My bench press sucks. It has for a long time (I’ve lifted on and off for longer than many of you have been alive and it’s been pretty bad for most of that time). The thing is that I don’t have weak triceps, pecs, or even shoulders. With most of these I’ll move weights that are MUCH higher than you would expect for as weak as my bench press is, like I went 205 x 22reps seated shoulder press last week, regularly use >225 for reps. I am actually more comfortable with reverse grip bench presses than I am with standard ones (I’ve done 275 for reps recently), and that gets into what I think is the problem:
I think that repeated shoulder injuries have managed to train me to not be able to bench heavy (though I’m willing to listen to other theories/ideas, I obviously haven’t been successful in fixing this myself). Sort of like I believe that power lifting training is not all about getting stronger, some of it is about training the neuromuscular patterns so that you can perform the motion with more weight (which is the big reason I’m asking here).
How do I fix this?
I started pushing heavy shoulder work to get past the shoulder injuries that I’m prone to (I’m 6’4" and have very long arms for my height which makes me prone to shoulder injuries) and found that with some hard work it was fairly easy to build some real strength/power. The reverse grip benches were an effort to do some bench pressing and take some strain off of my shoulders and to teach me to keep my elbows tucked, and although they were tough on my forearms/wrists I found that I could work up to reasonably heavy weights (I would be quite happy if I could consistently get reps with 275-315 with flat bench which I could reverse grip).
To give you guys some details where I’m coming from:
- 6’4" ~235 (I’ve lost over 100lbs in the last 4-5 years), I have an armspan just under 7’ and a mid 50some inch chest (the most recent suit I had made started as a size 56), and currently wearing size 32-32 waist jeans.
- I worked out consistently 16-mid 20’s, was intermittent (usually that meant that I showed up but wasn’t serious, life got in the way a lot) through my early/mid 30s’ and have been consistent (very serious, have probably missed 2-3 gym days in the last 3 years, and pushing HARD) again the last few years
- I’m fairly strong and look it. I get asked the typical “what do you bench?” all the time and most people figure it’s somewhere >400# for a few reps, at work they started calling me “Johnny Bravo” and a couple of friends joke that I am “Brock Sampson” (for those of you that don’t know, large cartoon characters that I guess do look a little like me)
- My bench has only been not embarrassing for maybe a couple of years in my early 20’s (could do a few reps with 275, 315…), but somehow until recently didn’t figure out that my form was all wrong (flared arms which was probably making the tenancy to shoulder injuries MUCH worse). I really can’t go heavier than 185 for reps without a spot now. Most of my life I’ve had a stronger incline press, but right now even that isn’t decent. I can shoulder press more (I’ve tried as high as 275, like I said I can do 205 for 22, I’ve gotten 52 reps with 135 after doing 225), I can reverse grip bench more (not the same kinds of reps as with shoulders but I’m more comfortable with heavier weights), I can get 200-300 decent pushups in 5-8 sets, another weird one is that I’m more comfortable dumbell bench and incline pressing with one arm at a time than 2, and with either I’m more much comfortable with 100lb dumbells than I am with flat benching 225. I’m reasonably strong with most triceps exercises (I can still do a dozen reps towards the end of my chest/triceps day doing overhead extensions with 130#), the only triceps exercises I can think of that I’m not strong at is a closegrip bench and dips.