#1 Compensatory Acceleration Training
Our first method is something known as compensatory acceleration training, or CAT. It involves using explosive force to power out of the bottom portion of the bench.
To start you want to select a heavy enough weight that will barely allow you to squeeze out 8 reps. When bringing the bar down towards your chest, imagine that the bar explodes as it touches your chest, powering back up to the starting position.
By exploding as hard as possible on the positive (or lifting) portion of the rep, you’ll be able to use the improved leverage and momentum as the weight drives up to push through the traditional sticking point, which is just before lockout.
One study found that sticking points on the bench press usually happen once you’re 90 percent through the lift (1). Another study found that sticking points happen because of a lack of transitional phases and not producing enough force to overcome the weight (2).
The researchers in this study concluded that focusing on explosive power off the chest, and carrying that power all the way through to lockout is vital to improving your bench. They also found that having better control on the eccentric part of the lift will help with getting the weight back up as well.
So, the goal should be to lower the weight to your chest in a slow and controlled way and then explode up as fast as you can. If you aim to get enough speed after coming off your chest, you’ll be able to overcome the sticking points.
Another study focused on muscle activity during the upward portion of the bench press. Researchers broke the upward phase of the bench into three phases. Phase 1 was the pre-sticking point. Phase 2 was the actual sticking point. And Phase 3 was when the barbell sped up again after moving past the sticking point.
On average, the sticking point was reached somewhere between 1/5th and 1/3rd of a second after the bar came off the chest, and this is where we would want to really try to explode and accelerate the barbell upward.
Since speed x strength = power, the greater the explosive speed you can generate the more power you’ll have to get through the sticking point.
Before starting, there are a couple things you want to remember. First of all, you should always perform 2-3 warm up sets before you perform your CAT sets.
Second, when you start your CAT sets, even though you’re exploding you should still control both the way down and the way up to prevent injuries.
With the right plyometric exercises, you can overcome this mechanism, and that will ultimately make it easier to achieve the lockout. This was demonstrated in one study, where college athletes who were experienced bench pressers participated in three tests of their one rep max, and each of these tests was separated by five days (3).
In the first test, they performed a series of one-rep sets. Each set was done with increasing weight loads until they got to their max lift. In the second and third test, in random order, they performed either two sets of plyometric push ups or two sets of medicine ball chest throws. Immediately afterwards they would attempt their one rep max.
Interestingly, all the athletes experienced a considerably greater one-rep max after performing the plyometric exercises than after building up with sub-maximal lifts.
In fact, the average increase in the weight lifted was 4% higher when doing plyometrics. So, a guy who benched a maximum of 275 pounds after the standard warm up, would have been able to lift 286 pounds, if he did the plyo exercises instead!
For you to incorporate this in your own workout routine, I have 3 excellent moves that you can add starting today.
The first is upper body box jumps.
You would set this up by placing two three-inch-high boxes on either side of your body and then you would get down into a push up position.
Next you would perform a push up and explode out of the bottom position to propel yourself up so that your hands land on the boxes. The goal is to try to get higher than the box on each rep. Then step down and perform your next rep. In total you want to go for 1 set of 12 reps.
The next plyo move is a slightly different version of an explosive push up.
To perform it, get down in what looks like a regular push up position but instead of having both hands on the floor, place one hand on a box that’s three inches off the floor and the other hand on the floor.
Once again, your goal is to explode out of the bottom of the push up trying to come up as high as you can and land with both hands on the box. And again, aim for the same twelve reps for this exercise.
The final plyo move is what I call a medicine ball repel.
Here you want to lie on the floor and have your training partner stand over you with a medicine ball in his hands.
As he drops the ball down to you, cradle it and then power it back to him as forcefully as you can. For this one you’re only going for 6-8 reps.
You would want to do your plyo training twice per week. You can either use it to warm up for the bench press, or you can do it on days when you’re not bench pressing.
Either way, do it at the beginning of your workout, before you begin lifting weights. Perform the three exercises back to back as a circuit.
The next strategy to explode your bench is to start dead bench pressing. This involves performing the bench press inside a power rack with the pins set at a height so that the bar sits about an inch above your chest. From this ‘dead’ position you push up to lockout.
This way you’re essentially cutting out the part of the movement where you have to slow down the bar, enough to bring it to a stop. This gets rid of the stretch reflex which is an elastic effect that activates as your muscles get stretched when you transition from eccentric to concentric.
This stretch reflex forces your body to bring more muscle fibers into action. You can see this clearly if you watch someone that tries to jump really high. You’ll notice right away that before jumping up, they first have to squat down to take advantage of that muscular stretch reflex to be able to propel higher off the ground. The same concept applies to benching.
If you’ve never tried this before, you should know that you won’t be able to use as much weight when dead benching, but you will develop a huge amount of strength in the starting portion of the upward drive.
This type of training where you’re mostly focused on the upward drive is considered concentric training and some studies show that concentric training can really help with improving strength and power, faster.
One study that specifically compared concentric to eccentric training for bench press found that while both groups made significant strength gains, the concentric group significantly outperformed the eccentric group (4).
The researchers recommended that beginners should incorporate concentric training in addition to full range movements to get stronger faster.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should always perform singles when dead bench pressing since the stretch reflex effect will come into play if your reps are too close together. So rest for 30 seconds between each single rep and do 8 singles per session.
You should use a weight that’s heavy enough for you to barely be able to squeeze out that one rep as the sets go on. If you do all 8 sets without one failure, you probably didn’t go heavy enough. I recommend that you do this once a week at the end of your regular benching sets.
#4 Technique, technique, technique
The fourth strategy to perfect your bench press has to do with technique. You can lose a lot of your strength’s potential due to bad form, so fixing those power leaks can go a long way for upping the weight you’re able to lift.
First, you want to make sure that the bar is centered on the rack. If it’s not your whole body’s going to be out of alignment.
When you lie under the bench your eyes should be looking directly up at the bar.
To find the ideal grip width, position your elbows at a 75-degree angle to your body and then reach directly up to grab the bar. I usually like to go slightly wider than shoulder width.
Make sure that your feet are directly under your knees. This will put you in the strongest position to push into the ground as you push the weight off your chest.
Now pull your shoulder blades back and together to open up the chest. You almost want to Imagine that there’s a pencil between your shoulder blades and your job is to make sure it doesn’t fall. This’ll give you a very stable upper body to push from.
To transfer and combine the strength from your lower body and upper body, keep your core tight and engaged throughout the whole lift. As you push the weight up, contract your glutes, push your feet into the ground and explode the weight off your chest.
You want to make sure that you don’t bounce the weight off your chest and don’t let your hips come off the bench.
#5 Perform bench press auxiliary exercises
Our final strategy to improve your bench is to include auxiliary exercises in your workouts that are designed to boost your bench. These auxiliary exercises aren’t always just other chest exercises.
For example, the first of these is the seated dumbbell shoulder press.
We want to strengthen front delts with this exercise because they come into play as you push the weight up off your chest, so the stronger they are the more powerful your bench is going to be. To get the maximum strength benefit out of seated shoulder presses, try to go really heavy in the 3-6 rep range.
You should also include pause reps to develop that explosiveness when pushing off the chest. A pause rep is when you stop halfway through a rep and hold it for about three seconds before pushing through to complete the rep.
The next auxiliary lift that’ll help is the floor press.
To perform the floor press you would set it up inside of a power rack with the rack hooks set at a comfortable distance above the ground so that you can bench press off the floor.
You’ll notice right away that you’re only be able to come down until the point that your triceps meet the floor. That means that this exercise will allow you to concentrate on that top third portion of the movement where most people hit their sticking point.
This also means that this is a great exercise to increase tricep strength, which is also critical in that final push to lockout.
When performing floor presses you should go heavy and pyramid up to a 3 rep max over 4-5 sets. This basically means that you add weight and do less reps on each set. Start with 8 reps on your first set, 4 to 5 reps on your second and third set, and by your last two sets you should be going for a 3 rep max.
The last auxiliary exercise to explode your bench is the lat pulldown.
The reason is because your back is the launching pad for the bench press so it’s critical that you build the strength and stability in the lats to allow you to explode that bar off the chest.
To do this efficiently I want you to perform a modified version of the lat pulldown. Position yourself on a lat pulldown machine with your grip width the same distance you would use if you were bench pressing.
Now lean back so that your body is in a similar position to the bar as if you were about to bench press. This should put you at about a 70-degree angle to the floor. You want to stay in this position throughout the whole exercise.
Try to not allow your upper body to move forward as you bring the bar back up with every rep. You want to imagine that you’re doing a bench press in reverse – the key is to squeeze and engage your lats, controlling them through both the upward and downward phases of the movement.
Do 4 sets of these lat pulldowns, and just like before I want you to pyramid from 8 reps to a 3 rep max.
Well, that’s it guys I hope this article has helped you out. Now, if you’re looking for the fastest way to build muscle and get stronger at the bench press as well as all the other key compound lifts, and you want to do that without having to go through years of trial and error, check out my 6 week challenge.
Clients of mine that complete this challenge are increasing their lean body mass by 5 percent in only 6 weeks. With this challenge, you’ll get a customized meal plan, a progressive 42 day workout plan designed to build muscle fast, and an accountability coach to help guide you through the entire process.
The best part is, as long as you complete the challenge without cheating and without quitting, you can have the whole course and all the materials for free. To find out more, click the link below.
 The Sticking Point in the Bench Press, the Squat, and the Deadlift: Similarities and Differences, and Their Significance for Research and Practice.
The researchers concluded that focusing on explosive power off the chest and carrying that power all the way through to lockout was vital to improving your bench. They also found that having better control on the eccentric part of the lift will help to get the weight back up.
 Effect of Different Pushing Speeds on Bench Press.
The researchers found that the deltoids and pectorals increased activation after the sticking point, while the biceps decreased activity. The sticking point was reached between .2 and .35 of a second after the bar came off the chest.
 The Sticking Period in a Maximum Bench Press (Journal Sports Sciences 2010).
All athletes experienced a considerably greater one rep max after performing the plyometric exercises than when building up with sub maximal lifts. The average increase was 4% higher when doing plyometrics.
 Acute Explosive-Force Movements Enhance Bench Press Performance in Athletic Men.
The study, which was focused on beginner weight trainers, recommended that beginners should perform concentric training in addition to full range movements to get stronger faster.