The bench press has been the golden exercise among gym bros for ages. When in the gym, the most commonly asked question is, “How much can you bench?” While some of the weaker lifters shy away from answering this question, there are those who carry their bench press max with them like it’s their second name. Today I will be writing about 5 easy ways to increase your bench press.
1. Bench More Frequently
One of the biggest problems for people who have trouble strengthening their bench press is that they simply do not bench enough. If you are serious about increasing your max, I recommend benching 2-3 times a week. The more you perform a movement, the better your muscles improve in completing that movement. If you are benching 2-3 times a week, your form is going to improve and you are going to get stronger as a result of the higher volume of training that your body is now experiencing.
2. Lower Your Reps
Higher reps has its place in training if your focusing on hypotrophy of a muscle, however, lowering your reps will put a focus on increasing your strength. Doing sets of 8-15 reps is going to do little to increase your 1 rep max on the bench. Focusing on sets of 3-5 reps is optimal for increasing your max. By doing a low amount of reps you’ll be able to do more weight during each set. To put it this into perspective, instead of doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps with 205, you could now be doing 5 sets of of 5 reps with 245. The total volume used with these two set schemes is about the same, however, with the 5×5 you’re using more weight.
3. Integrate Alternative Exercises into Your Workouts
There are tons of alternative and supporting exercises that will strengthen your bench press.
The dumbbell press (flat, incline, or decline) is a great supporting exercise to the bench press:
You can also throw in incline or decline barbell presses:
Floor presses allow you to completely focus on your your upper body to press the weight because you will not be able to drive through your legs. The floor press is also great for strengthening your lockout because of the limited range of motion involved in this exercise.
4. Try Doing Negatives
In case any of the gym bros reading this don’t know what a negative is, it’s where you bring the bar down very slowly (I normally like to count 5 seconds on the way down) and then explode on the way back up. I wouldn’t recommend doing negatives every time you bench because they do fry your central nervous system and leave you exhausted, but they are a great exercise to throw in at the end of a bench session or workout every so often.
5. Focus on Your Form
I think I’m going to eventually make a separate post going into more detail on bench press form, but for the simplicity of this post I’ll just briefly explain some of the key components of proper form. Since the purpose of this article is to increase your one rep max, I’m going to briefly explain the the powerlifting setup for the bench press.
Slide under the bar until it is just above where your pecs meet your upper abdominal muscles. Pull your feet back closer to your hips so that your toes are just touching the ground and your heels are raised. Tuck your shoulder blades together and raise your lower back so that you create an arch with your body. Your butt should still maintain contact with the bench and shouldn’t come off throughout any part of the movement. Here’s a picture of what this setup should look like: