T Nation

Help Fix My Poverty Bench

Starting a seperate thread on this because my log seems to go off topic all the time. Still I got a lot of good advice from @MarkKO, @Pinkylifting, @khangles, @flipcollar, @theonecamko and others (sorry if I forgot someone)

I’m looking to get more input and formchecks as I gradually tweak my form. Also I’ve put a list of categories of stuff to work on and will add to the list as new advice comes in and take off the list what I’ve applied successfully or doesn’t work for me.

Am finishing up my current bench cycle soon so can pretty much do whatever needs doing to up my bench in the coming cycle. With the help of this thread I will start planning the cycle soon and hopefully make all kinds of gains

My bench is and has always been poverty. I’ve made some recent gains like really small gains but nowhere near as much as my squat and deadlift which have gone up a lot this past few months as in my log.

Current 1RM 105kg
Current Rep Maxes 95kg x 5, 90kg x 8



  • Improve rep to rep consistency including bar path and start and touch points
  • Wider Grip to get better stacking of joints and less triceps emphasis
  • Tighter back/Shoulders, wrists and elbows stacked and more tightness and tension everywhere
  • Hold bar lower in hands
  • Squeeze the bar real hard

Programs, Programming and variables (Can only train twice a week currently)

  • Maybe back off on the Squat and Deadlift gains to work more on bench. Some peeeps disagree with this one

*More Pressing frequency

  • PowerliftingToWin’s Program (running the bench part only)
  • Sheiko template programs

Assistance/Accessory and carryover

  • Focus on and do more Pause Benching

  • Don’t neglect overhead work (OHP as assistance next phase)

  • Press + Dips and more bench and volume to get bigger pressing muscles

Hypertrophy and Bodyweight

  • More mass upper body overall

Prehab / Stretching / Mobility

  • Band Pull Aparts, Face Pulls, Scapula Retraction and shit
  • Mobility work for bigger arch?

Equipment / Training Aids


  • Patience (am bad with this one lol)

Formcheck vids in chronological order (from November until now). Can get different views next workout

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Pause Bench

It’s the competition lift so do loads of it. Helps train tension/tightness and speed/power off the chest which is why raw benches fail. CAT training on pause bench will train you to get off the chest and through the sticking point with minimal loss of speed. When locking out you are in a mechanically advantageous position so as long as you haven’t lost all your momentum through the sticking point you’ll finish it.

Think of short, comp and long >4sec pauses as separate variations. Would go so far as to recommend the bulk of your lifting be with some degree of pausing.

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What program are you on?

-Generally with a 2 plate bench you don’t need any crazy specialisation just need to get your upper body overall strong and keep building a base for the long term

Technique seems reasonably fine, for me I’d say tuck your elbows a bit more

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I don’t know. From the angle of that last vid, your elbows seem flared too much. Have you asked the coach at that gym to have a look?

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My friend is giving me my program each workout. It is squat bench and deadlift twice a week because that’s all the time I can with a hi day and a Lo day in volume. He messages me the number of sets and weight to be done for the workout. And to always go for rep PRs if they are there but not to fail or do big grinders.

That’s a great idea. Next Friday will grab a coach for a look

I googled a bit on stacked joints and Pinky was talking about it in my log. It seems I can touch lower, tuck more or widen my grip up. Which one/s do you think I should be doing?

In the past I benched a lot with a close grip especially when I started in the gym with bodybuilding. Felt more comfortable and strong that way. Since then and especially in this cycle I’ve moved my grip out a bit although it’s still within the rings and it feels natural now with close grip feeling awkward. If it’s a good idea I think I could move my grip out a tad more like pinky on the rings

I guess I want to bench more weight so I TnG a lot. Should pause bench be like the main lift then?

Could be beneficial but many powerlifters do fine with a lot of touch and go benching in training then more specific comp pauses closer to competition. Usually works better for lifters’ whose bench form is already very clean and tight and their touch and go is pretty much a very short pause. This style will carry over loads however a lifter who bounces the bar on their chest won’t see as effective a carry over.

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I think theres a number of issues. My max not long ago was in the 235 range now I’m at 285, and can rep 260 paused (hey, give me a break I’m 5’9" with a 6’2" wingspan).

Your setup does not seem ideal at all. Way too loose and not purposeful enough. Your setup should be uncomfortable and really fucking tight.

More arch.

Get weight on your feet they look completely unloaded. This is a full body exercise. Put so much weight that your butt is just hovering on the bench.

Completely lock in your core as if someone is going to punch you and you are completely braced.

Pull your scaps together like you are trying to crush beercan between them and do not relinquish the position during the entire movement.

Row the bar to your sternum. Don’t fight the bar, think rowing it to your chest.

Get those elbows in. What I’m seeing is that you are not tight through the back and shoulders are not tucked in your back pocket. Grip the fuck out of the bar and try to bend it causing internal rotation of your shoulder to get it in an optimal pressing position and in the safest possible position.

And get someone to hand off for you. With heavier sets it’s pretty hard to maintain your setup and tightness when you are doing the unrack yourself.

That’s what I saw from your last vid. I skipped the others since heavier weights tend to show the most form breakdown.


Thanks for the thorough response. My set up for bench could use a lot of work and I’ve found with my other lifts that improving the set up and being consistent with it resulted in lots of gains.

You’ve wrote a lot but I’ll try to apply most of it in my next training session

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And do band pull aparts are part of your warmup to activate your shoulder muscles to help pull them back.

For you the most important thing is getting those shoulders internally rotated, which will naturally bring your elbows in.

I found queues telling me to (i) get my elbows in/tucked and (ii) bend the bar did very little for me. It wasn’t until my back got stronger and I became more aware of my shoulder position did those queues start making sense. These days I can feel my positioning as I activate all the shoulder and back musculature and get everything nice and tucked.

Lower body tightness will help a lot on heavier sets but most important is a tight ass setup with proper shoulder positioning that tends to naturally pull the elbows in.

But others may disagree.


One is a stronger position, one is a shorter ROM. That’s your trade off but you need to workout which works best for you.

Personally, I would do both and the one which naturally progresses the best is likely your best bet.

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The thing that brought my bench from 300 to 400 was definitely benching more, like 3 times a week doing some kind of pressing

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Stuck on twice a week for the next two months but as soon as possible it’ll be benching 3x week

why are you stuck? just lack of time?

Kinda. Am spending a lot of time studying up for and working to save money for next semester/year. To be honest saving is not going so well with all these Christmas sales going on lol.

Three times a week means a lock in contract or lotsa casual visits and when I’m moving away in two months. Money and time wise it doesn’t seem wise (pun?) right now.

Twice a weeks going well enough for squat and deadlift but I guess bench gonna have lack in frequency for now

When I’m back at school though…

Three x per week will almost certainly be better but its not like you’ll get no gains from twice a week as you’ve seen already. Maybe there’s something you can do at home tho. e.g. dips for lots of volume somewhere e.g. a corner in the kitchen or the bathroom. BW dips may not seem much but volume is volume. If you can throw some books in a backpack you got yourself some weighted dip action no different from in a gym.

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Great idea. I got some light plate loaded dumbbells at home so could do weighted dips, push ups and flyes and stuff. Since I train Monday and Friday maybe I can does extra on Wednesday.

Just that in the past haven’t been too successful with this kind of “at home” thing. Ab work, mobility work or whatever I usually end up skipping it.

If reckon if I tell the bloke whos doing my program for me he can right it in properly so it seems less um optional