Increase Pressing Power For Athletes
Every athlete who’s stepped foot in the gym has been asked the question - “How much do you bench?”
A better question would be, how much does bench contribute to being a good athlete? Unfortunately, probably not as much as we’d all like. However, that doesn’t mean that pressing should be completely avoided. Pressing is one of the most crucial movement patterns for athletes and can help separate the average athlete from the elite.
Improve the pressing pattern
Incorrect bench pressing patterns can often lead to shoulder injuries and discomfort, causing athletes to avoid them completely. Here are a few tips to decrease injury and save your shoulders:
- Fix the movement pattern. The bar should be lowered and pressed in a straight line. When the bar drifts and “attacks” the shoulders, you increase the risk of injury. Make sure the bar moves in a straight line and think about pressing towards your feet when you push the bar off your chest. This will allow you to keep the pattern straight and recruit the appropriate muscles.
- Double down on pulling. The general rule of thumb for creating a strong press is to do TWO pull exercises for every ONE push. Example- if you complete one set of bench press, you should do two row or pull movements to help strengthen your back. This will help improve posture and increase strength.
- Fix your hand position. Most athletes need to adopt a closer grip. Not only does this mimic the pressing pattern in sport, but it allows them to reduce risk of injury.
Choosing the right movement
The most common pressing pattern is the standard flat barbell bench press. While it isn’t bad for athletes, here are a few different movements that may be better suited for your sport:
- Close grip incline barbell press - The close grip recruits more use of the tricep muscle, increases the range of motion and reduces use of the shoulder joint that can cause injury.
- Dumbbell push-ups - Dumbbell push-ups are performed similarly to a normal push-up, but the hands will grip a dumbbell. This will decrease stress on the wrist, increase range of motion and allow the elbows to stay tucked and avoid injury.
- Floor press - The floor press can be performed with dumbbells or a barbell, depending on the athlete's training age. If an athlete has previous shoulder injuries, the floor press is a great way to continue training without stressing the shoulders. Removing the leg drive component of the bench and an increased tricep emphasis makes this a useful variation for almost every athlete.
- Band resisted bench press - By utilizing bands on bench, you add accommodating resistance. Accommodating resistance means that the weight is distributed differently at various points of the lift. When using bands, the weight is greater at the top and less (but still tension) on the chest. This will help athletes improve pressing speed and can be used for dynamic effort work as an additional training session.
Bulletproof your back
As we mentioned before, performing two pull movements for every one push is key to staying healthy and increasing your pressing pattern. To fully bulletproof your back, it’s important to choose a warm-up movement that primes your traps/rear delts and lats before you press. To add an extra movement, try super-setting your main press variation with a row. 1 arm row, barbell row, seal row, it doesn’t matter.. Just make sure you perform a row movement after each set of pressing. Finally, don’t neglect your traps and rear delts. Experiment with different shrug and rear delt variations to see what works best for you.
All athletes are on a quest for a bigger bench. Use these tips to help reduce injury and build a big press!