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Bench Marks

Your biggest successes are always born from your worst failures. The bench press is no different-whether you can't get the bar off your chest, past the midpoint, or back onto the rack at the end of a rep, just knowing where in the lift the bar suddenly stalls tells you exactly how to triumph over it. How? "By identifying your sticking point," says Jason Ferrugia, a strength coach in Warren, N.J., "you can focus on training the muscles that have been holding your bench back." Find your sticking point from the following list, then, once a week, simply perform the appropriate "fix" as the first exercise in your workout, doing 2-4 sets of 3-5 reps and resting two minutes between each set.

TEST 1:

YOUR STICKING POINT IS

The bottom portion of the lift. You're able to press the weight only a few inches off your chest before it grinds to a halt.

THAT'S BECAUSE

Your chest is the weak link in your bench-press chain.

THE FIX

The neutral-grip dumbbell bench press. It's like a regular dumbbell bench press, but your palms are turned in so that they face each other.

TEST 2:

YOUR STICKING POINT IS

The halfway mark. You're able to push the bar to where your upper arms are parallel to the floor, but it starts to head south from there.

THAT'S BECAUSE

Your chest and triceps are weak.

THE FIX

The floor press. Simply do a bench press lying on the floor -lowering the bar until your triceps, not your elbows, touch the ground.

TEST 3:

YOUR STICKING POINT IS

The lockout. You can't straighten your elbows to complete the lift.

THAT'S BECAUSE

Your triceps are weak.

THE FIX

The top-range lockout. Set the safety pins on a power rack high above the bench you're using, so that when you lower the weight it stops at the safety pins. Perform a bench press in that shortened range.

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