4 Tips to Lift More Weight on the Bench Press

Captain sets bench press record.
Capt. Walter Hatfield of Charleston, W.Va., bench-presses 425 pounds, breaking the gymnasium's record of 415 pounds, at Camp Stryker, Iraq, July 22, 2009. (Photo courtesy of the 30th Armored Brigade Combat Team)

Been stuck at 185 pounds on your bench press for what seems like decades and looking finally to crack 200?

Well, no promises, but these four powerful little mental tricks could help you add an immediate 20% more to your bench press and break a new personal record.

Bench press power tip #1: Focus on your body, not the bar

When you're benching, try to push your body away from the bar, not the bar away from your body. This trick works for the same reason that when doing pull-ups, you focus on pulling your elbows down. Your brain sees the bar as an inanimate object outside of your control, and it understands that the bar may win. But your brain sees your body as an ally within your control and is much more confident in your strength when focusing on moving your body.

Bench press power tip #2: "Pull" the bar apart

As you're lifting the bar, try "pulling" it apart as if your hands were moving away from each other. Your hands don't actually move; you just want to grip hard and imagine stretching the bar longer. This calls into play more stabilizer muscles to give you extra power in your upward movement.

Bench press power tip #3: Visualize the bar going up

Do you know this "spotter" trick? Whenever you're spotting someone on the bench press and they've hit a sticking point, usually all you have to do is place two fingers under the bar and it magically seems to raise again. No, you don't have the world's strongest fingers.

It's simply the lifter thinking they're getting help with the rep, but they're actually doing it all on their own.

You can do this by yourself (or with a partner) just by visualizing the bar constantly moving upward. When you reach that sticking point, play a mental movie in your mind and vividly see the bar raising. Your body will believe what you see and respond by making your movie a reality.

Bench press power tip #4: Look to your dominant hand

Another sticking-point destroyer ...

Once you reach the point where the bar stops its ascent and you think you've been defeated, look (without turning your head) toward your dominant hand. This is yet another mental "trigger" for your brain to associate strength and power with what it perceives as your strongest asset in your bench press battle.

Well, there you go.

Bring your brain to your next chest workout and load up a few extra plates, because you're guaranteed to leave your wimpy old record in the dust once you try these easy tips.

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Jeff Anderson is a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Army, a master fitness trainer and master instructor of close quarters combat self-defense. A full-time fitness and self-defense author, Anderson has trained thousands of men and women in the practical application of advanced military fitness methods as well as close combat tactics for "real-life" self-defense.

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