This is the third installment of a recent series of articles on fillers. So far, we’ve covered:
Today, we’ll shift our attention to fillers your clients can pair with the bench press.
Fillers are low-intensity exercises you perform in between sets to improve mobility, prevent injury, and correct imbalances.
Any filler you program should act as an aid towards the lift being performed, not a detriment. For example, would it make more sense to do a shoulder mobility drill or burpees for AMRAP between sets on the bench? That’s a rhetorical question…the answer is burpees suck. Always.
The idea is to utilize low-impact drills as to not overexert your clients between sets, treating fillers as a form of active recovery.
Understanding the biomechanics involved in the bench press will help you determine which fillers may be best for your clients.
Here are four bench fillers your clients can do between sets based on their individual goals.
1. Band Pull Apart
Naturally, benching can cause internal rotation of the shoulders. This, coupled with the fact that most people don’t do nearly enough upper back work, is what makes the pull apart such a great filler for the bench press.
You’ve probably heard the 2:1 pulling to pushing ratio regurgitated countless times. And while it stems from good intentions, I personally think it’s a bit of an overkill.
Although generalizations rarely apply in a training context, yes, most of your clients would probably benefit in prioritizing pulls over presses. But double the amount of sets? I mean, your clients realistically aren’t going to do 20 sets of rows if they’re doing 10 sets of presses.
An alternative is to simply do your pulling exercise first in the superset and finish with it so you complete one extra set vs. your presses. If you’re using the band pull apart as your filler, have your client do a set before they bench and then do it following every set thereafter.
· Hold a resistance band with your arms straight at shoulder-height (make sure there’s no slack in the band).
· Keeping your arms straight, pull the band apart towards your collarbone.
· Focus on engaging your upper back muscles as much as possible every rep.
· Slowly bring your arms back to the center, maintaining constant tension in the band.
· Do 15-20 reps each set.
2. Face Pull
The face pull is a rowing variation incorporating external rotation of the shoulders and retraction of the scapulae. Similar to the band pull apart, it’s a joint-friendly upper back builder that can help your clients develop bulletproof shoulders and a strong shelf for the bar to sit on during the bench press.
This is something most of your clients (including yourself) would find great benefit in adding to their daily routine. Yes, I said daily.
The reason being, as Dr. John Rusin so eloquently puts it, is “It provides the exact opposite movements that we’re continuously pulled into on a daily basis – namely sitting down and looking at a computer, phone, and TV screens. This movement incorporates humeral horizontal abduction and external rotation of the shoulder and retracts the shoulder blades – all helping combat the hunched over, constantly adducted, internally rotated and protracted shoulder posturing.”
· Loop a resistance band around a squat rig or something sturdy.
· Grab the band with an overhand grip about shoulder-width apart and step back so there is no slack in the band.
· Pull the band towards your face and drive your elbows back, engaging your upper back muscles.
· Straighten your arms back to your starting position.
· Do 15-30 reps each set.
Bonus Note: Hold for 1-2 sec at the peak contraction of each rep for added tension. Similarly, you can hold the first rep for a 10-15 sec isometric contraction before performing 10-15 full range of motion reps immediately after.
3. Side Lying Windmill
This is not only a great filler but an appropriate warm-up drill to use prior to benching. Depending on your clients individual needs, you can prescribe this as a simple piece of homework to do between sessions.
· Lay on your side with your left leg straight on the floor and right leg bent at 90 degrees on top of a foam roller.
· Start with your arms straight in front of your body and hands together.
· Slowly draw a circle on the floor with your right arm travelling overhead, keeping it straight.
· As you reach overhead, flip your palm up to the ceiling and exhale as you continue to draw a circle behind you.
· Push your right leg down to the foam roller throughout your set to prevent any rotation in the hips.
· You should feel a stretch in the pecs and upper back.
· Bring your hands back together and repeat for 5-10 reps each side.
4. Wall Press Dead Bug
Every barbell lift is a full body lift, requiring adequate strength and stability in the core muscles. And the bench press is no different.
A stronger core means a stronger transfer of force between the lower and upper extremities. And with the majority of your power generated from the ground up, a stronger core means a stronger push through the floor. Ultimately leading to a stronger bench press. This is what makes a low-impact core exercise like the dead bug such an effective filler for the bench press.
The dead bug trains the anti-extension capabilities of the core while maintaining a neutral position of the spine.
· Lay on your back with your hands pressed against the wall behind you.
· Keep your lower back flat against the floor with your ribs braced down throughout the entire set.
· Have your legs bent at 90 degrees with your ankles dorsiflexed.
· Inhale through your stomach before moving, and exhale as you straighten your right leg towards the floor.
· Tap your heel on the floor and slowly return your right leg back to it’s starting position while inhaling.
· Exhale heavily and straighten your left leg towards the floor.
Bonus Note: The slower the better. It should take you roughly 3-5 sec to straighten your leg and 3-5 sec to return it.
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