The first question every gym bro gets asked... how much can you bench? I could not even begin to count the amount of times I have been asked that question.
For most people, increasing your bench press can be frustrating, especially if you have plateaued and cannot figure out how to break through. Luckily for you, I have put together some concepts and exercises that will put you on the right path towards increasing your bench press.
"Life is like a... bench press ...to experience success you must push hard."
This is a fundamental and simple concept that you should be applying to all your lifts. Progression overload is doing more work over time. It is essential, because you will not see any changes in your muscles without progression overload. To progressively overload, you can increase your sets, reps, or weight. For example, if you can bench 225 pounds for 6 reps, and in 3 months you still only bench 225 for 6 reps, you are not progressively overloading. Instead, your weight, reps, or sets should be going up over the weeks. Apply this concept to your bench press, try for one extra rep or add in an extra set. This will significantly help you increase your bench.
The more times you hit your chest a week, the faster you can increase your bench. I recommend hitting your chest twice a week, no more and no less than that. But do not hit your chest multiple times a week at the expense of another muscle group, this will hurt you in the long run.
Longer Rest Periods and Fewer Reps
When it comes to lifting heavy, you will want to take longer rests between sets somewhere in between 2-3 minutes. This will greatly increase your ability to lift more without fatiguing quickly. If you are training for strength gains, you want to do higher sets between 3-6 and train with lower reps 6 or less. This will maximize your ability to lift more.
The Right Grip
You might not have put much thought into how your grip will affect your bench press, but makes all the difference. The closer your grip is, the more emphasis you will be putting on your triceps, and the wider your grip is, the more emphasis you will be putting on your shoulders. The best grip is the one with which you are more comfortable. For most people, the best grip is somewhere in the middle, slightly wider than shoulders width to emphasize a mix of shoulders and triceps.
Targeting Your Chest at all Angles
Your chest is divided into three parts: the upper (clavicular), middle (sternocostal), and lower (abdominal head). Ensure your chest workouts contain exercises that target each of these three parts. Incline press dumbbell or barbell is great for targeting your upper chest, while the standard bench press or a flat bench dumbbell press is perfect for targeting your middle chest, and the decline barbell/ dumbbell press is great for your lower chest.
Support Muscles for Bench Press
For some people, trying to increase your bench by doing more sets/reps or training your chest more frequently might not be the answer to the problem. When you are benching, you are not merely activating your chest muscles. You are also activating your front shoulders, triceps, and lats. If these muscles are underdeveloped and lacking in strength, then that will also cause your bench press to be lacking.
Exercises for Targeting Support Muscles
1) Overhead Shoulder Press
The shoulder press targets your anterior deltoids, a major contributor to your bench press. This is a perfect exercise for growing your shoulders while also helping with your bench.
2) Barbell Row
This targets your lats and is important for building stability in the bench press and for your starting position.
Your triceps play a critical role in your bench press. Without strong triceps, you will not see much improvement. Weighted dips are an even better option than regular dips for targeting your triceps. Also, if you struggle with lockouts, dips can help.
4) Dumbbell Bench Press
This is an excellent exercise for increasing your stability in your bench press. If you can master this exercise, you will definitely see improvement on your bench.
Having a Spotter
Always try to have a spotter when you are benching. A good spotter will help encourage you to lift heavier weight and enable you to go for those few extra reps at the end, without having to worry about not being able to get the weight up.
That’s everything you need to know to increase your bench press. If you follow these concepts, you will be crushing bench PRs in no time! If you found this information useful and want to hear more about how to achieve your workout goals, please consider checking out our eBook. It is packed with information to jump-start your fitness journey.