Encountering chest workout plateaus is quite common and can be frustrating. Increasing volume often helps. Trying different accessories and training methods can also break through bench press plateaus.

In 2022, a peer review conducted by Professor Yaron Ilan, researcher Ram Gelman and Dr. Marc Berg concluded that variabilities in workout patterns tailored for each individual can help overcome the plateau.

Before we proceed, let’s make one thing clear. A plateau isn’t just a couple of bad gym days. Newer lifters might mistake a bad day for a plateau, but that’s usually not true.

What Cause Chest Workout Plateau?

Several factors can contribute to a subpar lifting session. They include stress, sleep deprivation, inadequate nutrition, fatigue, and other life stressors.

Your bench press progress might have stalled for a while. This happens even if you’re pushing hard. But before you jump to conclusions, take a step back. Give yourself a moment to assess your situation. A true plateau lasts for several months, despite your efforts to overcome any physical or mental roadblocks.

Before diving into new strategies, take a good look at your current lifting. Are adjustments needed? An objective evaluation will help you decide the best course of action.

5 Chest Training to Stimulate Growth

man exercising with dumbbells

1. Opt for Dumbbells

To overcome a bench press plateau, consider avoiding the barbell. Focus instead on the dumbbell bench press as your primary pressing exercise. This shift not only offers a mental reset. It also helps identify weaknesses through the dumbbell variation.

Dumbbells offer unique advantages over barbells. They allow a larger range of motion, enhancing muscle stretch during the bench press.

Performing unilaterally helps detect and address imbalances or weaknesses. Dumbbells can provide relief to the shoulder joint. They offer different grip options to accommodate potential shoulder issues.

You can still include barbell bench press variations like incline and decline presses. But do so sparingly to prioritise rest and recovery. This strategic approach helps rejuvenate your bench press progress. It also addresses underlying weaknesses.

man exercising with barbell

2. Bench More Often and Vary the Reps

The bench press responds to higher-volume training in a different way. This is in comparison to exercises like squats and deadlifts.

Hence, volume is a crucial aspect to consider when designing your bench press program. The bench press benefits from increased training volume and exposure. Higher exposure can aid in improving bench press performance.

Enhancing the bench press involves addressing power, strength, and hypertrophy altogether. These elements are interdependent, and imbalance among them can impede progress.

If you’ve been adding weight but not seeing results, try something new. Experimenting with different rep schemes and intensities can give your muscles a fresh challenge.

Do you want to build explosive power, improve overall strength, or focus on muscle growth? Different rep schemes and intensities work best for each goal. By adjusting your training approach, you’ll find the key to busting through that chest workout plateau.

It’s crucial to structure a coherent plan when shifting bench intensities and reps. A systematic approach ensures sustained progress rather than sporadic adjustments.

Once you choose your goal (power, strength, or muscle growth), design a training plan that fits it. This targeted approach will help you optimise your bench press workouts. Plus you will continue seeing improvements over time.

man carrying barbell

3. Spoto Presses

If your bench press progress stalls near the chest, consider incorporating Spoto Presses into your routine. This exercise serves a valuable purpose. During a Spoto Press, you perform a standard barbell bench press but halt the bar before touching the chest. Then you pause briefly.

Spoto Presses are beneficial for addressing bench press plateaus. In particular, those related to the initial lift off the chest.

Firstly, they reinforce overall body tension. This is a crucial element for success, especially at the start of the press. Maintaining tightness throughout the upper body is essential for a solid pressing foundation.

Secondly, Spoto Presses encourage attention to tempo and complete muscle contractions. This elevates the precision of the bench press.

Lifters gain insights into potential weaknesses by slowing down and ensuring correct pausing. If pausing makes your chest and rear delts inactive, it might mean your technique is off. All the muscles involved in the bench press should be working together, even during a pause.

Incorporating Spoto Presses enhances bench press performance in three ways:

  • refining technique
  • addressing weaknesses, and
  • promoting better muscle engagement.

Hence, they aid in overcoming plateaus.

man doing rack lockouts

4. Floor Presses and Rack Lockouts

If you’re experiencing a plateau at the lockout phase of the bench press, you might need to strengthen your triceps. Two effective bench press variations for this purpose are floor presses and rack lockouts.

In the floor press, the range of motion is reduced by using the floor as a stopping point, emphasising tricep engagement.

This focus on the triceps as primary movers can enhance lockout strength. The floor press also allows for heavier loading or higher rep ranges. This is in comparison to standard bench presses. The former offers flexibility in training to maximise benefits.

man doing heavy bench press

5. Heavy Bench Press Holds

Elite powerlifter and world record holder Jen Thompson favours heavy bench holds. According to her, they are a key accessory for building strength in the bench press.

Since lifting weights helps in toning muscles, this is carried out using one-rep max. Then you hold it at lockout for a specified duration. She suggests using around 150% of your current one-rep max for approximately 15 seconds.

When performing heavy lockouts, safety is paramount. Always have a spotter assist with lift-off and return the barbell to the rack. Also, adjust the duration of the hold based on your fitness level. Beginners should start with shorter durations to ensure proper form and safety.

Final Thoughts

When facing a chest workout plateau, increasing pressing volume is an effective strategy. But if progress remains elusive, thoroughly assess your bench press performance. Don’t view the plateau as a single obstacle. Instead, identify specific areas of weakness in your bench press technique.

By pinpointing these challenges, you can develop targeted strategies to address them. Ultimately, you will overcome the plateau. A focused and systematic approach is key to continual improvement in your bench press performance.