Q: “I have a question. My bench press seems to be suffering. I was doing 210 to 215 lbs about 7 to 8 times easily. Lately, I can barely do 5 or 6 without having to strain a little and rest before doing the last two. Should I take a break and do other exercises for a while?”
My Answer: People go through strength losses every so often, so don’t be too alarmed by it. Your nervous system is probably sick and tired of the bench press. Take a break from the bench press and do a variation of the bench press for a couple of weeks, such as the dumbbell press or the incline press. Then come back to the regular bench press. Your weights will go up when you come back once you get reacquainted with the exercise.
Q: I read your comments on the bench press. I just want to build my chest, and one trainer [said] to squeeze the shoulder blades together while doing it. I don’t feel it in my chest when I do that and felt it more when I don’t squeeze my shoulder blades back. Is it necessary to squeeze the shoulder blades together during the bench press and other chest pressing exercises?
My Answer: In Volume One, I devote a chapter to 2 different types of bench press: the bodybuilding bench press and the powerlifting bench press. The powerlifting bench press requires that you squeeze your shoulder blades. This squeezing of the shoulder blades back stabilizes your body on the bench so that you can push more weight.
The powerlifting bench press, however, is not meant to build the chest. If you’re looking to build the chest, then there is no requirement to squeeze the shoulder blades. It is simply safer to do so.