Context: Components of a Stronger Bench Press
How do I get my bench press stronger? Many bros have pondered this question for as long as the bench press has been around. While the answer to this question is not straightforward, there are generally 3 muscle groups holding back your bench press assuming technique is dialed in. These muscles are your pecs, triceps, and back.
If you have weak triceps compared to your chest, your bench press is usually fast off the chest but just comes to a stop halfway through when maxing out. If you can grind out just about anything once it comes off your chest but struggle to get the bar off your chest, you probably have lagging pecs. Finally, if you struggle to maintain proper scapular retraction and depression from the beginning you probably have a weak back. Now let's focus on two of these, weak pecs and a weak back.
Methods of Training your Upper Body
The best way to train your pecs and your back for a bench press is to mimic the bench press as much as possible. You may be inclined to do wide grip bench press, bench grip rows, or even dumbbell flyes. While all of these are great exercises, none of them actively train both the pecs and the focus on scapular retraction of the back at the same time. This is where the Duffalo bar comes in, a great specialty bar that every serious powerlifting gym should have.
What is a Duffalo Bar?
The Duffalo bar is a curved bar created by Kabuki Strength that can be used for both squats and bench presses. The curvature of the bar allows for an easier grip on squats to take pressure off the shoulder joint and promotes scapular retraction and forces more pec engagement for the bench press.
The nature of the curved bar promotes better scapular retraction as the bar pushes the outside of your hands lower than the inside. Due to this curvature, the range of motion is 2-3 inches longer when compared to a straight bar. This stretches the pecs at the bottom, similar to a deep dumbbell bench press. While this bar makes the bench press harder, it is excellent at targeting the pecs and back compared to a standard barbell. The Duffalo bar does all this while also being the exercise variation closest to the competition bench press.
How to Program the Duffalo Bar into your Training
An important note about incorporating the Duffalo bar is that you would not use the Duffalo bar if you are very close to a meet. At that point in training, sport specificity is king. But if you have anywhere from 8-10 weeks from a meet or are in the offseason, you can take advantage of training with a Duffalo bar.
If you are 8-10 weeks away from a meet and are struggling with strength off the chest and/or maintaining scapular retraction, you could switch a competition bench day for a duffalo bar bench day. In this case, bench lighter than your competition bench because the Duffalo bar is a harder movement.
If you are deep into the offseason and have plenty of time, I would recommend to Duffalo bar bench press 1-3 times per week replacing or in combination with your competition bench press. Depending on several factors, you should be benching anywhere from 2-4 times per week. This allows you to play around with incorporating the Duffalo bar into your bench training.
Utilize Specialty Equipment to Reach your Goals
The Duffalo bar is incredibly helpful at developing strength in the pecs and promoting proper scapular retraction. If you have access to it, the Duffalo bar can be used in replacement or in conjunction with the barbell bench press. If you are deep into the offseason, you can look into replacing all your barbell bench presses with Duffalo bar bench presses to reap the most benefits.