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Supported Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Supported Single-Arm Dumbbell Row

Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, place your left hand on a bench in front of you, and assume a staggered stance, left foot forward. Hold your elbow in as you row the wight to the side of your torso. Do 10 reps, switch arms and leg positions, and repeat the movement.

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Dumbbell Triceps Kickback

Grab a pair of dumbbells, bend your knees and lean forward so your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. Tuck your upper arms next to your sides, bend your elbows, and hold your forearms about parallel to the floor, palms facing up. Simultaneously extend your arms straight back and rotate the weight so your palms end up facing each other. Return to the starting position. Do 15 reps.

Dumbbell Hammer Curl and Press

Dumbbell Hammer Curl and Press

Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a pair of dumbbells at arm's length by your sides, palms facing each other. Without moving your upper arms, curl the weights to your shoulders, and then press them overhead until your arms are straight. Reverse the move to return to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Improving Bench Press Performance

bench press
There are few things more satisfying to the average gym rat then having the entire gym pretending not to look as you mow through serious tonnage on the bench press. One of the best overall mass-building exercises, the bench press has always, rightly or wrongly, been regarded as a yard stick for strength and machismo.

Here are some pointers to to help improve on the bench.

IDENTIFYING WEAKNESSES

It's only logical that a lifter must first identify his/her weaknesses on the bench before drawing up a plan of action. Some lifters are actually much stronger than their bench performance leads them to believe, but are being hampered by a very fixable problem.

Critical Bench, a handy online fitness resource, stresses the importance of finding holes in your bench.

For example, the site says that lifters who fail at the bottom of the lift (i.e. - being unable to get the bar back up to the start position) "need to become more explosive in the start of the movement."

Other lifters might have difficulty completing the lockout, which is at the top of the press. The weakness there, Critical Bench says, is triceps strength. Identifying weakness is only part of the equation. The lifter must then zero in on their deficiency and make it a priority in their training.

WORKING COMPLIMENTARY MUSCLES

The main reason the bench press is such a valuable mass-building tool is the fact that the lift incorporates a variety of different muscles.

Therefore, whether a lifter is addressing weaknesses or simply trying to improve an already solid bench, they must train all of the muscles involved in the lift.

Critical Bench cites three complimentary muscles that are crucial to success on the bench:

First is the triceps. The triceps are involved in the top portion of the lift. In addition to providing explosiveness in the movement, the triceps also provide stability and support. Critical Bench cites triceps dips, close-grip presses and triceps extensions to help improve triceps strength.

Shoulder strength is also important. The shoulders are engaged throughout the bottom half of the lift and, like the triceps, act as stabilizers throughout the entire range of motion.

A third, and often overlooked, secondary muscle is the upper back area. Critical Bench asserts that lifters "also need a strong upper back to keep your body tight and stable. Concentrate on barbell rowing, seated rowing and pull-ups to build a big strong back."

USING PROPER FORMAs with any exercise, strict form is essential for safe and successful execution of the the bench press.

Bodybuilding.com, another invaluable training resource, offers some helpful insight into lifting with proper form, including the following:
  • Arching the back: First, lifters should never arch their back and bounce the weight off his/her chest. These are oft-used cheating methods but, when lifting heavy weight, they can be dangerous.
  • Grip: Bodybuilding.com says to "always wrap your thumbs around the bar so the weight won't slip and crush you." Simple advice, but it certainly drives the point home.
  • Breathing: Proper breathing is critical. Lifters want to inhale and hold their breath on the way down and exhale as the barbell explodes on the way up.
  • Foot Position: In addition, the site advocates having "your feet firmly planted on the ground to draw strength from your legs."

RECOVERY

While enthusiasm and dedication in the gym will generate results, lifters must also be mindful of wear and tear on their body. Allowing adequate time for recovery, therefore, is also important. Days off, warm showers and post-workout stretches will go a long way in preventing injury and keeping your workouts on track and pain-free.

TRAINING METHODS

Critical Bench offers two types of bench training. To maximize their efficiency, they should both be implemented into a training program, if only on alternating weeks:

Maximal Effort Training: This training method features sessions where the lifter will work with as much as possible for a specific number of reps. As an example, Critical Bench uses a " 5 RM maximal effort session would require you to work up the best weight that you can lift for five repetitions with good form."

Lifting heavy weights will help increase strength, there's no refuting that. Lifting with heavy weights involves low repetition, which is the focal point of maximal effort training. The aim here is to improve muscle strength, whereas a high-rep workout stressed muscle endurance.

Dynamic Effort Training: Critical Bench states that dynamic effort training is designed to increase explosiveness. "The foundation of a dynamic effort workout is opposite to a traditional workout. Because the focus of a dynamic exercise is to move the weight as fast as possible, you will use much less weight. In addition, rather than performing a small number of sets and many repetitions, you will perform a larger number of sets of only a small number of repetitions (i.e. eight sets of three repetitions for the bench press)."

To get the most out of this program, it is imperative to push the bar upwards with maximal force on each and every rep.

Lifters trying to break through plateaus or sticking points might also want to try using resistance tubing on a bench press (using light weight of course) to maximize muscle stimulation and to help increase resistance at the top of the movement without using an unbearable weight.

Again, be sure to only use these methods to supplement your normal chest training - they should not supplant it.

Here's to big weight and big crowds at the gym.

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