Most, if not all, trainees sooner or later face the fact that they are no longer gaining within their bench press, and do not know what can be done in this situation. Therefore, in this article, we will look at 10 scientifically proven ways that can definitely improve your bench press performance.
There is a great article about the bench press on our website in which you will learn everything about this important exercise, including; the technique, useful tips and variations of the types of execution. Mandatory reading – all about the bench press.
Even if you have mastered the technique of this exercise and have brought this lift to perfection, this does not mean that the weight lifted will increase over time, as there are many other factors and pitfalls along the way. So let’s take a look at some strategies to help you cope with the problem of how to increase on the bench press.
1. Correct attitude
Always try to monitor not only your body and nutrition, but also your thoughts. The correct mental attitude will help in achieving the best results. If you sluggishly perform the exercise, thinking about something else and are distracted, then the results will be the same: sluggish. To help to avoid this issue, while doing the bench press, you should enjoy the process and even turn on energetic music. All of this will help to increase your performance, but confused thoughts and general distractions will definitely reduce your options (there is also research supporting this).
Another interesting and easy way is visualization. This helps a lot within training because when you clearly see your goal and imagine it already achieved, the body automatically strives for this reality! Some new users who cannot concentrate and focus on this desire, turn to nootropic substances such as Modafinil, this help to get that extra push within the headspace and allows for a more open-minded and more focused approach when it comes to training.
2. Increase weights
There is no optimal number of repetitions which will lead to muscle building, although many still try to find this golden number. Rather than wasting time on simple light reps that seem to do nothing, it’s better to move on to the heavier weights and start to add extra stress to the pectoral muscles.
So what is meant by “heavy weight” in this case? The so-called “strength” rep range usually starts around 80% of your current one rep max or “maximum push” (or 4-6 reps) and decreases in range to your 1RM. So if at the moment you prefer the bench press with a light weight and do say 10-12 reps, then you can achieve more impressive results simply by moving to heavy weights. This does not mean that you need to fully concentrate on heavy weights, as you can continue to do those 10-12 reps, but do these after your heavy sets or one per max. Many users who cannot perform well at their 80% pushes, turn to synthetic testosterone to help them overcome these boundaries within their sport or favored hobby, this allows for more muscle growth to take place, but also for a user to push past their current boundaries.
Let’s take a look at a theoretical workout to maximize the bench press results:
- Start with an incline bench press – warm up, followed by 2 sets of 2-3 rep pushes (that’s about 90% of your 1RM- “one rep max”).
- Now let’s do 3 more sets on the incline, but for 4-6 reps (about 80% of the 1RM).
- Next, move onto the dumbbell press on a horizontal bench – here you will perform 3 sets of 4-6 reps.
- And finally, finish the workout with the normal press on a horizontal bench – 2 sets will be enough, do as many reps as you can, in the range from 8 to 12 (this should be about 70% of 1RM).
With this exercise scheme, you are forcing the blood into the chest early, in this case “the upper chest” and causing the muscle hypertrophy effect – where you are ripping the fibers to grow, but after this, you reduce your working weight and do higher repetitions so that you can still force the blood into the chest, thus, still causing stress to the fibers and in turn, “future growth” to the pectorals, without having to lift as much weight, which reduces the risk of injuries from the heavier lifts.
3. Explosive effort
Many trainers recommend doing your reps slowly, saying it helps build muscle. But a number of studies carried out in various institutes and universities around the world suggest the opposite.
- Scientists from the University of Sydney noted that volunteers who performed the bench press at a fast pace built muscle mass faster than those who followed the trainer’s recommendations and preferred a slow pace.
- In Connecticut, scientists have found that the peak strength and energy levels of those who exercise at a slow pace are significantly lower than those of the group that prefers a normal (faster) pace.
- Researchers in Wisconsin have proven that even beginners who do their workout routine end up doing better in high jumps and squats.
- Finally, scientists from Oklahoma conducted a study that proved that if you train as usual for a month, the final results will be better than if you train at a slow pace.
In addition to all of the above, scientists have long confirmed that a quick lowering of the bar (1-1.5 seconds) and the following explosive lift contribute to building muscle mass to a greater extent than a slow lowering (read the article on exercise pace).
Training at this faster pace can sometimes be an issue for many new comers especially after gaining those pounds over summer. Recently, many users have turned to Clenbuterol for help. As “Clen” is a non-steroidal bronchi dilatator, this means that the lungs will be opened up ready for these explosive lifts and not only that, but this supplement will increase a user’s endurance for these workouts dramatically.
4. Lowering the bar: Advice from powerlifters
There is one long-known advice in the powerlifting community, but many still have not heard it. Its advice is as follows: when you lower the bar, imagine that you are not just letting it “fall” on you, but actually pulling it towards you, quite consciously and in a controlled manner. This simple tip will allow you to better control your body position and create a fairly powerful force in the vertical direction.
So when you lower the bar, you can imagine that you are trying to bend it in half. The shoulder blades at this time should be in the correct position, pulled back and the scapula’s brought together. The widest dorsal muscles will help you create maximum vertical force when lifting the bar, but when lifting dumbbells, the effort will remain the same, because you will spend some of the energy and ability to stabilize the body during the exercise.
5. Exercise regularly
Among the trainees, disputes arise all the time about optimal training frequency. Researchers are more specific on this issue, as if you want to get the most out of an exercise, then do it as often as possible. That is why any training programs that include deadlifts, squats and the bench press 2-3 times a week will be extremely effective.
The fact is that muscles can become stronger without external manifestations, although an increase in muscle mass is still an integral part of the overall body growth. As a rule, strength building occurs due to neuromuscular adaptation, e.g. the muscle fibers learn to work more efficiently and energetically within the repeated exercise. So the more often you train, the more actively the process of training the muscle fibers will be and accordingly, the better you will perform that exercise. If you are currently using the bench press 1-2 times a week, then increasing the number of workouts to 2-4 will definitely increase your strength. Just be careful with increasing the load, as overtraining does not bring anything good and due to your muscles adopting the catabolic state, this mean you can lose muscle from overtraining. For this particular reason, people often use anti-catabolic agents such as Proviron, to help the muscle burn fat instead of burning the muscle mass as a source of fuel.
6. Change the grip width periodically
This idea also came from the powerlifting community and there is also research that proves the effectiveness of changing the width of the grip in improving performance within the bench press. Scientists have confirmed that a grip that is several centimeters wider than shoulder width strengthens and develops the pectoralis major muscles. At the same time, the narrow grip proved to be most useful for the development of the triceps and shoulder muscles, as these are more isolated for the lifts in these cases. So if you periodically change the grip, then several muscle groups will be pumped at once, which will definitely help in mastering the bench press and improving the technique of its implementation.
It’s quite easy to accustom yourself to different grips, you can do 2-3 sets with a wide grip and then also 2-3 sets with a narrow one, to hit a wider range of muscle groups within the bench press.
7. Don’t forget about calories
Every time you want to complain to your friends that you cannot gain weight or get stronger in any way, think about your food. Are you getting enough calories and nutrients within your diet?
There is one simple truth that, if you decide to gain mass or build muscle in a short time, then you need to get enough calories daily for this. If you do not feed the body with its building material, then your muscles will not grow and your weight will remain the same.
The number of calories required is different for everyone, but usually it is somewhere in the region of 3 thousand per day. It may seem like too much, but in fact it may not even be enough. There are many stories of people who could not gain weight in any way until they started consuming 4-4.5 thousand calories per day. Moreover, this is done every day, including the days that are free from training.
This happens due to the fact that in some people, the body burns calories too quickly in the course of life and, especially, during exercise. So such people need calories in huge quantities, otherwise there will be no gain in muscle mass and weight.
Just be more attentive to the diet, if you eat everything, then, of course there will be enough calories, but along with them you will gain fat, which you will then have to get rid of.
8. Get some well needed rest
Usually, various unconventional methods are not included in training programs due to the lack of confirmation of their effectiveness. But one such method should be experimentally included in training all the same which it is called the “rest-pause”. Its essence is as follows: you perform some exercise all the way until muscle failure or “fatigue”. The moment you realize that you cannot physically complete another repetition, you take a short rest. Then you return to the exercise again, and again, to train until muscle failure is complete. Then everything is in a circle.
This technique also came from powerlifting, and numerous studies have confirmed that it does indeed help increase strength and help to increase the bench press more.
It is best to include this rest-pause in training with a heavy weight (80% -90% of 1RM). If you are using approximately 80-90% of 1RM, then you should rest no more than 30 seconds between sets. If 90% or more is used, then you can rest up to 60 seconds. In addition, it is not recommended to perform more than 3-4 such sets in one workout, since they require significant effort.
The chances are, your plans include building muscle and increasing strength to maximize your bench press and if so, your top priority should be to increase your working weight during your workouts. The point in this case is that if you decide to become bigger, then you will have to become stronger also.
One proven and good way to do this, is to train in a specific rep range and increase the weight whenever possible. Let’s say at some point you managed to do 5 reps with some specific weight, which means it’s time to add another 2kg when working with dumbbells and 4+kg when training with a barbell. Work the new weight until you can do exactly the same number of reps (5 in this example). Add weight again when you hit the 5 reps and so on.
But it also happens that you have been working on one weight for several weeks and you just can’t get it to increase. It is at this moment that micro-loading can come to the rescue. The essence of this term is that you will not add 4kg to the bar, but, say, 1 or 2kg instead.
How it works: Let’s say you stalled at 80kg for 5 reps on the bench press. We tried to bench press 84kg, but can’t do more than 3 reps. After that, you decided to reduce the load and returned to 81kg. Let’s say you can do 4 reps with this weight, which is not bad. So, after a few weeks of working with 81kg, you already calmly do the necessary 5 reps, at this moment add more weight, bringing the bar to 82kg and try again to target that 5 rep range.
Thus, sooner or later you will be able to increase your bench press and bench press the initial 84kg, although it will take slightly longer without the use of supplement agents.
10. Pay attention to your shoulder muscles and triceps
Many people mistakenly believe that underdeveloped chest muscles are to blame for the lack of progress in the bench press, but in fact this is not the case, as the reason lies in the degree of the development of the shoulder muscles and triceps.
The front delts take an active part in lifting the barbell from the chest, while the triceps, in turn, are activated in the upper phase of the exercise.
Naturally, it is important to understand that absolutely all the muscles necessary for performing the exercise must be sufficiently developed, as there will be no sense in pumping only the triceps or only the shoulder muscles, it is important to maintain balance within building these muscle groups. Without the proper development of these muscles, you cannot increase the bench press, as you need to increase your stabilizing muscles to be able for them to handle the weight of the targeted chest muscles.
How to strengthen your shoulder muscles? Try the army press, it is considered to be the best exercise for strengthening the muscles we need for the bench press. Do this at least once a week.
As for the triceps, it helps to strengthen them well, you can do this by completing a few close grip bench press, extension of the arms in the crossover or sitting behind the head, as well as within the French press. 2-3 of these exercises at least once a week will help you work on the triceps.
A couple of helpful exercises to increase the bench press
- Negative presses. To complete this exercise, you will need assistants and the weight is 10-20% more than your maximum. The bottom line is that you very slowly lower the barbell to your chest, while assistants help bring it back up. It is not recommended to do more than 3 reps of negative bench press per set (and, in fact, many sets are not required). You can limit yourself to 1-2 sets of 1-2 reps.
- Push-ups from the stands. This exercise is based on traditional push-ups from the floor, but in this case, the hands are not on the floor, but on stands. This allows you to drop lower during this exercise, there will be no restrictions in the form of a floor. To get the most out of this exercise, place your arms at the same width as when you bench press. Also use extra weights. 6-10 reps should be enough for this exercise.
So, in the article we looked at many different options and useful tips for increasing the bench press, so once again carefully read the options that you think suit you and your body and start implementing this in the gym within your workouts.
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