Bench press is a lift that is advanced by having a lot of muscle mass. More muscle moves more weight. There are some small athletes that can bench some pretty big numbers but for the most part the athletes that are hitting big numbers are big people (unless you have some crazy-ass arch). Before I broke 400lbs on my bench press, I reached an all time high body weight of 265lbs and cut back to the 242 weight class that year; I spent 6 months focusing on putting some serious muscle and size on my frame. That being said, there are really three reasons why people have issues improving their bench press.
1. You Are Afraid of Gaining Weight and Getting Fat
This is a key factor for powerlifting gains in general. You are not going to have a 6 pack all year and you are going to look a little fluffy at times, but it takes time to build muscle and you need to eat a lot to do that. You should take focused periods of time where you bulk, cut, and maintain body weight and your training should coincide with your diet. For example, if you are trying to gain the most muscle possible, you need to be eating a surplus of calories while training in a hypertrophy range and really focusing on handling more and more volume and frequency. I would also focus on muscle hypertrophy for the most part when cutting and focus on maintaining bodyweight while in a strength phase. For more information on dieting see this video and watch the other videos in the thread.
2. You Don’t Have Enough Variation
When you are nowhere close to competing it matters a lot less what exercises you do, as long as you have some variation of the competitive exercise in your programming. Variation in the angle which you train a specific muscle group in can aid in breaking down more muscle fibers and allow you to get a better hypertrophy effect. If you want a massive chest that pushes big weight, you have to vary your exercises. Variation is also good for gaining some strength in a weak point or just giving your body a stimulus it is not used to which forces your body adapt to something new. In short, use barbell presses with varying grip widths, incline presses, and use both dumbbells and barbells for your movements. Oh, and don’t forget to put some dumbell flys in your program.
3. Your Back is Weak/ Your Technique Needs Work
An extension of just not being big enough. Yes, the bench press and bench accessories are the #1 and #2 things that are going to build your bench press, but I have never seen someone with a big bench that has a small back. Your back is responsible for providing tightness as you pull the bar down to your chest. Yep, I said pull the bar down; that is how you have to think about your bench from here on out. You need to get your back as tight as you possibly can while bringing your chest to the ceiling. The point here, is that if you have a good program you will make back training a priority. Having a more solid, stable base to put the bar off of will only help you build a bigger bench. Here is a video discussing the finer points of bench press technique.
Use these tips to help you build a bigger bench. If you are looking to improve all aspects of your powerlifting come by Progressive Performance on Saturday March 26th at 9am for a FREE powerlifting seminar.