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Throw like a girl.
Run like a girl.
Most guys wouldn’t be caught dead doing those things. But bench like a girl?!? You might change your mind after reading this article. If you’re looking to increase your bench in a major way, then you might want to take a few lessons from the girls.
Lesson #1: Start with the bar.
You walk into the gym….you swing your arms in a few circles, stretch out your pecs, then toss the ol’ 45-lb plates on each side.
Not only are you missing out on building some volume into your program, but you haven’t even primed your nervous system to handle heavier loads. Instead, always start with just the bar for one to two sets. It gets the blood moving and gets your joints loosened properly.
Lesson #2: Take smaller jumps when working up in weight.
After you’ve slapped the plates on the bar without warming up properly, you bust out about 5 reps. You toss on a quarter and do a few more reps. You attempt to hit 225 for a single and fail. You try again, and get your partner to assist you with a few forced reps. Bench press, done.
Unfortunately, that approach is not going to cut it when the goal is to get bigger or stronger. The women seem to do it right in this case by using smaller increases when working up to max weights. Building volume is the key to benching big, and you won’t get there by increasing in huge increments.
Lesson #3: Bench first.
It’s rare to see a woman go into the gym and do curls and cable crossovers before hitting the bench. Still, it amazes me that so many people will do isolation exercises before the main movement. The only exercises that should be done before your bench are movements that involve foam rolling, dynamic flexibility, and pre-hab work.
Lesson #4: One to two pressing exercises is enough.
Think about your chest day for a minute. What exercises do you perform? Bench press. Dumbbell press. Incline press. Dumbbell pec flyes (with a twist). Cable crossovers.
A big bench does not require ten exercises. What a big bench does need is exercises that build the bench press by targeting your particular weaknesses. Otherwise, you’ll continue to get stuck at the same spot even though you do more flyes, more crossovers, and a double serving of the newest super supplement. Also, benching big is about more than just the pecs. Cut back on the pressing and build the parts that actually do the press. Strong triceps, delts, and upper back muscles will help you press more, so give those muscles a little more love.
Lesson #5: Work your technique.
One reason why women don’t increase their weights as much is because they are afraid of big weights, but that’s another issue. However, one thing that women are not afraid is going slow and getting it right. Women are much more likely to ask “Am I doing this right?” before tossing some more iron on the bar. Women are also more receptive to coaching. Men tend to be a little more resistant to feedback, with comments like, “Well, this is what (so-and-so top bodybuilder) does, so that’s how I’m gonna do it.”
Lesson #6: Build your back.
Face it – men love to work what they see in the mirror. Women tend to have a more well rounded program that builds the entire upper body. Therefore, take the time and effort to build your lats and upper back. Not only will you create a bigger bench, you’ll look better and have fewer injuries in the process. With more overall balance in your development, you’ll give yourself better posture and will look bigger without having to flare those imaginary lats.
Forge ahead of your buddies and use some of these tips to overcome the bench barriers you’ve been facing. And the next time you see a girl on the bench, remember these six things – and know that she’s probably making more progress than you.
Julia Ladewski, CSCS
Pictures courtesy of Ken Hicks