Top 3 Bench Press Variations for Raw Powerlifting
For anyone receiving powerlifting programming or coaching services at Desert Barbell, you probably spend at least 3-5 sessions a week performing some form of bench press. This article provides information on the top bench assistance exercises that we use and why. As is a theme in all information we share, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to training. Some exercises may have great value to you while others may not be as useful. It all depends on where in the movement you experience individual weakness. It is also important to highlight that the most important exercise to improve your competition bench is (insert mental drum roll……..) training the competition bench with an emphasis on quality of execution as well as load.
1) 3ct count Pause Bench
The 3ct pause bench is a great exercise to develop the competition bench press, as it forces your body to spend longer in the hardest position in the movement, in order to generate force from the initial drive off the chest. It is also an exercise that will punish poor stability. It is a good rule of thumb when prepping for a competition to have performed your opening attempt multiple times with a 3ct pause, in order to ensure you can comfortably press your first attempt despite a long pause command in competition.
2) Chest Level Pin Press
The chest level pin press offers much of the same benefits as the 3ct pause bench in terms of adding tension to the bottom position. The difference with the pin press is that it makes it far harder to keep tension in the bottom position with the weight resting on the pins. The athlete is required to go from a position with little tension (due to the bar being rested on the pins) to producing as much force as possible through the bar. The pin press can be a great exercise to help lifters improve their ability to stay organised in the bottom position while maintaining tension.
3) Slingshot Bench Press
The slingshot is a variation that allows athletes to overload the bench press. The slingshot will allow the athlete to lift anywhere from 5-15% more than their current max. Why is this valuable? Firstly, from a physical perspective, at the top of the movement the athlete is holding more weight than they are comfortable with. Due to this, the slingshot bench can greatly help with developing stability in the top position. Secondly, from a psychological perspective, the slingshot bench can help lifters release mental blocks with a certain weight. This variation is particularly useful when preparing for a competition, as lifters may choose to practice their planned third attempt for reps in a slingshot, thus building their confidence in hitting that weight for meet day.
If you need help with your bench press, feel free to reach out for a consultation or keep an eye out for our clinics and workshops.