Four Count Bench Press

Every individual has a limited capacity for training volume they are capable of performing in a given week or microcycle. Your training checkbook has a balance of weight, sets, and reps you can perform and overdrawing it has…consequences. You want to select the primary and assistance lifts for your program that will make the most impact on your training goals, whatever those goals may be.

If you’re reading my posts, your training goals are likely to lift as much weight as possible. When you’re deciding what assistance lifts to add to your program, start by looking at where your lifts are the weakest, and plug in (effective) training to fill those gaps.

You may have guessed that for this article the target lift is the bench press. The target portion of the ROM is the bottom end, generating power off the chest. An assistance lift I’ve found that helps this portion of the ROM is the four count bench press. What are some indications that this may be a good assistance lift?

  • Your typical failure point is close to the chest, within 2-3” of the chest
  • Your presses are sluggish and slow off the chest
  • You have poor stability at the chest

The four count bench can help you with these issues by

  • Increasing the time under tension within this target ROM
  • Developing more explosive power off the chest, and control of the weight at this point

How do you perform this lift properly (my version of it anyway)?

  • There are four distinct phases to the lift:
    1. Lower the bar to the chest.
    2. Press the bar 1-3” off the chest and stop – it is important to stop before you hit the point where power begins transitioning from a pec movement off the chest, to a tricep movement at lockout. This generally occurs somewhere in the mid point of the press.
    3. Lower the bar back to the chest again. (and)
    4. Press the bar to lockout.

  • Each of the lowering phases should use a normal eccentric tempo
  • Although there is not (necessarily) a pause, each stop should be very sharp and distinct
  • Each upward press should be very very explosive, generating as much speed as you can muster
  • If you are a competitor, you should use your competition form for this lift. For lifters with high arches and wide grip, for example, I often use a narrower grip and lower arch for other assistance lifts, but for this lift I have them use their competition position.
  • My preferred rep range for this lift is 3-5 reps, using 80-85% of the weight you would typically use for that volume. (Note, this is not 80% of your 1RM).
  • I like to incorporate them either after the primary bench on the primary bench day, or as the primary bench on a secondary bench day.

I do want to point out that if your primary issue with the lower portion of the ROM is instability, you likely have some other work to do to address that problem than just strengthening the ROM, but this lift can be a part of that correction.

Credit to Katja Lariola for recommending this lift!

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