How to Increase Your Bench Press

Your Questions
Your Questions

How to Increase Your Bench Press Strength

I get plenty of questions in various comments throughout the website, but I also get comments and questions via the Project Swole Contact Form.

Generally I address those questions through e-mail, but often I do not have the time to reply to each and every question personally.

The category, Your Health Questions is a more proactive approach to answering your questions so that everyone can benefit from the Q & A.

Mark asked:

Hi Steve.

My Goal is to bench 500 lbs. Currently pushing 420 Legal Lift raw. Chest work out consists of 1 warm up set of 135 for 20 reps. 1 set of 10 reps @ 315. 3 sets of 3 at 405. then 2 or 3 sets of 10 at 315. Then machine pec flyes to finish.

Program is Day 1 Chest and Bi’s / Day 2 Shoulders and Traps / Day 3 Back and Tri’s / Day 4 Legs

Two rest days that vary.

Supplements are Noxipro Pre-work out. Beast SuperTest and Isopure Protein.

What are your recommendations to help get to 500?


Response:

There are many ways to approach this question. I’m not going to choose to approach it with the same strategy that I used when I suggested how you might increase your squat by 100 lbs in 10 weeks. For that post I talked about using high rep sets, with linear progression and breathing squats. For this post I’m going for a lower rep, max effort approach.

Despite the fact that you’ve gotten where you are by doing what you do, I’ll go ahead and recommend something for you to try.

Max Effort Weight Training

I think you should use variable rep ranges to induce muscle confusion, dynamic effort sessions, and an increase in intensity. Instead of using that rep range you suggested, I’d go with something like this:

Week 1: 135 x 10 315 x 10 365 x 8 335 x 12 315 x 15 or AMAP    
Week 2: 135 x 10 315 x 5 385 x 5 405 x 5 410 x 5 or AMAP    
Week 3: 135 x 10 315 x 5 390 x 5 410 x 5 415 x 5 420 x 2 or AMAP  
Week 4: 135 x 10 315 x 5 395 x 5 420 x 3 425 x 2 430 x 1 or AMAP  
Week 5: 135 x 10 315 x 5 400 x 5 420 x 2 430 x 1 435 x 1 440 x 1

*AMAP – As Many As Possible

Guidelines

  • Week 1 functions both as a recovery week and as a catalyst for muscle confusion.
  • Sets 1 and 2 are warm up sets.
  • Set 3 is a feeler set except on week 1.
  • Set 4 is a work set that should stop 1 rep short of failure except on week 1.
  • Sets 5 and 6 (in weeks 3-5) are work sets that should take you to the last rep you can possibly do before failure.
  • Set 7 (in week 5) should be your new PR for the 1 rep max.
  • If you hit your set 7 PR easily in week 5, keep adding 1 rep max effort attempts until you find your true 1 rep max, but again stop before you actually fail an attempt.
  • The last set should be as many reps as possible, but not past failure. No forced reps, no rest-pause, no help from a spotter.
  • Again, you do not want to ever fail, even on a 1 rep max attempt.

How to Use This Routine

Repeating this routine from week 1 to week 5, for as long as it takes you to hit your bench press goal.

Increase the weights on every set after the first two sets, by 5-10 pounds every week, or more if your strength gains are progressing faster.

** The routine posted is only for weeks 1-5. Every time you repeat this routine, your work set weights should be higher than they were in weeks 1-5. **

I could have come up with a percentage based routine and a spreadsheet to go along with it, but I just don’t have the time for that right now. If someone else puts forth the effort to make that spreadsheet, let me know and I will post it along with a link back to whatever URL you want to promote.

Be sure to check out my notes on dynamic benching and assessing your weak point, as those two tips are vital to making long-term progress.

Finishing the Chest Workout

Once you are finished with your max effort barbell flat bench press sets, you should do an exercise for a different muscle group: back or legs. Then follow that up with one more chest exercise, incline dumbbell or barbell presses are a good choice, for 3 sets of 5 reps.

If you are using a full body workout routine, you could choose overhead presses instead of another chest exercise.

Dynamic Effort Weight Training

Do you use dynamic bench press? If you don’t, you should. Dynamic effort benching utilizes a lighter load so that you can generate maximal speed and power when pressing.

Use dynamic effort benching once a week, 2-3 days before you train max effort chest.

Do 9 sets of 3 reps as fast as possible with 50-55% of your max bench. There should be no pause at the bottom or top. Every rep moves as fast as possible under control.

Mark, for your split I think you should do dynamic benching on leg day then take a day or two off before chest day.

For those using a full body workout routine, you should do the max effort on Monday, some incline or dumbbell work on Wednesday, and the dynamic effort routine on Friday.

It would also be a great idea to incorporate bands and chains into your dynamic effort training.

Assessing Your Weak Points

At some point you will have to asses your weak points as well. If you struggle to lockout you should hit your triceps a little harder – use close-grip bench, board presses, rack lockouts, or floor presses. If you struggle to lift the weight off your chest you should hit your pecs a little harder – use pin presses (press from a dead stop just off your chest), dumbbell presses, wide grip bench, and heavy flat dumbbell flyes.

Once you decide on a weak point, you should actually use that exercise in place of the flat barbell bench in this routine. Yes, that’s right you won’t even be doing the flat barbell bench for 5 weeks while you work on bringing up your weak points. You may still continue to use the dynamic effort flat barbell bench even if you change your max effort exercise.

How Much Stronger Will You Get?

This example demonstrates a 20 pound strength gain in 5 weeks. I think this is pretty conservative, but given your current levels of strength, I don’t see you gaining 80 pounds on your bench in just 5 or even 10 weeks. I think it will take a solid 6 months to make those kind of gains, maybe longer.

Other athletes who may have far lower strength levels and far less experience, may see an increase of up to 30 or more pounds using this 5 week routine. Of course, your results could be more or less, depending on how your body adapts to this routine.

Anyone Can Use This Routine

To replicate this routine for any current max bench press, simply use your own 5, 3, 2, and 1 rep max in place of the weights as they correspond to the above rep goals. It can be done simply through trial and error. Use the guidelines listed above to figure out how much intensity should be used for each set.

12 Responses to “How to Increase Your Bench Press”

  1. Steve, great break down of how to increase your bench. I haven’t tried using dynamic training before, but may add it when I begin training for powerlifting again in a few months.

      • Hey Steve. i weight 170lbs and im 5’9. im trying to reach 185-195lbs weight wise. i eat 6meals aday and drink protein shakes mixed with weight gainer. im trying to figure a way to get bigger by next summer around may/juneish.. please email me at the above email address i added to help me out will be much respected.. thank you hope to hear from you soon..

  2. hey steve, could you give me an example of full body workout that incorporates one of these chest workouts? Can I still squat heavy on leg day or should i just concentrate on maintenance with higher reps for other muscle groups during the program?

  3. I recently started weight training again after a break of about 3yrs. I understand muscle memory will come into play eventually but I am extremely weak right now. I have been back in the gym for 3 weeks and have been taking it easy(lifing light weight with high reps) just to try and tone my muscles again and avoid injury once I start more intense workouts. How long should I do this for and what is the fastest way to get some of my strength back with focus on my bench press. Thanks.

    • You should take baby steps only for the first two weeks. The next two weeks you should start experimenting with heavier weight, compound exercises, supersets, and greater intensity. The second month you should be working out pretty hard 3-4 days a week. The third month you should be right back into it and you will probably see your strength really returning at that point.

  4. hi steve, i really need your help. im 110lbs, i know thats very thin, im looking for the best way to bulk up on my size to have about 145lbs and to be able to bench 160lbs, im currently doing 100lbs, please mention what supplements i should use to get to my goal faster

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