5 Variations to Improve Your Bench Press Lock-Out

Struggling to lock-out those last few inches of your max effort bench? Yeah me too and basically everybody else, you’re not alone.

While there are lots of possible explanations for “why” your lock-out sucks, for the sake of this article we are going to assume your technique is on point. That just leaves us with a whole lot of lock-out specific training to get done.

Here are 5 Bench Press variations with the goal of making what is currently your weak point, your strongest. These would typically be programmed in as a secondary or tertiary training day alongside normal competition style bench training days.

1. Pin or Board Bench Press

The pin and board press respectively are both decreased ROM (range of motion) movements.

While this might not sound ideal at first, it’s actually perfect for the goal of improving your bench press lock-out. By setting the pin/board height to the exact point you tend to struggle on in your bench you can repeatedly practice your weak point.

Not only that but because the ROM is decreased it’s very likely you’ll be able to lift more than usual. So now you’re not only practicing your exact sticking point, you’re actually overloading it.

2. Accommodating Resistance Bench Press (Bands and Chains

Okay so maybe you want to improve your bench press lock-out but you have been listening to a lot of RPStrength and are officially #teamfullROM.

I got you.

Accommodating resistance variations would be perfect in this instance. By utilizing either bands or chains you can practice your full ROM bench press and overload your lock-out at the same exact time.

To help that mentally make sense imagine chain bench press. When you lower the bar to your chest more and more chain links will rest on the floor making the load you are physically lifting lighter. As you start your press and get closer to lockout more chain links lift up off the floor making the load you are lifting heavier.

Accommodating resistance training will consistently make your lock-outs more challenging, which means when you go back to normal bench things should be a breeze.

3. Slingshot or Reverse Bands Bench Press 

Slingshot bench and reverse bands bench press are commonly used in strength programming as “overload variations“. Essentially they allow you to “sample” heavier weights before you are physically capable of actually lifting it by yourself.

What’s cool with these variations in relation to your lockout is even though these tools are “assisting” you during your bench to help you lift more weight…at lock-out they aren’t.

The slingshot is designed to assist you at the bottom of the bench, not the top. This means when you get to lock-out you’re going to be locking out a supramaximal load compared to what you would normally lift, it will quite literally be “all you bro“.

Same idea here as with the accommodating resistance. If you are consistently used to handling and locking out supramaximal loads, switching back to normal bench should feel pretty easy.

4. Floor Press 

Okay yes, floor press is basically the same idea as pin and board press…decrease the ROM…focus specifically on lockout…little bit of overload as well.

Why does this deserve it’s own spot?

For one, it’s my article I can do what I want…but two if you’ve done all three variations pin, board, and floor press, you’ll know that floor press has a distinct “feel” to it compared to pin and board press.

This can mostly be chalked up to the fact that you don’t get to use your leg drive in a floor press, making this a strictly upper body movement. If you are really good at the powerlifting specific skill of leg drive I’d throw in some floor press to make sure your upper body can keep up with your lower body.

Only downside here being you won’t get to pick your specific ROM the same way you would with a pin or board press, ROM in a floor press is solely decided by your limb lengths.

5. Close Grip Bench 

This wouldn’t be a bench press lock-out article without me mentioning the close grip bench press.

Yes, lockout issues can mainly be attributed to your triceps as they are going to be what’s doing the bulk of the workload in those final few inches of a bench press. Makes sense that you would crank in on some close grip bench press to help alleviate this problem.

The cool thing being you can combine the close grip bench press variation with any of the above variations.

If you’re really worried your triceps are the culprit behind your lock-out issues try running all close grip bench variations for a block or two of programming.


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.