Exercises to Do to Break the Bench Press Plateau

Exercises to Do to Break the Bench Press Plateau

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Modify your routine by doing the press on an angled bench.

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You've got your eye on three plates to reach the next level on the bench press but you just can't seem to get there. Step away from the struggle and take the opportunity to add variety to your menu of lifts. Exercises that can help break through a training plateau include incline or decline presses and overhead presses. In addition, you can switch from a barbell to dumbbells, do negative or eccentric training and engage in explosive training with chains or bands.

Incline, Decline or the Floor

Instead of performing the press on a flat bench with a barbell, change the angle of the bench as well as the type of weight. For example, modify your routine by performing an incline press or a decline press with dumbbells for three to four weeks. By using dumbbells, you can avoid bouncing the weight off your chest and shortchanging the lower end of the range of motion, or the most difficult part of the exercise. You can also perform a dumbbell press from a supine position on the floor. If you're used to pressing 80-lb. dumbbells, reduce the load to anywhere from 60 to 65 lb. The body position on the floor doesn't allow you to use your legs for leverage and discourages bouncing.

Work on Weak Points

If your shoulders and triceps are weak, it will limit the amount of weight you can bench press. Addressing your weak points can help you emerge from a period of stagnation in your training. While overhead presses and Olympic lifts, such as a clean and jerk, build your shoulders, close-grip bench presses and weighted dips strengthen your triceps. According to the Poliquin group, the overhead press is one of the most effective exercises to grow muscle in your shoulders and burst through a training plateau. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and holding a barbell with an overhand grip with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bring the bar to your upper chest at shoulder level with elbows bent and pointing down. Exhale and slowly lift the weight straight up and over your head. Hold the peak position for a second. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Perform six to 10 reps for three sets.

Fly Past Plateaus with Flyes

By doing incline or decline flyes with dumbbells, you can strengthen your chest from different angles as well as achieve an effective stretch. For example, begin a decline fly by lying face-up on a decline bench. Hold a pair of dumbbells above your chest with elbows slightly bent. Use an overhand grip with palms facing toward you. Slowly lower the weights to your sides, using a semi-circular motion, until your arms are level with your shoulders. Pause at this position and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position. Perform 10 to 12 reps for three sets.

Go Negative for Positive Results

Because the eccentric phase of a bench press is less taxing than the concentric phase, eccentric or negative training allows you to work with a heavier load. This type of training in which you only lower the weight produces greater tension in your muscles and results in hypertrophy, according to “Serious Strength Training” by Tudor Bompa. When you lower the weight, do it as slowly as possible. While you may be sore for five to seven days after the workout, this is an effective method to break a plateau. With the assistance of two spotters, perform four reps for four sets, taking two-minute rest intervals between sets. Use a weight that is five to 10 percent more than your one-rep maximum. Avoid eccentric training if you've had less than two years of strength training.

Explode with Chains or Bands

Train your body to move faster or explosively throughout the range of movement on a bench press by adding bands or chains, helping you to hurdle past a training plateau. While these tools boost resistance on the concentric contraction or lift, they accelerate the speed of the eccentric contraction or the descent, according to "Complete Conditioning for Football" by Pat Ivey and Josh Stoner. In particular, bands or chains increase the load at the end of the range of motion, enabling you to develop a stronger lockout. Either hang a heavy steel chain off the bar or secure one end of a band to the floor and attach the other end to the bar. You can also loop bands around the ends of the bar if you have a stationary anchor point at ground level.