There are a variety of bench press exercises you can employ to increase your pressing strength. In this article, I will be discussing a variety of bench press exercises which can improve your max bench press.
The exercises mentioned in this article are similar to the bench press yet shift the focus of the movement to a particular portion of the lift. You can use these loading patterns to emphasize the weak points of your bench and ultimately press more weight.
The chest and shoulders do most of the work at the bottom of the lift, and about three fourths of the way up, the triceps take over as a primary mover. Note: if you are wearing a bench shirt, a significant amount of the load is placed on the triceps during the entire movement.
For example, if you attempted to max out on the bench press and failed about three quarters of the way up, that indicates that you need to improve the strength of your triceps. If you failed at the bottom of the lift, that indicates you could use bench press exercises which focus more chest and shoulder strength.
I recommend maxing out on the bench press with a weight that is just a few pounds heavier than you can lift. Naturally, be sure to have a spotter. Make a mental note of where you fail on the bench and perform the exercises below accordingly. Note that where the bar stops is usually a few inches above your weak point as momentum carries the bar a bit before it slows and heads back down.
With that said, here are 3 of the best bench press exercises:
Bench Press Exercises for Failing Near Lockout
Floor press: This involves laying down flat on the floor and pressing from the ground rather than pressing on the bench. Make sure your shoulder blades are set just as if you were pressing on a bench.
Bring the bar down until your elbows touch the ground. Once your elbows touch, pause briefly, and press the weight. Since your elbows hit the ground about halfway through the movement, the lockout is emphasized.
An easy way to set this up involves using a squat rack. You can set the rack very low and use that to hold the bar. Be sure to still grab a spotter if you can. Otherwise, set the safety pins up so you can easily drop the bar if you fail. This is one of the best bench press exercises.
This involves bench pressing with a board on your chest. You can bring the bar down to the board and then press back up. This is a shorter range of motion and emphasizes the triceps. It also feels more natural than trying to guess at an appropriate height since you can physically touch the bar to the board.
You can alter the size of the board based on where you fail on your bench press. Try to set the board about a half inch below your sticking point. You can also use a yoga block or another piece of foam if you are at a commercial gym and have nothing to use.
I think the board press is one of the best bench press exercises for all lifters. In addition to increasing triceps strength, the extra weight you can use helps out psychologically as it makes you more comfortable with holding a heavy weight.
Failing Close to Your Chest
If you know you are going to complete the rep as soon as the bar gets a few inches past your chest, then odds are you could use some more more chest and shoulder strength.
One of the best bench press exercises you can do for this is a pin press. This involves setting up your bench inside the squat rack and setting the height of the safety pins to a height just higher than your chest.
Next, bench the bar from a dead stop. Try to be as explosive as possible and pause a few seconds in between each rep. I prefer to use this movement as the main exercise of the workout and then supplement with more volume (sets and reps) of a more traditional movements, such as dips, overhead press, incline press, or regular bench press.
By adding in these bench press exercises intelligently, you can boost your bench to record highs. Never forget that you are only as strong as your weakest body part!