I've been 'stuck' at 240 lbs in my bench press. My biggest issue seems to be in the lift off from the chest. From what I've been reading, this could be due to the lack of speed/initial explosive power. What exercises would you recommend to improve this part of the lift.
Certainly you're at the point where you have to focus on technique, and doing so will not only help you push past plateaus but also avoid injury.
The following technique list is taken from Power to the People Professional, and all adds up to an explosive push. Notice the focus on deriving power through your feet and directing that through your body! The bench press is just as much a full-body exercise as the deadlift or squat.
- Choose the grip width the places your forearms parallel to each other when the bar touches the chest.
- Place your feet firmly on the platform, pinch your shoulder blades together, press your shoulders towards your feet (the opposite of a shrug) and raise your chest to set a moderate arch. [My comment: Here, think of trying to put your shoulder blades into your back pocket.]
- Unrack the bar and use your lats to carry it over your sternum. Keep as much weight as possible on your feet.
- Take a deep breath and hold it.
- Loosely lower the bar to your sternum. Meet it half way with your chest; force your chest up on descent.
- Don't flare your elbows, keep them at an approximately 45 degree angle. Keep your elbows straight under the bar; focus on lowering the elbows rather than the bar. Keep your wrists straight.
- When the bar has touched your chest relax your arms and let the bar sink into your chest. Don't let your ribcage collapse though and don't lose your air. Pause motionless for a second.
- Explosively drive your feet, from toe to heel, into the platform and send a shock wave through your body. [My comment: if you're not a competitive powerlifter, it's ok to let your butt come off the bench a little.]
- Immediately crush grip the bar and press with a maximum explosion. The shock wave from your legs should pass through your lats. Then the delts, the triceps, and finally the pecs will fire.
- Press straight up. Keep your elbows in, your chest up, and your shoulders down. Forcefully exhale as you lock out.