How Do You Overload A Bench Press? (6 Ways)
There are many programming techniques you can use to get your bench press 1 rep max up. Training with high reps and high volume is a staple part of bench press training with powerlifters. Also, overloading the bench press is a useful part of bench press training as it gives the powerlifter exposure to maximal supramaximal weights.
But how do you overload a bench press? There are many ways to do this by either increasing resistance through the motion or reducing the range of motion to increase the load. 6 ways to overload a bench press are using: Repboards for board press, swing set straps as weight releasers, rack or pin press, banded bench press, floor press, and heavy holds.
In this article, we will go through why you would want to overload a bench press, methods of overloading the bench press, and what you want to take into consideration when overloading a bench press.
Why overload a bench press?
There are many reasons for overloading a bench press. The first reason to overload a bench press can be so you have the opportunity to get exposure and experience with heavyweights beyond your maximum strength, also known as supramaximal loads.
Overload training allows you to see how your body reacts in different situations while still being able to control variables such as the range of motion or repetitions used.
A second reason is that it will allow for more variability when programming workouts since we can find ourselves adapting to a stimulus and plateau with that certain prescription.
It also helps athletes prepare for competition because they will know what a maximal weight may feel like on the platform and not be psyched out from feeling overwhelmed with how heavy the bar is that they are holding.
6 Ways to Overload a Bench Press
Here are 6 ways to overload a bench press:
- Board press using Repboards by Repel Bullies
- Weight releaser bench press with swing straps by Spud Inc
- Rack or pin press
- Banded bench press with resistance bands
- Floor press
- Bench press heavy hold
Board Press using Repboards by Repel Bullies
Board pressing is a very popular way of overloading the bench press among raw and equipped powerlifters. The idea behind board pressing is simply to use supramaximal loading whilst reducing the range of motion.
The Repel Bullies bench boards allow for a wide variety of different types of overloads. The boards provide the ability to do both board presses without the assistance of another person to hold boards on top of their chest. They are also great because they can be used in any type of gym or home setup.
There are 2 ways to use Repboards for board pressing. One way is to attach the Repboards to the barbell itself with the desired number of boards. The more boards you use, the shorter the range of motion and so the heavier you can go on them.
The other way you can use Repboards is to attach the boards themselves to your chest with a chest strap that is provided. It is up to your personal preference to how you want to perform the board presses with Repboards. If you are a raw or unequipped powerlifter, you may want to attach the boards to your chest. If you are an equipped powerlifter, you may want to attach the boards to the barbell as it is difficult to attach anything on top of your bench press shirt.
Weight Releaser Bench Press with Swing Set Straps by Spud Inc
Weight releaser bench press works by having a weight releaser on the barbell that will cause it to drop once you are in your terminal range of motion. Weight releaser bench press with traditional weight releasers seeks to overload the eccentric or lowering portion of the bench press and detaches by the time the bar reaches the chest. Weight releaser bench press with Swing Set Straps by Spud Inc will make you regain the extra loading on the way up once you reach that specific point in your range of motion. This is because the Swing Set Straps are permanent attached to the barbell.
This is a great way for powerlifters and weightlifters alike to overload their bench press training by exposing themselves to supramaximal weights without having any supportive equipment. You may want to use this method of overloading the bench press if you seek to maintain training through the full range of motion.
Rack or Pin Press
The rack or pin press is similar to the board press. The only difference is that the barbells are in a rack positioned at a specific height as opposed to on a board on your chest. By doing this you have eliminated any chance of bouncing off your chest since it will always stay on top of your chest and never go past.
There is also an advantageous element of the safety of having the rack or pins set up in place, just in case you fail a set and need to bail. This will be extremely important if you do not have a spotter or some spotters to watch over you.
Banded Bench Press with Resistance Bands
Banded bench pressing is referred to as a form of accommodating resistance where there is a gradual increase in tension experienced as the point in the range of motion gets higher towards lockout. The highest point of tension is at the top of the lockout and the lowest point of tension is at the bottom of the chest.
Banded bench presses are different from the other ways of overloading the bench press due to the overloaded tension is continuously increased during execution as opposed to discretely experienced after a specific point.
To set up this exercise, you should perform these on a competition-style bench press that has hooks for the bands to be attached to and use the correct length resistance bands. Repel Bullies 20 Inch Resistance Bands are perfect for this.
A floor press is a bench press that is performed on the floor using a squat rack or power cage to rack the barbell. Compared to a bench press, the floor press has more of an emphasis on the top portion of the range of motion where the elbows act as the range of motion limit when it touches the floor.
Due to the nature of the exercise, you are encouraged to be slow on the descent because your arms particularly your elbows will hurt if you go down any faster. It is similar to board pressing and rack or pin presses but the difference is that you cannot control the range of motion or set up a bench press arch.
Bench Press Heavy Hold
Bench press heavy holds are a great way to train the bench press lockout isometrically. Normally prescribed in time under tension as opposed to repetitions. There are two main ways of performing the bench press heavy holds:
Performing the bench press heavy hold maximally entails holding on a barbell to a desired length of time under tension before it is racked back onto the bench press. Performing the bench press heavy hold supramaximally means performing until isometric failure to the point that you have to let go of the barbell. It is mandatory to have safety pins or rack in place to receive the barbell upon muscular failure.
You should use supramaximal bench press heavy holds sparingly as these can often involve incredibly high loads that are inherently very risky. The famous IPF powerlifter Jennifer Thompson is known to perform these variations.
What to consider when overloading a bench press
There are 5 things to consider when overloading a bench press
- Long Term Programming
- Short Term Programming
- Accessory Exercises
- Pain and Injury History
Long Term Programming
The bench press should only be overloaded for a short period of time, typically in the range of three to five weeks. Using supramaximal loading can be extremely stressful for your joints and muscle tissue. Using these overloading techniques can really accumulate stress and fatigue, which increases the risk of injury. For this reason, following a training period of using supramaximal loading, there should always be a deload or tapering period.
Short Term Programming
When implementing overload onto bench pressing, the intensity of the reps will be high. As intensity and volume have an inverse relationship to what you can perform, you should consider having a lower number of sets and reps. You can implement these overloading techniques in the form of a top set or ramping top set before doing regular training as back-off sets.
Set 1 1x3 RPE 5
Set 2 1x3 RPE 6
Set 3 1x3 RPE 7
Set 4 1x3 RPE 8
Set 5 1x3 RPE 9
4x5 75%/RPE 6
Always include pushing strength exercises such as dips and presses so that you can continue training your upper body without overloading your joints. Keep volume low on those days when you cannot handle maximum loads because it will allow optimal recovery for future workouts.
It is important to ensure that you manage the difficulty of the accessory exercises to accommodate for the stress you will attain from the overloading techniques. You may decide to increase the reps in reserve in the accessory exercises so as to not get spikes in training intensity and difficulty, which will increase the risk of injury.
Pain and Injury History
Paying attention to how your body feels after using these techniques will be incredibly important. Experiencing soreness or DOMS (delay onset muscle soreness) is an inevitable part of training hard to get stronger. However, pain and soreness are merely a sliding scale of which you can move towards one end of the spectrum where pain and soreness start to become associated with injury.
One of the biggest predictors of future injuries is past injury, so understanding that if you have injured your upper body before in the past particularly the bench press prime movers, you may want to reconsider using overload techniques on the bench press. Prime movers of the bench press include the pecs, the triceps, and deltoids.
You also want to take into consideration whether you have injured your stabilising muscles too such as your rotator cuff or serratus anterior.
Overloading a bench press has its place in powerlifting training but should be used sparingly at appropriate times in the calendar. It should be reserved for training blocks that involve higher intensities of training. It is also important to note that you should cater the method of overloading the bench press to the needs of your performance in terms of sticking points and injury history.