T Nation

Bench Strength Loss

Over the last year I have gotten bigger and leaner and all of my lifts have increased except for my bench press, which has actually dropped about thirty pounds. I will admit I used to be a bench freak and didn’t train legs much but have focused more on them in the last year. I also never used to do pullups, a year ago I started out doing negatives only because I couldn’t do one, but now am up to 3 sets of 6-8. Any reason I would lose 10-15% on my bench press when everything else has improved? The only major change I made to my chest program was changing the tempo to slow it down…Would that have so much impact? Anyone else run into this in their training?

Perhaps your form has improved in the bench or you’re lowering it more slowly. TC wrote about this once. Poundage usually goes down once form has improved, at least at first.

I’ve experienced the same thing. Don’t sweat it. Improving your form and/or slowing down your reps will have a major impact on the amount of weight you can lift. Don’t forget, too, that neurological efficiency, part of which is “muscle learning”, is a large part of strength, so if you’re benching less frequently now than you did before you’ll be weaker. Again, nothing to stress about, assuming hypertrophy is your goal.

Do I get this right - you changed your training routine somewhat a year ago and your bench dropped since? Did it drop continually (i.e. you started off at your best and just got worse and worse) or was there a major drop when you decided to change your workouts and you never improved from that point on over the last year? In any way one year sounds like enough time to adjust to your change in form unless you were really throwing the weights around before or doing reps that were in fact only partials. Another detail - are you benching under comparable conditions, e.g. if you benched first thing before but now do the bench press as last exercise of the day after a couple of sets of heavy squats and deadlifts it wouldn’t be surprising if the weight you can lift would be much lower (and depending on how exhausted you are from the previous exercises you might not have enough energy to really hit your chest). It also sounds like you might be beating the bench to death (you know that’s when your muscles cry ‘boring’ as soon as you start benching). I think there is a certain danger in repeating the same exercise with the same weight and reps for more than just a few workouts. I’m just speculating, but it seems to me that this promotes plateaus (i.e. your muscle will get very efficient at working the given set/rep/weight, but improved efficiency means to do as little as necessary to meet the required needs - in other words there will be less stress on your muscles fibers even though you do exactly the same workout). Changing your bench routine might help - what about concentrating on your pecs/delts (=bench) for a couple of weeks.

It dropped off after a 4 week layoff and then I started a new program. I was at 405 as a max, 365 for 5 reps. I am now getting back to 365 for 2 reps. My incline has gone up as have all my other chest movements, just saw a drop on bench and haven’t been able to come back up. I have changed my training to more of a mass protocol versus strength on bench which I am sure is probably part of the problem. It just seemed weird…

Couple of things…if you are lowering the bar for more than a two second count and using any sort of tempo on the concentric you will likely lose strength in the long run. Secondly, if you have been on bench routine that does not incorporate doubles or triples or, AT LEAST sets of five reps you will lose strength.

So have you been on the same bench program for over a year, but now at a slower tempo? I would say it is time for a change. Also you’re right if you’re going for mass only now, you’re strength is probably going to drop. Maybe you could be overtraining? I find if my bench gets stuck, I concentrate on say overhead presses for a cycle, then come back to bench. I’m not training for powerlifting either, so it’s ok if my bench isn’t up there all the time. Something else to know is that you’re not going to perform at a high level all the time. Just my two cents.

I think your tempo could have a lot to do with it. You aren’t going to bench a lot of weight doing it slowly. For a single 1RM, you need bar speed. Also, if you are constantly going heavy all the time on the same movement, after awhile you will start going backwards. Remember to mix things up. I rarely do the same movements for more than 3 weeks in a row.

I’ve noticed the same thing happens to me whenever I embark on a bodybuilding type program to increase size. I can even get my chest to grow quite significantly and lose 1rm strength in an exercise like the bench press at the same time. I theorize this is because the training such as longer eccentrics, longer T.U.T. and overall volume increase is causing metabolic adaptations such as a conversion from type IIB explosive fibers into slower contracting type IIA fibers. You might try any the following steps:

  1. Cut back on the frequency of your chest, shoulder and tricep training to allow your explosive fibers time to regenerate. Although you’ll probably lose some pump (sarcoplasmic hypertrophy) what you have will be solid and functional.
  2. De-emphasize the eccentric component on heavy pressing exercises. The eccentric is responsible for most of the muscle damage so by de-emphasizing you oughta be able to boost your strength back up.

3. If you want to continue a more bodybuilding oriented program do a few sets of heavy, explosive,low rep type bench press at the beginning of your workout at least once a week. Not only will this stimulate your nervous system to recruit more muscle during the remainder of your workout but it will allow you a little practice on the movement for strength. 4. Pay special attention to recovery methods...particularly neural recovery. It may be that with the addition of leg work you're just putting a strain on your nervous system and need longer to recover or more sleep etc. This is the reason why it's very difficult to really drive up the poundages in more than one heavy lift at the same time (bench press and squat or squat and power clean etc.)

You mentioned that you used to be a “bench freak” and neglected to train legs. Take into consideratition that if you are now training legs and are more concerned with you overall muscular development your bench press is going to suffer due to the fact that you are putting your body through a tremedously greaster amount of stress than you did in your days of being the “bench freak”. So it’s only natural that it will drop somewhat. Also look at your training split and make sure that you are not working shoulders or triceps the day or days before your chest day because these exercises will definately affect your benchpress. Finally don’t psych yourself out by worrying about the dropoff too much. Just get get into the zone, get amped and hit it hard. Outside proper nutrition an recovery, mentality is everything in determining whether or not you can get your lifts.

I think the others have homed in on your slower tempos. This definitely reduces the amount of weight you can lift. Also, you haven’t mentioned your rest periods. Hypertrophy workouts use short rests between sets, such as 60-90 seconds. For strength, you should be resting up to 5 minutes before your heaviest lifts. If you happen to be overlooking this, you will be pleasantly suprised at your strength. Good luck.

Yes You have reached a plateau on your bench press. In the threory of periodization you have a staring point and a peak phase and then a de -training phase… Since you never did pull-ups you obviously will gain and also the leg dept. But you concentrated on the Chest way to much… Now it telling time to lay off it buddy. I would suggest to go to your old training logs and find out what you started benching w/ and increase it by 30% and do 10reps for 3 set. So that your body gets de-trained for about a month and then start gradually increasing the wieght agian you will soon see once again a gain in your bench but not as much as the first time you benched…