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How to Increase Your Bench Press

So, you want to benchpress the back end of a station wagon do ya?!

Well, let's not get too ahead of ourselves. How about we add a solid 40lbs plus to your stagnant bench. Well everything you need is finally here.

Let's get started. First things first, your form!

Proper Form

The first thing you want to do when you lay down is grip the bar. I'm 5'10'' and I feel most comfortable gripping the bar with either my middle finger or ring finger on the ring. If you are taller you can try going a little wider (make sure that your fore finger does not go past the ring) and if you are shorter you can bring it in a little.

Proper Bench Press Form

The rings on the bar should be around 32'' apart. If they are not you should compensate for the difference. Keep your elbows in as much as possible, not more than a 45 degree angle away from your body. Never bench heavy with your elbows pointed straight out from your body.

Next, you need a good foundation to press from. The easiest way to describe this is to pull both of your shoulder blades back. Once you have pulled you shoulder blades back, then I want you to shrug your shoulders up. Practice this. It will be awkward in the beginning but will soon be second nature. Not only does this give you a solid foundation, but it will decrease the range of motion making the lift easier. Now that we have that squared away, let's get our foot placement in order.

I prefer to place my feet out somewhat wide. This helps a lot with lateral stabilization. Right before you unrack the weight, you should be driving your heels into the floor so that your body will want to slide up the bench and your back will arch. Make sure your butt does not leave the bench. Watch this quick video for an overview on the proper form:

Frequency of training

Bench pressing should be apart of your bodybuilding program and should be done on chest day with hardly any other body parts trained, except triceps, abs, or calves (or maybe even legs as well).  Chest day should be done once every 5-7 days, so you should only bench press once every 5-7 days. You need plenty of rest to repair your chest before hitting it hard again.

To Pyramid, or not to Pyramid, that is the question!

Since the bench press is a compound movement it should be the centerpiece of your chest workout, so it should be done first before anything else (except a warm up). Many people do pyramid sets, which involve moving up in weight with each set.  I am not a believer in this, because you will lose intensity after each set until you get to your heaviest set. You will get most of your gains from a heavy set with maximum amount of intensity!

Let me give you an example of pyramid sets you should NOT do:

work set #1: 150lb for 6 reps (not quite to failure).

work set #2: 160lb for 6 reps (not quite to failure).

work set #3: 170lb for 6 reps (to failure).

What do you see is wrong here with this workout? For one, where is the warm-up set?  And 2, this person wasted his intensity up doing lighter weight before he got to his heaviest set! This person will make very slow gains over time.

Now let me give you an example of this same person doing the proper way:

warm-up set #1: 135lb for 5 reps (for warm-up only!)

warm-up set #2: 155lb for 2 reps (for warm-up only!)

work set #1: 185lb for 6 reps (to failure).

work set #2: 185lb for 5 reps (to failure).

work set #3: 185lb for 4 reps (to failure).

Now as you can see here, we saved all our intensity for the first heavy work set and did a maximum failure with 6 reps. We then did the same weight for the next 2 sets, but did one rep less with each set afterwards, because our intensity deceases with each set.  But this workout is more efficient because we overloaded ourselves with the first work set and this is the method you want to use to get stronger over time!

Now do you think this person will get stronger bench pressing 170lb for 6 reps, or 185lb for 6 reps? This is exactly why the pyramid system is flawed! You will get too fatigued before you get to your heaviest set! And the heavy weight is where you will make all your gains at! That is why you make your first work set the heaviest, then just keep the weight the same.

Me personally, once I am able to do 8 reps with my first work set, I then move 5 pounds up in weight the next week.

Middle of the week MAX OUT (optional)

One tip I recommend doing but is purely optional, is that in-between chest workouts, you can do a quick max out day. This involves doing a few quick warm ups, then moving to a very heavy weight doing only 1-3 reps to failure with very heavy weight, and doing only 1-2 sets total. This will help to improve your strength and will help you improve your bench press quicker over time.

Maxing out with Bench Press

If you do decide to do this, then I would make sure chest day is done only once a week (every 7 days), so you get more time to rest in between your max out day and your actual chest workout day.

What are your overall goals?

I want to include this section because other types of workouts can interfere with your ability to build mass and to increase your bench press quickly.  If your goal is purely strength and not necessarily getting leaner, then you need to pay attention to your cardio workouts and make sure you are not overdoing them.  Too much cardio will increase your metabolism too much to where it will be harder (if not impossible) for you to pack on muscle and to increase your bench press (or any lift for that matter). Playing sports like basketball, soccer, football are also forms of cardiovascular exercise as well that could interfere with gaining muscle.

All that aside, I still recommend doing cardio no matter what.  If you are trying to build muscle mass, then it is still important to keep your bodyfat in check by doing only a few very short and intense cardio workouts a week, just a few short interval sprints would do and that's it. Please check out my cardio article for more info on this.

Your Diet is Key!

All the info above will do you no good if you do not have the proper diet down.  It would be near to impossible to gain muscle on a continuous basis if you are not eating enough calories every day and week, along with enough protein, carbs, and fat. For most people, the simplest thing they need to do to increase their bench press is by simply increasing their overall calories! It is usually this one simple step that all is needed to make gains every single week.

Just make sure you do not overdo the calories as you will also pack on too much fat. Please read my diet article for more info on how to eat properly to increase your bench press.






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