Powerlifting

Bench Variations | How, Why and When To Use Them


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There are tons of different exercise variations out there being touted as a fix to this weak point or the best exercise to improve such and such. Here is a simple guide to help you understand how to do some of these more important variations, why you would perform them and when they’re best to include in your training.


Widegrip Bench

Technique Points

-Move your grip out 2-3” from your competition grip

-If your shoulders will tolerate it, a wider grip and higher touch point will be advantageous

Why To Do It

-To build up pec strength for overcoming weakness off the chest

When To Do It

-This is a great option for Hypertrophy training. While it can be stressful for your shoulders, since the load is lighter it is the best time to use it.

-Utilize this in Strength and Peaking as secondary movements if you are struggling with strength off the chest


Spoto Press

Technique Points

-Lower the bar rapidly, stopping it about 1” off of your chest.

-Have a short pause with the bar hovering off your chest

-Think about the tension through your back and body being used to stop the bar, not just your arms

Why To Do It

-To build up strength in the midrange portion of the bench press

-To improve stability and control over the bar

When To Do It

-This can be used during any phase to address a specific weak point or to avoid adaptive resistance


Board Press

Technique Points

-Focus on maintaining bar over wrist/wrist over elbow stacked position

-Avoid bouncing or heaving the bar off of the board

Why To Do It

-Build up lockout strength and tricep hypertrophy

-Develop confidence and neural force production by using heavier weights

-Workaround shoulder or pec injuries with a shorter ROM

-Rehab pec or shoulder issues through using progressively lower boards

When To Do It

-Hypertrophy. Can be used here to develop tricep size/strength for an improved lockout.

-Strength and Peaking. Build up your lockout strength and expose your body to heavier weights to develop strength and confidence.


Closegrip Bench

Technique Points

-Move your grip in 2-3” from your competition grip

-Focus on tucking your elbows more and touching the bar lower on your chest to maintain bar over wrist over elbow stacked position

Why To Do It

-To build up tricep strength for an improved lockout

-To workaround shoulder/pec issues

When To Do It

-Best suited for Hypertrophy but can be used in any phase to build lockout strength


Feet Up Bench

Technique Points

-Place feet on end of bench, straight out or held in the air (like a crunch position)

-Set your upper back the same way as you would in a normal bench press

Why To Do It

-To build up pec strength for overcoming weakness off the chest by eliminating leg drive

-To increase bench volume by using a variation that limits how heavy you can go

When To Do It

-This is a great option for Hypertrophy training as it tolerates very high volume

-Utilize this in Strength and Peaking as secondary movements if you are struggling with strength off the chest


Incline Bench

Technique Points

-Focus on maintaining bar over wrist/wrist over elbow stacked position

-Touch point will be higher on your chest than a flat bench

Why To Do It

-To build up shoulder strength to overcome midrange weak point

-To avoid adaptive resistance from training too long at the same exercises/planes of movement

When To Do It

-Hypertrophy. This is the ideal time to build up shoulder strength and use an exercise with slightly lower specificity

-Strength. If you are really struggling with a midrange weak point you can continue Incline Bench during strength but we typically prefer Spoto Press for this issue


Low Pin Press/Dead Bench

Technique Points

-Set the pins about 1” below your sticking point, down to ½” off the chest

-Get your normal setup (scaps retracted, foot position, stacked position) as you would in a normal bench -Come to a full stop on the pins for every rep, this is usually best done by perform singles or cluster sets

Why To Do It

-To build up pec strength for overcoming weakness off the chest by eliminating any stretch reflex

-To work around an injury by controlling ROM or removing the eccentric phase, if that is where pain is happening

When To Do It

-This is best suited for Strength Blocks. It doesn’t lend itself particularly well to higher volumes that you’d want for Hypertrophy but could be used there too. This can either be done as its own bench day or after your competition benching to address a specific weak point.


Floor Press

Technique Points

-Set your upper back the same way as you would in a normal bench press

-Focus on pausing your triceps on the floor, not your elbows

-Legs bent or straight is fine, just avoid using leg drive

Why To Do It

-Build up midrange strength

-Workaround pec or shoulder injuries with a shorter ROM

When To Do It

-Hypertrophy or Strength Blocks. This exercise lends itself to high volume, making it a good fit for Hypertrophy or can be used to address a midrange weak point during a Strength Block.


Slingshot Bench

Technique Points

-Ensure that the Slingshot is high enough on arms for proper fit

-Try to maintain as similar technique to your normal bench press as possible, this may be difficult if you bench with a more wide/flared elbow position

Why To Do It

-To overload your neural force production qualities with heavier weights and build confidence.

-To add extra volume/stress to your triceps if they are relatively weak compared to your chest/shoulders.

-To workaround injuries/pain in the pec, shoulder or elbow that is alleviated by some assistance in certain ranges of motion

When To Do It

-Hypertrophy. The Slingshot can be used in this phase to add extra/volume stress to your triceps and build up extra lockout strength potential.

-Strength. This is a good time to use the slingshot for a bit of Mechanical Overload training, eg. Do a 5rm raw, then add the slingshot and do a 5rm at 5-10% more

-Peaking. This can be used in a similar way as Strength.

Other Notes

-This is a tool that should probably be used every 2-4 weeks during the course of regular training, it is not for every session or every week, outside of injury workarounds

-Aim for a 5-20% overload above your normal weights, the stronger you are, the lower on that range you’ll be. Using a slingshot to bench 50% more than you can without it is not beneficial enough to warrant the fatigue it would create.

-If you feel the Slingshot disrupts your Bench Technique, all of the benefits of it can be derived from Reverse Band Benching, which won’t disrupt your technique in the same way.


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