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Geran

Hitting a Bench Press Plateau, Need Help

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I've been lifting heavy and hard for roughly a year now, and raised all of my maxes significantly. But within the last few months, I've hit a hard plateau on my bench press at 200/205. I've tried multiple different programs to break though it, but I always end up failing sets around this weight. Programs attempted thus far:

 

1. Stronglifts 5x5 - This is where I started, and this got me to about 150-160.

2. Effortless Superhuman (Tim Ferris, 4 Hour Body) - This worked well up until I hit the 200/205 plateau. Despite multiple resets, I couldn't break it.

3. Eating the Elephant (Tim Ferris, 4 Hour Body) - This program is supposed to be designed specifically to break bench press plateaus, but I still failed at the 200/205.

 

My diet for roughly 6 months has been Tim Ferris's "Slow Carb Diet," to include the Saturday cheat days, and extra protein from whey protein powder + water shakes to support muscle growth. The only area I already know I struggle with is sleep, as I often times will only average 5 hours a night.

 

I've come a long way in my journey, but I'm not satisfied, and I refuse to let 200 be my max when I know there are people out there lifting triple that or more. Any and all help would be appreciated, I can take the criticism if anyone knows something I'm doing wrong or a program that would be helpful.

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Get your sleep up, you're going to have a hard time making any gains on 5 hours a night, just like you said. Otherwise, try to get more sets in per week, and start adding some accessories in to address weaknesses or just add mass. I'm not familiar with the two Tim Ferris programs, can you give me an outline? I can give some tips on what to add to try to help.

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I'll be lazy and not read up on all those programs.  What has worked for me is cycling through high rep sets of bench, inclined bench and overhead press.   By high rep I mean 5x10.  Be sure your form is good (keep those shoulder joints rotated inward).  If your elbows start hurting, add bicep curls.  It's non-intuitive but works.  Also be sure to do shoulder accessory work such as rotations or shoulder shockers.  Sets of pushups through the day will help as well.  And like Gainsdalf said...sleeeeeep.  You get stronger in bed (no, not that way...well maybe).

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4 hours ago, wildross said:

I'll be lazy and not read up on all those programs.

Seconded ;)

 

But I will suggest a few other things - pushing strength should be proportional to pulling strength to ensure healthy joints. Have you been training your inverted rows and pull ups in as a dedicated way as your benching? If not, maybe balancing that out will help you progress overall!

 

Try regressing - train with dumbbells to balance out any unilateral imbalances (the weight will almost certainly be lower than your BB weight), do floor presses (to remove any leg drive advantage), do pushups (if you can't do 50 BW pushups, that should be a priority) and dips (some folks say you should be able to do at least 35).

 

Do accessory work: skullcrushers, lateral raises, landmine presses & rows, fat bar/grip work, etc. Make sure you're hitting your shoulders, chest, and upper back from all angles - not just the one.

 

Augment what you CAN do - bands, chains, tempo training, adding reps, etc. Progressive overload isn't just about the number on the bar.

 

Are you eating enough protein (I sound like a broken record in this one lately :D) you need 2.2-3.3g/kg of bodyweight for building muscle. What about carbs? If you're running on empty in the gym, it's hard to push past plateaus.

 

Finally, if you've been working for a year on this, understand that you may in fact be reaching a natural decline in the speed of progress you can physically manage - experienced lifters improve slowly, it's a sad sad truth. I know a guy who was stuck at the same squat number for TWO YEARS - he was happy seeing progress by losing 5lbs of fat while keeping his lifts at the same level; again, progress isn't just about the number on the bar.

 

Be safe, have fun!

 

 

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22 hours ago, Defining said:

Try regressing - train with dumbbells to balance out any unilateral imbalances (the weight will almost certainly be lower than your BB weight), do floor presses (to remove any leg drive advantage), do pushups (if you can't do 50 BW pushups, that should be a priority) and dips (some folks say you should be able to do at least 35).

 

Do accessory work: skullcrushers, lateral raises, landmine presses & rows, fat bar/grip work, etc. Make sure you're hitting your shoulders, chest, and upper back from all angles - not just the one.

 

I disagree with a lot of this. Dumbbells are useful, but not really for imbalances. They're good because they get greater ranges of motion and work the smaller stabalizing muscle that don't get as much work with the barbell. Unless the bar is moving up faster on one side, the unilaterality of the lift is going to balance itself out.

 

As for the pushups and dips, these are bodyweight exercises and setting numbers for them is misleading due to the ant law (bigger people have a lower strenght to bodyweight ratio). 50 BW pushups or 35 dips is a huge feat for a 300lb lean person, not as much for a 150lb lean person. Also, those numbers are well into the endurance range and while there are plenty of arguments for hitting those areas of fitness, it doesn't really apply directly to maximal strength numbers.

 

The accessory work to address weaknesses in the lift is how it applies to this topic. THe hitting the msucels from all angles is more of a joint and movement health thing, not a maximal strength thing. Once again, I agree with doing those things for the health issues, but they're not as applicable to to the topic at hand unless you're using them to build mass, which will carry over.

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4 hours ago, Gainsdalf the Whey said:

 

I disagree with a lot of this.

Totally fair! I'm definitely not a trainer or expert, I just read too much on the internet. ;)  The suggestions to move to unilateral, balance up pull to the push, and doing accessory work are all strategies that have worked for me in the past when I've stalled/plateaued on a lift. They may not work for everyone though! :D

 

I am also guilty of lumping in balance/prehab work under the same umbrella as strength, again mostly because progress in one has typically correlated with progress in the other - but I should remind myself that correlation is not the same as causation.

 

Here are a few articles that I thinking of when I made the suggestions, but as always everyone should do their own research and decide what works best for them!

https://barbend.com/4-reasons-why-every-lifter-can-benefit-from-unilateral-training/

http://robertsontrainingsystems.com/blog/accessory-onslaught-2-the-bench-press/#

 

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I think the sleep is a big contributor. Also make sure you are giving your chest / upper body ample rest between lift days.

 

Using a spotter to help you get an extra 2-3 assisted reps after you hit failure has helped me get past the dreaded plateau.  If you think this is a "mental plateau", try using a non-conventional assortment of weights on the bar (i.e. instead of 45/25/10 on each side, try 35/35/10 or 25/25/25/5). I know it sounds ridiculous, but sometimes you need to trick the mind to get over the hump...

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