To summarize what has been discussed so far in this series, I first looked at the history and evolution of the horizontal barbell press. In the second installment I talked about the sticking point and strategies to better increase your bench press in relation to that often-confounding portion of the lift. In the third article I discussed form and muscle activation and looked at strategies you can use to target the areas that you wish to improve. The fourth entry discussed methods and strategies to increase strength and muscle mass. In this write-up, which is to serve as the conclusion to this very enjoyable to research and write series, I’d like to look at exercises other than the bench press that can serve to increase your strength and muscle gains with this lift.
One of the most important muscle groups that need your attention should you want to make serious advancements in the bench press as well as your pectoral development are the muscles of the shoulder. Specifically, the external rotators and the scapula retractors as both of these areas will be necessary for providing a great amount of stability. Without stability there will be no strength or power beyond what you are currently capable of. These exercises should include L-flyes (an amazing exercise despite the fact you never see anyone performing them), band no moneys, cable exercises such as external rotations, face pulls, rear delt raises that include scapular retraction, as well as chest supported rows, one arm rows, seated rows, and inverted rows. All of these are important exercises to prevent shoulder injuries as well as to provide shoulder and scapular stability and also offer the bonus of preventing negative postural adaptations in future.
Other exercises of paramount importance are push-ups of every variety, as well as overhead pressing and pulling to keep the scapulae functioning optimally. The scapulae is vital to the long-term success of your bench pressing career so please don’t ignore them even if the temptation is to do so. The exercises I’ve mentioned so far are often not included in many training programs because they do not directly contribute to muscle-building. They do, however, contribute directly to stability, functionality and strength, which in turn allow for more strength and muscle mass to be built.
If you’re an athlete and want to maximize the functional transfer of your bench press to your sport, then performing JC band presses will work to strengthen your hips and core which is essential for the exercise to carry over into real life strength. Explosive exercises such as medicine ball chest passes as well as plyo push-ups will increase both power as well as reactive strength.
As discussed in an earlier article in this series, leg drive is a very important component of the bench press. This of course means that having strong legs is essential to your continued success. You would be surprised how often focusing on horizontal leg strength via squats and leg presses as well as hip strength through deadlifting will have an immediate impact on your chest pressing abilities. This is because your bench-pressing power won’t be limited by weaknesses and energy leaks further down the kinetic chain.
I could go on and quote a pile of studies and what they found, and maybe I will if I get to a sixth installment in this fun to write series, but for now I feel as if The Bench Press – The Greatest Lift Ever has reached a temporary conclusion. Until next time,