One of the most common desires for anyone who has been lifting for a while is to increase their bench press strength.
The amount of weight you can bench press is a good indicator of upper body strength and is typically how others compare their strength with you.
It’s easy to hit plateaus you are unable to overcome when attempting to increase the amount of weight you can bench press. This can be extremely frustrating.
Read on to discover some of the best tips for increasing your bench press strength (by a solid 20 kilograms in just a month) and busting through plateaus like a boss.
1. Work on Increasing Your Tricep Strength
In many cases, tricep strength is going to hold you back when it comes to bench pressing more weight. Remember, bench pressing counts on a number of muscles.
You need to strengthen all of them in order to take on more weight.
A few exercises you can try to increase your bench strength include skullcrushers and close grip presses.
2. Push Yourself to the Limit
It’s way too easy to fall into a rut when working out.
Your workout routine should be systematic, although you do need some variation to really grow.
If you aren’t always pushing yourself to the limit you won’t see the big gains other guys are getting. You can try varying the intensity of your workout and changing up reps, breaks between sets and exercises.
Always make sure you are doing at least one big compound exercise on your chest every workout.
Make sure you are following the rule of progressive overload by gradually adding small amounts of weight to the bar, even if it’s just a couple of pounds (or KG, whichever is your favoured measurement) at a time, the weight will start to add up as you will get progressively stronger.
3. Less is More, Sometimes
It can be really tempting to work out more than you should when you’re trying to get big. You have to realize that training too often is going to hold you back big time.
Your muscles need time to grow and regenerate between workouts. You should be focusing on your technique and the quality of your workout, not the quantity.
Working your chest hard once or twice a week is all anybody really needs to grow.
4. Used Negative Reps
Of course, I don’t mean your attitude.
Negatives are when you’re lowering the weight to your chest. You can try doing negatives at 150% of your bench max then having a buddy help you lift the bar back up.
Negative training is a secret not many lifters know about and can really help you blast through your 1 rep max.
5. Grub like a Bodybuilder
If you really want to see big gains you’re going to have to start eating more. If you don’t add additional calories to your diet you can forget about increasing your chest strength.
Maintaining a daily calorie surplus as you grow is essential. Getting your protein in a number of different forms is great, but don’t forget about consuming those calorie-dense complex carbohydrates.
Both are essential to building muscle tissue and increasing strength.
6. Rest and Recover
Seriously, take some time off once in a while.
All the pros take a week or two off every year to help their bodies recuperate.
Your muscles and nervous system can become fatigued which will hold you back when trying to break through a plateau. I like to take at least a week off to fully recover at least a few times throughout the year.
Every time, without fail, I get back into training after a week of rest and eating I come back feeling stronger and full of energy.
7. Invest in the Right Supplements
This is especially true if you have a hard time getting all of the protein and/or calories you need from your diet. We’re all busy and can’t always find the time to eat enough.
While it may be possible to get everything you need from the food you eat, finding the right supplements guarantees your body will have the correct nutrient ratios necessary to get bigger and stronger.
8. Bench Press Technique is Everything
Using the proper technique is absolutely essential when it comes to big strength gains. You would be shocked to know how many experienced lifters neglect to perfect their lifting form.
Bad habits are easy to develop and extremely hard to shake.
Consulting with an expert trainer to analyze your form could be just what you need to increase your bench press strength.
Not sure how to bench press correctly?
If you want to increase your bench by 20 kg or more, you need to know how to move that bar, properly.
Here’s How to bench Press Properly and Increase Your Strength
“How much can you bench?”
That’s the first question you’re asked when someone wants to judge your strength.
The bench press is a staple in most people’s chest training routines. It’s a great compound exercise for building strength and mass in your chest.
But how many times have you gone to the gym and seen that less-than-muscular wobbly-armed fellow struggling to hold proper form when benching?
Bench pressing is deceptively difficult to do properly… get it right, and you’ll see improved gains in your chest size and strength… get it wrong, and you’re heading for some serious shoulder damage.
So, before you lie down under the bar and press any more weight, remember these steps to ensure that you’re working your chest for optimal gains, while avoiding injury.
STEP 1: SET A STRONG BASE
Before you even think about un-racking that bar, you need to make sure you’re lying on the bench correctly.
First, make sure your feet are planted firmly on the ground throughout the entire lift. All too often I see guys lifting their feet off the ground as they press, or worse, start with their legs raised and crossed.
Keeping your feet planted firmly on the floor, spaced wide apart will provide stability.
Before lying on the bench, squeeze your shoulder blades together. Lie down, keeping your shoulder blades retracted and plant them firmly against the bench.
This will give you a firm foundation to press from, and will keep your shoulders back and chest expanded.
Your lower back should have a slight arch, just enough space to fit a fist through.
A lot of people have a tendency to arch their back too much and raise their butt off the bench during the lift.
When pushing the weight, drive your feet into the floor through your heels, keep your butt on the bench and shoulder blades retracted.
STEP 2: GET A GRIP
You want to grip the bar slightly wider than shoulder width so that your forearm is perpendicular to the floor (at an angle of 90° to the ground – vertical).
Grip too close together places strain on the wrists and the triceps will take most on the weight. Grip the bar too wide and you risk screwing up your shoulders.
Don’t use a thumb-less grip, it’s called the “suicide grip” for a reason. If that bar slips off the palm of your hand during a lift, it’s a trip to the hospital. Make sure you grip the bar properly, wrap your thumb around the bar and grip it hard. Squeeze the bar hard when your lifting, like you’re trying to crush the bar, this will give you a little strength boost.
Don’t flair your elbows out wide during your lift. This is also a sure way to destroy your shoulders. Keep elbows tucked in, they should be about a 45 – 60 degree angle from your body.
STEP 3: DON’T START HEAVY
Just so that you get a good feel for your form before going really heavy, start off by lifting the bar off of the rack with a very lightweight. I look at my first couple of warm-up sets as “feel sets” to make sure I get my form bang on before increasing the weight.
Breathe in as you lower the bar down, allowing it to gently touch your chest (don’t bounce the bar off your chest, it’s not cool), and then breathe out as you push the bar up.
Slow and controlled on the way down, explode up.
STEP 4: BAR POSITION
Lower the bar so that it stops at the bottom area of your chest – the bar should stop in line with the nipples. Don’t bring the bar down too high, such as in line with your shoulders.
Press with a full range of motion by bringing that bar down until it touches your chest, explode up and extend your arms fully, locking out the elbows at the top of the movement.
Using full range of motion with proper form will force your chest to work maximally, giving better muscle development.
STEP 5: USE A SPOTTER
Lastly, it’s always a good idea to have a spotter, especially if you’re new to bench pressing or if you’re deciding to push yourself and lift very heavy to failure. After all, better safe than sorry.
Warning: Make sure not to bump your head on the bar when lying down. Not only does it hurt… it’s embarrassing