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How one can Improve Your Bench Press

“How a lot do you bench?”

It is likely to be essentially the most often requested query amongst hardcore “gymnasium bros” and skilled gymnasium veterans seeking to set up a pecking order, in addition to curious inexperienced persons seeking to strike up a dialog. It’s additionally probably the most common (if misguided) methods to inquire about somebody’s strength, health, and normal functionality within the gymnasium.

person helping lifter perform bench press
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 scenario. Additionally, some folks simply wish to have an enormous bench press for themselves. Chances are you’ll as nicely place your self to maneuver some spectacular numbers, and transfer the load safely.

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

Bench Press Method Overview

A powerful bench press is constructed round one factor: Stability. Right here’s a step-by-step strategy to creating a very good surroundings for an enormous carry. All of it begins with a very good beginning place earlier than you even unrack the load.

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 exhausting in opposition to the bench and stay in place all through the carry.

Lastly, your head should even be firmly in opposition to the bench and keep put throughout every repetition. While you arrange, get your eyes straight beneath the bar earlier than taking the load out of the rack. This four-point setup is the inspiration for a very good high quality set. 

You will have seen that your decrease again is not in touch with the bench, and that’s really an necessary distinction. Some lifters imagine that having an arch within the lumbar area (decrease again) when bench urgent is harmful on your backbone, when in truth, 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 implies the power 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 important pressure.

When you’re in place, it’s time to get your palms 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 gymnasium can have knurling on both facet for grip, but in addition some shiny “rings” on even factors on either side. In aggressive powerlifting, these rings signify grip-width boundaries a lifter isn’t allowed to exceed.

In the event you’re not a aggressive powerlifter, you should utilize the rings as reference factors as to the place your palms belong. Relying on what’s snug on your arm size, align the identical finger on every hand with the ring on both facet. Many lifters will go for both their center or ring fingers, however everybody’s most popular grip will probably be barely totally different.

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

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

Step 3 — We Have Carry Off

The way in which you’re 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 consequently. That is tough to right by the point the load is in your palms, making it robust to re-adjust.

Making the hassle to boost your hips throughout carry off might help with this, inserting them again down as quickly because the bar’s unracked and in place over your chest. Lifters with out a spotter can use this methodology to start the motion in a powerful place with out sacrificing type.

Step 4 — Decrease and Press

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

The bar ought to descend beneath 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 in step with 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 an enormous carry 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) part, 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 load — simply you’ll want to keep tight and never loosen up beneath the load.

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

Bench Press Errors to Keep away from

No one desires to turn into the following “YouTube fail” video, often that includes folks butchering the bench press motion or, worse, entering into life-threatening conditions on account of a disregard for security. Be sure you’ve received your bases coated by stopping these points earlier than they begin. 

Lifting Your Hips

Other than giving your self a carry off (if wanted), your glutes ought to by no means go away the bench through the train. Lifting your hips received’t make you any stronger on the carry. It’s merely a cheat tactic and an indicator that the load is just too heavy to carry correctly. That is the bench press equal of doing standing biceps curls and leaning your higher physique again to get the load up.

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

Maintain the motion sincere to your means. You’ll construct energy over time while you apply good type.


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

In the event you really feel like you’ll be able to solely carry out half reps, chances are high the load is just too heavy, your shoulders are too unstable, or each. As an alternative, scale back the load and apply staying tight by means of 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 point within the motion itself or it may stem from an absence of higher again energy to stabilize and defend the shoulder. Be certain 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 a degree about growing your bench press, but it surely’s an necessary problem any time you’re benching heavy. It would sound counterintuitive or controversial however, when you’re lifting alone, securing the load plates with collars is a probably high-risk maneuver.

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

Widespread sense would say you often “ought to” safe the weights to forestall them from transferring 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 sturdy sufficient to press the bar off your chest all the best way again as much as the rack. You may’t all the time depend on rolling it down over your hips and waist (which might be extraordinarily painful and uncomfortable by itself).

In the event you’re an individual who lifts unsupervised at home, it’s finest to go away 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 flooring than to crack a few ribs or your larynx.

Three Suggestions for Extra Beneficial properties

Getting the fundamentals down is an efficient first step, however taking issues to the following degree entails 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 a vital and ignored 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 reality, your legs have a critical function to play in selling total bracing and tightness. As you press, take into consideration driving your toes into the bottom exhausting. The bar isn’t simply transferring away out of your chest, it’s transferring away from the ground, so this cue will turn out to be useful so as to add extra energy to your carry by growing total muscle recruitment. (3)

Tuck Your Elbows 

If you wish to defend your shoulder joints, give attention to enhancing bench efficiency whereas utilizing a barely narrower grip (versus a comparatively vast grip) and tucking your elbows through 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 susceptible place your shoulder joints will probably be put into. Your shoulders will immediately really feel happier, extra steady, 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 palms often feels extra snug 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 rigidity for added stability. (4)

The larger diameter disperses the load and reduces the strain transferred to your joints. In the event you don’t have entry to thick barbells, you should utilize thick grip attachments like “Fats Gripz.” This straightforward pair of detachable handles might be probably the most helpful instruments to have in your gymnasium 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 

In the event you’ve been coaching within the gymnasium for some time, the basic 3 x 10 or 4 x 6 would possibly probably not be doing the job to get you previous your energy or measurement plateau. In case your lifting numbers aren’t budging, it’s value considering a bit additional exterior 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 problem adding muscle to the chest for a greater aesthetic. The comparatively lengthy vary of movement and large quantity of lockout area a lifter must transfer by means of 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 entails unracking the barbell and reducing all of it the best way to chest degree. Stay tight and press the load from chest degree to midway up, and pause. Your higher arms needs to be at roughly 90-degrees. Decrease the load as soon as extra to chest degree, after which press all the best way as much as the highest — that total sequence 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 means of 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 usually get in relation to increasing your strength and size. Understanding how the physique works from a physiological degree might help create extra appreciation for cluster coaching and its import.

On the subject of 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 tissues work exhausting.

The ATP shops go away the physique after 10 to fifteen seconds and the first muscle tissues 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 tissues.

Figuring out that, you’ll be able to benefit from this replenishment part 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 may enhance your energy over time and in addition expose you to a better cumulative quantity of heavy reps, which may result in extra muscle progress.  Listed below are a few 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 often a two-rep max, however you’re about to do 4 reps with it. Carry out one repetition, and rack the load for 10 to fifteen seconds. Then take the load off the rack and carry out one other earlier than re-racking it. Repeat till you’ve carried out 4 reps. Relaxation at the least two minutes and carry out a complete of two to a few full units.

Resetting between single reps additionally means that you can guarantee right method on every separate effort. 

Multi-Rep Clusters

Put your five-repetition max on the bar. Carry out 4 reps earlier than racking the load 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.

It is a good strategy to enhance time spent beneath rigidity (TUT), which advantages muscle progress, whereas working with barely lighter-than-max hundreds, which received’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. A great change of tempo (that doubles as an effective way to interrupt a measurement plateau) is to make use of high-rep strategies with the identical strategy.

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 eventually 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 a lot. It’s a psychological killer as a lot as it’s a muscular killer, all whereas retaining the nervous system in verify because of the larger rep vary and comparatively lighter weight.  

Go Construct a Larger Bench

The bench press is arguably the most well-liked carry within the gymnasium. With that status, it ought to be essentially the most correctly executed, however that’s not all the time the case. With this data now in hand, you’ll be set aside within the gymnasium and can have discovered a strategy to prepare good whereas additionally coaching exhausting. Quickly your efficiency will probably 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 apply2012, 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). Influence 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 beneath rigidity 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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