Easy methods to Improve Your Bench Press

“How a lot do you bench?”

It is likely to be probably the most regularly requested query amongst hardcore “health club bros” and skilled health club veterans seeking to set up a pecking order, in addition to curious novices seeking to strike up a dialog. It’s additionally some of the in style (if misguided) methods to inquire about somebody’s strength, health, and common functionality within the health club.

Credit score: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Some would possibly think about the notion of bench press-specific standing ridiculous, however you’ll be able to’t erase the truth of the scenario. Additionally, some individuals simply need to have a giant bench press for themselves. Chances are you’ll as effectively place your self to maneuver some spectacular numbers, and transfer the burden safely.

Right here’s tips on how to fine-tune your bench press, optimize your approach, and arrange a plan to begin pushing larger 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 superb setting for a giant elevate. All of it begins with a superb 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 ft positioned firmly on the ground counts as one level. Your butt and upper back are two extra factors, as they’re pressed exhausting towards the bench and stay in place all through the elevate.

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

You’ll have seen that your decrease again is not involved with the bench, and that’s truly an necessary distinction. Some lifters consider that having an arch within the lumbar area (decrease again) when bench urgent is harmful in 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 drive angle doesn’t line as much as create spinal loading the way in which a standing overhead press, squat, or deadlift would have an effect on your decrease again. The joint that bears probably 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 health club can have knurling on both aspect for grip, but additionally some shiny “rings” on even factors on either side. In aggressive powerlifting, these rings symbolize grip-width boundaries a lifter isn’t allowed to exceed.

Should you’re not a aggressive powerlifter, you should use the rings as reference factors as to the place your fingers belong. Relying on what’s comfy in 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 well-liked grip can be barely completely different.

Simply pay attention to setting your fingers too shut collectively together with your pinkies far within 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 fingers are in place, shut a powerful fist across the bar and also you’re able to elevate. 

Step 3 — We Have Elevate Off

The best way you are taking the bar out of the rack is extra necessary — and extra technical — than meets the attention. Protected and environment friendly approach 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 alternative of retraction). Protracted shoulders will make your chest sink down and place extra stress on the shoulder joints because of this. That is tough to right by the point the burden is in your fingers, making it powerful to re-adjust.

Making the trouble to lift your hips throughout elevate off may help 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 beneath management to make contact in your chest. Purpose 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 must be a bit extra in keeping with your higher chest or shoulder-level, that means the bar will journey on a barely slanted path.

At all times keep in mind that a real testomony of power in a giant elevate 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’ll be able to even add a pause with the bar on the chest to exert much more management over the burden — simply make sure to keep tight and never chill out beneath the burden.

Make every particular person rep depend and also you’ll slap on power and dimension. 

Bench Press Errors to Keep away from

No person needs to turn out to be the subsequent “YouTube fail” video, normally that includes individuals butchering the bench press motion or, worse, stepping into life-threatening conditions resulting from a disregard for security. Be sure to’ve obtained your bases coated by stopping these points earlier than they begin. 

Lifting Your Hips

Except for giving your self a elevate off (if wanted), your glutes ought to by no means go away the bench in the course of the train. Lifting your hips gained’t make you any stronger on the elevate. It’s merely a cheat tactic and an indicator that the burden is simply too heavy to elevate 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 trustworthy to your capacity. You’ll construct power over time if 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 tissues (the prime movers of the bench press) or entry the power the physique can put into the burden. (2)

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

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

If that also hurts your shoulders, it may very well be resulting from weak spot within the motion itself or it may stem from an absence of higher again power to stabilize and shield the shoulder. Be sure that your coaching plan consists of 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, nevertheless it’s an necessary difficulty any time you’re benching heavy. It’d sound counterintuitive or controversial however, in case 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

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

Should you’re an individual who lifts unsupervised at home, it’s greatest 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 ground than to crack a few ribs or your larynx.

Three Suggestions for Extra Features

Getting the fundamentals down is an effective first step, however taking issues to the subsequent degree includes a bit deeper considering, the place this train is worried. 

Leg Drive 

Tuck your ft nearer to your butt to create a knee angle inside 90-degrees. That is important to making the most of 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 reality, your legs have a critical position to play in selling total bracing and tightness. As you press, take into consideration driving your ft 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 power to your elevate by growing total muscle recruitment. (3)

Tuck Your Elbows 

If you wish to shield your shoulder joints, concentrate on enhancing bench efficiency whereas utilizing a barely narrower grip (versus a comparatively huge 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 susceptible place your shoulder joints can 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 fingers normally feels extra comfy when you get used to the distinctive grip. It can also cut 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 stress transferred to your joints. Should you don’t have entry to thick barbells, you should use thick grip attachments like “Fats Gripz.” This straightforward pair of detachable handles may be some of the helpful instruments to have in your health club 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 

Should you’ve been coaching within the health club for some time, the traditional 3 x 10 or 4 x 6 would possibly probably not be doing the job to get you previous your power or dimension plateau. In case your lifting numbers aren’t budging, it’s price considering a bit additional exterior the field to seek 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 big quantity of lockout house a lifter must transfer by way 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 includes unracking the barbell and reducing all of it the way in which to chest degree. Stay tight and press the burden from chest degree to midway up, and pause. Your higher arms must be at roughly 90-degrees. Decrease the burden as soon as extra to chest degree, after which press all the way in which as much as the highest — that total sequence counts as one single repetition.

This high-tension approach 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 probably the most concerned, by way of this part of the train, and the one-and-a-half rep approach takes benefit of that. Three to 4 units of 4 to 6 reps can be perfect 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 degree may help create extra appreciation for cluster coaching and its import.

With regards to quick 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 major 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 normally takes one to 2 minutes to sufficiently replenish these shops of ATP within the affected muscle tissues.

Realizing that, you’ll be able to make the most of this replenishment part whereas nonetheless lifting heavy weights. A set of three reps may be prolonged to 4 and even 5 complete reps if quick breaks are taken between every particular person repetition.

This mini-rest will partially replenish the shops of ATP accessible within the physique. This may enhance your power over time and likewise expose you to the next 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 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 a few full units.

Resetting between single reps additionally permits you to guarantee right approach 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.

It is a good solution to improve time spent beneath rigidity (TUT), which advantages muscle progress, 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. change of tempo (that doubles as an effective way to interrupt a dimension 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 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 may be a lot. It’s a psychological killer as a lot as it’s a muscular killer, all whereas preserving the nervous system in test because of the greater rep vary and comparatively lighter weight.  

Go Construct a Larger Bench

The bench press is arguably the most well-liked elevate within the health club. With that status, it ought to be probably the most correctly executed, however that’s not at all times the case. With this data now in hand, you’ll be set aside within the health club and can have discovered a solution to practice good whereas additionally coaching exhausting. Quickly your efficiency can 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-Educated Males. Worldwide journal of environmental analysis and public well being18(12), 6444. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18126444
  2. Pinto, R. S., Gomes, N., Radaelli, R., Botton, C. E., Brown, L. E., & Bottaro, M. (2012). Impact of vary of movement on muscle power and thickness. Journal of power and conditioning analysis26(8), 2140–2145. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0b013e31823a3b15
  3. Gontijo, L. B., Pereira, P. D., Neves, C. D., Santos, A. P., Machado, D.deC., & Bastos, V. H. (2012). Analysis of power and irradiated motion sample ensuing from trunk motions of the proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. Rehabilitation analysis and observe2012, 281937. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/281937
  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). Impression of Fats Grip Attachments on Muscular Energy and Neuromuscular Activation Throughout Resistance Train. Journal of power and conditioning analysis35(Suppl 1), S152–S157. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000002954
  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. https://doi.org/10.1113/jphysiol.2011.221200

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