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Increase Overhead Strength to Improve Your Bench

There has been mass panic about training at the moment due to coronavirus. One of the concerns I am hearing most about is losing strength on the bench press. "I have a bar, some plates, and some dumbbells, so I can't bench, it's gonna go down massively".

You can use this time to work on your overhead strength. This will more than likely help you come back with a better bench then if you just kept hammering away on it at the gym as you normally do.

This is something that Ed Coan has spoken about for a long time. When his bench stalled, he said he would work on behind the neck presses as he felt the weakness in his shoulders were limiting his bench press.

Charles Poliquin said that based on the normative data he collected over the years there was a strong correlation between shoulder pain and a lack of overhead strength. He also explained that training only the bench press pathway often causes the subscapularis muscle to shorten and unbalance the shoulder joint.

Charles would often say that the ability to be able to behind the neck press was a sign of a healthy shoulder. To perform the behind the neck press we start the weight from a deadstop on the traps, using a full range of motion. This is how you would assess your shoulder integrity using that lift, not a little half rep lockout type thing barely reaching the top of your head, that I see in most commercial gyms.

So, spending some time focusing on your overhead strength may also help reduce your risk of injury as you may correct some imbalances that you would not have otherwise addressed.

Overhead presses will also increase the strength of the long head of your triceps which will also help carry over to a stronger bench when you get back to it.

Pair your pressing work with a chin up variation, then move on to some form of row, and external rotator work and you will keep, if not increase, the strength on the bench press. Remember to vary the type of press and chin up every 4 -6 workouts and do the same for your assistance work.

The change will more than likely help you break a few plateaus.


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