Tip: How to Diagnose Your Bench Press Problem

Bench stuck? Here's how to find and fix your sticking points.

Categorized under Training

This table lists the most probable issue causing each sticking point on the bench press. Now, there could be something more complex going on, or a technical issue that’s more unique to you. But most of the time, I’ve found that strengthening the sticking point area will solve the problem.

So take a look at this table, determine where your sticking point is, take note of the causes, and use the appropriate assistance exercises to strengthen that area.

Bench Press

Sticking Point Causes Assistance Exercises
Breaking off from chest 1. Lats weak or not properly engaged

2. External shoulder rotators

3. Upper traps more dominant than lower traps and rear delts

1. Straight-arms pulldown, Pendlay row, seal row

2. Cuban press, seated dumbbell snatch, external shoulder rotations

3. Trap-3 raise, rear delt machine, Powell raise, victory raise

Lower third Pecs Wide-grip bench press, Spotto press, decline bench press, floor press, dumbbell bench press, bench press with Duffalo bar
Mid third 1. Anterior delts

2. Rear delts and rhomboids (Shoulder lifts up from bench)

1. Incline bench press, slight incline bench press, lying front raise

2. Bench press with resistance band around wrists, rear delt machine, face pulls

Upper third (lockout) Triceps, especially long head Close-grip pin press, lockout bench press, close-grip floor press, close-grip decline bench, overhead triceps extensions

If you’re unfamiliar with some of these exercises, use this list:

Seal Row

A seal row is a chest-supported row (using dumbbells or a bar) using a bench. Elevate the bench on blocks or plates. If you don’t have that setup, a regular chest-supported row will do.

Cuban Press

Trap-3 Raise

Powell Raise

Victory Raise

Spotto Press

Bench Press With Resistance Band Around Wrists

Bench Press With Duffalo Bar

Once you fix a muscle weakness, it’ll take some time to transfer those strength gains to the bench press. Your body will need to change the intermuscular coordination pattern. Don’t panic if your strength gains in pressing lag a few weeks behind your strength gains in the assistance lifts.

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Christian Thibaudeau specializes in building bodies that perform as well as they look. He is one of the most sought-after coaches by the world's top athletes and bodybuilders. Check out the Christian Thibaudeau Coaching Forum.