Thursday, August 6, 2015

Increase Your Max Bench Press

So you've hit a point where you can't seem to increase your bench press? Don't worry; it happens to all of us as some point. You have probably hit a plateau that you need to work through. There are many things that you can do to get back on track to building a bigger chest and growing muscular strength. Here are a few suggestions.

How to increase your bench press performance

Take it easy

Have you been training hard for too long without taking a few days' rest? Perhaps your muscles are getting tired from accumulated stress over time and all you need is a good rest so that they can fully recover before reaching maximum recuperation and increased strength. There are times when after a few days off I come back to the gym bigger and stronger than ever. You should take a rest week every 2 months or so. Here are ways to turn your rest week into bigger muscle. Also, here are ways to get the most of every rest day.

Check your frequency

Are you working the bench often enough? Or are you hitting it more than you should? Aim for once to twice a week for great gains and make sure that each workout puts enough stress on your muscles so that they are tired the day afterwards. If they aren't tired the day afterwards, then it is time to change up your chest exercises. Make sure that they keep adapting and they keep growing in response. Change up your program regularly so that your body is forced to adapt to new challenges. If you want to change things up, try the totally exhausting Garry program. We examined a few studies to determine the best workout split here.

Change your rep range

Have you been using the same 8-12 rep range for months already? Try using a lower rep range like 5-8 for a month or two and see the difference. Or switch to the higher 15-20 rep range to keep your muscles growing. It is best to alternate between three rep ranges (high, low and standard). Change it up every few months so that your muscles will develop a variety of rep strengths and keep adapting to different stimulus (and therefore gaining size). Changing rep ranges will increase the bench press max of your original rep range because the muscles will have to grow in strength to adapt to the new kind of stress placed on it. And yes, high reps can be just as good as low reps at building muscle.

Vary your exercises

Don't do the barbell bench press on its own and expect your chest to grow to its full potential. Include other exercises like the dumbbell bench press, dips, cable crossovers, dumbbell pull-overs and dumbbell flies. This will grow the entirety of your chest to its best potential. Every few months, change the exercises up again by changing the order in which you do the exercises, adding incline or decline exercises, and changing all the exercises with other chest exercises altogether.

Change your grip

Changing your grip (the way you hold the bar) will help to develop other muscles that might not usually get as much stimulus for the bench press but are still crucial to performing the lift. These muscles include your forearms and even parts of the triceps, shoulders and the chest itself. When these muscles are stressed more and strengthened by changing your grip for a period of time, they will be more capable of supporting your original bench press, therefore helping you beat your max. 

Strengthen your supporting muscles

What if the weaker triceps or shoulders are the culprits that are limiting your bench performance? Weaker triceps, for example, will tire before your chest muscles get the decent workout that they deserve and you stop before they get the stimulus needed to grow at their best. Try strengthening these supporting muscles so that your chest has all the time it needs to work its magic under the bar. Determine whether you need a separate shoulder day or whether any other specific muscles are holding you back.

Check your diet

In order for muscle to grow, your calorie intake needs to exceed your caloric output (What else would they grow from if all the food that you eat is burnt up as energy?) Besides that, are you eating the right foods that your muscles need to grow, along with the right nutrients to sustain the energy that you need to perform the workouts that cause muscle growth in the first place; without forcing your body to dip into its muscle reservoir? This is why it is easier for bodybuilders to work within bulking and cutting cycles because it us safer to take in too much calories to build muscle than taking in too few calories which hampers (and can even reverse) muscle growth. Consider taking supplements to aid muscle growth or fill in the nutritional gaps that your diet keeps missing.

How's your ZZZ balance?

Getting enough sleep is crucial to growing muscle strength and size. Most of your muscle growth happens during sleep. If you are not getting enough shut-eye, your body will prioritize other functions that happen during sleep over muscle growth to survive. Lack of sleep could lead to quicker over-training, lack of motivation, and worst of all... lost gains. 

Make sure all the above are in check and you should be well on the road to constant muscle growth in size and strength. STAY STRONG!

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