Unsticking a Sticky Bench

Posted by on Sep 20, 2012 in Articles | 211 comments

Usually one of the first lifts to stall is the bench.  There are a couple reasons for this.  For the ladies, upper body strength is tougher to come by and while you slap pounds on the squat and deadlift with ease the bench and press become a constant struggle within a couple month of your strength journey.  For the guys its usually because you come to us from Gold’s with a big bench but your squat  resembles that of a 12 year old boy’s strength.  You are closer to an intermediate in your bench so we run out of the simple solutions pretty quickly in adding more weight to the bar.  Finally, what you both have in common is the amount of muscle used in the bench is relatively small when compared to the squat or the deadlift.  This all leads to a bench that can get stuck unless we take some other measures.

Missing the a bench just off the chest shows us a lack of pectoral strength. Increasing strength and size of the chest using wide grip bench work will get the bench progressing again.

If you stall on your bench one of the first things to look at is dips. Have you been doing them consistently?   We program dips frequently but if your are not getting them in then you will want to add them after your bench work.  A couple sets to failure in the 10-15 range IS sufficient.  This will usually get the bench moving again.  But alas, you will stall again.

Usually by this time you will see a pattern to exactly where you miss your bench.  Some will see a miss happen just off the chest.  Others will have trouble near the top end of the bench, about 6-8 inches from lockout.  If you are consistently missing as the bar leaves the chest

Missing the bench just off the chest gives us a pretty good idea you need additional chest work to get past this sticking point. If your misses look like a wide grip bench for assistant work will get your bench moving again.

you will want to add wide grip bench presses to your routine.  This will build strength off the chest when the pecs are doing most of the work in the bench.  We are putting more emphasis on the pectoral muscle to build strength and size to get you passed the sticking point.  If you are having trouble near the lock out you will want to add close grip bench presses to your routine.  After the pecs have done most of their work off the chest the triceps begin to take over to lock the bar out.  Building the triceps size and strength will help you past a late sticking point in the bench.

Missing a bench just short of lockout shows us a lack of triceps strength. Adding additional close grip bench work will build the size and strength of the triceps and get the bench progressing again.

So how to program them?

When you are finished with your working sets you should complete 2 back off sets using a wide grip or narrow grip bench press.  Back off sets should be in the 70-80% range and will usually be done for two sets to near failure.  This puts most in the 6-10 rep range.  Each rep should have a 2 second pause at the bottom.  A minute or two of rest between sets is sufficient.

A wide grip bench should have a grip about one hand width wider than your normal bench.  A narrow grip bench press will be about a hand width more narrow than your normal bench.

A great rule of thumb for most situations is to use assistance work that most resembles the actual movement you are doing the assistance work for.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>