How one can Improve Your Bench Press

“How a lot do you bench?”

It may be essentially the most ceaselessly requested query amongst hardcore “fitness center bros” and skilled fitness center veterans seeking to set up a pecking order, in addition to curious freshmen seeking to strike up a dialog. It’s additionally one of the crucial common (if misguided) methods to inquire about somebody’s strength, health, and common functionality within the fitness center.

Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Some would possibly contemplate the notion of bench press-specific standing ridiculous, however you’ll be able to’t erase the fact of the state of affairs. Additionally, some individuals simply wish to have a giant bench press for themselves. You might as properly place your self to maneuver some spectacular numbers, and transfer the burden safely.

Right here’s the right way to fine-tune your bench press, optimize your method, and arrange a plan to begin pushing greater weights.

Bench Press Method Evaluation

A robust bench press is constructed round one factor: Stability. Right here’s a step-by-step method to creating a great setting for a giant raise. All of it begins with a great beginning place earlier than you even unrack the burden.

Step 1 — Discover Your Contact Factors

person in gym doing flat bench press
Credit score: Morit Summers

When you’re positioned on the flat bench, the bench press requires 4 factors of contact. Your two toes positioned firmly on the ground counts as one level. Your butt and upper back are two extra factors, as they’re pressed onerous towards the bench and stay in place all through the raise.

Lastly, your head should even be firmly towards the bench and keep put throughout every repetition. If you arrange, get your eyes immediately below the bar earlier than taking the burden out of the rack. This four-point setup is the muse for a great high quality set. 

You might have observed that your decrease again is not in touch with the bench, and that’s really an necessary distinction. Some lifters consider that having an arch within the lumbar area (decrease again) when bench urgent is harmful on your backbone, when honestly, the arch should be there.

The bench press is taken into account a horizontal pushing exercise (because of the place of the load relative to your physique), which suggests the pressure angle doesn’t line as much as create spinal loading the best way a standing overhead press, squat, or deadlift would have an effect on your decrease again. The joint that bears essentially the most load throughout a bench press is your shoulder joint, not your backbone, so arching your decrease again doesn’t expose it to any vital pressure.

When you’re in place, it’s time to get your fingers on the bar. 

Step 2 — Get a Grip

person in gym preparing to bench press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

Most barbells you’ll discover at a typical fitness center can have knurling on both aspect for grip, but additionally some shiny “rings” on even factors on all sides. In aggressive powerlifting, these rings symbolize grip-width boundaries a lifter isn’t allowed to exceed.

When you’re not a aggressive powerlifter, you need to use the rings as reference factors as to the place your fingers belong. Relying on what’s comfy on your arm size, align the identical finger on every hand with the ring on both aspect. Many lifters will go for both their center or ring fingers, however everybody’s most popular grip shall be barely completely different.

Simply concentrate on setting your fingers too shut collectively together with your pinkies far inside the rings. This morphs the train from a regular flat barbell bench press to a close-grip bench press which emphasizes your triceps. (1)

As soon as your fingers are in place, shut a powerful fist across the bar and also you’re able to raise. 

Step 3 — We Have Raise Off

The best way you are taking the bar out of the rack is extra necessary — and extra technical — than meets the attention. Secure and environment friendly method requires your shoulder blades to stay retracted (pulled collectively) on the bench. This helps to arch your decrease again whereas elevating your chest and ribcage.

The small “press” which may occur as a lifter takes the bar out of the rack can pull your shoulders out of place (with protraction, the other of retraction). Protracted shoulders will make your chest sink down and place extra stress on the shoulder joints because of this. That is troublesome to appropriate by the point the burden is in your fingers, making it powerful to re-adjust.

Making the hassle to lift your hips throughout raise off can assist with this, inserting them again down as quickly because the bar’s unracked and in place over your chest. Lifters and not using a spotter can use this methodology to start the motion in a powerful place with out sacrificing kind.

Step 4 — Decrease and Press

person in gym lower barbell in bench press
Credit score: Hryshchyshen Serhii / Shutterstock

The bar ought to descend below management to make contact in your chest. Goal for touching the bar to your mid- or decrease chest, and make that time of contact constant from rep to rep. The completed, locked out place needs to be a bit extra according to your higher chest or shoulder-level, which means the bar will journey on a barely slanted path.

At all times keep in mind that a real testomony of energy in a giant raise like this doesn’t come from how shortly you’ll be able to carry out the reps, it comes from how slowly and well-controlled you’ll be able to carry out them. Particularly on the eccentric (reducing) section, take the velocity down a few notches. You may even add a pause with the bar on the chest to exert much more management over the burden — simply make sure you keep tight and never loosen up below the burden.

Make every particular person rep depend and also you’ll slap on energy and measurement. 

Bench Press Errors to Keep away from

No person desires to change into the subsequent “YouTube fail” video, often that includes individuals butchering the bench press motion or, worse, moving into life-threatening conditions on account of a disregard for security. Be sure to’ve acquired your bases lined by stopping these points earlier than they begin. 

Lifting Your Hips

Except for giving your self a raise off (if wanted), your glutes ought to by no means depart the bench in the course of the train. Lifting your hips gained’t make you any stronger on the raise. It’s merely a cheat tactic and an indicator that the burden is just too heavy to raise correctly. That is the bench press equal of doing standing biceps curls and leaning your higher physique again to get the burden up.

Person in gym doing flat bench press
Credit score: Serghei Starus / Shutterstock

Preserve the motion sincere to your potential. You’ll construct energy over time once you apply good kind.


Stopping shy of full vary of movement — from full lockout to the bar touching your chest — does nothing to correctly service your chest muscle tissue (the prime movers of the bench press) or entry the energy the physique can put into the burden. (2)

When you really feel like you’ll be able to solely carry out half reps, likelihood is the burden is just too heavy, your shoulders are too unstable, or each. As a substitute, scale back the load and observe staying tight by full vary of movement.

person in gym performing bench press
Credit score: Sarayut Sridee / Shutterstock

If that also hurts your shoulders, it could possibly be on account of weak spot within the motion itself or it may stem from a scarcity of higher again energy to stabilize and shield the shoulder. Ensure that your coaching plan contains loads of upper-back pulling exercises like face pulls or reverse flyes.

Utilizing Collars on the Bar 

This isn’t essentially some extent about growing your bench press, however it’s an necessary difficulty any time you’re benching heavy. It’d sound counterintuitive or controversial however, when you’re lifting alone, securing the burden plates with collars is a doubtlessly high-risk maneuver.

person helping lifter perform bench press
Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Frequent sense would say you often “ought to” safe the weights to forestall them from shifting round. The reality is that, when you do fail a rep and handle to get pinned to the bench, it may spell hazard when you’re not robust sufficient to press the bar off your chest all the best way again as much as the rack. You may’t at all times depend on rolling it down over your hips and waist (which might be extraordinarily painful and uncomfortable by itself).

When you’re an individual who lifts unsupervised at home, it’s finest to depart the weights unclipped in order that, within the occasion of failure, you’ll be able to tip the weights off one finish of the bar and free you from being stapled. It’s higher to crack a few tiles on the exercise room ground than to crack a few ribs or your larynx.

Three Suggestions for Extra Positive factors

Getting the fundamentals down is an efficient first step, however taking issues to the subsequent stage includes a bit deeper considering, the place this train is anxious. 

Leg Drive 

Tuck your toes nearer to your butt to create a knee angle inside 90-degrees. That is important to benefiting from an important and neglected precept — the bench press is extra than simply an “higher physique” train.

Person in gym doing barbell bench press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

In fact, your legs have a severe function to play in selling general bracing and tightness. As you press, take into consideration driving your toes into the bottom onerous. The bar isn’t simply shifting away out of your chest, it’s shifting away from the ground, so this cue will come in useful so as to add extra energy to your raise by growing general muscle recruitment. (3)

Tuck Your Elbows 

If you wish to shield your shoulder joints, deal with bettering bench efficiency whereas utilizing a barely narrower grip (versus a comparatively large grip) and tucking your elbows in the course of the motion.

short-haired person in gym doing barbell bench press
Credit score: MDV Edwards / Shutterstock

The nearer your higher arm is to your torso, the much less weak place your shoulder joints shall be put into. Your shoulders will immediately really feel happier, extra secure, and extra highly effective by aiming your elbows extra ahead than sideways. 

Use a Thicker Bar or Thick Grip Attachments

Utilizing a bigger diameter bar with extra floor space unfold throughout the palms of your fingers often feels extra comfy when you get used to the distinctive grip. It can also scale back joint stress within the elbows and shoulders by growing forearm recruitment and muscle stress for added stability. (4)

The larger diameter disperses the load and reduces the stress transferred to your joints. When you don’t have entry to thick barbells, you need to use thick grip attachments like “Fats Gripz.” This straightforward pair of detachable handles might be one of the crucial helpful instruments to have in your fitness center bag, since it may be used with any train that requires grabbing a barbell, dumbbell, or deal with.

Construct a Higher Bench: Strategies That Work 

When you’ve been coaching within the fitness center for some time, the basic 3 x 10 or 4 x 6 would possibly not likely be doing the job to get you previous your energy or measurement plateau. In case your lifting numbers aren’t budging, it’s price considering a bit additional outdoors the field to search out methods to stimulate your chest

One-and-a-Half Rep Bench Press

Particularly if a lifter has longer arms, it may be a trouble adding muscle to the chest for a greater aesthetic. The comparatively lengthy vary of movement and large quantity of lockout area a lifter should transfer by could make the triceps and shoulders take over a typical chest pressing sample. This leaves the chest much less fatigued over the course of a set.

Performing a “one and a half rep” bench press includes unracking the barbell and reducing all of it the best way to chest stage. Stay tight and press the burden from chest stage to midway up, and pause. Your higher arms needs to be at roughly 90-degrees. Decrease the burden as soon as extra to chest stage, after which press all the best way as much as the highest — that complete collection counts as one single repetition.

This high-tension method will make your chest work greater than your triceps and shoulders as a result of the latter two muscle teams aren’t considerably concerned within the bottom-half of the motion.

Your chest is within the strongest biomechanical place, and is essentially the most concerned, by this part of the train, and the one-and-a-half rep method takes benefit of that. Three to 4 units of 4 to 6 reps could be splendid right here, remembering that every “one and a half” equals one rep. 

Cluster Units

Cluster units deserve extra point out than they typically get on the subject of increasing your strength and size. Understanding how the physique works from a physiological stage can assist create extra appreciation for cluster coaching and its import.

Relating to brief bouts of explosive energy like a 100-meter dash, a primary down in soccer, or a heavy, low-rep set of weight coaching, the physique depends on adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as its main supply of vitality to make muscle tissue work onerous.

The ATP shops depart the physique after 10 to fifteen seconds and the first muscle tissue in use start to close down and create lactic acid as a byproduct. It often takes one to 2 minutes to sufficiently replenish these shops of ATP within the affected muscle tissue.

Realizing that, you’ll be able to benefit from this replenishment section whereas nonetheless lifting heavy weights. A set of three reps might be prolonged to 4 and even 5 whole reps if brief breaks are taken between every particular person repetition.

This mini-rest will partially replenish the shops of ATP obtainable within the physique. This will enhance your energy over time and in addition expose you to the next cumulative quantity of heavy reps, which may result in extra muscle development.  Listed below are a number of the only methods to make use of clusters. 

Single-Rep Clusters

Put 90-95% of your one-repetition max on the bar. This weight is usually a two-rep max, however you’re about to do 4 reps with it. Carry out one repetition, and rack the burden for 10 to fifteen seconds. Then take the burden off the rack and carry out one other earlier than re-racking it. Repeat till you’ve carried out 4 reps. Relaxation at the very least two minutes and carry out a complete of two to 3 full units.

Resetting between single reps additionally permits you to guarantee appropriate method on every separate effort. 

Multi-Rep Clusters

Put your five-repetition max on the bar. Carry out 4 reps earlier than racking the burden and resting for 10 seconds. Take the bar off the rack and carry out two extra reps. You’ve simply carried out six reps together with your five-rep max. Full three to 5 full units.

This can be a good strategy to improve time spent below stress (TUT), which advantages muscle development, whereas working with barely lighter-than-max hundreds, which gained’t influence restoration as a lot as very heavy lifting. (5

Excessive-Rep Clusters, aka Ladders, for Dimension

Loads of heavy lifting can do a quantity on the nervous system, particularly if heavy lifts are employed on the common. An excellent change of tempo (that doubles as a good way to interrupt a measurement plateau) is to make use of high-rep strategies with the identical method.

Ladder units are simply the ticket. Use your 10 to 12-rep max weight. Carry out a mini-set of two reps, then three reps, then 5 reps, and at last 10 reps with 10-second breaks between every mini-set.

This creates 20 reps of muscle-building stimulus with a weight that “ought to have” solely allowed 10 to 12 reps. One or two units might be loads. It’s a psychological killer as a lot as it’s a muscular killer, all whereas protecting the nervous system in verify because of the greater rep vary and comparatively lighter weight.  

Go Construct a Larger Bench

The bench press is arguably the most well-liked raise within the fitness center. With that status, it ought to be essentially the most correctly executed, however that’s not at all times the case. With this info now in hand, you’ll be set aside within the fitness center and can have discovered a strategy to practice good whereas additionally coaching onerous. Quickly your efficiency shall be turning heads and also you’ll have a reliably spectacular reply subsequent time you’re requested “how a lot do you bench?”


  1. Saeterbakken, A. H., Stien, N., Pedersen, H., Solstad, T. E. J., Cumming, Okay. T., & Andersen, V. (2021). The Impact of Grip Width on Muscle Energy and Electromyographic Exercise in Bench Press amongst Novice- and Resistance-Skilled Males. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being18(12), 6444.
  2. Pinto, R. S., Gomes, N., Radaelli, R., Botton, C. E., Brown, L. E., & Bottaro, M. (2012). Impact of vary of movement on muscle energy and thickness. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis26(8), 2140–2145.
  3. Gontijo, L. B., Pereira, P. D., Neves, C. D., Santos, A. P., Machado, D.deC., & Bastos, V. H. (2012). Analysis of energy and irradiated motion sample ensuing from trunk motions of the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Rehabilitation analysis and observe2012, 281937.
  4. Krings, B. M., Shepherd, B. D., Swain, J. C., Turner, A. J., Chander, H., Waldman, H. S., McAllister, M. J., Knight, A. C., & Smith, J. W. (2021). Affect of Fats Grip Attachments on Muscular Energy and Neuromuscular Activation Throughout Resistance Train. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis35(Suppl 1), S152–S157.
  5. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. Okay., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time below stress throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of physiology590(2), 351–362.

Featured Picture: Dean Drobot / Shutterstock

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