You are trying to up your bench game but during every chest workout you aren’t pushing the plates you want. Whether you want size or the simple satisfaction of turning heads when you finish a set on the bench, there are a few tricks to adding another 45-pound plate on each end of that barbell. Let’s take a look at the 5 ways to increase your bench press.
1. FOCUS ON YOUR GRIP
Take a look at your grip. Allowing the bar to sit on your palms or refusing to use your thumbs causes issues. Start gripping with more power using your hands, forearms, and wrists. This technique helps you power through the grip into lockout. In fact, using a tight bench-press grip comes with a host of advantages.
The first benefit of grip strength training is activation of the nervous system. By activating it, you prepare your body for heavy loads. The second benefit is greater stabilization of your lats, traps, mid-back, and deltoids. And finally, you’ll never have to pay for dental work as a result of a bar to your face.
Here’s how to improve your grip (and your bench press as a result):
Getting a Better Grip: Hold the bar firmly from the beginning even as you unrack it. This tightens your upper body.
Using Your Thumbs: Never use a thumbless grip. You aren’t building muscle or strength. You’re only hurting yourself.
Hold It Like You’re Trying to Break It: After you’ve released the bar off its supports, grab it like you want to break it in half. This makes for a bigger bench.
Grip Tighter: When the bar approaches your chest give it your all. Grip it tighter and bend it like a horseshoe upwards for the best results.
Use a Thick Grip: Using thick grips or a thick bar to bench is probably the easiest way to increase your bench press right away. The thicker grip makes you hold the bar tighter, forcing you to contract all stabilizers creating a chain reaction event.
Thick bar training can do more than improve your grip strength. Check out the benefits of thick bar training here.
2. WARM-UP AND STRETCH PROPERLY
It’s still amazing how many people skip the warm-up and dynamic stretching session before a tough workout. A proper warm-up is about preparing your muscles for the workload to come. If you want to bench more without injury, you need to expose your muscles to the bench press slowly but surely. We recommend using the following bench press warm-up with a dynamic stretch:
- Bar Only: 10 to 15 repetitions
- Dynamic Stretch: 60 seconds of cross arms and arm circles – Use can you use light resistance bands if you have them
- 50% of Working Weight (how much you’ll use during your first few working sets): 8 repetitions
- Dynamic Stretch: 60 seconds
- 75% of Working Weight: 6 repetitions
- Dynamic Stretch: 60 seconds
- 90% of Working Weight: 4 repetitions
Now you can jump into your working sets. Be sure to save the static stretching for the end of the workout.
3. PERFECT YOUR FORM
It’ll be tough to increase your bench press if you’re not using proper form. Check the following breakdown of the bench press and ask yourself, “Am I using proper form?”
- Lie on a flat bench with your feet flat on the ground – If your legs don’t reach, you can use the foot rest at the end of the bench
- Tighten your core and pinch your shoulder blades together for stability
- Use a grip that is just outside of shoulder width
- Focus the tension in the chest as you push the barbell straight up
- Slowly lower the barbell towards your chest while focusing on gripping the bar as tight as you can
- Pause at the bottom then push the barbell back up – Do not lock out the elbows
- Immediately go into the next repetition
Try recording yourself and playing back the video to check your form. Record from two different angles to make sure you’re doing it perfectly.
4. BENCH MORE OFTEN
If you want to get better at something, you need to do it more often. So how often should you lift to build muscle and boost your bench? To improve your bench press, you should be doing it two to three times per week. You can alternate between a high intensity and a high weight routine. Give the following bench press schedule a try:
On your first bench day, focus on higher weight, higher sets, and lower repetitions. For example:
- Flat Bench Barbell Press: 5 sets of 5 repetitions at 85% of your one-repetition maximum
- Incline Bench Dumbbell Press: 5 x 5 at 90% 1RM
On your second day of benching, which should be at least two days later, you can use lighter weights with medium sets and higher repetitions. For example:
- Flat Bench Barbell Press: 3 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions at 65% to 75% of your one-repetition maximum
- Incline Bench Dumbbell Press: 3 x 8 to 12 at 75% 1RM
5. HIT YOUR SUPPORTING MUSCLES
If you want to increase your bench press, you’ll want to strengthen the surrounding muscles that support the chest: shoulders and triceps.
During a bench press, you already work your front deltoids, so you’ll want to focus on strengthening your shoulder muscles on your sides (lateral deltoids) and back (rear deltoids). To do this, perform dumbbell lateral raises and rear delt reverse flyes.
The triceps ensure stability and extra power during your bench press so pay them extra attention by performing rope pushdowns and overhead triceps extensions.
HOW MUCH DO YOU WANT TO INCREASE YOUR BENCH PRESS?
Have you tried using the tricks above? Do you have your own tips for maxing out your bench? Let us know in the comments below!