Many bodybuilders and power athletes train incessantly to increase their bench press. One highly effective method to improve strength is eccentric training. The eccentric phase of the bench press is where the weight is lowered before it is pushed to the starting position. Lowering a heavy weight in a slow, controlled fashion still requires muscle contraction.
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Eccentric Training Enhances Maximal Bench Press
This eccentric contraction is the strongest type of muscle contraction we produce. Most athletes can use more weight in the eccentric phase of a bench press than they can push for one normal repetition.
However, the problem with eccentric-only training in the bench press is that you need at least three good spotters to help lift the weight up! As this type of training isn’t very specific to many athletic movements, many strength athletes often overlook this training technique.
Adding Weight During the Eccentric Phase on Bench Press
A group of strength coaches in the US have developed a simple apparatus that allows the athlete to incorporate maximal eccentric loads within the normal barbell bench press exercise. The study measured the effects of adding weight during the eccentric phase on bench press.
Eight experienced weight training subjects volunteered to use this apparatus during their bench press training. The device used to create extra resistance involved two simple detachable hooks that hung from the barbell.
These steel, detachable hooks held the extra weight. The detaching hooks would release from the bar at the bottom of the lift, reducing the weight lifted during the concentric phase of the lift. The athletes could lower 110% of their 1-repetition maximum (RM) and push 100% of their 1-RM.
Increasing 1-Rep Max
All eight subjects who used the hooks increased their 1-RMs by 5 to 15-pounds! The use of additional eccentric loading significantly increased the weight that could be lifted on the subsequent concentric phase, and therefore improved 1-RM performance. This enhanced training effect was a result of improving the stretch-shortening muscular reflex cycle.
I’ve also had great results with eccentric movements on my triceps exercises.
Athletes interested in optimizing their strength in the bench press may benefit from the use of additional eccentric loading. The weight-release device used in this study was developed by Power Recruit Inc., Hautzdale, PA.
The data obtained from this investigation indicate that athletes will increase their bench press 1-RM simply by applying additional load on the eccentric phase of the lift.