Why barbell bench press?
On the most basic level, it makes you strong and teaches you discipline. There is always a weight to humble you. You will gain confidence and expertise perfecting the bench press.
What is your why
- Why do you consider to bench press?
- Why do you want to get stronger?
- Why do you want to get muscle?
- What happens when you do?
- What happens if you don’t?
While these questions might seem trivial they are essential to your long term success. The underlying desires will propel you forward to succeed. Therefore you have to define them. Most people approach life in this way:
- What do I want
- How do I get it
- Why do I want it
This way you will lead a life that will mainly be reactive. What you want changes very often in a day, even in a minute. It all depends on who you are with, what you see, how hungry you and millions of other factors. As what you want is a fickle thing and changes often it is very unlikely to satisfy you long term. Most people know what they want, fewer make a plan on how to get it, almost no one knows why they want something. To break out flip it in its head:
- Why do you want something
- How do you get it
- What do you need to do
By focusing on why you want things your daily actions and thoughts become more directed towards what is meaningful to you. In turn, it will be easier to be patient, thankful and trusting in the process. This will make you more calm, happy and contempt with your life. Less worry and meaningless aggression and irritation mean that you will get to your goals quicker. If you want to learn how this works on a psychological level read Daniel Kahneman's book thinking fast and slow. Simon Sinek makes a very compelling case telling the story of the Wright brothers in his TED talk on the golden circle.
For this setup work in rep ranges between 3-8 mainly for 3-5 sets at intensities between 70-90% of your one repetition maximum. With this, you can considerably increase your strength in the first your of training. Stronglifts 5x5 is the program which helped me to get to my 100kg bench press.
For strength development, you will most likely bench with a tricep heavy setup. This means that you will get most of the power from your triceps rather than your chest. Quite a few of the topbe xh pressers in the world have relatively small chests compared to a massive triceps.
The bench press can also be used to make your chest grow. The style of training is a lot different to achieve this goal.
You will usually work in the 8 -12 repetition range for 3 - 5 sets. The main goal is to increase time under tension. This means to execute each repetition slowly with maximum tension to make the muscle grow.
If you want big chests it might help to choose a wider grip. This way the tricep has less leverage in the bench press and the chest muscles have to work harder. Greater stimulus results in greater growth.
If you are interested in powerlifting the be ch press becomes mainly an interest of the one repetition maximum. Many athletes who get injured or don’t make the major leagues find a second home in powerlifting.
To maximize your bench press it will be triceps heavy for more and you arch. Arching means that you bring yourself to maximum tension by doing a bridge on the bench. Only your shoulders and butt will touch the bench in this setup.
Another speciality for the powerlifting bench press is that it has to be done with a pause on command. You have to lower the weight to your chest and rest it there. You can start to press up when you get the command “bench”. This adds complexity to the movement compared to other applications.
The bench press is not that relevant for weightlifting. Greg Everett does not even teach it in his got to book on Olympic weightlifting.
Mostly you only increase the injury risk as weightlifters are very strong but do not bench press often. This leads to them overestimating what they can do in this non specific movement and rip some Muscles. Happened more than once in their germ Olympic weightlifting team.
Bodybuilders will be ch press to pump up their chest. For this, anything goes. Usually the less “body English” you put into the bench press, the more it works your chest. This is the effect you want for bodybuilding.
- Put your feet up
- Pause the be ch press at different heights
- Use dumbbells I stead of a barbell
And many other options.
Why barbell bench press
Basically, because it’s fun. At least to me. It is the easiest of the three big lifts to learn and hardest to master. For me, benching 100kg and 140kg was very satisfying and we will see where to go next. The process of improving your bench press will teach you discipline and how the grind works. It will translate to your private and professional life and make you more successful.