Paul Carter is the chief executive at Lift-Run-Bang.com and has more than 25 years of experience under the bar, having coached some of the best strength athletes in the world. He is the author of Strength, Life, Legacy and Base Building and is based in Kansas City, Kansas.
Most guys do not get tight enough before they set up to bench press. You need to have a strong scapular retraction to pull your shoulders down hard into the bench. Press your feet hard into the floor so that your quads are flexed as well. The body works in synergy and having your entire body as tight as possible will help you press more weight instantly.
Keep wrists and elbows in line
I often see guys benching where their wrists are not over the top of their elbows, but closer to their face. This essentially turning the bench press into a modified triceps extension. Your wrists and elbows should be in a line, so that your wrists are right on top of your elbows.
Build supporting strength
A big bench requires strong shoulders and triceps. Lots of guys have forgotten that the big benchers of the past put an enormous amount of time and effort into shoulder and triceps work. If you are lacking strength in these two key muscle groups then incorporate more overhead pressing and dips into your training regime to bring them up to speed.
Brandon Lilly is an elite powerlifter and strength coach, having competed in bodybuilding, strongman and powerlifting, in which he has a 2,237lb personal best. He is the author of The Cube Method and 365Strong. He is based in Richmond, Kentucky.
Vary the angle
Don’t think that flat barbell presses are the only way to improve your bench. A solid bench routine should include incline and, to a lesser degree, declines, as well as one of my favourite moves: seated and standing military presses. Look at the big benchers from years past and most all of them had dominant overhead presses, but this is something that a lot of guys have gotten away from. You start getting strong overhead and I guarantee your bench jumps up to match.
Train your triceps
Learn to use your triceps as your dominant ‘push’ muscle to straighten your arms. Your triceps are far more powerful and useful for hitting a big bench than the pecs. Make your triceps as strong as possible and reap the rewards.
Josh Bryant is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Texas. He holds 12 world records in powerlifting and is co-author of the Amazon best-seller Jailhouse Strong. His new book, Built to the Hilt, is out now. He is based in Arlington, Texas.
Do ‘dead’ benches
A dead bench is done in a power rack with the weight resting on the pins set just above your chest. The weight starts at chest level – not with arms-extended as in a traditional bench – and is pressed up as explosively as possible. The bar must stop and settle on the safety pins between each rep. You won’t be able to lift as much weight this way because of the absence of elastic energy that builds up on the negative portion of the lift. Because of this, you’ll develop tremendous starting strength at the bottom of each rep. This is the point at which most guys are weakest so developing strength here will allow you to make big gains in how heavy you can lift.