By Charles Glass
Q: Yesterday, I did the barbell bench for the first time in a while, and I was very disappointed with my performance. I’ve been trying to bring up my lower chest so I’ve been focusing on declines and weighted dips. But since I also know the flat bench works lower chest as well, I did it just because I hadn’t in a while and wanted to make sure I was covering all my bases. I only got 195 for six reps the first set, 185 for about five or six on my second set, and then I repped out with like 150 for only eight. I was able to get 205 for three sets of six back a few months ago and can’t understand why I would be weaker now. Do you think it’s just a matter of me not doing it for a while? I do feel like my chest has been responding better. It looks bigger to me, but I’m disappointed that it’s not any stronger – in fact it seems to be weaker on the bench press!
A: The bench press, squat and deadlift all involve a lot of technique and unless you perform them consistently, you’ll lose your balance and coordination on them. For instance, say you work your way up to squatting 405 for 10 reps. Then, for whatever reason, you get away from squats for a while and instead do leg presses and hack squats for a few months. You might get stronger on those exercises and build size in your thighs, but I guarantee you, if you come back to squats one day five or six months later and try 405, you won’t even get it once – and I do NOT suggest you even try this! As for the flat bench working the lower chest, it’s not really a good choice. It hits the middle section of the pecs much better. If your lower chest is a problem area, declines and weighted dips are your best bet for improving it. Another technique you can try is pause presses on a Smith machine. Set up a decline bench under the bar and then rack the rubber stoppers into position so the bar can come close to your chest, but no lower. This is for safety purposes. Take a weight that’s about 60 percent to 70 percent of what you can normally handle and do a set of eight to 10 reps with a full one-second pause at the bottom. Count one-Mississippi in your head. Many trainers get in the bad habit of bouncing the bar off their chests and miss out on what could be a very effective exercise. By coming to a full stop, or pause, all momentum is eliminated and you’re forced to fire every muscle fiber in your pecs to get that bar moving again.
Charles Glass is the Godfather of Bodybuilding, with over 35 years of experience as a trainer of champions. Charles’ methods produce dramatic and significant gains to anyone that applies them. His clients cross the spectrum from celebrities, fitness athletes, and pro athletes to everyday people, and include some of the most successful people in the fitness industry and numerous Mr. Olympia and Bikini Olympia champions. For more information, visit godfatherofbodybuilding.com