I am going to go out on a limb here and assume that you already do enough pulling motions to balance out the benching you do in the form of bench pressing. So if you are doing pull-ups and rows, awesome. If not, start. However, if your bench still isn’t where you want it to be, you have to take a more in-depth look at the motions involved and make the weak areas stronger.
So with that, let’s take a look at the bench press set up, since a lot of your success starts there. You arch the back, bring the shoulders down and back, and press. And it’s a good lift, right? In theory, yes. But this critical area is where many fail. So the primary focus of the following accessory work is to focus on the requisite motions to help you set up for a better bench. Those motions are:
- Scapular depression
- Scapular retraction
- Overall core tightness
With that said, onto the exercises.
Chest Supported Rear Delt Fly
I like this one a lot as a bench accessory. At first, it might not seem like the most intuitive accessory, but let’s take a look at it. You’re abducting the humerus of each arm, and retracting the scapulae. When it comes to performing the bench, what are you doing when you set up? If you answered “retracting the scapulae” you are 100% correct. Scapular retraction is a critical component of the bench press, and you need to develop that. For one thing, locking them in place ensures a more stable set of shoulders. Second, and combined with your arched back, you reduce the range of motion on the lift. If you are a competitive powerlifter, this advantageous. More pounds lifted equals a better total.
As an honorable mention to this exercise, you can still use the bench and try the following: shrugs or rows both performed with a set of dumbbells. The fly involves a lighter load, whereas the other two options can help you practice the scapular retraction with more intensity.
One final note: why the bench? The slight incline will help you practice your scapular depression easier than you can on a flat bench.
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