T Nation

Weak Bench/Shoulders but Strong on Everything Else

I’m 173cm, 83-85kg at 15%-20%bf and I’ve trained for a little over a year. Done starting strength, texas, phat and gvt. I’m asking here at powerlifting because my bench and shoulders are way weaker and they’ve gotten worse.

I’m thinking two things that could be the reason my bench is lacking, I can bench way more with dumbbells than I can with the barbell, my incline bench is pretty good as I can rep 60 at 12 reps with 5 sets. My decline bench is pretty similar, I did it with GVT and I managed to do 10x10 at 50kg+.

I never do dips nor do I train my rear deltoids, I’m suspecting that my lower chest is lacking as it is the weaker part or the rear deltoids. Triceps are big and my upper back is big aswell, I’m getting tight and I feel balanced when benching. I always fail when I’m at the bottom of my chest and I’m going to start pushing, I feel like I need to bounce the bar off and when I get the bar up a little I can finish the rep easily.

So what should I do? Implement dips, train my rear deltoids or should I do something else?

My stats are:
Deadlift: 180x5 1rm 200.
Benchpress: 75x5 1rm 85kg
Squat: 130x5 1rm 150
OHP: 40x5 1rm 50

I’ve talked to training instructors and they say my form is near perfect, I need to implement more footwork into my bench but I’m working on that and with the OHP all he says is that I need to get used to placing the bar above my head. Any tips?

The dreaded poverty bench.

So just to be clear you throw around the 40s full ROM for lels?


Failing off the chest and feeling weak in the bottom/with a pause is almost always a tightness issue unless you’re in that 90% 1RM + range. You are never tight enough in your set up for bench.

Like tightness form/technique is also never good enough. Post a vid of your near perfect form because your “training instructors” probably have low standards and should not be suggesting that anyone be slack with improving technique, unless they themselves are powerlifters/coaches and even if then it’s still shit advice.

I’ma not post technique vids here because this isn’t a formcheck but you should look them up and apply what you learn. To think that your bench form is good enough is not the right mindset.


Short answer is yes… to everything.

Your stats don’t appear too bad but at your height there’s a lot more muscle to be added onto your frame.

Given the programs you’ve run maybe running some hypertrophy oriented programming for your upper body will likely do you good. Almost any muscle you can pack on your upper body will assist your bench as prime movers, stabilizers or just thickening you up and reducing ROM. Progressively overload upper body musculature for all kinds of bench gains.

Chest, Triceps and Front Delts are the movers. You’ve mentioned the latter two. What of chest tho? Whatever the answer none of these muscles can be too big. Nobody fails a bench because their triceps were too big. If you want your bench to go up you’ll need to get these muscle groups bigger/stronger.

Even with just the three muscle groups that do the moving there’s dozens of exercises to be done and more importantly potentially neglected. Presses at various angles from vertical e.g. OHP to horizontal, to vertical in the other direction e.g. Dips will all pack on muscle. Throw in isolation work too but it’s easier to progress on compound movements/ more bang for ur buck.

Don’t forget the rest of the upper body tho (feel free to disregard lower body #skiplegs). The back, rest of the delts, arms and forearms all hep with the bench. A minimum you should be incorporating and progressing some rowing/horizontal pulling movements in your training.

Izzy brings up some points here:

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Starting Strength is notorious for producing a lagging bench/press.

Personally, I wouldn’t worry about it at your strength levels. Follow a decent program for a few cycles and your bench will catch up quickly enough.

I’d definitely have a paused or spoto press in there as a bench variation though.

You may want to post a video incase there is a form issue.

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I agree with the first two guys. Pause benches are a solid way to improve strength off the chest, and you can do them with dumbbells or barbells. I’ve personally found dumbbell pauses to help more than barbell pauses because it allows for a greater stretch in the pecs when you do a true 2-3 second pause.

Oh, and make sure it’s a real pause. I saw a few guys in the gym a few days ago lowering 185 very slowly, resting it on their chest, and basically hip thrusting and doing the worm to get it off their chest. Looked like a lower back injury waiting to happen.

And about the form check… do it. I posted a video of my squats last night and already received a lot of good feedback (more than I was expecting, actually. It was nice.) It can be unnerving to post a video of yourself. Opening yourself up to criticism isn’t easy, but accepting constructive criticism could very easily be the difference between having a baby bench and manly deadlifts & skwaats.

Thanks for the reply, you make very valid points. To be fair the training instructor isn’t very good at lifting weights at all, that is why I’ve doubted what I have been told. I can actually “bench” more with dumbbells, only issue I can have is getting the dumbbells up but once I get them up I can do more reps and more sets with the 35’s than if I would work it with the bar. The struggle to get them up is the only thing preventing me from being able to do it more than I want to.

Running a hypertrophy focused program for my upperbody is basically what I am doing right now with my push pull legs, I train my entire chest with progressive overload, each session I’ve been able to increase weight/reps/sets on all of the exercises except the bench. I already do bent over rows and I can perform 100x10, I guess I’ll just add in dips, rear delt flyes and switch something out for a compound exercise.

But thanks for the help dude, I’m only 18 so I still got time to improve myself and in time I’m sure I will break the platues, your tips are sure to help me in someway.

Fuck thnx for reminding me to go back and roast your good morning back extension looking monstrosity of a squat

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Get tighter lel. No coincidence that you fail off the chest with a BB and find it extra hard to get dumbbells up for the first rep.

If you pick exercises that carryover well and even if you don’t then you should be seeing gains sooner or later.

Do your main movement first and progressively overload it with more sets or less rest if you can’t add weight/reps. If you’ve been training at a relatively high percentage of 1RM it’s probably gotten a bit stale as far as training stimulus goes and it’s harder to practice form. Drop to 75%, practice good technique with every rep and build back up setting rep PRs as you go.

Bent Over Rows probably carryover more to deadlift than bench. Maybe try substituting Machine Chest Supported Rows with 1 count contraction or Seal Rows with DB or BB.

OHP is worth a shout if it addresses your weaknesses tho incline bench may be better.

What does your bench training look like?

Been doing 1 top set, warming up by starting with the bar and doing 15 reps, then adding 10kg doing 10 reps, add 10 more doing 8 reps and so on until I get to my goal. Then I do as many as I can and then I do 60-70% of the top set weight for 12-15 reps as quick as possible.

Doing this at the moment on my other compound exercises aswell but aiming for hypertrophy, for squats I’m doing at the moment 110x15 and then doing instantly 70kg as many reps as I can until I’m 1 rep to failure. I’m aiming more for endurance/mass on my already strong movements and I’m trying to up my bench meanwhile.

no you don’t. you bench 85 fucking kg. you don’t need to improve technique, you need to get stronger. you need more muscle to bench more. this notion is laughable. No one benching under about 150kg should even have ‘footwork’ on their radar.

nope. not a chance.

and this is the problem. You haven’t built the necessary muscle to move more weight, period. I strongly doubt this is a technique issue, particularly at your age. You just need time to grow. Small, young dudes almost never bench much. It’s fine. Just keep working at it…

I’d also suggesting finding a program to run rather than creating your own.


I don’t think you really understand my physique at all, my triceps are big, my upper back is big. That ain’t the main issue here. And if you read you would see that I’ve tried running programs and not only done my own program. What my program was lacking I have added in and I will fix that now and see if I get any improvement.

I was stupid enough that a couple of months ago I got a hold of test prop and I ran that while doing STVT, I grew pretty damn fast and added near 8lbs of lean muscle and that was added to my shoulders and chest as that was my main focus. Was able to perform 10x10 75kg, when I stopped I started going for strength again and was able to bench 90 for a while even when on PCT and after. I was still doing STVT but I changed the chest to less reps and less sets.

After switching to Texas again I wasn’t able to bench equally as much and I never really thought about it. But now it’s obvious that I wasn’t getting enough stimuli with Texas as I did with STVT, so now if I change my exercises to allow more utilization and stimuli on the chest I will hopefully as with STVT get stronger again.

And if anyone is going to say I’m stupid for running test, you can save your breath. I stopped after 8 weeks and I did months of research and did it as safely as possible. Won’t do it again until I’m 25+ atleast.

Ow my ego

Doing GVT (I’m assuming that’s why you were doing 10x10) will never make you stronger. performing work sets at 50-60% of your 1rm is not a fantastic way to build strength in my experience. (I’ve heard that after years on the west side system, those guys are able to get stronger using 50-60% of their max, but west side guys do a lot of things that normal folks don’t do). So that could be part of the problem.

I’ve found that benching every other workout works great. At least in the short-term. I’ve been doing it for a few weeks now and the increased frequency (not increasing volume per session) has helped a lot. I’m a diehard 5/3/1 guy so my advice is try 5/3/1 for a few months, and at some point, try benching every other workout.

I know that what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but I think regardless of the program that you’re doing, increasing frequency would be a good thing. Just my two cents

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I looked into 5/3/1 but it isn’t enough volume for me, for now I will just add in dips, rear delt flyes, some more decline/incline and focus more on my form and maybe deload a little. If it doesn’t work I’ll have to look into something else, and at the moment I’m only training 3 times a week in the gym because I’ve started training for the army.

I don’t want to risk overtraining when I’m running intervalls 3 times a week and marching 10km with heavy backpacks every saturday.

I really don’t understand the notion that 5/3/1 doesn’t have enough volume. With all the variations, plus the ability to add in assistance work, that really should be a non-issue.


No, YOU don’t understand. You don’t bench more than 200 lbs. This inherently means that your triceps are not big. OR it means we have very different definitions of what is and what is not big. But let’s get real, kid. You’re less than 200 lbs bodyweight and you’re between 15 and 20 percent bodyfat. Literally no part of you is big.

You can take a reality check, or you can fail. Your call. I was trying to be nice. But now that I’ve seen you fucking used steroids and still suck at lifting, niceness has gone out the window.


You clearly have not looked into 5/3/1 if you think there’s not enough volume. You assign yourself volume for things that you need to work on. In your case, that would be pause benches. Pause benches for 3x10, 4x15, 5x8. It doesn’t matter. You do the main lift with the prescribed numbers AND THEN add in volume to attack your weak points.

Dips can work. But if your upper back is big, you are wasting your time working rear delts, seeing as rear delts function essentially as pulling muscles which you don’t have a problem with if you can pull 440.

When you’re stuck at a plateau, be it psychological or physical, there is nothing that people want less, but need more, than a reality check. What you’re doing is not working. I don’t know why you aren’t focusing a majority of your sessions on bench if you can squat 330, deadlift 440, but only bench ~185. I suggest eating more and training harder. I’ve yet to meet anyone who routinely works their ass off in the gym and the kitchen and isn’t strong for their size.

I realize that I might be coming off as harsh here, but why the hell are you combining 4 heavy conditioning sessions per week with 3 gym sessions? If you don’t want to risk overtraining, don’t do both. Because I guarantee you, training 7x/week at high intensities is an overtraining injury waiting to happen if you do it for too long. My advice here is pick one or the other. Either train for the army or train to be strong like bull.

It isn’t working. Look into something else.

I think we have found the problem! OP can’t complain about slow progress on a lift he is having trouble with while also giving up so much energy getting into boot camp shape.

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Pathetic lel

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you guys are all lowkey autistic. I did what I said I would do and what do
you know I’m doing way better. And you guys have to be some of the most
ignorant people I’ve ever seen. Saying you can’t be big at 200lbs, saying
I’m patethic for doing steroids. You guys do know the basics of training