This exercise provided courtesy of Billy Polson, founder and co-owner of DIAKADI Body training gym, voted best personal training gym in San Francisco by CitySearch in 2006.
It's hard to imagine a weight-training regimen that doesn't include a flat bench press; it's the ultimate chest-building exercise. For this drop set version of the press, you'll use the Smith machine to stabilize the weights, enabling you to power through heavier weights with speed and max out three times. Focus on power, speed and control. Don't hurry, don't arch your back, and don't bounce the bar off your chest, and you'll see some real pectoral gains.
Set the weights on the Smith machine at a weight heavy enough so that you will max out on the first power set at about eight repetitions. Lie on your back on a flat bench underneath the Smith machine with the barbell at a level corresponding to the distance from your elbow to your hand when your elbows are bent at right angles at your sides. Take the barbell in your hands with your hands wider than shoulder-distance apart and your palms facing toward your feet (see Photo 1).
- From the starting position, and with the barbell still on the rack, contract your shoulder blades together and downward to raise your chest toward the bar. Engage your abdominals by pulling them in toward your spine to create a muscular "weight belt". You will use this technique to keep your back flat throughout the exercise-do not, at any time, permit your back to arch.
- Lift the bar off the Smith machine rack and, keeping it steady, bend and lower your elbows to the side until they are at a 90-degree angle. Focus on lowering the bar with controlled speed. The bar should not touch or bounce off of your chest at any point (see Photos 2 and 3).
- Keeping your head and neck in line with your spine and your back flat on the bench by engaging your abs, punch the bar back up toward the ceiling with controlled speed and power. Return the bar to the position just above your chest, with your elbows at the level of your back (see Photos 4 and 5).
- Repeat the exercise until you max out, for a minimum of eight reps.
- Next, lower the weight slightly and repeat until you max out, for a minimum of eight reps.
- Finally, lower the weight a second time and repeat until you max out, for a minimum of eight reps.