There is a lot that goes into building a strong bench press. Outside of needing a baseline foundation of strength, you also need absolute precision when it comes to executing reps properly.
There are multiple ways you can improve a lagging bench press such as upping your training volume, using variations to strengthen weaknesses, and employing things like accommodating resistance (chains and bands). However, what if your bench press ins’t necessarily lagging and you just want to be more efficient with your training, what can you do? Insert: Inter-set work.
The use of adding inter-set work is one of the easiest and most passive ways to build a stronger bench press, while also strengthening potential weak points. For this article, we’ll focus on why inter-set bench press work can be useful, along with two exercises that you can employ today to build a stronger upper body and address potential weak areas.
Why Use Inter-Set Exercises?
Inter-set work can be defined as the additional work performed in-between sets of a programmed movement.
Technically, you could refer to them as supersets, however, most coaches do not program inter-set exercises heavy enough to be progressively overloaded and tracked. In most cases, inter-set work is done to simply increase total training volume, improve warm-up efficiency, and to promote time under tension for very specific muscle groups.
In a traditional training setting, inter-set work will usually take form as one of the three below,
- Additional Stretching
- Light Resistance Movements
Two Inter-Set Bench Press Exercises to Try
In this article, we’re going to discuss how to add inter-set bench press work into your program with two exercises:
- Band Pull-Aparts
- Scapular Pull-Ups
The use of these two inter-set exercises are great for the bench press because they don’t overly fatigue the primary movers in-between sets.
In addition, they can help warm-up the posterior portion of the back that serves as the base to press upon and they promote the overall time under tension for smaller muscle groups that don’t always receive a ton of attention during the bench press, but play a role in the exercise’s success.
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1. Band Pull-Aparts
Sets and Reps: 6-10 reps between each warm-up bench press set
How: Choose a band that is very light and doesn’t make you struggle whatsoever. In-between each warm-up bench press set, you’ll perform 6-10 reps. Once you reach your first working set, you’ll stop performing pull-aparts. If your working sets are lower in intensity (think RPE 7, maybe 8), then you can continue doing pull-aparts throughout all of the sets.
Why: The band pull-apart is fantastic for inter-set bench press work for three seasons. First, it’s useful for warming-up the rhomboids and traps, which work to promote the solid base we press from. Second, it’s useful for positioning purposes because pull-aparts can help externally rotate the shoulders in-between internal rotation heavy bench press sets. Third, extra time under tension for these smaller muscle groups is a never a bad thing!
Rule of Thumb: Scale your pull-aparts based on your energy and fatigue levels, if you’re getting tired from the inter-set pull-aparts, then scale back the band tension or reps.
2. Scapular Pull-Ups
Sets and Reps: 3-4 reps between each warm-up bench press set
How: Between your bench press sets, go to a pull-up bar, hang, then perform 3-4 slow tempo scapular pull-ups. Similar to pull-aparts, once you begin your working sets, stop performing scapular pull-ups in-between sets.
Why: Scapular pull-ups can drastically improve scapular stability, which is a huge key for building a strong bench press. To properly set for the bench press, the scaps are going to be depressed and “packed”, so the scapular pull-up can help warm-up the smaller muscle groups surrounding the scap, but also help improve bench press positioning.
Rule of Thumb: If scapular pull-ups are too tough for you out of the gate, then try doing one set at a time during your bench press days, or program them at the end of your workout similar to other accessories. This can help increase your ability to perform high volumes and minimize fatigue.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The best part about inter-set bench press work is that it doesn’t require you to change the structure of your program. It’s incredibly easy to do and can improve your efficiency when training the bench press and can help build a more rounded upper body. If you’re looking for new methods to improve your bench, then give some of the inter-set work discussed above a try!