The bench press is one of the most popular exercises used by both powerlifters, weight lifters, and cross-fitters, as well as an array of other athletes.
It's one of the most explosive and efficient strength exercises and is a compound exercise, meaning that the exercise works for multiple muscle groups at the same time and offers benefits both to the primary muscle being targeted, the pectoral muscles, as well as a host of other supporting muscles in the shoulders as well as the core.
Despite its popularity, however, the bench press is an exercise that a surprising number of people struggle with, both in terms of proper technique, as well as increasing weight.
There are a lot of programs and trainers promising huge increases in bench press weight, but quite frankly there are a few simple and effective things you can do to increase your bench press weight without any need for fad workout programs or the latest supplement.
In this guide, we’re going to look at 10 of the best things you can do to increase your bench press, including everything from how you workout to how you prepare, as well as other important factors such as rest and recovery.
Combining as many of these different tips as you can is the best way to break through a plateau in performance, or make quick gains as a beginner, but before we get started let’s make sure everyone knows what the bench press actually is.
What Is Bench Press?
The bench press is a chest-focused exercise that involves lying on a flat workout bench and pushing a barbell of weights up and away from your chest, before lowering the weight back down to your chest and repeating.
What muscle group does bench press work? The exercise is the best for developing the various pectoral muscles and is absolutely key for developing these muscles, which are highly desirable and sought after.
There are various different types of bench press from incline bench to decline bench and the standard flat bench press, and all these exercises target slightly different parts of the pectoral region.
Now that you understand what bench press actually is, let’s look at how you can make some serious improvements and speed up your progress.
Warm Up Correctly
Ideally, you should do at least a little light cardio before any weight training session to warm the body up and get the blood flowing, but for ensuring you get the best out of your chest muscles and prevent injury, it can be a good idea to do a set or two of very light bench press reps either with the naked barbell or some dumbbells just to warm the muscles up and get them ready to be pushed to the limit.
Activating the muscles and getting them full of blood before the real exercise starts is key to unlocking your maximum potential and pushing for increases in weight.
Fully Engage The Muscles/Use Proper Form
Bench Press isn’t a particularly challenging exercise from a technical point of view, but it’s amazing how many people make mistakes when doing the exercise.
Making sure you stay consistent with hand positioning on the bar, and how far you lower the bar each rep is particularly important. A wider grip will target the outer pecs more, while a closer grip will target the hard-to-hit inner and lower pecs.
Use A Spotter
A big inhibitor to increasing bench press weight is confidence, and a great way to get the confidence you need to increase the weight is to use a spotter. A spotter can help you test out a new weight and start adapting to the increased difficulty without risking injury.
Mix In Different Exercises
Supporting your bench press progress by using other exercises to build strength is also key. Using incline bench press, decline bench press, and other chest exercises to improve your pectoral development, as well as the other muscles used when benching is also key to avoiding fatigue and boredom.
The biggest tactic that is essential for anyone trying to improve their weight training performance is progressive overload. Progressive overload is the method of increasing the weight you lift in planned increments to force your body to adapt and become stronger.
Muscles can only be made stronger by increased resistance, and progressive overload is the method of ensuring this increased resistance is enough to deliver the maximum amount of progress.
Build The Chest Evenly
This is tied to mixing in different exercises but is specifically targeted at ensuring you develop the chest evenly.
It can be very tempting to rely on a standard bench press as your main bench exercise, but failing to target the interior of your chest as well as the lower and upper pecs will massively slow your progress as these muscles develop less efficiently than the other pectoral muscles.
There are several other important factors to consider when increasing your bench press, however, and not all of them are related to the exercise itself.
Rest is one of the most important parts of any weight training program, and without it you will see very little progress and actually risk injuring yourself, setting yourself back further than where you started out.
Getting enough rest both after training and between sessions is important to ensure that when you do the workout you’re able to work out at your maximum effort levels.
However getting enough sleep is also absolutely essential to improving your bench press and other exercise goals, and without enough sleep, you will almost certainly see injuries and slower improvement.
Eating a calorie surplus, and a high protein diet is essential for muscle recovery and growth, and this is true whether you’re a weight lifter, powerlifter, bodybuilder, or Olympic athlete.
While most people can’t afford a nutritionist, doing basic calorie counting, or at least ensuring that you’re getting a calorie surplus and enough protein is the foundational level of ensuring your diet is supporting your exercise, and helping you to achieve your goals instead of inhibiting your progress.
Use A Personal Trainer
While not everyone can afford a personal trainer, and not everyone will like the idea of having someone monitor you while you exercise, for some this can have absolutely huge benefits.
Personal trainers help massively with motivation, but can also help tweak your form and organize regimes that will accelerate your progress, particularly for large compound exercises like the bench press where stubborn plateaus often crop up.
Getting an outside perspective and some real expertise, even for a few sessions to help you clear a particular hurdle, can be a massive help in pushing your bench press to the next level.
Finally, it’s important to stay consistent with both your diet and your exercise, ensuring that you don’t fall into long periods of either inactivity or improper eating habits.
This won’t just stall your progress towards your goals, but actually pull you further away from you, undoing the good work you will have already put in up to that point.
Staying on top of your routine and rewarding yourself when you meet milestones, as well as staving off boredom by mixing in different activities is key to ensuring a long-term and consistent improvement in both your bench press and your approach to exercise more generally.