Q: I recently stopped doing skull crushers because they caused tremendous pain in my elbows. A trainer at my gym told me I should switch over to close grip benches because they caused less elbow strain. They are definitely less painful on my elbows but they kill my wrists!! What else can I do for my tris? I want to get my bench up so I don’t want to wuss out and just do cable pushdowns. Any suggestions??? Kyle
It sounds to me like your close grip bench press grip is too close. This is an extremely common mistake I see all the time. When I prescribe close grip benches to my guys, I have them put their index finger on the smooth part of the bar (just inside the knurling).
That’s as close as I’ll have them go. I’ve found this grip best for both wrist & elbow health, as well as triceps strength and mass.
NOTE: My clientelle consists of larger-than-average guys, so “normal” sized guys (with shorter limb lengths) may be able to go a little closer and put their middle finger on the smooth part of the bar; but that’s as close as I’d recommend for anyone.
Hope this helps!
Q: Louie Simmons always talks about the back and lats being the “launching pad” for a big bench and I tend to agree. My question for you is what is your favorite back exercise for specifically improving the bench press? Thanks for your insight coach.
I don’t have one specific favorite upper back exercise for improving the bench press, but my favorite category of exercises would definitely be isometric holds.
Bench pressing properly involves creating torque at the shoulders, while pulling the scapula ‘back and down’. I’ve noticed a tremendous increase in strength & stability on the bench after I started incorporating more isometrics into my upper back programming. Not only will your pressing numbers skyrocket, you’ll add size & muscularity to your upper back – without the joint pain and stress that’s associated with many other back movements.
Here are 3 of my favorite Upper Back isometrics for improving your bench press:
#1 – Prone Y-W-T’s (Hold each position for 10-30sec. Rest 30-60sec. Repeat 3-4X.)
#2 – Double-banded Bent-over Rear Delt hold (Hold for 10-30sec, then rest for 10-30sec. Repeat 3-4X.)
#3 – Face Pull Iso-holds (Perform 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps, but hold each rep in the contracted position for 3-6sec. Rest 60sec. b/t sets.)
Start incorporating these exercises into your program and you’ll no longer be embarrassed when someone asks, “How much ya bench?!”