Lately I have been experimenting in order to find the best combination of exercises to use for the ultimate bench press warm up. I am going to provide my usual step-by-step warm up I use prior to my bench, and I think you will find them very helpful. Basically, the idea is to mobilize the shoulders and chest with a few static stretches, activate the shoulder and upper back musculature with a couple different dynamic exercises, and then rehearse the movement pattern and excite your central nervous system. Oh, and I have also found a bicep pump to be extremely beneficial as well. But, I will explain more about that later.
As I mentioned, I begin each warm up with a brief stretch of the pectoral muscles as well as the shoulders. Many people in this field feel that static stretching limits performance and should only be used as a means for recovery. However, they are mislead and simply need to understand that static stretches are fine and actually needed as long as they are followed by dynamic activation and a heightening of the central nervous system. Mobilizing the chest and shoulders is key in allowing mobility throughout the entire range of motion.
Like I said, static stretching can be extremely helpful prior to training, but it must be followed by activation. I like to perform each of these for 1 set of 10 repetitions.
Central Nervous System Activation
I am going to provide a few of my favorite nervous system exercises, and you can use whichever one you seem to have the most success with. Perform 2-3 sets of 3-4 repetitions.
Bonus Upper Back and Bicep Pump
Not many people understand the importance of the upper back during the bench press. To create proper torque you must externally rotate your shoulders and retract (pinch) your scapulae. Activating your back properly will aid tremendously in the bench press, and is something I have utilized successfully in my own training. In addition to this, a biceps pump can also have an immediate impact on bench press performance. For example, most big time power lifters have large bellies. They take big, deep breaths and utilize their bellies as a slingshot to press off their knees and quadriceps and propel them through the bottom of their squat. Think of the biceps in the same way. Having a bicep pump can act as a slingshot to press your arms back into lock out and help your bench. With both of these exercises, look for 3 sets in the 12-15 repetition range. We want high volume to give us the necessary activation and “pump,” in both areas.
Now that you have properly mobilized, activated, and gotten a tremendous arm and upper back pump your ready for the best bench press performance of your life. Enjoy!
Gerry DeFilippo: ISSA CPT- CPPS, AAPS. Founder/Owner: Challenger Strength.