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Bench Press: How To Do It For Thicker, Stronger Pecs

Most men "bench" much more than they are capable of by rotating their shoulders forward ("delt cheating"). If forced to bench correctly, your typical gym rat's bench press drops by an astounding 50%.

Most women could, quite frankly, use better pec development. So, it's not just a guy thing. Everyone looks and feels better with a stronger, better-developed chest.

Unfortunately, people tend to plateau on the bench press and, in fact, in all chest development work. They quickly reach a level at which they stop gaining strength. Here, I present a tip on how to blast through that. You will become much stronger and have thicker pecs.

This tip give you a way to make your workouts highly productive. This tip works for any muscle group, not just the chest.

Whether training the chest or any other muscle group, you must get an adaptive response to either produce new muscle (increase size) or use more of the existing muscle fibers (increase strength). For that response to happen, you must put the muscle under enough short-duration stress to trigger the adaptive response. Bodybuilders accomplish that via the intensity principle.

That's why you see the big guys using really heavy weights. Unfortunately, when little guys simply pile on more weight and then cheat to lift it they don't get an adaptive response because the muscle presumably being trained isn't under additional stress. Intensity, by definition, is a focused effort. Think of cramming more stuff into the same space or more effort into the same time.

Some training variations can really spike up the intensity. One of my favorite variations is to do a warmup set in very slow motion. Here's how I do that for chest, as in a recent workout.

I put 50 lbs on the bar, for a total of 95lbs. This doesn't sound like much, but it feels like a ton before that first bench press set is done. To do the first rep, I lower the about as slowly as humanly possible (almost completely to my chest) and then push it just as slowly back up. I've got a massive burn going by the third rep. I try to squeeze out three more, but have to speed up a bit to complete them.

This effort is recruiting the maximum number of muscle fibers and then depleting them. It takes about 15 seconds to deplete the glycogen in a muscle cell, which is why climbers don't use a "death grip" on handholds.

As you might guess, I'm breathing pretty hard as I get toward the end of this set. My body's trying to supply those muscle fibers with oxygen but can't. My heart is racing, and my pecs are flooding with blood. They are much larger than normal, and the pump is fantastic.

Now, as soon as I'm done with this warm-up set I add another 70lbs. I do a set of 3 to 5 quick reps, two seconds up and two seconds down. I rest about a minute, and do three more sets of 3 to 5 reps at a medium speed (two seconds up, about four down).

After benching, I rest a couple of minutes and then attack my pecs with dumbbell flyes using the same technique. After this, I hit triceps (with two different exercises also) using the same technique. This is a short, but brutal chest and triceps workout that gets results. Notice the thickness of my triceps in that photo?

Most gym rats do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Does that describe what you do? If so, train this way for a month (getting proper nutrition and allowing adequate time for rest) and other people will notice the difference. Even with your shirt on.

But wait. There is a fly in this particular ointment. You see, it's really difficult to have the mental focus to do several slow reps in a row. It seems the brain has some sort of fibers of its own that burn out quickly, too. Despite having every intention of doing an entire set of slo-ow-w-w reps, you almost can't help but speed up and spoil that set.

So here's an alternative that works almost as well. Instead of trying to do 5 or 6 really slow reps, just make the first rep of each set agonizingly slow. You can do that. It's just one set.

This alternative is not only more likely to meet with success (because you have to do it just once, in each set), what happens is those subsequent reps pump the blood in and out of those muscles you just blitzed.

If you find yourself cheating on the technique I originally described, don't feel bad. About half the time, I end up cheating also--despite my best intentions. Which is why I have this second approach as my Plan B.



Article Authorship

The articles on this site are authoritative, because:

  • Every contributor is an expert in his or her field.
  • The articles comply with the accepted principles of the bodybuilder literature.
  • The articles comply with the teachings of such luminaries as 8-time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney.

 Where an article is not bylined with a specific author's name, it was written by Mark Lamendola (see photos on home page and elsewhere on this site). Mark is a 4th degree blackbelt, has not been sick since 1971, and has not missed a workout since 1977. Just an example of how Mark knows what he's talking about: In his early 50s, Mark demonstrated a biceps curl using half his body weight. That's a Jack LaLanne level stunt. Few people can even come close. If you want to know how to build a strong, beautiful body, read the articles here.

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