Readers such as yourself email me diet and workout related questions all the time, and I often turn my answers into articles. Well, here we go again. A reader just sent me the following question…
“I have reached a plateau on the flat bench press. I’ve been stuck bench pressing the same weight for weeks now. I’m literally benching the same weight for the same reps now that I was about 2 months ago. How can I increase my bench press again? What are the best workout tips for increasing again?”
Here now is my answer…
How Do I Increase My Bench Press?
I honestly get questions like this all the time about pretty much every weight lifting exercise you can think of (from squats, to pull ups, to curls). But, the flat barbell bench press is BY FAR the exercise people are most often trying to increase.
This of course is why there is always some stupid new article promising to help you “Add 50 Pounds To Your Bench Press In Just 3 Weeks!!!” in every fitness magazine and bodybuilding website every other day.
Rather than makes false promises like that or claim to help you make progress at a rate you never actually will (those articles are all bullshit), I want to instead run down 6 common reasons why you are unable to increase your bench press, along with the workout tips you’ll need to fix them.
Here we go…
#1 – You’re Not Being Realistic
Before we get to the actual workout tips, the first thing you must do is be realistic. No one will be able to consistently increase their bench press by 5-10lbs every single workout of every single week for a significant period of time. It doesn’t work like that. If it did, we’d all probably be bench pressing 10,000lbs at this point.
The truth is, once you’re past the beginners stage (which is when strength and muscle gains happen faster than they ever will again), increases in strength are going to gradually slow down as you get bigger and stronger. So, what one person may consider a “bench press plateau” may actually just be them increasing their bench press at a normal, realistic rate.
What I mean is, even if you are able to increase by one rep every other workout, it means that you ARE able to increase and are not stuck in a plateau. Don’t expect to be able to increase your bench press week in and week out by significant amounts. You won’t, and trying and failing to will just lead to disappointment or worse… injury.
Instead, your goal is to increase as often as is realistically possible for you, your body, and your experience/strength level.
#2 – You’re Not Benching Often Enough
Here’s a question for you. Are you still training each muscle group once per week? If so, that means you’re only bench pressing once per week. And if you’re doing that, you better have AMAZING genetics and/or be using steroids, because these tend to be the people who get the best results from this once-a-week frequency.
On the other hand, this workout frequency absolutely sucks for the rest of us natural, genetically average people, and actual scientific studies prove it. Yes, it can still work, it’s just the least effective way to work out. Instead, we need to train more often than that in order to get the best strength and muscle building results.
How often? Well, on average, we need to train each muscle group 2 or 3 times per week. Beginners should stick with three times, and intermediates/advanced trainees should stick with twice.
This increased weight lifting frequency is key if you want to be able to increase your bench press as quickly and effectively as possible.
#3 – Your Overall Workout Routine Might Suck
Besides frequency (like I just mentioned), there are a whole lot of other factors in your workout routine that need to be set up properly in order for it to work. Not just for those other muscle groups and exercises… but for the bench press you’re trying to increase.
There’s volume, intensity, exercise selection, your overall weight lifting split and frequency, set and rep ranges, rest and recovery, avoiding overtraining, and more. Just screwing up one of these factors could be enough to screw up your ability to increase your bench press. Trying to cover all of those factors in this one article would be impossible, but I’ve actually covered them all throughout this website.
My guide to designing workout routines is a great place to start.
#4 – Your Triceps or Shoulders Might Be Your Weak Point
This kind of goes with what I was just saying about the rest of your workout routine being important, but it’s worth mentioning separately.
As you may or may not know, the bench press is not just a chest exercise. There is also a ton of shoulder and triceps recruitment as well. Do you know what that means? If your shoulders and/or triceps are a weak point for you, they will most definitely prevent you from increasing your bench press.
So… focus on turning your weak points into strong points and watch how it carries over to other exercises and muscle groups.
#5 – Your Diet Might Suck
While it’s possible to increase strength regardless of what your calorie intake is (deficit, maintenance or surplus), it sure is a hell of a lot quicker and easier to do it when in a caloric surplus. Meaning, if your primary goal is to increase muscle and/or strength (and increasing your bench press is just a part of that goal), then you need to eat enough calories to support growth.
In addition to calories, a sufficient overall diet (protein, fat, carbs, supplements, etc.) will play a huge role in the success of your workout.
#6 – Your Form Might Not Be Ideal
There is a surprisingly large amount that goes into bench pressing (and performing other chest exercises) properly besides just going all the way up and all the way down. And, it’s these other aspects of proper form that play a big role in how strong you are when benching.
The 3 best and most important tips that come to mind are:
- Use leg drive.
Believe it or not, your legs are an important part of your bench press. As any world class power lifter will tell you, proper leg drive is key. So, while always keeping your butt and upper back on the bench, push your feet hard into the floor as if you are trying to make your body slide up the bench. With a barbell in your hand, this won’t actually happen. What will happen however is an extra burst of power coming from your legs that will translate into more power when pressing that bar up. Try it and see for yourself.
- Tuck your elbows a bit.
Most people incorrectly bench “bodybuilding style,” which means elbows flared out all the way to the sides. This is not only bad for strength, but it’s absolutely horrible for shoulder health. Instead, your elbows should be semi-tucked in to the sides of your body. You’ll be stronger this way, and you’ll avoid countless shoulder injuries.
- Arch your lower back and stick your chest out.
Like I said a second ago, your butt and upper back should remain on the bench at all times. However, your lower back should be arched up off of it to some degree and your chest should be pointed up. This is all part of getting into a tight and powerful position, and that’s one of the keys to being able to increase your bench press.
Now Start Increasing Again
So, that’s how to increase your bench press. In my opinion, those are the 6 most common reasons for why a person would be having problems increasing, and those are the most common workout tips for correcting those issues and increasing again.
Incorporate them all into your own workout routine (and diet) and watch the weight start going up again.