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Bench “Cheat Sheet”: Top 3 Assistance Exercises

At 5’5 with humerus bones the same length as most 6′ tall men, I am not built well for the bench press. Yet if I can reach a 215 lb bench at 63kg/138lb bodyweight, than there are no excuses to allow your bench to stay weak! Here is a list of my 3 favorite exercises to help get the most out of your bench (without hurting yourself!):

1.) Make-shift “Slingshot” benchScreen Shot 2018-04-28 at 2.55.34 PM

 

Helpful for people who:

  • Have issues engaging stabilizer muscles (shaking or poor bar control)
  • Inconsistent barpath
  • Unable to get J-curve barpath
  • Overtuck elbows

What this does:

  • Forces engagement of stabilizing muscles to keep band pulled apart
  • Pushes bar into correct j-curve barpath off the chest

Using a thin band, fold in half and make figure 8. Put your arms through the loops of the 8 right above your elbows. You want to use a band strength for this that will not overpower you (if you bench <100lb use a 0.25″ wide band, 100-200lb use 0.5″ wide, 200-300lb use 0.75″ wide, etc.). I prefer this to actual slingshot bench for lifters who lift <400lbs as the lesser tension has a much higher carry over to your raw bench while still allowing a bit of overload. Rep range can be low or high.

2.) Handstand push-upsScreen Shot 2018-04-28 at 3.15.32 PM.png

 

Helpful for people who:

  • Unstable off the chest
  • Weak off the chest
  • Unstable or weak with wide grip

What this does:

  • Builds muscles in shoulders and stabilizers of the shoulder girdle
  • Activates and strengthens core

Using a WIDE hand placement, flip back onto a wall or walk your feet up a wall. Walking your feet up will allow you to do a slight decline to make it easier. (You can also do a decline off a box, or work your way to this point starting with standard or incline push-ups). Keep your hands in line with your armpits for proper balance. Brace your core as you would for a plank and go down so your head touches the ground. Aim for variation in height that allows you to do at 8+ push-ups, and make the variation harder once you are able to do 3-4 sets of 10+.

3.) Tempo BenchScreen Shot 2018-04-28 at 3.27.37 PM.png

 

Helpful for people who:

  • EVERYONE

What this does:

  • Enforces good positioning on the way down
  • Strengthens stabilizing muscles
  • Encourages an active pause (bar not sinking into chest)

Tempo bench is a great variation everyone should utilize. It is one of the best ways to find out where you struggle and what you need to address.  There are several different tempos that work, but my most common tempos are 420 or 530. While doing these, focus on keeping your base  (quads, glutes, core, back, shoulders) as tight and engaged as possible. Rep range should be low (5 or less).

Meepsquad

Author Meepsquad

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