How To Bench Press for Size or Strength
Now we at The BeastPack know this kind of article has been done a bunch of times but we want to touch on some aspects of how to train for strength vs size.
If you dont want to read This Article Check out the video here!:
The warm up is the most important part of any exercise especially for people who wish to train long term. Many long term lifters consider injury a near impossible thing to avoid but it is firmly believed in the fitness community that with proper stretching, warm up, cool down, and extras like foam rolling it is 100% possible to go your entire lifting life without injury.
Anyways now let’s go over how to properly warm up for the bench press, there are a multitude of ways and im going to go over a few and let you try them out and find what works for you.
My personal favourite kind of warm up for chest day is to begin with foam rolling of my chest (side to side), shoulders, triceps, and lats. Then for bench I warm up with a light weight (I personally prefer the bar). A technique I learned from a powerlifting Coach was to start very slow for 2 – 3 reps and then move the bar explosively, slow down and explode up as fast as possible do this for about 8 – 10 reps. then to go to half of your working weight and perform reps exactly like how you plan to in your working sets. If you are training for strength develop your queues and how the weight feels. If you are training for size try to feel the stretch at the bottom of the movement and the squeeze at the top of the movement.
Training For Strength
Training for strength is the main way bench press is taught. The main focus before you even touch the weight are the 5 points of contact (The head, shoulder blades, butt, and both feet. Next what you will do is unrack the weight bring it above your chest. Bring the bar down to just below your chest, do not flare out your elbows keep them bent 45 degrees.
*insert bench with 45 degree elbows here*
This form allows you to engage your triceps and shoulders to help add more power into the movement.
The next step you will want to take is leg drive. you can ask any power lifter leg drive is essential to huge lifts. Leg drive is the art of driving your heels into the ground and use that momentum to press the weight up explosively. This can be done through practise and muscle memory. If you want to focus on the muscle groups without momentum it is essential to keep your feet planted on the ground to keep balance and control.
Now that we have all this the last portion is the tempo of the movement. For the decline of the motion there are 2 main kinds of powerlifters. 1 that bring it down very slow and controlled till it just touches the chest and then press. While the other brings it down very fast and catching the weight near the bottom. Both are good methods if the weight touches the chest slowly and ready to lift, if it hits the chest too hard it may flatten the back and ruin the form for the press. I prefer bringing it down slow because it allows me to keep my form tight and stop the bar right where I need it but powerlifters that prefer the other method often say bringing it down slow uses too much energy so this is for you to try both and decide.
Now that you have the bar down you quickly use your leg drive and arms and press the weight up maintaining the 5 points of contact we discussed earlier to complete the repetition.
Strength training is usually done in lower reps with higher weight to stress the muscle and get it used to these kinds of sittuations which it will experience in training. And the most common and successful program is gradual overload meaning that over time you slowly add more and more weight each workout or every other workout.
Training For Size
Training for size is often taught as the incorrect way to bench press because it moves the elbows farther from the torso of the body making it a more risky movement which shouldn’t be taught to beginners until they have more ROM and strength in their shoulders. The reason I say this movement is more for size compared the other bench press is that the angle of the elbows moves a majority of the load off the shoulders and triceps and directly onto the chest.
The main differences between training for strength and size is the elbow position, leg drive, ROM (Range Of Motion), and tempo.
First of all we will start will elbow position. The elbows are moved out (often called flaired elbows) to 90 degrees.
*insert bench with 90 degree elbows*
This form will move the weight off of your triceps and shoulders and onto your chest.
The next difference is going to be leg drive. to train for size we want little to no momentum so we completely eliminate leg drive. a lot of people who remove leg drive like to lift their legs off the ground. The reason we do not want to do this is because it eliminates balance and if you ever roll or begin to struggle on a rep you have a good chance of rolling off the bench and dropping the weight on top of yourself (which aint as fun as it sounds). So with or without leg drive keep both feet firmly planted onto the ground.
Next, we will look at the tempo of the exercise. This is much different than strength because for size we want to keep constant control of the weight to keep tension on the muscle. So our eccentric (down) and concentric (up) movements are very controlled often 2 – 5 second counts both ways. The reason for keeping tension on the muscle is that this breaks down the muscle tissue which with proper nutrition will be repaired and grow bigger.
Now an important difference from strength and size is the ROM we are going to be using. For strength it is important to touch your chest and fully extend because if you wish to compete this is mandatory form while if you don’t compete this is just personal preference you can get strong at whatever ROM you wish. For size it is widely contradicted because it can be different for everyone. How I learned and teach it is from a multitude of greats such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dana Linn Bailey, and most recently Kai Greene. You bring the bar down slightly above the chest (1 or 2 millimetres off) to keep tension on the chest then extend the weight up until you can give a hard squeeze (contraction) of the chest. For some this can be a full ROM for some this can be a very short range of motion (which is why you will see some bodybuilders doing short quick reps).
No matter why you train, train for your goals and train hard. Also if you see someone benching different then you don’t judge as long as they are safe let everyone train how they wish. Some people use full ROM some people don’t. some people like high weight some people like high reps remember theuir success or failure effects you in no way!