Pressing with the palms facing each other, rather than pointed toward your feet, will naturally cause you to keep your elbows close. It will also encourage you to keep the forearms parallel to the ground, meaning you are in a primed position to lift better weight. It's a great way to teach stability before moving forward with the traditional barbell movement and can help develop pressing strength later down the line. This mode of pressing takes excess pressure off your shoulder joints and increases your mechanical advantage, allowing you to lift significantly more weight. It also brings the triceps in to play over the traditional shoulder overload placed on palms down pressing. This means; greater range of motion, a better gliding shoulder girdle, with healthier shoulder positioning and as we know 70% of pressing strength comes from tricep output, so targeting them in prep phases can help you progress further down the line with programming. This is particularly true if having a big bench press is a goal.
Working the press through different mechanical positions will also help you increase your strength output. Vertical placement is your most disadvantaged position where as the more horizontal you go the easier it gets and so decline is your most advantageous. It then makes perfect sense to get stronger in your weakest positions. This should be done whilst working on the pulling mechanisms of the back parallel to pressing movements. As mentioned in previous blogs enhancing the muscles of the scapular retractors and rotators will help enhance this goal of benching big!
Below is one way of using 24 weeks of periodised work to help you achieve a better bench press score.
General Prep Phase (GPP) Dumbbell Work
3 weeks accumulation A1 45 degree press 3x8-10 4010 TUT 50sec
3 weeks intensification A1 Flat press 4x6-8 3110 TUT 40sec
3 weeks accumulation A1 35 degree press 5x7-9 3011 TUT 45sec
3 weeks intensification A1 Decline press 6x4-6 3111 TUT 36sec
Average Reps 8.25 Average TIME UNDER TENSION 42.75 secs
Specialisation Phase (SPP) Barbell Work
3 weeks accumulation A1 45 degree press 3 waves (7 5) (7 5) (7 5) 4010 TUT 25-35sec
3 weeks intensification *35 degree press 3 waves (6 4) (6 4) (6 4) 3011 TUT 20-30sec
3 weeks accumulation *flat press 3 waves (5 3) (5 3) (5 3) 2111 TUT 15-25 sec
3 weeks intensification *flat press 3 waves (4 2) (4 2) (4 2) 4010 TUT 10-20sec
Average Reps 3.5-5.5 Average TIME UNDER TENSION 17.5-27.5 secs
As you can see between the 2 phases there are 4 mini 3 week blocks where by the focus changes between accumulation and intensification. This is where the main stressor switches from volume to intensity and back again. You can see this by looking at the rep ranges and time under tensions of which undulate every 3 weeks. If you take a look at the average reps and time under tension between the two big phases you can see the general prep has higher volume and tension than the specialisation phase. This is because this is where all the prep work is done to allow us to move forward with heavier more traditional barbell lifts during our final specialisation phase. You can also see that during the SPP phase a 3 wave loading approach has been taken. This has a 2 rep spread just like the GPP phase but when done in this fashion of loading the parameters allow for a higher threshold of motor units to be activated and thus the pool stimulated will enhance your strength and muscle gains. We also know that volume and intensity have an inverse relationship and so dropping the volume in the specialisation phase makes perfect sense to achieve a big bench press number. This is where a lot of people go wrong in the confusion of volume being intensity. If there isn't a taper in volume here then your strength output will simply be masked as a result of fatigue. By doing this you will be sure to hit the law of accommodation where by you actually detain the body by failing to enhance the stimulus.
Although this is a little piece on how to help your bench pressing, it is also a little insight to how intrinsic we are when developing each and everyone's programs. The picture is client Amaresh working on his pressing!