How much weight should you be able to bench press to be considered strong? Not average, but strong to the point that you’re proud of it. This question cannot be answered with a one size fits all mentality. In my opinion, strength is an expression of weight lifted relative to body weight. Here are my following classifications for a strong bench press:
1.5x body weight (200 lbs. male x 1.5 = 300 lbs. bench press)
1x body weight (130 lbs. female x 1 = 130 lbs. bench press)
Does your current bench press fall short of these numbers? If so, here are 3 tips to increase your bench press strength.
Tip #1: Master the Set Up
You must have a strong foundation, which allows you use optimal leverage, to press heavy weight off your chest. Set your feet shoulder width apart and slightly behind your knees. This will allow you to drive your feet into ground and engage your lower body during the movement. Focus on pushing your body back into the bench, not driving your hips up in the air. Next, pull your shoulders back into the bench focusing on putting your weight down through the upper back. This places your shoulders into an optimal and safe position to press from. Last is your hand position on the bar. Practice different positions with a light load and see which position you feel the strongest and most comfortable with.
Tip #2: Strengthen the Upper Back Muscles
Most people are anteriorly rotated, meaning that their shoulder posture is drawn forward. This is a weak and unsafe position to press from. Having strong upper back muscles will pull your shoulders back into an optimal position and will give you a stronger foundation to press from. Design your training programs to have a 2:1 ratio of pulling movements to pressing movements. Incorporate repetition ranges of 6 to 15 on exercises to improve muscular and strength and development. Each repetition should include a hold in the contracted position of 1-2 seconds. One of my personal favorite exercises for the upper back and rotator cuff muscles is the Face Pull.
Tip #3: Get Strong with Dumbbells
Training the bench press with dumbbells allows the arms to work independently and trains shoulder stability during the movement. If you get stronger and can display improved stability during a dumbbell bench press, this will directly correlate to improvements in the barbell bench press. I recommend that you should use dumbbells for the bulk of your pressing work. Use repetition ranges of 5 to 10 to increase pressing strength and muscular development. Also include holds of 1-2 seconds in the bottom of the movement to develop starting strength.
Master setting up in a position of optimal pressing leverage, build a solid pressing foundation by strengthening your upper back muscles, incorporate heavy dumbbells for the bulk of your pressing, and soon your bench press strength will become legendary. Or at least in your eyes it will be.
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