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Okay I get a lot of e-mails asking how they can how to bench press more weight. So, I decided to make a whole section dedicated to improving bench press weight. I am not going to list one way, because there are many ways. In
fact there more ways than you can shake a stick at. I am going to list what has
worked for me, and programs that I have heard about that work.
But first I got to talk about recovery. Many of those bench press programs
are nothing but "eat 5,000 calories a day, bench
one day a week and do not do triceps or shoulder exercises". Look at them that
is what they are. These will work, but you will have a strong bench, big waist,
and small arms. Some web sites have bench charts to find out what you should be
lifting. Here is how you use those charts: take chart, light match, ignite
chart, stir ashes. DO NOT USE CHARTS!!! They do not work. Why Fig? Because not
everyone has the same types of muscle fibers, not everyone if 5í10" tall, not
everyone has the same endurance. You can use these chart as a estimate of what
you can do, but unless you done the weight you think you can do, you cannot tell
anyone that is what you do because you can do "x" amount of reps. A lot of these
charts have unrealistic goals "yeah 10 pound gain every week?". Screw charts!!!
Do not use them.
Instead of charts you should go to the gym and see what you can do for 10
reps in perfect form (with the last rep you have to struggle with). Once you
find the 10 rep max, you will remember this number. That is about your 70% max
weight. Now add 30% to this and that should be close to your max. In other words
you bench 225 for 10 reps, your max should be around 275-315. Now keep that 70%
number in your mind. You want to incorporate that number in your workout. The
70% number will be your fourth set in your pyramid. Like this for the 225 pound
135x10 (warm up, you pick a weight that is light like a push up)
135x10 (warm up again)
185x10 (this is sort of a warm up too, except now you are getting the body
used to heavy weight. This helps to stretch the muscles out.)
225x8 (this is the first heavy set. This is the 70% max weight. You do a
couple of reps short of 10 "you should have some steam left over for a few more
reps, but you do not do them". This is to get your body fully ready for the
245x6 (here you are going full bore on your lift)
265x4+ (here you are going as heavy as you can at about 90% of your max
In other words warm up, do 8 reps with your 70% max and then add a little
weight and do 6 reps, then add a little weight and then do 4 reps. You want to
time yourself between reps. Give yourself between 2 and 3 minutes. For the last
set give yourself, 4 minutes. Time yourself!!!
Now the bench uses lots of muscles. It uses the shoulders, triceps, and lats.
You have to get those muscle groups growing as well. You also have to space your
workout so that those muscles are not over worked. I would never do triceps, the
day before chest. That will not work.
Now rep speed for strength is 1 second up and 1 second down. Usually I say 2
seconds up and down, but for power I have to go with a faster lifting speed. In
good form without bouncing the weight.
How to bench. First some people put their feet on the bench. This is okay if
you have a bad back, but I have never seen a power lifter do this in a contest.
Always put your feet on the floor. Before you even sit down on the bench, check
the bar. The bar should not be bent. Roll the bar on the ground and see if it is
bent. Next check and see if the ends of the bar turn. They should turn, if they
do not then you will have trouble balancing it, because the bar will twist in
your hands. Next make sure the hex screws at the end of the bar are tight. Now
you can put the bar on the bench. When you put the bar on the bench, make sure
the bar is centered on the bench. That is the greatest mistake I see!!! Then
they lift the bar for the first time and the bar comes down crooked. Next lay
ion the bench and make sure the bench is parallel with the sections on the
ceiling. That can cause you to lower the bar crooked. Next make sure the bench
is flat on the floor and it is not tipping. Now put the weight on the bar. Make
sure the weights are pushed all the way to the ends of the collars. To grip the
bar find a place on the bar, to where your forearms are parallel to the wall.
Now note where your fingers are on the rings of the bar for next time. I always
chalk my bar. Always use chalk. Now get under the bar. When the bar is racked
you should have the bar under your neck. Now tuck your chin down into your neck.
Breath a few times before you lift the bar. Now lift the bar and lower it to
your nipples. Keep your butt on the bench and do not arch your back!!! Your
elbows should be some what parallel to the bar. Then lift all the way up and
just before locking out, lower the weight again. Once you are done rack the
weight and then reset the bar.
For a strong bench press I believe that you should only workout the whole
body once a week. One bench day a week is enough (there is one program I will
mention that does work later.). You should only try to gain at the most 5 pounds
a week on your bench press. You can order smaller plates that weigh less than a
pound. These work very well.
Now to show you some different programs.
The one on my page that I always use is as follows:
I switch from light to heavy workouts week to week. On my light day I use a
slower lifting technique. I concentrate on my form. On my heavy day, I use a
fast controlled movement. I do forced reps on my last set. I have the spotter
hold the bar and as soon as I start to fail, he starts to help me move the
weight at a good fast pace (not a slow pace!!!). The spotter tells me when the
weight is too heavy for him to continue spotting me. I do not end the set, he
does!!! Usually at 30 pounds of help, he racks the weight. My workout goes like
this (NOTICE THE TIME BETWEEN SETS!!!)
For light day I do this:
Set 1: warm up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 2: warm up 10x135 (1 min rest)
Set 3: 10x225 (rest 2 min)
Set 4: 8x275 (rest 3 min)
Set 5: 8x315 (rest 3 min)
Set 6: 6x345 (rest 4 min)
Set 7: 4x365 (rest 5 min)
Set 8: 6-7x315
For a heavy day I cut down on the sets and weight and go heavier
Set 3: 10x225 (2min rest)
Set 4: 4x315 (3 min rest)
Set 5: 4-6x405 (4-5 min rest)
Set 6: 2-3x455 (forced reps) (5 min rest)
Set 7: 9x315
After I do flat bench, I go do 3 sets of incline dumbbells and then 3 sets of
I like to do both of these workouts, because the light workout helps build my
reps up and the heavy helps my max. You got to do both. The lighter workout also
helps me heal up a little after a heavy workout.
The next routine is called the "Westside style" of lifting. I am not going to
get into it a lot. What they do is attach a chain to both sides of the bar. Why?
Because when you lift the bar up and you get to your strongest point of the
movement it will get heavier. I have never tried it, but it sounds really
I some times use partial reps after I do my regular flat bench. These really
help to get rid of your sticking point in the middle of the bench movement. I
only recommend you do 1 set of these. These really work the front delts the
most. All you do is lift the bar up and then lower it to your chest. Then lift
the weight up to half way and then lower it. Do that seven times. Then while you
are still in the same set, go all the way to the top and then lower the weight
down half way and then do them seven times at the top. Then try to get seven
full reps. You can also just do on part of the movement for the whole set.
Remember that the bottom movement works your lats and chest and the top works
the triceps and shoulders. Just figure out what you lag on.
Power Rack Benching
Some people like me believe that you are limited to your weakest point of
your movement. That to me is true. Everyone has their strongest point in their
movement. Usually it is the lockout. My lockout is very strong. I can use my
lockout to bench the back end of a 82í Escort off of the ground. I could not do
that at my mid point. I think if you can get your lockout stronger, then the
strength will flow down to your weaker point. You can do this with the power
rack. Do not do this as a basis of your workout. Do it as a supplement only. Do
it after you do your flat bench. Just go to the power rack and set the pins so
they are at your mid point. Then try to lift the weight up. Do not bounce the
weight off of the pins. Lower the weight to the pins to the point you hear
nothing. Work in the 6-8 reps range.
Bulgarian Style Benching
Once I tried doing this and I got hooked. This program does work. I do not
know why. I do this every once in a while. You have to be in good health to do
this. You have to be eating like a pig and you have to get a lot of rest to do
it. You have to be on a program that only works your whole body once a week. You
have to skip shoulder and triceps training while on this program. This program
is to be done in one week and you cannot do it repeatedly. You have to give your
body a rest of at least a month or two, if you decide to do it again. Here it
is: You start on chest day. You warm up and then find a weight that you can do
for 5 reps in good form. You use this pyramid:
Letís say this guy benches 225 as his 5 reps max:
Set 1: 10x135
Set 2: 10x135
Set 3: 6x185
Set 4: 5x225
Then on chest day you do 3 sets of incline and then 3 sets of flyes.
Now it is not over folks!!! Now the next day you come in and you just do the
flat bench workout and you try to get 5 or 6 reps. Sometime you will only get 4,
but keep going. Then you go do what ever you were going to workout that day.
Then the day after that you do the same thing and try to get more than 5 reps
out of the flat bench and then you do your normal workout. You do this for 3
days after chest day. Then after the last day, you take 2-3 days off. Then you
will go bench and usually I have gained a couple of reps on my bench.
The Power Lifterís Routine
This is real easy. Power lifting mags make it sound too complicated.
Basically you drop your weight down and raise the reps up. Then week after week
you lower the reps and add weight. Just like this:
Week 1 (I will exclude warm up sets):
Do you see how the sets and reps change? That is what they do. Then after
that they go back to a lower weight and start over again. This was not really a
accurate routine, I just made it up to show you. The weight would be heavier at
5 sets of 10 system
I do not like this system at all. This system does not work!!! Basically you
find a weight you can do for 15 reps and then do 5 sets of 10 with it. Do not do
Three Sets of Eight Workout or the 5x5 Workout.
These are programs used by many power lifters. I have never used the 5x5
system. I have done the 3 x 8 workout. Basically this is just like the Power
Lifter routine above. Except you find a weight you can do for 8 reps or what
ever the plan calls for. Then you try to get that amount of reps out of the
weight as many times as it calls for. Usually you have to descend in weight to
do this. Then each month you lower the reps by 2 and then lift heavier.
I do not recommend anyone reverse benching. If you do not know what it is,
then good. Basically it is benching with a under hand grip. This will hurt your
shoulders. Some people can do this, but I would not try it.
Super Slow Benching
Okay some Darden believers out there are going to hate me. DO NOT GO SUPER
SLOW ON BENCHING!!! Super slow is lifting a weight at 15-30 seconds up and 15-30
seconds down. Some movements like bench press must be done with some speed,
because the body (OR YOUR ROTATOR CUFFS) are not designed to go super slow. Yes
super slow causes a lot of stress on the muscles, but it causes too much stress
on the things the muscles attach to. 2 seconds up and 2 seconds down is slow
enough. To me good form is a pace that you can feel the muscle through the whole
movement. Skip super slow training. I have tried it and it does not work!!! I do
not know any power lifters that do that. It does work on some pulling movements
like pull ups, but pushing movements seem to irritate the joints and ligaments.
Pause at the bottom Benching
A lot of power lifters do these. Usually they do them after they get done
with their heaviest weight on their pyramid. Usually it is done with a
descending weight. They do between 6-8 reps. Just bench and as you get to the
bottom, just stop the weight there for 1 second and then lift the weight back
up. Usually 1 - 2 sets of this after flat bench works well.
Close & Wide Grip Benching
It is always good to change your grip. A strength coach a few years ago told
me that I should workout with a real wide grip and when it comes time to max
out, I should bring my grip in a 1" on each side. Tell you what, that works!!!
He also had me tuck my chin into my neck. That did help for some reason. While
you are benching, try different grips.
Smith Machine Benching
That is a NO NO!!! The Smith machine is a good piece of equipment. But, if
you want to get your free weight bench up then stay away from it. Some people
tell me "hey I bench 350". I say oh really? "Yeah I do it on the Smith Machine."
He tells me. First off, just like I said before you always have to pay some
where. Yes the Smith machine has itís strengths. It is easy to use, it is safe
and you do not need a spotter. But what it does not do or what it really does is
this: It puts more stress on the joints!!!, it makes it so your supporting
muscles do not work, and it put the person benching in a position that is
totally different from free weight benching. The Smith machine will make you use
your triceps too much. Basically it turns into a decline bench. I do not even
like it for incline. Stay away from the Smith machine on bench. Not to mention
how much stress that machine puts on your wrists.
Questions and Answers (Okay I Answer both, but what do you expect?)
Q: Fig what are some exercises I should do to help my bench get stronger?
A: I would use the exercises that you can lift a lot of weight. Like flat
bench, incline bench, and weighted dips.
Q: I noticed that you did not include "Decline bench".
A: I really do not think that the decline bench does anything for the chest,
that weighted dips cannot do better. Look at the range of motion you get with
the decline. It is the same as the dip. But you can get a fuller range of motion
with the dip.
Q: Can I use dumbbells and get stronger?
A: Yes you can, but you will not get your barbell bench much stronger by
doing so. If I was going to try to win a running marathon, I would not go and do
nothing but bike work. I would run. If you want your flat bench to go up, then
you got to do flat bench. I am not saying your bench will not go up, I am saying
it is a better way with the barbell. Because you can pile on more weight.
Q: My shoulders hurt when I bench. What should I do?
A: First you need to find out what is wrong with your shoulders. Go to my
link section and check out the Stone clinic link. There is a self examination
chart there. If you just have a mild pain, then you can try this: When you
bench, do not lock out. Stay away from the peck dec and flyes. Work real light
for a few weeks until the pain goes away. See a doctor if the pain is really
How long should the pain in my chest last after a workout?
It should last 3 days. If it lasts more than that then you need to cut down
on your sets and exercises. Now if you do not feel any pain, that is still
good!!! Only if you keep getting stronger.
That is all, I have right now. I hope it helps you, Fig
For more information checkout the Increase Bench Press Workout
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