Everyone knows it, everyone hates it: stagnant training successes . Especially in the supreme discipline of all exercises, the bench press and incline bench press , which can lead to vehement muscle building in the upper body, stagnant muscle growth and a lack of strength building can quickly lead to a bad mood on the weight bench. We’ll show you how to bench press more weights and repetitions and get the most out of your chest workout!
Why does muscle building stagnate during the bench press?
Pretty much every athlete reaches a point in the course of their training career at which all of the training methods that have been successfully used so far slowly but surely become inefficient. This may be due to the lack of variance and variety of exercises in everyday training (almost all strength athletes have “favorite exercises” that are somehow always implemented in the training plans and methods), and to the muscular hypertrophy , which changes with increasing training success . Diet or permanent overtraining can also be the cause of stagnant muscle growth. Let’s take a closer look at these four possible causes:
- Training variance: Especially with ongoing training experience, it is particularly important that a lot of variety is brought into your own training program. The body also gradually adapts to recurring loads in order to use the muscles as efficiently and energy-efficiently as possible. It is therefore particularly important to use alternating exercises and exercise executions for the primary muscle groups so that they work and are stimulated every now and then in different expansion areas and contraction levels.
- Muscular hypertrophy: Muscle growth also changes with increasing training progress. While for beginners a conventional 2-part split or 3-part split without an extraordinarily complex training system was still sufficient to trigger massive muscle growth in the first few months, these methods can lead to lack of success with more advanced strength athletes if they aim for more strength with the bench press. If the athletes reach a certain performance plateau , the necessary training and nutritional expenditure for continuous, constant muscle strength and volume growth increases almost exponentially.
- Observe regeneration and rest phases: Muscle growth primarily takes place in the rest phases. If these are missing, or if they are reduced to a minimum, the muscle building with all the associated components (strength gain, volume increase or ATP resynthesis ability) cannot be optimally developed and performance potential is wasted. So make sure you have enough regeneration time for your muscles and prevent so-called “overtraining”!
- Diet: The most intensive muscle building training will be unsuccessful if the diet is not adequately adapted to the level of performance. Regular calorie deficits and a lack of nutrients can do many things, but certainly not effective muscle building. Therefore, a training goal-oriented diet is essential for successful muscle building.
How can I increase my bench press strength?
The phenomenon of a “performance plateau” is with demanding basic exercises such as the bench press to be observed particularly often. From a certain performance level, which occurs especially in the area of maximum strength training and training systems such as 5 × 5 training for advanced athletes, it seems as if the strength gain of the strength athlete has reached its maximum. Only an additional immense increase in training intensity seems to bring progress in muscle building or increasing strength in bench presses.
In the bench press and incline bench press, there are a number of methods with which the increase in strength can be reactivated in the event of stagnation:
- Classic maximum strength training: The MK training is a much discussed approach that basically works according to the motto “a lot helps a lot”. However, this approach is also the method with the highest risk of injury and should only be carried out by professional athletes who are supported by training partners during a training session. The majority of sports physicians assume that strength training with high weights and few repetitions, if the exercise is clean and error-free, including the bench press, brings the greatest increase in strength.
- Strength endurance training: Even if strength-endurance training for increasing strength in bench press seems contradictory, this method can still be very effective. The primary goal of strength and endurance training is not so much a direct increase in strength or muscle building, but rather an improvement in the energy supply of ATP in the muscles. While the energy required for the first to second muscle contraction is still provided by the metabolism of creatine phosphate, the muscles must resort to aerobic and anaerobic metabolic processes for the resynthesis of ATP after the second repetition at the latest. Strength endurance training optimizes this process. This also makes it clear why maximum strength training with a single repetition enables such an effective increase in strength: The energy supply to the muscles is almost entirely via the metabolism of creatine phosphate.
- Intensity techniques: With or without pre-exhaustion, drop and reduction rate or progressive increase in weights. A multitude of effective intensity techniques enables the athletes to extensively individualize and optimize the training units. There are suitable intensity techniques for almost every training goal, which are explained in more detail in the linked article and help to specifically overcome the performance plateau.
- The right technique for the bench press: The technique also has a significant influence on the performance level of the bench press and incline bench press. The hands should not be positioned too wide (loads the shoulder joints tremendously) nor too close to the body (pure triceps load). The back shoulder should rest on the weight bench for maximum stability to reach for the contraction. Keep your wrists in a nearly straight line with your forearms to prevent joint injuries from bench presses. Tense neck muscles, especially when doing incline bench presses, can take a lot of strain off the shoulder joints and are important for a physiologically correct exercise. The trunk and spine are stabilized by a firm footing (about shoulder width, verse tense). Even if some training techniques (such as the guillotine press) can cause even more intense strain on the chest muscles by changing the position of the verses and spine, beginners in particular should avoid such injury-prone techniques. Your joints will thank you!