Chest Training – Speed Bench PressPosted: December 21, 2014
The speed bench is a variation of the bench press designed to increase the explosiveness in your upper body pushing lifts. Since power is a function of both strength and speed, speed benches allow you to train the speed side of that equation.
Muscles Used for this Exercise
- Primary Muscle Groups: Pectorals
- Secondary Muscle Groups: Delts, Triceps
- Stabilizers: Upper Back (Latissimus Dorsi, Rhomboids, Trapezius), Biceps, Abdominals/Core
Technique for the speed bench press is no different than your normal bench press with the exception that you drive the bar up with every bit of strength you have. Drive the bar up as fast as you can, and try to press each repetition even faster than the repetition before.
- Equipment: Use a standard bench press bench and barbell. Preferably you have a standard 20kg bar with rings in the knurling at the standard 81cm distance. This allows you to consistently measure your hand position.
- If your bench has adjustable j-hooks for the bar, set them so you can nearly lockout before unracking. This allows you to unrack with just a slight upward motion so you can clear the hooks and bring the bar straight out over your chest with your elbows already locked.
- Stance/Foot Position: Place your feet flat on the floor. You may have to try different foot positions based on your body mechanics. Start with them underneath your hips, toes pointed outward.
- Hand Position/Grip: Your hand position will be dependent on your body mechanics (width of your shoulders, length of your arms, etc.).
- Use the 81cm rings as landmarks on the bar so you can place your hands evenly on the bar, and use the same placement for every set.
- Set your hand placement so that when the bar is on your chest your forearms are perpendicular to the floor.
- Thumbs should be wrapped around the bar. Rest the bar in the base of your palm so that when holding the bar it lies directly over your wrists and forearms.
- Sets/Reps: The key to the speed bench is to keep the number of repetitions low enough so that the bar’s speed does not begin to slow during the set. Each set should have no more than 2-3 reps. Use a higher number of sets. Depending on how your program is designed, you can effectively use between 6-10 sets.
Setting Up: Set up starting at the bar and work your way down to your feet, as you would for your bench press.
- Grip the bar using the hand position you determined earlier. Once you grip the bar, squeeze it, and don’t loosen your grip until the set has been completed.
- Set your shoulders into the bench. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re trying to pinch a coin between them. Continue squeezing them together throughout the set, and through the full range of motion (ROM) of each repetition.
- Plant your feet flat on the floor under your hips, and point your toes out slightly.
- Drive through the balls of your feet, and push your hips towards your shoulders. This will push your back into a slight arch, and tighten your entire body from your toes to your traps. Keep your buttocks on the bench as you apply leg drive. Continue driving throughout the entire set to help you keep your chest up and stay tight.
- If you have lower back injuries, discuss benching with an arch with your physician before employing this technique.
- Your head, shoulders, and buttocks should remain in contact with the bench, and your feet should remain flat on the floor without moving throughout the full ROM of each repetition.
Executing the Lift
- Unrack the bar
- Take a deep breath filling your chest and abdomen and hold it.
- Keeping your shoulders planted on the bench and shoulder blades squeezed together, lift the bar up slightly to clear the j-hooks (with spotter assistance if needed), and bring the bar straight out over the chest.
- Take another deep breath and hold it.
- Bring the bar to the lower portion of your chest (between your nipple line and the base of your sternum) in a quick but controlled manner.
- Although the focus on speed benches is bar speed, for the eccentric portion of the lift use the same tempo as you would for your normal bench press.
- Despite the speed of the bar’s descent, it should stop lightly on your chest and not sink in.
- Keep your chest up as you bring the bar down. Feel your pecs stretch across your rib cage, ready to snap like a rubber band driving the bar up.
- Let the bar come to a complete stop on the chest before driving the bar up.
- Stopping the bar on your chest will remove the tendency to bounce the bar off your chest.
- As you begin the press back up, do not let the bar sink into your chest and heave it with your chest for assistance.
- Drive the bar explosively off your chest using your pecs and lats. Drive the bar hard through the sticking point maintaining good bar speed all the way through lock out.
- Concentrate on locking your elbows, not pushing the bar up. This will help you lock out strongly and alleviate the tendency to lift your shoulders off the bench.
- Begin exhaling as the bar passes the sticking point, snaking the air out through lockout.
- Let the bar come to a complete stop while locked out, take another deep breath, and begin subsequent reps.
- Concentrate on driving the bar up with all your strength, moving the bar up as fast as possible.
- If your 1RM is 200lb, and you’re performing speed benches with 100lbs, the bar should move twice as fast as when maxing out.
- Try and drive each subsequent repetition even faster than the rep before.
- Engage every muscle fiber in your body instantaneously to drive the bar up.
- Speed benches should be performed well below your 1RM to allow you to practice moving the bar with great speed, and re-emphasize bench technique at a lower weight.
- Begin your speed benches around 50-60% of your 1RM.
- As your proficiency speed benching increases, increase the weight to practice benching explosively with higher weights. Begin your sets with a weight you can press the bar with a high rate of speed, and increase the weight for latter sets. You can see this approach demonstrated in the videos below.
- Bouncing the bar off the chest: Control the bar to your chest, stop lightly on the chest without letting it sink in. Drive the bar up without using your heaving it with your chest.
- Loosening the shoulders, raising them off the bench: Keep your shoulders tight and planted on the bench throughout the full ROM of each repetition in the set.
- Lifting your buttocks off the bench: Keep your buttocks (as well as your head and shoulders) planted firmly on the bench.
- Pressing the bar up with less than max speed and power: Speed benches are designed to train you to always bench with maximum power and speed. Drive the bar up with as much speed as possible, and try and drive every repetition more quickly than the rep before.
- Use a spotter when bench pressing. Although you’re starting with lighter weights for speed benching, be aware of your limits.
- Bring the bar down at the lower portion of your chest and don’t flare your elbows out as you bring the bar down. This will reduce tension in your shoulders.
- Speed Bench Press with Bands
- Speed Bench Press with Chains
Additional Chest Exercises
- Additional chest exercises can be found in the Brute Force Book of Techniques