Increase Force Production
- While the bar is still racked, take your regular bench press grip on the bar, but don’t unrack it yet.
- Now pull down as hard as you can on the bar, trying to bring it to you. Brace yourself so that you won’t come off the bench.
- Hold that contraction for six seconds
- Relax for 5-10 seconds, then proceed with your bench press set.
You’ve just increased force production and you’ll very likely get more reps or hit a new PR.
How’s That Work, Coach?
Pulling down on the bar will result in a maximal static contraction of the antagonist muscles of the bench press. Remember, antagonist muscles are the muscles with the opposite function than the target muscle. In this case, we’re about to press, so we use a pull for the static contraction. This is called the “antagonist pre-contraction” method.
Research has found that a brief, maximal voluntary contraction of the antagonists immediately prior to a movement increases the force production of the agonists.
It’s been theorized that the pre-contraction of the antagonists counters their subsequent inhibitory effect, which will facilitate the action of the prime movers and synergists. Caiozzo et al. have even concluded that “a strength training program that employs the pre-contraction technique is more effective for increasing low-velocity strength than only training the prime movers.”