages.

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