Is it possible to add 20, 30 or even 40 pounds to your bench press?
Yes, it is possible and you can potentially add some serious poundage to your bench press, provided you do it right. Now, this method an effective one for those of you who want to really improve your bench press or incline press.
Now, when I go to the gym, it is very rare that I see someone do the bench press in a manner that is conducive to growth. I mean, really, it takes time to develop a solid bench press and patience is the key, as well as the knowledge it takes to really blast your bench press.
However, when I go to the gym, I see impatient young trainers wanting to bench press 500 pounds over night. I see incorrect form, bad technique, wrong positioning, and most of all, poor exercise choices. It is the choice of exercises that ultimately leads to a poor bench press.
However, when I do see someone who really understands bench press mechanics, they are usually pressing some very impressive weight. Usually, their form and technique is down to a science with nice, fluid movements. However, what I notice the most is their choice of exercises.
Anyone who is benching some serious weight, always has a very well thought out plan in place. These people just don't show up to the gym to do random exercises. They train with purpose. It may seem very simple but the truth is, they always have a system in place with very specific exercises. These exercises are the staple of a strong bencher and the real strength lies within those very exercises. Actually, it's not really the bench press itself that generates the power of the bench, it is the supporting exercises that build overall, upper torso power.
All big bench pressers' will rely on compound exercises that generate a tremendous amount of power. The bench press alone is not the actual exercise that generates the power, it is the strength exercises for the shoulders and triceps that build the core power. I mean, the pectoral muscles are the targeted muscles in the bench press, but not the only muscles involved.
Now, there are some compound exercises that I've tried that have a direct tie to a big bench press. And it's these exercises that will actually help generate a big bench press. These exercises are the real secret to building a big bench press. Yes, it is the compound exercises that will generate a huge bench press.
I've personally experienced this phenomenon. I've done numerous experiments to see how compound exercises affect my bench press. I've come to the conclusion that without these exercises, your bench press will not be as effective if you had these exercises included in your weight lifting program. If you can do these exercises, at the right times, and in the right manner, your bench press will dramatically increase.
The compound exercises to help build a large bench press are the front shoulder press and close grip bench press. Yup, simple right? Well, it's not that simple because most aspiring trainers do this all wrong. Here's where they screw up. It's the lack of understanding that these exercises must be done in a manner that allows for the maximum recovery between exercise sessions. This is the only way to get strong. And it's this impatience that is directly responsible for a poor bench press. By bench pressing 2, or even 3 times per week, you are sabotaging your efforts and you won't get anywhere.
I've seen it and I've done it and this type of training doesn't work. I've often been asked how many times a person should be bench pressing in a given week and they are astonished by my reply. Remember this, if you want a big bench press, you should only be doing it once per week. Actually, you should only be training one body part per week. And if you do it right, your bench press will explode.
Alright, here's what you want to do if you want to really gain on your bench press. You should be training each body part once per week, putting priority on the front shoulder press, close grip bench presses, and the bench press. All of your efforts are going to be aimed at getting stronger in each of these 3 exercises. Cut out all isolation exercise such as cable cross overs, bent over cable laterals, triceps kick backs or anything else that doesn't involve two or more muscles. All you want to do is concentrate on three exercises:
Front Shoulder Press;
Close Grip Bench Press.
The bench press should be done first and foremost in your weight lifting routine. Shoulder presses should be done about 3 to 4 days after training chest. I usually train triceps with chest. So, I do the bench press followed by triceps and biceps. I take a days rest following chest and arms, train legs then hit my shoulders and back.
Here's a sample routine:
Chest and arms;
Shoulders and back;
You can play around with the weight lifting routine. to change it up to suit your schedule or personal tastes. For example:
Chest and triceps;
Back and biceps;
The important thing to remember is the recovery times. You want to allow 3 to 4 days recovery between front shoulder presses and the bench press. This is the key. Exercise choice is vital to a big bench press.
For chest, you want to do the bench press first and foremost. I would recommend doing no more than 3 exercises for chest. Here's a sample:
Your exercise progression for the bench press should be:
To see the bench press illustration and description, see building muscle 101's bench press illustration here
This is it. Don't try to do any more. I wouldnt suggest doing negatives because I find it places too much stress on the ligaments and joints (although it can be effective, you may want to do these at a later date). You want to build a big chest and to do that, you need a rep range of 6. Now, lets say you can bench press 205 pounds. Heres what you progression will look like:
When do you know its time to increase the weight? Ideally, you should be increasing poundages when you can do the last set for 8 reps. So, in this case, if this person can do 165 pounds for 8 reps, they should increase the weight by 10%. Lets say, this person does 8 reps with 165 pounds this week, next week, they will be using roughly 180 pounds for a target of 6 reps. Once they do 6 reps with 180 pounds, they will target 8 reps the following week, and so on.
If your one rep max is not 180 pounds but another weight, simply take that weight and multiply it by the percentage associated with the set (As with the above progression).
This is very important. Do not do any single repetitions. Only do a single repetition after 10 to 12 weeks of doing this kind of program. And after 12 weeks of this kind of regiment, take a two week break. This is vitally important. No body builder or power lifter in their right mind goes 100% intensity, 12 months out of the year. They do this in cycles and its what you going to do, so take a two week break from the gym after training 12 weeks.
As for the other exercises, try the following progression:
Set one: 1 x 8 reps - 50% of your max
Set two: 1 x 8 reps - 60% of your max
Set three: 1 x 6 to 8 reps - 70% of your max
Set four: 1 x 6 reps - 80% of your max
As with the bench press, your weight progression will be similar.
Flat bench fly:
3 x 12 reps - moderate weight
Make sure that you dont go super heavy on this exercise. Feel the stretch and really pump the muscle up.
On Thursday when shoulders come around, you will want to make sure you do front barbell shoulder presses first. At this point, your upper body should be well rested so you can really start to move some serious weight. As with the bench press, you will want to pyramid the weight up to 80% to 85% of your max.
As you will notice, the actual rep range does not go over 8. I think that by doing anymore than 8 reps, you're wasting energy. This is another major mistake I see in the gym when people are trying to gain muscle and get strong on certain exercises. They simply don't pyramid properly. Every workout has to be productive with as little energy wasted on those sets that are not conducive to growth. Your one goal is to get strong on the bench press, shoulder press, and close grip bench presses.
In this case, you will be training shoulders and you want to devote all of your mental and physical energy to the front shoulder press. Once you start getting stronger on this particular movement, you will get stronger on the bench press. Ths is one of the keys to pressing a lot of weight on the bench press.
So, you dont want to waste time and energy by doing unnecessary repetitions. What you want to do is aim for getting stronger on your last two working sets of this exercise - Each and every shoulder workout.
I suggest you do the shoulder press first and foremost in your routine. Heres a sample shoulder weight lifting routine:
Seated front shoulder press; followed by
Seated dumbbell presses; followed by
Your exercise progression for the seated front shoulder press is very similar to the bench press and should look something like this:
As I said before, if you can get strong on this exercise you will add pounds to your bench press. Now, lets take a look at your weight progression. Lets say your max on the seated front shoulder press is 185 pounds. Heres what you progression will look like:
I hate to repeat myself, but this is very important. Your main work sets are sets three and four. All of your energy is going to be spent trying to get 6 reps with 70% to 80% of your max. Now, as with the bench press, you will increase your weight when you can get 8 reps on set four. That is your goal. The prescribed rep range is 6 on the last set and once you can get this with your last set, you want to get at least 8 before you can increase the weight by 10%. Why? Its been my experience that before you can get another 6 reps with a higher weight, you need to get at least 8 reps with 10% less weight.
Ok, let me explain. Lets say on your last set, you get 6 reps with 185 pounds in week one. Now, on week two, you get 8 reps with that same weight. What does this mean? Youve gotten stronger and can handle more weight - 10% more weight. By increasing your weight by 10%, you are back at aiming for 6 reps - Which is the rep range you want to be at for adding size and power. Now, lets say you manage to get 6 reps with 10% more weight than you started with in week three. This means you have gotten stronger - 10% stronger to be exact. For the following week, you will be aiming at getting 8 reps in order for you to add 10% more weight.
This is the progression of getting strong. Trust me, once you get this progression going, the cycle of getting stronger will become clear.
As for the close grip bench press, your progression will be very similar.
Heres a sample triceps routine:
Your exercise progression for the seated front shoulder press is very similar to the bench press and should look something like this:
Now, lets take a look at your weight progression. Lets say your max on the close grip bench press is 175 pounds. Heres what you progression will look like:
To see an illustration and description, see building muscle 101's close grip bench press illustration here
As with the bench press and shoulder press, you will want to pyramid the weight up to 80% to 85% of your max.
Alright, if your looking to really improve your bench press, try using the seated front shoulder press and close grip bench press in your routine. I can say with 100% certainty that as you get stronger in these two exercises, your bench press will dramatically improve.
Here are some other tips to help you with your routine:
Calorie increase: Add an extra 500 calories to your diet. If you want to burn fat and get really defined, forget about getting strong on the bench press. The only way to get really strong on the bench press is to eat a lot of quality nutrients. You should be eating at a minimum, 6 meals per day.
Protein: Eat at least 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight. If you weight a 175 pounds, you should be eating at least 175 grams of protein. Try using our calorie calculator.
Water: Drink at least 10 cups of water per day. Very important. Try using our water intake calculator.
Supplements: In terms of supplements, heres what I suggest. In the morning, drink two glasses of water immediately and one with 5 grams of glutamine. Once you have finished your breakfast, take one multi vitamin/mineral. Now, before you train, I'd say about 20 to 30, try having a creatine drink such as Dymatize's Xpand, NOZ Super charged, or SAN V12 Turbo. As soon as you've finished your workout, have at least 35 to 40 grams of whey isolate and 70 to 80 grams of quick acting carbs. Try using something like Dorian Yate's MBF or Cytogainer. Before hitting the sack, try taking another 5 to 10 grams of glutamine.
All of your workout energy should be aimed at getting stronger on the shoulder press, close grip bench presses and bench press.
- Always get plenty of rest.
- Always remember that proper form is the key here. No cheating! That means, no bending the waist and please, keep your head on the bench at all times.
There are going to be times when you dont feel strong in the gym. This is normal and its your body trying to tell you its tired. If you find that your totally drained in the gym, go home and rest. Stop what your doing, go home, have something to eat and rest.
Rest cycle: After the 12th week, take a two week break. The only exception to this rule is if you are on an absolute roll. If your bench press is improving by leaps and bounds, keep doing it. However, the threshold is soon approaching and I would say, your pushing it at 14 or 15 weeks of heavy training. Stop and take a break because you will venture into injury territory and if you dont stop, injuries will happen. So, take a 2 week break, show off your newly earned muscles and dont even think about stepping into the gym until your body is fully recovered- Generally two weeks. See our rest and recovery guide for more information.
Alright, now you know the real secret to building a big bench press. Most people that go to the gym and want to get stronger in the bench press think that the bench press is a lone entity. Most think that the bench press is an exercise that stands alone. Well, its not.
The real key to a big bench press is to have a strong foundation of supporting muscles. That means, the shoulders and triceps. Once this happens, your going to have a huge bench press.
I certainly hope you have enjoyed this tip. It can mean the difference between 10, 20, or even 30 pounds on your bench press.
Good luck and all the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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