T Nation

Bench Press Woes

EDIT: Progress report for anyone interested

Well its been a month and all I can say is results not typical. I changed DE day to RE but still used bands on my main exercise, just not all that fast. I threw in 5x5 dumbbell work and added in shoulder work on both ME and RE days. The isometrics didn’t seem to do much so halfway through I started taking 5RM followed by 3RM for a little higher ME volume.

Progress:
10 lbs increase every week on EVERY single movement, main or accessory. And yet, instead of getting harder each week, its gotten easier. the first week I pushed as hard as possible and had too many misses, but since then I’ve made progress every day and it was easier every time. what started as 6x4 @135 plus bands and hard to finish became 6x4 @165 plus bands moving like speed weight again.

This all happening while trying to cut weight. Thats another story in itself. I’ve cut calories, cleaned up my diet, started taking HOT-ROX and bcaa’s. haven’t lost a pound but I have lost 2 inches of my waist and actually gained 5lbs lean tissue. weird.

Thanks to all for the responses and advice, and a specific thanks to Hanley, your advice was just what the doctor ordered.

/EDIT

I’m starting to run out of ideas for my bench. I’ve been lifting for about a year and a half now. Today I pressed 245 and missed 265 twice. Over a year ago, about 4-5 months after starting to lift, I pressed 205.

Meanwhile I’ve had great success with squat and deadlift. 430 and 450 respectively, from 185 each when I started.
So heres what I’ve tried so far. I pretty much have tried the same things for bench that I do for squat, although they obviously are gonna need to be trained differently since it hasn’t worked so far.

To start out I would do 10x3’s as heavy as i could, that got me to 205, where i got stuck for a few months. then i switch to powerlifting style training. I’ve been doing max effort days for probably a year or so as well as speed work with bands and chains. It all works great for the squat but my bench is stubborn. I never really felt like the speed work was doing much for my bench.

As far as technique, I always stick at about a 2 board height, in fact, off of a 2 board i can triple 265, but gimme a 1 board and there is a huge drop off.

I use the max legal grip, have tried close and medium but I’ve got long arms and I find the shorter stroke helps.

I’ve tried straight line westside style bench, but currently use more of a big arch and bring the bar higher towards lockout. This is just more natural for me, but honestly I find I press about the same either way.

So does anyone have any idea what might be holding me back?

If any other info is needed please ask. And thanks for reading the long post.

If you’ve been doing low volume high intensity shit for the last year maybe it’s time to go high volume…

I recently had good success with a 7 week cycle I adapted from some of the metal militia training ideas. It might not give you drastic gains, but for me the goal of the cycle was to just build some work capicitiy up, add muscle and get stronger.

The numbers are based off a 140kg bench. My best set of 4 going into it was 125 (I missed the 5th rep), that was the week before I benched 140kg. Right now I’m confident I’d do 125 for several sets of 4, probably push 130 for 4 or 5 too.

Week 1/2/3:
DAY 1
Bench Press: 6x4 100kg/110kg/115kg
Close Grip Bench: 5x5 80kg/90kg/95kg
Paused Bench: 3x6 90kg/100kg/102.5kg x5,4,4
Pushdowns: 3x20
Chest Supported rows: 5x10

DAY 2
Bench Press: 3x8 95kg/100kg/105kg 2x8, x6
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3-5x10
Military Press: 3x5
Extenstions/Curls: 5x10

Week 4: Squat + Deadlift training ONLY

Week 5/6/7:
DAY 1
Bench Press: 6x4 105kg/115kg/120kg
Close Grip Bench: 5x5 90kg/95kg/100kg
Paused Bench: 3x6 95kg/100kg/102.5kg x6,5
Rolling Dumbbell Extenstions: 3x10
Rows: 5x10

DAY 2
Incline Bench: 3x6 90kg/95kg/OFF
Rack Lockout from 2 board height 3x5 110kg/120kg/120kg 1x5
Seated Dumbbell Press 3x10-12
Pushdowns/Curls: 5x10

It’s not the sort of cycle that works miracles, but I think if I was to cycle the weights and hit this for another 7 weeks my bench would have improved more. My speed dropped off ALOT during this tho. As it stands I’m moving more towards conjugate training and working with higher %'s and more speed work should see my bench take a further jump.

Take it for what it’s worth.

Like you I’ve got the Long-Limb/Short Torso build that’s good for adding weight fast to the Deadlift but makes the Bench crawl along.
Close-Grip work, Dumbbell Work, and Heavy Dips for Triceps has gotten me better at doing those lifts but hasn’t Blasted my Bench up. And as someone predisposed to Deadlift, Chin, and Row, Back strength hasn’t really been an issue.

What has helped me tremendously in the past 6 weeks has been doing more Military Pressing.

And of course, not doing stupid shit has helped my Bench.

  1. Not making more than 3 lifts above 90% of my Max on ME days
  2. Not Cycling Pressing Exercises Frequently
  3. Using Bad Form/Cheating
  4. Not Doing Any Rear Delt/Rotator Cuff Work

I doubt you do any of that stuff. Except for maybe not making enough ME lifts above 90%. That was a pretty new revelation to me.

Step-ups, Zercher Squats, and Jumping has helped my Squat. If you’re built like me, and I think you are, then they should help your squat.

Hanley, with your set/rep scheme, does it refer to repsXsets or setsXreps…I think I could guess but hey, better to just ask…

[quote]MrZsasz wrote:
Hanley, with your set/rep scheme, does it refer to repsXsets or setsXreps…I think I could guess but hey, better to just ask…[/quote]

setsXreps so 6x4 = 6 sets, 4 reps

[quote]Hanley wrote:
MrZsasz wrote:
Hanley, with your set/rep scheme, does it refer to repsXsets or setsXreps…I think I could guess but hey, better to just ask…

setsXreps so 6x4 = 6 sets, 4 reps[/quote]

Thought so, but with you doing so much Russian stuff, I wasn’t sure if you had flipped it…hehe

evansmi given your success in the dead and squat using some traditional methods but your relative lack of success in the bench it makes me wonder what your rotator cuff program looks like, or if you even have one? A balanced set of rotators does help the initial drive from the chest to the 2 board level. Most people, myself included stall here. I’m not purporting its your total solution.

Certainly the advice of hanley would constitute your macro-solution, whereas rotator cuff training would be micro-solution. Having said that, if you don’t have an adequate or any external rotator training you might do well to get some. I too bench with the widest legal grip and probably have similar arm length dimensions to you. I find a sturdy cuff complex to be important.

I’ve got pretty much the same problem as the OP, and am doing something fairly similar to Hanley.

Cycling volume and rep schemes has helped me out. I’m still mucking along myself, so I can’t really give any more advice than to say that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

[quote]sapasion wrote:
evansmi given your success in the dead and squat using some traditional methods but your relative lack of success in the bench it makes me wonder what your rotator cuff program looks like, or if you even have one? A balanced set of rotators does help the initial drive from the chest to the 2 board level. Most people, myself included stall here. I’m not purporting its your total solution. Certainly the advice of hanley would constitute your macro-solution, whereas rotator cuff training would be micro-solution. Having said that, if you don’t have an adequate or any external rotator training you might do well to get some. I too bench with the widest legal grip and probably have similar arm length dimensions to you. I find a sturdy cuff complex to be important.[/quote]

Well I used to get rotator cuff problems, so I am doing a little bit for it. Pretty much just prehab movements like facepulls, band pull aparts, Behind the neck band pulldowns, and shoulder traction with bands.

As far as balancing my push movements with pull movements. I always get some sort of rowing or chinning in but I never max out like I do for Bench so I’m not sure if that counts as balance or not.
Is this what you had in mind or is there more I should try?

[quote]Hanley wrote:
If you’ve been doing low volume high intensity shit for the last year maybe it’s time to go high volume…

I recently had good success with a 7 week cycle I adapted from some of the metal militia training ideas. It might not give you drastic gains, but for me the goal of the cycle was to just build some work capicitiy up, add muscle and get stronger.

The numbers are based off a 140kg bench. My best set of 4 going into it was 125 (I missed the 5th rep), that was the week before I benched 140kg. Right now I’m confident I’d do 125 for several sets of 4, probably push 130 for 4 or 5 too.

Week 1/2/3:
DAY 1
Bench Press: 6x4 100kg/110kg/115kg
Close Grip Bench: 5x5 80kg/90kg/95kg
Paused Bench: 3x6 90kg/100kg/102.5kg x5,4,4
Pushdowns: 3x20
Chest Supported rows: 5x10

DAY 2
Bench Press: 3x8 95kg/100kg/105kg 2x8, x6
Incline Dumbbell Press: 3-5x10
Military Press: 3x5
Extenstions/Curls: 5x10

Week 4: Squat + Deadlift training ONLY

Week 5/6/7:
DAY 1
Bench Press: 6x4 105kg/115kg/120kg
Close Grip Bench: 5x5 90kg/95kg/100kg
Paused Bench: 3x6 95kg/100kg/102.5kg x6,5
Rolling Dumbbell Extenstions: 3x10
Rows: 5x10

DAY 2
Incline Bench: 3x6 90kg/95kg/OFF
Rack Lockout from 2 board height 3x5 110kg/120kg/120kg 1x5
Seated Dumbbell Press 3x10-12
Pushdowns/Curls: 5x10

It’s not the sort of cycle that works miracles, but I think if I was to cycle the weights and hit this for another 7 weeks my bench would have improved more. My speed dropped off ALOT during this tho. As it stands I’m moving more towards conjugate training and working with higher %'s and more speed work should see my bench take a further jump.

Take it for what it’s worth.[/quote]

Yeah I’ve been thinking of going to a higher volume strategy for a while. I’ve added in some higher volume dumbell pressing. it hasn’t been enough yet though so maybe I will up the volume to what your talking about. Looks like the general idea there is about 3-4 pressing movements, each one dropping in sets and adding reps, isolation towards the end? I’ll have to give it a shot.

What does everyone think of isometrics to work the area around my sticking point. I was reading one of Louie’s recent articles and he mentioned using them around sticking points as they work 15 degrees around the area. I’ve actually locked out 345 of a 4 board (this was while experimenting with a bench shirt), so I know that if I could just figure out how to pass that sticking point my numbers would take off. what do ya think, worth a shot?

I think isometrics are awesome. I used them on pullups a few weeks ago and went from getting bodyweight+65 lbs. to getting the same for a triple. That was in two weeks.

So heres what I’m thinking I’m gonna try next:

Heavy day:

1- Max out on some pressing movement, alternating between lifts every few weeks

2- Isometric at sticking point

Reps Day:

Bench - 6x4

DB Bench - 5x5

Military Press - 3x6

DB Extensions - 3x a bunch

I’ll keep y’all posted on the results.

Still open to suggestion though if anyone else has some

It might be overkill… You probably wanna be making sure you’re not missing reps on any of the days to be safe. Try it out and see like.

I recently read that Rock Lewis interview. He said bench with your legs up it leads to more upper body control. If your running out of ideas, there you go.

[quote]Hanley wrote:
It might be overkill… You probably wanna be making sure you’re not missing reps on any of the days to be safe. Try it out and see like.[/quote]

Actually now that I think about it, an isometric is basically like a missed max effort lift. or a few missed lifts since I’ll probably do a few sets, so yeah, I’ll probably drop the max effort lift and replace it with isometric for a few weeks. Maybe just do a little rep work afterwords.

I think the plan is gonna be to put just a few pounds over my max on there, that way if it moves i can put more on the next week and then i’ll know my isometric strength is progressing.

Modified

Heavy day:

1- Isometric at sticking point

2- light weight rep work and a bunch of prehab stuff so this doesn’t end up sucking balls.

Reps Day:

1- Bench - 6x4

2- DB Bench - 5x5

3- Military Press - 3x6

4- DB Extensions - 3x a bunch

Edited in a progress report on first post.

That’s some pretty savage progress!!

Any ideas when you plan on retesting your max?

Well to be honest, I feel I can still milk this for a few more weeks. So my current plan is to keep with what I’ve been doing on RE days, Do some Military presses on ME days, again with higher rep maxes and when progress stalls on my RE days I’ll take a deload and retest.