arnold-schwarzenegger-bench-press

I’m not a huge fan of the traditional bench press. But a lot of guys love it (see: any gym in America), and it does offer pectoral-enhancing benefits, especially if you don’t care so much about being functionally stronger and just want a big chest to show off at the beach. So if you’re sliding under the bench, you might as well perform better than you’ve ever performed in your life. These three tips—in addition to those from my first “bench more” column—will help.

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Focus on pushing your body away from the bar and driving your back into the bench. It sounds a little counterintuitive, but that’ll actually help you lift the bar.

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1. Heat up your muscles
A lot of guys don’t properly warm up before they lift weights. This is a huge mistake. Anytime you work out, you should start with a dynamic warm-up. I recommend taking a hot shower before you go to the gym, or when you arrive. Then start off with a few minutes of jumping jacks, jogging on the treadmill or skipping in place. I even know some guys who like to stretch in the sauna for a few minutes, which is a little strange but also fine. The key is, before you start weight training, get your muscles cooking. The extra blood flow will prevent injury and help you get the most out of your guns.

2. Drive your back into the bench
With the flat-bench, barbell bench press, guys normally focus on lifting the bar. But it may help you to shift your focus. Instead of thinking about pushing the bar away from your body, focus on pushing your body away from the bar and driving your back into the bench. It sounds a little counterintuitive, but that’ll actually help you lift the bar, especially when you’re trying to power through a big lift and you’ve lost some of your initial thrust. Like Rick Vaughn donning spectacles, it could be the subtle adjustment that gets you over the hump.

This isn’t exactly what we mean by “train the surrounding muscles.”

3. Train the surrounding muscles
It’s not just about your chest. Soup up your strength by training the muscles around it that are also involved with the lift, like your triceps and shoulders. Good exercises for the triceps: bench dips and triceps extensions. Good exercises for the shoulders: alternating deltoid raises and deadlifts. Boosting these muscles will lead to direct improvements in your bench press. But remember: even if you do, it’s not all about the bench. Dude named Justin Ernst benched 225 pounds an NFL combine record 51 times in 1999—and lasted just one year in the league.


Jay Cardiello’s accelerated body transformation program, JCore, is available here, and his new book, Cardio Core 4×4, is available here. Got a question for Jay? Leave a note in the comment section, and he’ll do his best to address it in a future column.