T Nation

Bench Strength Off Chest


I'm getting closer and closer to 40 years old, and a goal of mine was always to be able to bench 300 for 1 rep.

Right now I'm stuck at 270 with my all time best of 285 last year at a body weight of 20 pounds heavier.

I follow a West-side system of 2x per week, and my weak point is off of the chest. The bottom third. Once I get to the second third, I'm able to struggle through the middle and top portion to complete the rep.

Question: what would be a good focus/assistance program to address this weakness??

**Also, I think my bench is more shoulder dominant and less tricep involved. My elbows tend to flare often. My standing barbell press is pretty good: I weigh 170 and can do 185. It's my best lift. My close grip bench is weak. I do 185/205 for low reps.

Any help? Thanks in advance.


If weak off the chest its probably due mostly to weak cheast and or shoulders. So I would really focus on things that can extend the range of motion abit past your normal Bench Range. Heavy DB Press and DB Flyes even how ever I would stick to the Presses. You say your overhead is pretty good already so it most likely a chest weakness. So that's what I would focus on.


Hey man,

Dumbell flyes worked very well for me believe it or not, and stretched out my pecs very well.

I trained westside for a few years, and it was good for everything except bench for me. It wasn't until i started benching 3x per week and doing at least double the pulling work, that my bench started to move. I'd been stuck for 3-4 years, and after I swithced to sheiko I put around 50lbs on my bench and hit a solid 385. I would up not getting to 405, but I'll try in 2014.

I think you just need a routine change for 12 weeks, if you don't like it go back to westside... but change... change is good, don't resist it, embrace it. Trust me, this is important.


Also check out doing some paused bench (I like 3-5 second pauses, and some CAT benching after your heavy set. yes, AFTER your heavy set.


Anyone still use a cambered BP bar??


What about one-and-a-half rep benching? (Bring bar down; push halfway up; bring bar back down; push all the way up = one rep)

I haven't tried it, but putting emphasis on the range in which you're weakest with a high degree of specificity seems like a good idea. What do the rest of you think about it? (For my own benefit as well as the OP's)


Upper back.

Or, many times, "weak off the chest" is just code for "too much weight". Any weight that's just plain too heavy will get stuck on your chest.


Thanks. Good advice. How in the world do you work in all that pulling? And what volume and intensity?


Or you can just pause every rep. OMG NO WAY DID HE JUST SAY THAT...


Seriously though, if you want a 300 tng so bad, work with some pauses, they will help you off your chest, then come next test day you will fly up. I personally paused every single rep on flat bench due to the fact i compete in PL and tng is a different technique then paused.


You're using Westside for raw bench (questionable anyway in my opinion) and you've stalled/regressed in the last year. Honestly, try a different method of training!

I would consider benching at least three times per week. Sheiko could work, and it sounds like you could benefit from some technique and efficiency training with moderate weights as you would get with most Sheiko cycles. However, for you, it might be better to try a more specialised approach. Surovetsky has a good bench program, and Smolov Jr is great as well - but you have to be confident in your form, and it sounds like you could progress a bit just by improving that.

If you like Westside, you could try this: on max. effort days, work up to a rep max for bench, not a variation, (from 1-5 reps, no higher) and instead of dynamic effort days, add about 10% to your normal speed weights and simply perform 10x3 or 15x2 with standard competition form and speed.
Basically, up the frequency and/or volume and cut out variations such as board presses etc. to get more practice of the lift. If gaining weight is an option, then that will help greatly. Eat + Bench + Rest = PR!


You've gotten some good answers already, but here's my two cents.

My default answer for weak off the chest would be to try incorporating some (or all) of the following:
flies - There are many variations obviously. Just something to actually work the chest!
deadbench - Don't do these for more than doubles or singles imo.
paused bench press
dumbbell bench press
"Spoto bench press" - Eric Spoto loves these. Bring the weight down, but pause it about 1 inch off your chest and then go back up. Give it a good solid, long pause there holding it completely motionless.


I always pause my bench press reps, why not? Yes, this as well. I can't imagine touch-and-go for Russian-style programs at all.


I figured it was due to the weight loss more than anything. I was doing 5/3/1 in the past also, but I was doing Westside when I was at my best.


friggin LOVE that thing for bench. Like deficit deadlifts for bench press. Only problem is they're almost never in a gym I'm at. Also for people with shoulder issues can be a problem but other than that awesome.


Honestly really good advice. It makes you stay tight and arched/focused in the hole. This is almost always the first thing to go at max weights, or for newer lifters learning powerlifting style bench it goes at much lower than maximal weights. Use a 3 second pause (ends up being closer to 2 seconds when you rush your 3 count cuz it sucks :slightly_smiling: )

Outside that, I second flyes for a true muscle weakness of the chest, and will add lats. Lats are supposed to do a lot of the pushing at the bottom of the bench press, so if they're weak...or just plain "not strong"...you'll also suck.

I am going to throw in the pin press here as a max effort or primary lift choice. I know, I know....but it works. Set the pins to just barely above the chest when you are in your normal arch. Then work on it.

The way I see it: flyes for pecs, lat work for strong lats, pause for technique and staying tight in the hole. And i would work on sets of 3 more than singles for a while. You probably need the extra volume work. Oh and you really need to focus on ARCHING the bar off your chest. Too many times--paused or not--the chest caves. Even if it stays arched during the pause it caves when starting to press up again. This will kill you. I am just started using Westside for one of my clients bench press. We are focusing on these things and it is moving upwards just fine. He's about your situation, 50 years old 150 lbs and wants to bench 300. Floating around 265 as of yesterday.

IMHO I think Westside works just fine for bench, the problem is exercise selection--but this is user error not template error. People get so damn focused on board pressing and all this tricep work that they forget the other parts of the bench press. In other words, the Westside template is all about focusing on your individual weaknesses with exercise selection in your accessory lifts--up to and including your max effort exercise selection--but people get zoned in on the "popular" exercises that are trendy for powerlifters. It's not even that they're bad exercises, they're great. They're just not the individual's weaknesses. This creates worse dead spots and keeps the plateau going.

The other big problem I notice is speed work--it can be too light as well as too heavy. Too heavy on speed work has been covered by lots of people and I won't bother talking about it because of that, but if you are not using bands and chains for dynamic work and are using just straight barbell weight....well then your working percentage at the start of the wave needs to be closer to 70% not 45-60%. In fact Dave, Louie and a bunch of others pretty much straight out say this. Not that it has to start at exactly 70% on the nose--again if you suck at speed pressing then to get the bar speed you need the % will have to be lower and if you are a rockstar at speed pressing the % will be higher...but bar weight needs to be heavier than if you were using 100+ pounds of chain or band tension at the top regardless. Not many people remember this. That essentially makes it a sorta light 10x3 scheme ala Waterbury on your main exercise for DE day. Also, pausing comes in big on speed work since the weight is low enough for you to really hammer technique.

On the other hand, if you're bored with Westside by all means try something completely different--it could be fun and will probly get you amped to train again.

Regarding getting back work in---Easiest way to do it is a) do back work in your warm-up for EVERY day you're in the gym (I do this) and b) take out an exercise that isn't helping you on bench days and put lat work in there as the sub.


Pause at very least the last rep in every set.
Camber bar + 1bd = awesome stretch.
anytime you bench add 5% in chains on top of your normal weights.
Sheiko is awesome, did a bench only variant, add 40lbs to my bench.
ive always loved Heavy cable crossovers.
train shoulders and lats heavy.
learn to coil the lats hard when you bench.


one word: lats


Thanks! great advice.


Yeah, I was surprised I was the only one in the thread that thought that too for a while.


Big back - big bench.

Rack pulls, face pulls, rows of all kinds, pulling a tire with a rope, whatever it takes to get the upper back going. Chins between every set of bench. Every time you walk by a pull up bar bang some out. Pull ups are cool, plus you'll get good at them and be able to fk with the crossfitters who do that horrendous kipping shit..lol

Think about HOW you bench. You may be using a form that isn't right for you. You need to spread the weight across every muscle possible to lift maximum weights. My brother in law benches pretty weird, close as hell grip, touches waaaay high on the chest and elbows are straight out... zero tuck lol. I almost looks like a weird skull crusher / barbell flye.... He kept complaining of being stuck, I kept complaining of his form being a train wreck. After betting a case of beer he tweaked a few things and got his 'max' for 3 reps. He thought he was having a good day, tried his way and got stapled. Tried the 'good way again and repped that weight.

So you say weak off the chest. Since you do west side, what can you 2 or 3 board press? Is it much more than off the chest? If there's a huge disparity in weight then yeah, I'd go along with weak off the chest. but I'd bet you jus arent striong enough to press the weight-YET... For me I can generally add about 10# per board in height. Pre shoulder surgery, 13 mo ago, my best touch and go was 415 @ 220-225# body weight and 39 yo, so I feel ya. I accomplished this by doing reverse band benches (light, monster mini's and occasionaly average for a ego builder) Then I would do dead benches with a wide grip or floor presses. Chins between sets and tons of rowing. hope this helps, and gives you something to think about. You'll smash that 300 pound goal in no time man. keep us posted.