Perhaps one of the most common questions I get asked, particularly by blog visitors is; “How can I increase my bench press?”. To be honest, I’m not surprised I get asked this question so often as the bench press is commonly thought of as the best way to measure a guys upper body strength. It’s also the exercise that a lot of guys use to try and “show off” down the gym – as you’ll have probably noticed.
The problem is that a lot of guys seem to “hit a brick wall” when it comes to their bench press and judging by the fact that you’re reading this post, I’m guessing you’re one of them. So, if you were wondering how to increase your bench press, here’s a few tips:
#1 – Improve Your Technique
One of the most overlooked ways of increasing your bench press is simply to improve your technique. Keep the bar close to your wrists (rather than too close to your fingers), keep your feet on the floor and keep your body still throughout the exercise.
You should also make sure to squeeze the bar as hard as you can. Keep your upper-back tight and make sure to lift the bar above your chest in a straight line, not above your face!
#2 – Experiment With Different Grips
There are a few different ways to grip the bar during a bench press and it’s important to remember that none of them are wrong. Depending on your individual strengths and/or weaknesses, you might want to opt for a slightly wider or slightly closer grip.
If you’ve got pretty strong triceps, you’ll probably benefit from a slightly closer grip whereas if they tend to be quite weak, you should opt for a slightly wider grip as it’ll put less strain on them.
#3 – Train Your Triceps
Along with your pectoral muscles, your triceps are also used during a bench press. By training and strengthening your triceps, you can significantly improve your bench press performance and increase the amount you can lift.
In order to build triceps effectively, stick to hard-hitting exercises such as close-grip bench presses, tricep dips and tricep extensions.
#4 – Don’t Train Your Triceps And Chest Together
I’ve noticed that a lot of people in the gym tend to train their chest and triceps during the same workout, alternating between exercises. Basically, this is a bad idea as the more exhausted your triceps get, the less you’ll be able to bench.
Make sure to train your chest when your triceps are fresh and full of power!
#5 – Warm Up Properly
Whilst you don’t want to warm up too much before your bench press workout, you need to make sure that you’re warmed up enough to give your best performance. Diving straight in to benching your one rep max as soon as you enter the gym is a mistake and should be avoided at all costs (especially if you don’t want to injure yourself).
Instead, do a few press-ups or bench a couple of sets at a lighter weight. After this, feel free to pile on the pounds and you’ll be sure to give a much better performance.
#6 – Rest Properly Between Heavy Sets
A lot of guys seem to go from one set to the next in the space of about 30 seconds and while this is great for some workouts, you’ll need a much longer rest than this if you’re benching heavy weights.
Ideally, you should be resting for between 3 and 5 minutes between heavy sets in order to experience optimum performance.
#7 – Get Plenty Of Sleep
As well as getting enough rest between sets, you also need to make sure that you’re getting plenty of sleep. It’s important to remember that your muscles repair and grow during your rest period, not during your time in the gym.
Getting enough sleep is essential for maximising muscle growth and increasing strength.
#8 – Don’t Overtrain
Most bodybuilders believe that the more they train, the bigger and stronger they will get but unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If you overtrain (i.e. train far too much), you could make all your hard work in the gym pointless, as your body might resort to breaking down muscle tissue rather than building it.
Remember, it’s the quality of your workouts that matters, not how often you do it or how many reps you can do. You should only be training your chest once a week ideally.
#9 – Eat Plenty Of Protein
You probably think I’m pointing out the obvious here but some bodybuilders forget just how important protein is, especially when trying to pile on the pounds. You need to be consuming at least 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass per day to ensure that your body is able to effectively build muscle.
This might sound like a lot and although it’s always preferable to obtain protein from natural, wholesome food, this isn’t always possible (usually due to the busy nature of our lives). If you’re struggling, you can opt for one or two protein shakes a day to help “top up” your protein intake (here’s our ten best protein shakes).
#10 – Vary The Intensity
By varying the intensity of your chest workout and training outside your comfort zone, you’ll be able to shock your body into building muscle and soon increase your bench press.
To do this, try switching things around. Vary the rest between your sets, the amount of reps you do, the amount you lift and even the type of exercise. Don’t stick to the same old boring workout as your body will get used to it.
As you can see, increasing your bench press really isn’t that hard if you follow the tips above. However, it’s important to remember that the amount of weight you can bench is not everything and truthfully, it shouldn’t really be your primary focus. Nor should the weight you can bench ever become a priority over achieving correct form as sacrificing this can often lead to injury; plus it won’t help you gain muscle anyway.
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