T Nation

Starting Strength, Stalling Bench Press

So I’ve been on the Starting Strength program for 3 weeks now and my bench has only improved by 5 pounds. In contrast, overhead press has increased by 20 pounds, back squat by 120 pounds, deadlift by 90 pounds, dumbbell snatch by 25 pounds, weight by 13 pounds.

I am wondering if it might be beneficial to bench press more often. Currently I follow the books recommendation and have 4 or 5 days between each bench session. I wonder if this is too much rest. Any other suggestions are most welcome.

Weight for 5 reps
back squat: 255 pounds
deadlift: 255 pounds
bench: 150 pounds
overhead press: 110 pounds
db snatch (doing this instead of clean): 75 pounds
body weight: 163 pounds

Thanks!

Matt

Get a spotter or work your bench in the power cage, and add 2.5% to the bar. It sounds like you never really progressed at all, and if I had to guess, I’d say you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough because you don’t want to drop the bar and pin yourself.

If youve been benching for a long time and just started doing squats, deads, and presses, then i can see why your bench is slowly going up compared to your other lifts. the same was the case for me. try switching to dips for a little while if thats the case to give bench a rest maybe?

your making good progress, keep up the good work! dont let other ppl tell you those gains sucked cuz i know lots of ppl that work out and dont ever make progress. keep it up!

[quote]ninjaboy wrote:
Get a spotter or work your bench in the power cage, and add 2.5% to the bar. It sounds like you never really progressed at all, and if I had to guess, I’d say you aren’t pushing yourself hard enough because you don’t want to drop the bar and pin yourself. [/quote]

I grab a spotter and try to go up 5 pounds each workout but miss either the 1st or 2nd set. I am pushing myself on the bench just as hard as any other exercise. I think the 2.5% is good advice, I am making something to take the place of fractional plates so I can increase weight by 2 or 3 pounds each workout. Thanks!

[quote]elano wrote:
If youve been benching for a long time and just started doing squats, deads, and presses, then i can see why your bench is slowly going up compared to your other lifts. the same was the case for me. try switching to dips for a little while if thats the case to give bench a rest maybe?

your making good progress, keep up the good work! dont let other ppl tell you those gains sucked cuz i know lots of ppl that work out and dont ever make progress. keep it up![/quote]

Thanks elano, appreciate it!

Before starting this program I did overhead press, bench press, and squats with dumbbells. From the beginning I progressed faster on other exercises than bench, maybe there is a lagging body part. I tried Poliquin’s external rotator cuff strength test but that definitely isn’t the problem.

[quote]mrodock wrote:
I grab a spotter and try to go up 5 pounds each workout but miss either the 1st or 2nd set. I am pushing myself on the bench just as hard as any other exercise. I think the 2.5% is good advice, I am making something to take the place of fractional plates so I can increase weight by 2 or 3 pounds each workout. Thanks![/quote]

Are you failing at the same point in the lift each time?

[quote]ninjaboy wrote:
mrodock wrote:
I grab a spotter and try to go up 5 pounds each workout but miss either the 1st or 2nd set. I am pushing myself on the bench just as hard as any other exercise. I think the 2.5% is good advice, I am making something to take the place of fractional plates so I can increase weight by 2 or 3 pounds each workout. Thanks!

Are you failing at the same point in the lift each time?[/quote]

Yeah, halfway up seems to be my sticking point. I think the best I can do at the school gym for getting past my sticking point is to work in the Smith Machine. Would this be worthwhile?

I would do isometric holds at you sticking point instead. If you have a power cage, set the pins right below your half way point, load the bar, and try to just hold it there for a minute or so. Also, try doing some tricep work, like dips

sorry i only breezed over your posts, in a rush today.

did you start the program on all exercises with just the bar like advised?

or did you start with what you judged you could handle with the bench?

my advice is to read up alot on bench form, look at your grip and what to do with the non primary parts of your body.

then I would deload a LARGE amount of the weight and start from there.

the programme wants you to progress from below, up through the sticking point and then beyond…dont butt your head repeatedly against the weight you cant beat.

for example on my bench I started with what i later realised was poor form, my wrists were all wrong, which essentially made me quit reps earlier due to my forearms and wrists coping out.

i corrected, went back to the bar, adding 10 pounds a session, and then slowed down to the recommended 5 when it started getting tough.

im now 15 pounds past my previous stick point.

also, trick yourself when you are progressing back up. try only using 1 min rest until you really struggle, then let yourself have 1 min 30 secs, then 2 mins, etc.

if you keep your rests low, when it really matters you can increase your rest, which is a huge mental refuge if nothing else.

read some dave barr, he has good strength tips for squeezing a little more out!

I doesn’t sound like a stall so much as the fact that you haven’t progressed at all on bench.

You don’t need a deload and you probably don’t need increased frequency yet. I think this is probably a form issue. Either post a video of your BP or find someone who is capable of critiquing your form. Once your technique is dialed in you will begin progressing.

[quote]chutec wrote:
sorry i only breezed over your posts, in a rush today.

did you start the program on all exercises with just the bar like advised?

or did you start with what you judged you could handle with the bench?

my advice is to read up alot on bench form, look at your grip and what to do with the non primary parts of your body.

then I would deload a LARGE amount of the weight and start from there.

the programme wants you to progress from below, up through the sticking point and then beyond…dont butt your head repeatedly against the weight you cant beat.[/quote]

Chutec,

I started every exercise with the bar (except deadlift). I then progressed through warm-ups as I felt comfortable with each exercise and stopped where I felt I could get 3 sets of 5 in. As far as bench press went I started at 155 but could not get that up 5 times, it only went up 3 times (really stupid of me). The next 2 sets I did 150 4 times (stupid of me for not dropping lower), and 145 4 times. The next time I did bench I did 3x5x150. I then tried 155 the following time and went 5X155, 4x155, 4x150. The most recent time I did 4x155, 2x5x145. Sometimes on days where I did not do bench I would do a couple of sets of push-up pluses, and I think that might have something to do with stalling.

[quote]MC sp3 wrote:
I doesn’t sound like a stall so much as the fact that you haven’t progressed at all on bench.

You don’t need a deload and you probably don’t need increased frequency yet. I think this is probably a form issue. Either post a video of your BP or find someone who is capable of critiquing your form. Once your technique is dialed in you will begin progressing.[/quote]

MC sp3,

I will read a lot about technique in the next couple of days and then take some video on Tuesday. Appreciate the feedback!

[quote]chutec wrote:
for example on my bench I started with what i later realised was poor form, my wrists were all wrong, which essentially made me quit reps earlier due to my forearms and wrists coping out.

i corrected, went back to the bar, adding 10 pounds a session, and then slowed down to the recommended 5 when it started getting tough.

im now 15 pounds past my previous stick point.

also, trick yourself when you are progressing back up. try only using 1 min rest until you really struggle, then let yourself have 1 min 30 secs, then 2 mins, etc.

if you keep your rests low, when it really matters you can increase your rest, which is a huge mental refuge if nothing else.

read some dave barr, he has good strength tips for squeezing a little more out![/quote]

What weight was your sticking point and what did you deload to?

Thanks!

my sticking point was 148 poounds.

this was towards the end of my 10 week cycle, and so after a couple of weeks rest and active recovery, I deloaded all my lifts to 60% of what I had reached, and then focused on good form for the seoncd cycle.

I am on that cycle now and my bench is up to 181.5 pounds. (after the rest period, deload and form check, all my lifts feel significantly easier and more natural at higher weights now)

as i said my wrist instability stopped me, I always failed at the stick point without ever feeling worked out.

So I definately agree with the correct form at expense of weight and then progressing gradually back up.

[quote]mrodock wrote:
Chutec,

I started every exercise with the bar (except deadlift). I then progressed through warm-ups as I felt comfortable with each exercise and stopped where I felt I could get 3 sets of 5 in. As far as bench press went I started at 155 but could not get that up 5 times, it only went up 3 times (really stupid of me). The next 2 sets I did 150 4 times (stupid of me for not dropping lower), and 145 4 times. The next time I did bench I did 3x5x150. I then tried 155 the following time and went 5X155, 4x155, 4x150. The most recent time I did 4x155, 2x5x145. Sometimes on days where I did not do bench I would do a couple of sets of push-up pluses, and I think that might have something to do with stalling.

[/quote]

I think we are talking about slightly different things.

The people ive seen start starting strength with anything greater than the bar end up failing before those that literally start at 5x5 with bar only.
Im talking about the whole workout, not warm ups.

depending on your experience level, just the bar may be a little easy a place to start.
However for me, starting with just the bar and having frequent progressions has given me greater gains in 4 months than butting my head against my sticking point weight for a year (before i found t nation lol)

If you decided to start at a larger weight than just the bar initially then it is understandable how quickly your bench has stalled compared to other lifts.

the guy angled his take on starting strength so that you actually get the best gains by treating yourself as a newb and starting real low for a whole variety of reasons he gets into on his site.

[quote]chutec wrote:
mrodock wrote:
Chutec,

I started every exercise with the bar (except deadlift). I then progressed through warm-ups as I felt comfortable with each exercise and stopped where I felt I could get 3 sets of 5 in. As far as bench press went I started at 155 but could not get that up 5 times, it only went up 3 times (really stupid of me). The next 2 sets I did 150 4 times (stupid of me for not dropping lower), and 145 4 times. The next time I did bench I did 3x5x150. I then tried 155 the following time and went 5X155, 4x155, 4x150. The most recent time I did 4x155, 2x5x145. Sometimes on days where I did not do bench I would do a couple of sets of push-up pluses, and I think that might have something to do with stalling.

I think we are talking about slightly different things.

The people ive seen start starting strength with anything greater than the bar end up failing before those that literally start at 5x5 with bar only.
Im talking about the whole workout, not warm ups.

depending on your experience level, just the bar may be a little easy a place to start.
However for me, starting with just the bar and having frequent progressions has given me greater gains in 4 months than butting my head against my sticking point weight for a year (before i found t nation lol)

If you decided to start at a larger weight than just the bar initially then it is understandable how quickly your bench has stalled compared to other lifts.

the guy angled his take on starting strength so that you actually get the best gains by treating yourself as a newb and starting real low for a whole variety of reasons he gets into on his site.[/quote]

I’ve read Rippetoe and Kilgore not the Madcow 5x5 page. Perhaps this is the reason for the disparity in our approaches.

[quote]mrodock wrote:

I started every exercise with the bar (except deadlift). I then progressed through warm-ups as I felt comfortable with each exercise and stopped where I felt I could get 3 sets of 5 in. As far as bench press went I started at 155 but could not get that up 5 times, it only went up 3 times (really stupid of me). The next 2 sets I did 150 4 times (stupid of me for not dropping lower), and 145 4 times. The next time I did bench I did 3x5x150. I then tried 155 the following time and went 5X155, 4x155, 4x150. The most recent time I did 4x155, 2x5x145. Sometimes on days where I did not do bench I would do a couple of sets of push-up pluses, and I think that might have something to do with stalling.

[/quote]
Yeah, that’s not really Rippietoe’s. Even if you don’t start out with the bar, you need to at least start with a weight that you can actually get 3x5 with. Try backing off to 135, and working up from there.