If you’re like me, you have probably spent hours wondering how to increase your bench press. This means you’ve also been asked the age-old bro question, “Dude, how much can you bench”? For a variety of reasons, the bench press has been the global standard of strength since the beginning of modern bodybuilding – and behind the deadlift, the most badass.
The bench press is a relatively simple exercise. Using a flat bench and a 20kg barbell, how much weight can you press from your chest to a strict position.
Most guys try to accomplish a 1:1 – that is, benching their bodyweight. In strength circles, this is a foundation of strength.
Being able to bench your own body weight isn’t rocket science, but it does take some planning.
Here at Earned Fitness, we take pride in planning and programming. For your benefit, we have published the 5 very best ways to increase your bench press. For additional assistance hitting your strength PR’s be sure to contact our help page or check out our programs.
5 Ways to Increase Your Bench Press
The bench press is a simple exercise using the pectoralis muscles, triceps and anterior deltoids, but it is so much more than that. Being able to pack on the pounds on the bench press requires you to have structural integrity throughout the body while having the dedication and consistency of sticking to a complete strength program.
If you’re in for the challenge, here are the 5 ways you can increase your bench press and surprise everyone that asks you the famous question, “dude, how much can you bench”?
1. Create A Structured Program
Step one is always to create a structured program. Yes, you will always make some adaptations when you start training in the gym but those that have a program (and adhere to it) will always be more successful.
When creating your strength program you must consider the following:
a) Progressive Overload
How can you ensure that week-by-week and month-by-month you are consistently increasing the total amount of resistance on the muscle?
When overloading the muscle you have two options; more weight or slower movement speed (tempo). You should be keen on adopting both of these overload techniques and placing them into your program as you see fit.
NOTE: Confused how this will look in your workout schedule? Don’t worry, we show a sample program down below!
b) Cycling High Weight
You cannot always use high weight. High weight is good for overloading the muscle and ensuring you are constantly stimulating muscle hypertrophy, but you put a lot of stress on the joints using heavyweights. Be sure you are only hitting 1-4 rep max (very high weight) once every 1-2 weeks.
For more information on how you can get set up with a complete bench press program visit our programs page here.
c) Use Power and Speed Training
The last and perhaps most overlooked aspect of any complete strength program is to ensure you are training the muscles for power and speed. After all, if you are pressing high weights you need to ensure that your muscles can be explosive to help you handle the high weight.
We recommend using power and speed training at least once a week. In a power and speed workout, you should lower the weight and focus on creating an explosive movement – especially from sticking points like the bar on the chest and pressing through the triceps.
2. Use Accessory Exercises
Accessory exercises are a must for any strength program. They help to limit injury, keep muscles strong through a variety of ranges of motion and allow for balance in the body.
When thinking about how to increase your bench press you must always consider isolated movements like triceps press and cable cross’ will help to improve overall strength.
Above all accessory exercises, you should always consider incline variations. Yes, the flat bench is your goal, but using a variable incline like high and low, or even decline can help the muscles adapt to a variety of pushing stimuli’. This, in turn, will help your body to adapt faster to higher volume and even higher weights.
Our suggestion would be to include variable incline exercises in each of your strength workouts. 1-2x a week hit a high incline or a decline press to help the muscles adapt to different stimuli.
TRAINER TIP: Be sure to use dumbbells for these exercises as well! They are great for training balanced strength in each arm and can help increase range of motion.
3. Use Chains and Bands to Create Variability
Chains should always be included in any advanced training program. Most beginners can do without them, but when your muscles start to develop they will require more and more resistance and variable training methods to create the same stress that regular isotonic movements have in the past.
Here are a few advantages of chains/bands for strength:
- a) Help develop more explosive power
- b) develop strength throughout a range of motion
- c) can help develop more tempo-specific strength
4. Complete Strength > Specific Strength
No one likes to hear this, but you should never get stuck being obsessed with how you can improve your bench press. We must always consider the entire picture – that is, complete strength.
Don’t get me wrong, the bench press is a glorious movement, but athletes should always place more stress on complete strength.
If you can create a strength program that develops your bench press goals and complete strength specific to your sport and athletic requirements you will be successful.
Need help in creating a structured strength program? Check out our programs page and start outperforming the competition.
5. Make Recovery and Rest a Priority
When it comes to increasing your bench press everyone forgets about one of the most important aspects – rest and recovery.
Research shows that large muscles take longer to recover – some of them more than two days before they can push high loads again. This means your heavy chest workouts shouldn’t be repeated for at least 2 days.
Of course, your recovery program can help decrease recovery time and enable you to spend more time in the gym. Simple recovery techniques like Ice and soft tissue therapy can help to ensure you are maximizing your rest days.
For information on WHEN TO USE ICE, check out this detailed article.
Sample Program – One Week Strength and Power Cycle
Workout #1 – Strength (MONDAY)
|Flat Bench Press||6||4||2110||2m|
|Kneeling Landmine Press||8||3||2110||90s|
|Incline DB Neutral Press||6||3||2110||90s|
|Close Grip Decline Pushups||8||3||1010||90s|
Workout #2 – Speed/Power (WEDNESDAY)
|Flat Bench Press with Chains||6||3||10X0||2m|
|Pause Flat DB Press||6||3||22X0||2m|
Workout #3 – High Volume Isolation (SATURDAY)
|Seated DB Front Raise||16||4||2110||2m|
|Overhead DB Triceps Extension||8||5||1010||2m|
|Machine Chest Press||20||4||2121||3m|
Final Notes: Increasing Your Bench Press
Take your time, be consistent with your efforts, and understand that everything you are doing is helping you to grow stronger.
Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone – grab a spotter and hit a high weight.
Trust your body and be explosive and intentional with your power workouts.
Recover and rest properly.
Set a 4-6 month goal and track EVERY workout you complete.
If you are hitting strength workouts 3-4x a week make sure each workout is the best effort you can give.
Enjoy the gains and be sure to comment if you like this exclusive article from our top programmer at earnyourstrength.com.