Good powerlifting routines all involve attempts to increase the bench press. The best ones all have four elements in common: speed, technique, maximal effort, and assistance work. Before you can decide which one is best for you, you need to know more about the routines. Consult your physician before beginning any diet or exercise program.
This is the most common method of training, and involves starting a training cycle with a lighter weight and executing more repetitions, then gradually increasing the weight and dropping the repetitions. An example using standard periodized ranges if you bench pressed 300lbs would be to start your 12 week cycle with 10 repetitions of 225lbs and conclude with a single attempt of 315lbs While the exact set and repetition scheme may vary from program to program, but the concept remains the same.
This system of training was popularized by Louis Simmons, head coach of Westside Barbell Club, which is home of the most successful powerlifting team in the world. It involves training the bench press two days a week, where one day the focus is on maximal acceleration with only 50 to 70 percent of your one repetition maximum, and the other day is training with heavy singles with at least 90 percent or more of your one repetition maximum. On the heavy day, exercises other than the bench press are often rotated in to avoid fatigue and minimize stress, such as the incline bench press, close grip bench press, or partial range movements.
Regardless of what style of program you use, assistance work for the bench press is critical. When you miss a lift, it is never the lift itself that failed, but rather a specific weakness that caused you to fail. If you fail at locking out the bench, you need to train your triceps. If you fail at the chest, you need to train your latissimus dorsai, the wide muscles of the back, and work on your ability to accelerate the bar. If you stick in the middle of the repetition, you need to work on partial exercises to learn to push through the sticking point.
The triceps need to be worked heavily, as they are the most active muscle in the bench press. Close grip bench presses and dips build both strength and power in the triceps, and higher repetition work such as barbell and dumbbell triceps extensions provide triceps mass. The shoulders need to be strong, not only to add to the lift, but to help you avoid injury. Heavy pressing, and heavy work for the posterior deltoids, or the back of the shoulder, should be done on a regular basis. A strong back provides stability for the lift as well as contributing to the initial push off of the chest, so all aspects of your back need to be trained: upper, middle and lower.
- "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research"; "Electromyographic Activity of the Pectoralis Major and Anterior Deltoid Muscles During Three Upper-Body Lifts"; Barnett et al; 2005
- "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research"; "Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles"; 1995
- "Journal of Physical Anthropology"; "Muscle Power Output Properties Using the Stretch-shortening Cycle of the Upper Limb and Their Relationships with a One-Repetition Maximum Bench Press"; 2006