T Nation

Bench Plateau

I was just wondering if you guys had a few suggestions, I have been in a terrible bench/chest plateu for about 2months i mean it hasnt hit until this last month hard but ive just been stuck, i have been eating great (Eating for mass) ive been getting alot of waht i need including fat but not too much, ive tried several programs the ie universal bench like an animal 5x5 8,6,4,2 bands, laying off the barbells and using dumbells all of it and i havent got my bench to budge at all i get adequate sleep i dont think its overtraining the rest of my body is progressing well and its just making my bench and chest look like a joke, so i went ahead and read the do it yourself training article where i found the 3x3 with 5-10minutes of rest inbetween sets and iwas just wondering if i would hit this like monday thursday or just once a week for bench, and what kind of percentage would range would i be in for the 3x3 like 85% of my one rep max?
thanks guys i appreciate it.

Well, first of all you dont mention westside in there as being something you’ve tried. Band’s are not westside, and do not necessarily mean you’re using the dynamic effort method, allow me to suggest that. Second, you dont mention you’re sticking point - off your chest? at lockout? this would help things. Finally, CT jsut wrote a program on increasing your 1rm in the bench, and anythign that canuck writes has got to be good, try that.

Have you thought of just taking a week off? If you’ve been hitting your bench hard for a while sometimes all you need is a little break to allow for supercompensation. On the other hand, if you haven’t been hitting it hard enouogh to require time off I would recommend taking a look at www.elitefts.com or www.nazbar.com for some tips. Also, you may want to figure out exactly where your weak points are on the bench. For example, a few things that have made a big difference for me are weight gain and focusing more on building up my back and external rotators with a lot of rowing movements and lat exercises.

Well i used to have weak lats but they have caught up, locking out the bench isnt the weak part getttin it off my chest my triceps have gotten stronger but not my bench press for some reason… gettin the bar off my chest about 3 or 4 inches is the problem my form is pretty good i hit at the sternum once i get it up lockin out isnt a problem…thanks for advice guys

Take a look at this article. You said you were weak off the chest, here is Dave Tate’s suggestion on what to do.


So do you always do regular flat bench press? If so that could be your problem right there. Switch to a different exercise for a while say 3 weeks and then go back to bench. Floor press would be a good alternative cause it will work near to your sticking point.

maybe a skipping one cheast work out and then doing high rep sets of 12 with dumbells and heavy ass 10 sets of 3 in the push press. and you might wanna video your form and see if its limiting you and try some back work.

Thanks guys i really appreciate the advice i think ill skip out a week of bench, mny form isnt the best i flare my elbows out often, but what do you guys mean by “sticking point”? thanks

I would suggest trying CT program as already mentioned or this one by Dave Tate if you need a less time consuming program:


You might also want to read his Bench 600lbs article, it covers form issues.

Sticking point means the point in the ROM where the bar slows then stops moving and you ‘miss’ the attempt. You said you have problems about 3-4" off the chest which is why I suggested floor presses for ME.
Dumbbell work is also important.

Try floor pressing for three weeks and then go back to your normal bench. What have you got to lose? I am sure you will see an improvement.

You have got some great sugestions so far! I would read everything on westside training you can find.

Personally I would say on a heavy day do floor presses or something like a 1 or 2 board press. On another day in the week do lighter dumbell presses and back work for assistance. If your only working on increasing your bench your not doing a whole lot to make the next weeks bench any stronger, there has to be something between the two heavy workouts to improve your strength.

You do any pullovers?

The first step to improving your bench press is to ensure that you are performing the lift with optimal technique. As popular as this lift is, it is rare to see good technique used during workouts. Perfecting your technique will allow for a more efficient lifting stroke, maximize development and will limit the chance of injuries. I highly recommend having your workouts videotaped and analyzed, as this will allow you to correct errors that might normally go undetected. The first step is to ensure you have a solid base on the bench. That means that head, shoulders, torso, butt and feet are firmly and solidly planted. The head should not come off the bench, the butt should remain in contact with the bench surface and the feet should be flat and dug into the floor. If your legs are too short to make solid contact with the floor, then use plates or blocks for a firm surface. When I am benching, I want my entire body to be tight and dug in?even to the point that when I am pressing the weight off my chest, at the same time I am pressing my head back into the bench and driving my feet into the floor, though there is no movement, just isometric contraction. Your approach to the exercise needs to be aggressive, though I am not talking about screaming, snorting, and slapping, but rather developing a sort of an internal rage and intensity that is channeled into completing the set. Remove the weight from the uprights and position the weight directly above chest. Lower the bar to the chest, touching in the general vicinity of just above the nipple. Drive the bar up and back so that when you are locked out- the bar is approximately at eye level. One common mistake that I often see in the bench press is that the lifter will lock out on the last rep and immediately dump it into the racks. This practice not only leads to injury but can disqualify lifts in competition. In fact, if you are a competitive lifter, then it?s a good idea to lock the weight and have the spotter say ?RACK? and then place the bar back into the uprights. When I am spotting, I always guide the bar back into the uprights and then say ?CLEAR? meaning the lifter can relax their grip on the bar.

I believe the repetition speed should be one in which the bar is moved with total control and without any type of jerking, bouncing or other ballistic activity. The lift should resemble a piston, solid, powerful, in a tight groove and moved with both precision and authority.


An often-overlooked component of the bench press is the use and development of the muscles of the back and in particular the lats. Very few lifters utilize the strength of the lats in their bench press and when they are able to incorporate lat contraction into their exercises, immediate increase is always achieved. Here is how you incorporate the lats into your bench press: Take an empty bar or even a wooden rod and assume the bench press position. Lower the bar to the chest and pause. Instead of driving the weight up with the arms, contract or ?flare? the lats in an outward direction. If you have decent lat development, you should see the bar move several inches off the chest. This takes practice to utilize the lats in this manner, but be persistent and practice over and over with an empty bar, gradually adding weight as you get used to the movement. The eventual goal is to use the lats as sort of a cushion or coiled spring when lowering the bar and then contracting them strongly on the initial drive at the same time you are pressing with the arms. DO NOT walk into the gym tomorrow and attempt this with your max poundage?if you do you will fail. I have worked with athletes who have increased their maximum bench press anywhere from 20-50lbs within 2 weeks as a result of using this technique. This also requires strong well-developed lats, which are developed by chins and rowing.


I am often asked what type of reps are best for the bench press, high reps, medium reps or low reps? My answer is ?Yes?. I think the best program is one that incorporates high, medium and low reps. There are many different ways to do this. My personal favorite is the 10-5-3 method. You can either do 3, 4, or 5 sets based on your individual needs, but each workout the repetition scheme changes. For example, the first workout would be 4 sets of 10 reps, where each set is an all out set of 10. This involves decreasing the weight each set. The next workout in which bench presses are performed would be 4 sets of 5 repts, and then the next workout would be 4 sets of 3 reps. This takes some trial and error to determine weight selection, but goal setting and accurate record keeping is a big help.

A sample workout series would look something like this:


185lbs 1x10
165lbs 1x10
140lbs 1x10
135lbs 1x10
Total 6520lbs


225lbs 1x5
210lbs 1x5
190lbs 1x5
175lbs 1x5
Total 3125lbs


270lbs 1x3
255lbs 1x3
240lbs 1x3
230lbs 1x3
Total 2985lbs

The goal in each session is to always increase the total weight lifted. If all ten reps are not achieved, then simply multiply the weight by 9 or whatever number is achieved. You will find that the tens build incredible foundational strength, which helps you use heavy weight in the threes. The tens are physically taxing while the threes are more mentally challenging. The heavy weight used in the three?s makes the relatively weight used in the ten?s seem easier by comparison. The five?s hit the medium range which helps both tens and three?s. Varying the repetitions each session also keeps the body from adapting to one particular routine, which allows for growth and development. Make sure that you set and complete all of the sessions within certain time frame, which is an individual choice, You will find that the tens require just a bit more rest between sets than the fives and threes. The number of days between workouts is also based on individual needs and preferences, You can make great gains doing each session once a week, or even as much as all three sessions within a 16 day time frame if desired.


Since the bench press is such an excellent triceps developer, I thought I would include a few tricep training tips.

-The Parallel Bar Dip is an excellent triceps exercise?in fact it may be the best overall triceps exercise for strength and development. It is important to stay upright when performing dips and often there is a tendency to lean forward, which shifts the stress away from the triceps. The best way to maintain upright form is to put your hands right on the end of the bars, facing away from the equipment. Your thumb and forefinger will wrap just near the end of the parallel bars, which will make it almost impossible to lean forward.

-Use the power rack about twice a month to strengthen the triceps, particularly on the lockout portion of the lift. Place a flat bench in the power rack and set the pins about 6-8 inches below lockout. Perform 1-2 sets of 6-10 reps each. Control the weight throughout the entire movement and when lowering the bar to the pin, do not bounce the weight, but rather, touch the pin, hold it for a momentary pause and press the weight to a lockout. Hold the lockout portion for 2-3 seconds. It is important to maintain the solid body position on the bench. If your feet or butt is moving or shifting, then the weight is too heavy. Don?t overdo the power rack exercises?they are very brutal and can lead to over-training.

-Trying performing lying tricep extensions, aka ?skull crushers? while lying on a decline bench. The slope of the bench makes it much easier to keep the upper arms in an upright and perpendicular position, which is very important. Dumbells can also be used and allow for a greater stretch. Perform this movement in a very slow controlled motion?the key is contraction, keep constant tension on the triceps and working them as intensely as possible. When positive failure is obtained, you can push the exercise harder, but simply pulling the bar down to the chest and pressing it up to arms length.

-A variation of the tricep pressdown is to perform them with the use of an incline bench. Place a portable incline bench in front of a pushdown machine with the seat facing away from the weight stack. The bar attachment can either be a straight bar or a V-bar. Sit in the incline bench and pull the bar over your head or have someone hand it to you. Keeping your elbows tight against your sides, simply press the weight forward and down to arms length, contract the triceps strongly, then return the weight bar back until the forearms contact the lower biceps. To make the negative phase of the movement even more effective, pretend that you are ?pulling? the weight back towards you, rather than just letting gravity do that?you will see the increased emphasis on your triceps. Perform this movement in a slow and controlled manner and keep the reps above 10.


Thanks for the info! the using of the lats sounds good, i really will try that one!

What’s your close grip bench press estimated 1 RM ? I remember reading an article by Charles Poliquin stating that you should take 10% of your 1 RM close grip bench and be able to do 8 external rotations with that weight . If you can not do 8 external rotations with that weight , I strongly suggest you stop benching for a while and focus on achieving that structural balance .

For more information on how to do that ,check out the article mentioned above here

Hope this helps ,

Crouching Tiger

Okay guys to help out and use my case as a little example tommorow, thursday im going to do the rotator cuff becuase im curious after reading the article, hell ive got nothing to lose ive already skipped one training session for chest and triceps as suggested the meat of the chest and tricep workout ill do for a while will be
a Monday Thursday deal and it will consist of
3 sets 10 reps of dumbells
and i will do 3 sets of 8 reps on the rotator cuffs ill post my one rep close grip max and my normal bench max as of now, ill do this thursday.

[quote]CrouchingTiger wrote:
What’s your close grip bench press estimated 1 RM ? I remember reading an article by Charles Poliquin stating that you should take 10% of your 1 RM close grip bench and be able to do 8 external rotations with that weight . If you can not do 8 external rotations with that weight , I strongly suggest you stop benching for a while and focus on achieving that structural balance .

For more information on how to do that ,check out the article mentioned above here

Hope this helps ,

Crouching Tiger

haha at first I missed the 10% part and thought you were totally insane!

Okay okay my 1rp of close grip was 150, my max for normal bench 170 and i nailed with ease 15lbs 8 for the rotator cuffs.


are you working the rest of your body? i am a firm believer that your bench will grow as your train the rest of your body.

note: first post! w00t

never mind, 2nd post :slight_smile: