You’ve tried everything, but your progress on bench press has grinded to a halt. It’s not the grip (you’ve tried them all), and it’s not the bar path (you’ve got the videos to prove it). Instead, you’ve got a sticking point: a specific point in the overall range of motion where the lifter consistently struggles or fails.
Sticking points suck, but they’re not career-killers. They just require specific training that isolates the area of weakness. For bench press, that’s where the pin press comes in.
99% of the time, sticking points on bench occur at one of two places:
Some of the bench variations we’ve written about before, like close grip bench and floor press, help lifters address these weaknesses. Variations allow us to isolate specific muscle groups and train them with greater specificity.
Of all the bench variations, though, the pin press is by far the most versatile. Unlike other variations, pin press allows us to sort of “crop out” the parts of the movement where strength isn’t an issue and focus exclusively on the problem area, completely customized to the lifter’s unique needs.
The pin press is your standard bench press with the bench safeties set up to where the bar lands on them before it touches your chest. This forces you to press the bar from a complete stop, eliminating any rebound effect and requiring a greater amount of force to be generated at this point.
My favorite way to set up this lift is to set the pins so the bar is directly off your chest. That way you can strengthen your chest muscles as much as possible.
You can focus more on your triceps by setting the pins at a lower height, but if the goal is to isolate your triceps, my personal opinion is that other variations can give you more bang for your buck.
When setting the bar down onto the pins, make sure to completely settle the bar on the pins to get the most out of it. I see a lot of people just touch and go with this variation which defeats the purpose. Now when I assign this lift, I make it known that this lift starts from the bottom or on the pins. This is to prevent bouncing the bar off the pins.
I have my clients lower the bar onto the pins, let it settle for a 1-2 count then start pressing. This will ensure that its complete deadweight off the pins giving you the most out of the lift
You are able to adjust the pins anywhere to put more focus on either your chest, or your triceps making this variation a great one for either point.
I really love assigning this lift to my clients who are weak off their chest to really help with the explosiveness going up. If performed correctly, you lose all tension of the bar once it hits the pins (which means no benefitting from rebound). Normally I start this lift at about 50% of my clients’ maxes and work my way up from there!
Another great way to use pin presses are with my clients who have rotator cuff sensitivity or injuries. By setting the pins a bit higher than full depth, you can avoid putting stress on the shoulder either entirely or to your client’s comfort level.
So finally be sure to try incorporating this variation in your routine to help build that bigger bench for your powerlifting bench total, personal bench goals, or to really catch the eyes of the girls (or bros) at the gym!