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Bench Press: What is the Missing Link?

I’ve been training consistently for the pass eight to nine months (my newer log can be seen at http://www.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/blog_sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_log/mondys_log).

Right now my bench press has stalled at about 165x5 or 155x5 on a mediocre day. The thing that troubles me is that I can do standing military presses with 122 for 5 good reps (from chin to full extension) and I can do dips with 70pounds for 3-4reps. My shoulders and triceps are definitely up to par, I even incline bench 70 pound reps for 8 reps. I just don’t get why my bench press is so staggeringly low. Everyone else I know that could do these weights are at least putting up 180 for reps on the bench press.

I set up in a power lifting way, arched back, tight upper back/locked shoulder blades. I lower the bar to my sternum/lower pec area then I push with my legs as hard as possible (leg drive). I keep my elbows about 45 degrees to my torso. My sticking point is about 2-3 inches off my chest, the speed pass that point is painfully slow and my arms start shaking uncontrollably.

Any ideas on what weak point I need to strengthen?

You and I are close to the same stats. I’m 5’ 9" and 171lbs. I notice though, that you use a lot of dumbbells and don’t really do enough with the barbell as far as your sets or frequency goes. The way you describe your benching technique doesn’t really indicate that there is a problem there.

What I suggest is taking yourself away from the dumbbells and focus on the bar. One week I’ll typically do a 10 x 3 on the flat bench and then a 5 x 10 on an incline bench that same day. The next week I flop the two. I haven’t been able to test my 1RM since the last time, but the last weight I did on flat bench was 190 with the 10 x 3 and 175 on the incline with the 10 x 3.

I noticed in your last entry of your log you either dropped a rep or some weight. I’m not entirely familiar with the 3 x 5, but I imagine you want to use the same weight for each set. Perhaps you are hitting mental blocks as well. I know for whatever reason, near the end of my sets I can explode through the first two reps, but for whatever reason I completely tank on the third. I think you might be defeating yourself.

Cliff Notes

  1. Change it up if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while.
  2. Don’t defeat yourself.

I’m gone from a 135lb for 3 reps bench to 225lbs for 4 reps in 2.5 months.

I train barbell bench for 3 weeks on, then 1 week off doing dumbbells, and keep rotating like that.

I ramp up to a max set of 3-6 reps.

example:
Bar x 20
95lbs x 10
135lbs x 8
154lbs x 5
185lbs x 5
225lbs x as many as I can get

…Don’t work too hard on your ramping sets. They are just to warm you up & to prepare yourself for your top set.

My goal each workout is to do more reps or weight. I usually add a rep or 2 each workout, then I do a week of dumbbells, come back and add 5-10lbs to the bar.

[quote]Id wrote:
You and I are close to the same stats. I’m 5’ 9" and 171lbs. I notice though, that you use a lot of dumbbells and don’t really do enough with the barbell as far as your sets or frequency goes. The way you describe your benching technique doesn’t really indicate that there is a problem there.

What I suggest is taking yourself away from the dumbbells and focus on the bar. One week I’ll typically do a 10 x 3 on the flat bench and then a 5 x 10 on an incline bench that same day. The next week I flop the two. I haven’t been able to test my 1RM since the last time, but the last weight I did on flat bench was 190 with the 10 x 3 and 175 on the incline with the 10 x 3.

I noticed in your last entry of your log you either dropped a rep or some weight. I’m not entirely familiar with the 3 x 5, but I imagine you want to use the same weight for each set. Perhaps you are hitting mental blocks as well. I know for whatever reason, near the end of my sets I can explode through the first two reps, but for whatever reason I completely tank on the third. I think you might be defeating yourself.

Cliff Notes

  1. Change it up if you’ve been doing the same thing for a while.
  2. Don’t defeat yourself.[/quote]

Thanks for the advice! I described my technique in such depth to show how it’s probably not a technical problem. My goal is to do 3x5, but sometimes I come a rep or two short of it, so when I repeat that workout I’ll go for 3x5 and if I get it, I’ll increase the weight by 5 pounds the next time I repeat it.

I’m quite sure it isn’t a back weakness problem either, I can do 14 good pullups, one chin with 40, probably 50 when I’m fresh, and I can pendlay row 165 for 4 clean reps.

Train your sticking point. If you’re weak off the chest, do partial reps, just off the chest, or (from an old Thibaudeau’s tip) do one and a half rep: lift the bar half way off the chest, go down again, then do a whole rep to lock out. Don’t be afraid of lowering the weight…

One chin at 210 lbs is … well, meh. A 306 deadlift & 200x5 squat are also low.

I don’t mean to knock you; I’m sure you’ve made fantastic progress (you’re far stronger than I was at 17). I just want to say that, well, all your lifts seem like they’re right where they should be in relation to each other. If you found a way to up your bench to say, 200x5, you’d be on here asking what the missing link is to the back squat! :slight_smile:

Given your stats, I don’t think you need to do anything special except keep lifting hard and follow a good program*. And build some muscle. :slight_smile:

*Are you following an appropriate program?

[quote]goochadamg wrote:
One chin at 210 lbs is … well, meh. A 306 deadlift & 200x5 squat are also low.

I don’t mean to knock you; I’m sure you’ve made fantastic progress (you’re far stronger than I was at 17). I just want to say that, well, all your lifts seem like they’re right where they should be in relation to each other. If you found a way to up your bench to say, 200x5, you’d be on here asking what the missing link is to the back squat! :slight_smile:

Given your stats, I don’t think you need to do anything special except keep lifting hard and follow a good program*. And build some muscle. :slight_smile:

*Are you following an appropriate program?
[/quote]

I’m doing Starting Strength Right now, but adding 5lbs each workout while doing 3x5 with the same weight is killing me, time to add in some microplates…

[quote]Goodfellow wrote:
I’m gone from a 135lb for 3 reps bench to 225lbs for 4 reps in 2.5 months.

I train barbell bench for 3 weeks on, then 1 week off doing dumbbells, and keep rotating like that.

I ramp up to a max set of 3-6 reps.

example:
Bar x 20
95lbs x 10
135lbs x 8
154lbs x 5
185lbs x 5
225lbs x as many as I can get

…Don’t work too hard on your ramping sets. They are just to warm you up & to prepare yourself for your top set.

My goal each workout is to do more reps or weight. I usually add a rep or 2 each workout, then I do a week of dumbbells, come back and add 5-10lbs to the bar.[/quote]

Amazing progress! I’ll give your method a shot for sure! Do you use dumbbells for a week when you start stalling on barbells?

[quote]Mondy wrote:
Goodfellow wrote:
I’m gone from a 135lb for 3 reps bench to 225lbs for 4 reps in 2.5 months.

I train barbell bench for 3 weeks on, then 1 week off doing dumbbells, and keep rotating like that.

I ramp up to a max set of 3-6 reps.

example:
Bar x 20
95lbs x 10
135lbs x 8
154lbs x 5
185lbs x 5
225lbs x as many as I can get

…Don’t work too hard on your ramping sets. They are just to warm you up & to prepare yourself for your top set.

My goal each workout is to do more reps or weight. I usually add a rep or 2 each workout, then I do a week of dumbbells, come back and add 5-10lbs to the bar.

Amazing progress! I’ll give your method a shot for sure! Do you use dumbbells for a week when you start stalling on barbells?[/quote]

I haven’t stalled on barbells yet, and I attribute that to doing dumbbells for a week. Here’s an example of a cycle in my training log:

week 1 (I do a bodypart split, so i do chest once a week):
barbell bench press - 215lbs x 4
incline dumbbell (3-4 ramped sets again)

week 2:
barbell bench - 215lbs x 4
incline dumbbell

week 3:
barbell bench - 215lbs x 6
incline dumbbell

week 4:
flat dumbbell - 95lbs x 7
incline barbell

week 5:
barbell bench - 225lbs x 3

etc. etc.

I do the same with military pressing on shoulder day also.