How To Increase Bench Press (Tips For Improvement)

Your ability to bench press is a good measure of your total upper body strength, so if your stalling on the bench you’re probably stalling on your gains.

Everybody, dependent on sex, size, and age, has an average amount they can likely bench without training. Everything after that takes dedicated effort.

If you are dissatisfied with your bench press, and want to increase how much you can bench, these basic things are key.

Work the big three – chest, shoulders, triceps.

Before you even hit the bench, you can enhance your ability to bench press by working the muscles most active in the bench press in other ways. These muscles are the chest, shoulders and triceps.

The chest is the most essential of these muscles, because it’s your main source of power during a bench press. The stronger your chest is, the more weight you should, hypothetically, be able to bench.

Luckily, you don’t have to split these three areas of the body into separate lifts. Multiple exercises use the chest, shoulders and triceps as a singular unit.

Arm/chest exercises that can improve your bench press include:

Dumbbell Squeeze Press

By bringing the dumbbells together above the chest at the top of the press, you put emphasis on the pecs/chest.

Close-Grip Bench Press

While it’s just another form of bench press, the close-grip press reduces reliance and pressure on your shoulders, increasing the focus on your chest and triceps.

Decline Push-Up

Putting your feet higher than your upper body during a push-up increases the amount of strength required and puts emphasis on the lower chest muscles.

Cable Flies

Bringing your arms to center in a fly focuses directly on the center of the chest that can be hard to work with other exercises.

Pec Deck

The pec deck has a somewhat similar effect as flies, bringing emphasis to the center of the chest.

Shoulder Press

Pressing weight above the head and bringing the arms together puts emphasis on the shoulders, which is vital for stability and can help prevent injury during a bench press.

Perfect your form.

It sounds obvious, because it is, but focusing on your form during a bench press is one of the simplest, most effective means of increasing your lift.

To bench press properly –

  1. Situate on the bench so your eyes are directly beneath the bar.
  2. Grip the bar so your hands are just slightly wider than hip-width apart (for a standard bench press).
  3. Straighten your arms to lift the bar off of the rack.
  4. Lower the bar down to mid-chest.
  5. Press the bar off of the chest to fully extend the arms.
  6. Inhale on the downward movement. Exhale on the press.

Of these steps, figuring out your grip is the most essential element. You want it to be comfortable, but be careful relying on comfort alone. A wider or narrower grip alters the emphasis of the exercise away from the chest.

Figure out your feet.

The most neglected part of bench press form is almost always the legs. Which makes sense. It’s a chest, shoulder, and arm exercise, so the legs become an afterthought for many lifters.

However, foot placement is one of the most important aspects of best bench press form, and there are several different foot positions that lifters commonly use –

  • Feet flat on the floor, knees 90 degrees
  • Feet pulled back beneath the hips, toes on the floor
  • Feet in the air, hips bent at 90 degrees
  • Feet on the bench

When it comes to powerlifting, feet on the floor provides the most potential power for the lift, while toes on the floor provides the most arch and effort from the glutes.

If you are benching with your feet in the air or on the bench, building up strength in the lower back, glutes, and core and working toward benching with your feet on the floor can get you past a plateau and on the rise again.

How can I increase my bench press fast?

Other than involving your legs more (see above), you really can’t. You can increase your bench press more rapidly than the average person by true dedication to a routine, but it won’t be “fast” by most people’s standards.

The majority of people, with a normal training schedule, will increase their bench press to intermediate levels in about a year. Those who train harder (no vacations, more reps per week) may be able to half that time to around six months.

It’s still essential to take rest days between workouts for muscles to heal and to prevent injury, though.

Do push-ups increase your bench press?

They can. It depends on how much (or how little) you can lift to start.

Standard push-ups (performed on your toes) lift about 64% of your body weight, so if you are lifting below 64% of your body weight, push-ups may help you increase your bench.

If you are lifting above 64% of your body weight, push-ups will have very little impact on your bench.

That said, push-ups, especially alternative push-ups, like decline push-ups and one-arm push-ups, strengthen the chest, shoulders, and triceps, which should, in turn, increase your bench press.

How long does it take to bench 225?

For the average man just starting a weight training program, about a year.

Increasing your bench press is a worthy goal. It is, after all, one of the big three in powerlifting.

By incorporating more exercises that work your chest, shoulders, and arms, and focusing on your form, you should be able to rise above your current maximum and add a few more pounds to your press.

image credit: Pexels

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