It’s a very common question I get asked all the time in the gym, via email and on the forums. “Can you give me some tips for increasing my bench press?” You see the bench press is often used to measure a guy’s strength. The heavier your bench, the stronger you are right? Wrong. Now anyone who’s knows anything about lifting weights and body strength knows that that this is absolutely not true. However, as far as upper body exercises are concerned it’s probably the best exercise to measure upper body strength.
So I’m going to give you my top 10 tips for increasing your bench press. I have hit bench press plateaus before, and I can tell you from personal experience that not being able to up your bench press for a matter of months is extremely frustrating. But using these tips below has always got me through the plateau to add those extra pounds.
To calculate your 1 REP MAX, use our Bench Press Calculator.
Top 10 Increasing Your Bench Press Tips:
1. Power Up Your Triceps
I would say in about 80% of cases where guys have asked me for increasing bench press tips, their triceps have been holding them back. You need to hit your triceps hard with big exercises like close grip bench press and skullcrushers. Don’t waste your with cable machines, stick to heavy dumbbells and barbells.
2. Shock Your Chest Into Growth
I know it’s easy to stay with the routine your comfortable with. Ask yourself this question: “Am I really training out of my comfort zone?” Most people are not. Yes, they train hard but they’re not pushing themselves as hard as they are capable of. So switch your workout up, vary the intensity. Vary the rest between sets. Do supersets. Do 30 pushups at the end of each set. Get the picture?
3. Don’t Overtrain
I know it’s tempting to train more often because you think the more you train the bigger you’ll get. This myth holds back many lifters, especially beginners. You have to get out of that mentality and start thinking about “less is more”. The quality of your reps, sets and exercises is more important than how many you do. Stick to training your chest once or twice a week, there’s no need for more unless you’re trying to break the world record bench press!
4. Get Plenty of Rest & Sleep
This goes hand in hand with my previous tip, and is part of the basics of building muscle. Your muscles repair and grow while you’re sleeping and resting, so getting enough rest and sleep is essential for muscle growth. Get at least 8 hours sleep and plenty of rest between workouts.
5. Bench Press Negatives Are Your Friend
If you don’t know what a negative is, it’s the lowering phase of an exercise. In the case of the bench press, it’s lowering the weight to your chest. Negative training involves very heavy weights (up to 1.5 times your 1 rep max) and simply lowering the weight slowly down to your chest and having 2 assistants lift it back up for you. Negative training is highly underestimated and can have a dramatic effect on your upper body strength and your 1 rep max.
6. Don’t Train Triceps With Chest
If you really want to build strong triceps you need to train them when they’re fresh and you can’t do this after a heavy benching session.
7. Eat Like There’s No Tomorrow
If you want to get bigger and stronger you have to eat like you have the appetite of Ronnie Coleman! You should eat up to 7 meals per day and each meal should contain a good serving a protein (in various forms) and complex carbohydrates. This is essential for increasing your bench press. If you’re not eating enough calories per day, don’t expect and additional pounds on your bench.
8. Take a Week Off
Sometimes all you need is a break. Professional bodybuilders have scheduled 7 to 10 day breaks throughout the yearly routines. Your muscle may be fatigued and this is preventing growth. You can choose to go a week cold turkey, or a maintenance week where you drop the weights back and do 3 easy full body workouts.
9. Use Supplements
Bodybuilding supplements the best way of delivering nutrients to your body fast and in my opinion are essential to increasing bench press. You should use supplements first thing in the morning, after your workout and before bed at the very least. For more info on supplements see the supplements section.
10. Correct Your Technique
You’ll be surprised how many experienced weight lifters are not using the correct technique. The bench press sounds like a simple exercise, but bad technique habits can develop and hold you back. Some common bad techniques are wrong hand position on the bar, not keep your body still throughout the set, feet off the floor, lowering the bar to the wrong position on the chest and wrong grip.