When you walk into a weight room, chances are people won't ask you how much weight you can hamstring curl or how many sit-ups you can do in a minute. The most common question that people ask is: "How much can you bench press?"
The bench press has gone from a simple upper body exercise to one of the most respected and well-known exercises in the gym. If you want to improve your bench press, and impress your peers, you need to add extra exercises to your workout routine, such as the dip.
Improving the Bench Press
The bench press is a fantastic upper body exercise on its own, targeting the chest, deltoids, and triceps, but it still doesn't cover everything. It directly targets your chest muscles and the front of your shoulders, otherwise known as your anterior deltoids. However, there are other exercises that can help upper body muscles like the triceps, a muscle that helps out in the bench press but doesn't bear most of the weight.
Your triceps, which are the muscles on the bottom of your arm, opposite of the biceps, are very important in the bench press because they help straighten out your elbow. As you press weight up from the bottom of the movement, your elbows have to start extending in order to reach the top of the movement, where your elbows should be completely straight.
If you want to bench press a lot of weight you need to make sure that all of the muscles that contribute to the movement are as strong as possible. This means that you will have to use other exercises to help. One exercise that can help you target the triceps is called a dip. This exercise, which you can perform on a bench or a piece of equipment called a power tower, will help your bench press by strengthening your triceps.
Dips target the triceps well because they take your elbow through a long range of motion, about 90 degrees or more, and because of the close hand position. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, having your hands closer together in the bench press makes your triceps work harder. The same thing holds true in the bench dip, so make sure that your hands are no more than shoulder-width apart.
Bench dips are the most well-known and accessible version of the dip because they require the least amount of equipment.
Sit on a workout bench with your hands gripping the edges. Walk your legs forwards until they are straight and your hips are in front of the bench.
Slowly bend your elbows and lower your butt towards the ground while keeping your legs straight. Go down until your elbows are bent at 90 degrees. Going any farther would force your shoulder to extend too far, according to a paper by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Use your arms to press yourself up. Keep pressing up until your elbows are straight.
If you want to make this exercise harder, put a weight in your lap or wear a weighted vest. To make it easier bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground. Your bench press will benefit most the more challenging you make the exercise. If the exercise is too easy then you won't get as much of a strength benefit in your triceps and shoulders.
Putting it All Together
When you want to add the dip into your workout program, make sure that you don't do it before the bench press. Since dips fatigue the shoulders and triceps, they will make your bench press worse if you do them beforehand.
In fact, adding any exercise before the bench press will result in fewer repetitions during the bench press, according to a 2007 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Add dips to your workouts after the bench press as an additional movement to further strengthen your triceps and shoulders, muscles that can take a back seat to the chest muscles in the bench press.
If your goal is to increase your bench press you also have to make sure that you practice that movement. Make sure that you don't substitute the bench press for dips, add the dips to your workout instead. If you want to bench press more weight, focus on progressing to heavier weights in the bench press and dips.