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“How Much Can You Bench?” – How to Increase Your Bench Press Strength by 25 Pounds in 3 Months

  Sep 13th, 2011

An old friend of mine, Adam Jorens, recently sent me a text message in which he informed me about a strength training problem that he needed help with.


He told me that he set a goal at the beginning of the year to be able to perform a 300 lb bench press within 12 months time, but has been stuck at 275 pounds for a while with only 3 months to go. He wanted to know how he could push past this plateau in strength and reach his goal of bench pressing 300 pounds by the end of the year.

 

stronger bench pressBench pressing is the most common metric used by weight lifters to measure up one another. As such, the question, “How much can you bench?”, seems to be the instinctive starting point when two or more men are trying to compare relative strength (although, I would argue that the dead lift is a better indication of overall strength, but that is a topic for another day).

 

Because the bench press is such an important lift to most bodybuilders, I suspect that improving bench press strength is a topic that a large percentage of bodybuilders, and those doing strength training, would appreciate some
honest and accurate information that will help them to increase their bench press strength most effectively.

 

Believe it or not, many of the techniques that are the most effective at improving your bench press strength will be similar to those you would use for improving your strength on any other lift; though there are a few exceptions.

 

Let’s start by looking at how you ought to be training when trying to quickly build up your bench press strength…

 

Training to improve your one rep max bench press weight will require more than just pushing out 5 sets of bench presses a few times per week. The bench press will obviously be an important lift for building up your bench press strength, but you have to understand that plateaus in bench press strength usually have much less to do with the chest muscles than you might think.

 

So many lifters will kill their chest with 20 or 30 sets 3 days a week thinking that if they can just make their pectoral muscles stronger they will finally be able to bench press more weight. Unfortunately, efforts such as these are often times misplaced.

 

Training to Increase Your Bench Press One Rep Max

While the bench press lift relies heavily on the pectoral muscles, in my experience, the reason most lifters reach plateaus when trying to improve bench press strength has nothing to do with their pectoral strength, but can be attributed to the lagging strength in the ancillary muscles that are required to perform the bench pressing movement.

 

There are several supporting muscle groups that become involved when bench pressing, with the most prominent secondary bench pressing muscles being those in the triceps, followed by the front deltoids (shoulders). If you want to build your bench pressing strength, you must also make it a point to build the strength in your triceps and shoulders. Neglecting these muscle groups in your training will guarantee plateaus in bench press strength.

 

If your triceps and shoulders are not strong enough to handle the load that you are attempting to bench press, these muscles will ultimately be a limiting factor as they will start to give out as the bar moves further from your chest and they become more engaged in the bench pressing movement – especially the triceps.

 

This is why it is absolutely imperative that your training plan does not focus solely on building your chest, but also incorporates the secondary muscles that are used when bench pressing. Here is a weekly training schedule that will enable you strengthen all of the muscles that are used when performing the bench press and is perfect for anyone looking to gain 25 pounds to their one rep max bench press strength in 3 months:

 

Workout #1
Flat Bench Press – 4 sets of 3-5 reps
Barbell Military Press – 4 sets of 3-5 reps
Overhead Triceps Press – 4 sets of 3-5 reps

 

Workout #2
Inclined Bench Press – 4 sets of 3-5 reps
Side Lateral Raise w/ Dumbbells – 4 sets of 3-5 reps
Close Grip Bench Press – 4 sets of 3-5 reps

 

Workout #3
Same as workout #1

 

Note: The first workout in your second week will be workout #2 as you should be continually alternating between the two different workouts while performing a total of 3 bench press strength training sessions each week.

 

Keep in mind that this training schedule is built around the sole purpose of building bench press strength and you will need to include additional lifts if you are concerned with building the other muscle groups of the body as well.

 

Importance of Rest, Compound Lifts and Training to Failure

Many bodybuilders greatly underestimate the important role that rest plays in building muscle mass. In fact, I am surprised at the number of lifters that don’t even realize that muscle growth primarily occurs during times of rest – not during times of training. This fact is especially important when it comes to strength training.

 

When training the same muscle groups back to back, as is the case with the training plan above, you need to make sure that you are giving your muscles at least one full day of rest in between workouts (i.e. if workout #1 is performed on Monday, do not perform workout #3 until Wednesday). If you don’t allow your muscles a full day of rest between training them, they will not be able to fully repair in between workouts and you will be cheating yourself out of maximizing your gains in size and strength from your training.

 

Also, you will notice that almost all of the lifts I prescribe are compound in nature, meaning that they incorporate secondary muscles, and are not isolation lifts. This is important because all of these compound lifts will stimulate one or more of the secondary bench pressing muscles, allowing you to strengthen them more efficiently than having to do numerous lifts to isolate and train each individual secondary muscle group by itself.

 

One last thing regarding training for building bench press strength…

 

While I have indicated that for each lift you should perform 3-5 reps for each set, it is absolutely essential that you are not just simply picking an arbitrary weight and doing 3-5 reps. You need to be using a weight which leads to your muscles failing somewhere in that rep range. And by failing I mean the point at which you need a spotter to pull the bar off of your chest. Not training to failure is simply unacceptable for anyone looking to quickly build size and/or strength!

 

For more details on training to failure, check out my posting on weight training muscle confusion.

 

Now that you should have a good understanding regarding how to train (and rest) for building your bench pressing strength, I am going to provide a few more tips for improving your bench pressing power.

 

More Ways to Increase Bench Press Strength

 

Increase Your Bench Press Weight Every 2 Weeks

When you have a goal like increasing your bench press strength by 25 pounds in 3 months, it will obviously require you to progressively lift greater amounts of weight as you move towards reaching your goal. Therefore, it makes sense that you would need to be bench pressing more weight in week 4 than you were in week 1.

 

I know from my own experience that sometimes I wait until I am absolutely certain that I am ready to lift heavier weights before adding another 5lbs to the bar. The truth is that our mental confidence is usually a little behind the actual ability of our muscles. This is why I try to make a conscious effort to add 2.5 to 5 pounds to my lifts every 2 weeks or so – especially when I have a strength based goal that I am shooting for.

 

If your goal is to bench press more weight, guess what you will need to do to get there – increasingly bench press more weight! My recommendation is that every two weeks you should add another 5lbs to the previous weight you were using and attempt to perform your usual 3-5 reps and see where you stand. More times than not, you will be surprised that you can actually push out 3 reps (or more) with the new weight.

 

Testing Your Bench Press 1 Rep Max

When working hard to increase your bench press one rep max, it can be tempting to max out once or twice per week, but you want to avoid maxing out too often. Just continue to be patient and realize that your one rep max may only go up by 5 or 10 pounds each month, but that after 3 months, this will be a big difference.

My advice is to max out on the bench press during the first set of the first workout every 4th week. This will make sure that your muscles are well rested from the previous week’s workouts and should give you enough time to build the strength required to add another 5 pounds to the bar and see where you stand.

 

Importance of Using Correct Bench Press Form

I realize that it feels good to say that you bench pressed 300lbs, but if you had to bounce the bar off of your chest, or arch your back and squirm your way through it, what you did really wasn’t a bench press at all and you aren’t fooling anyone but yourself. Because the bench press is such a fundamental lift, I am constantly surprised by the lack of form I see being used by lifters at my gym when they are bench pressing.

 

The bench press was one of the first lifts that I worked on perfecting as a beginner bodybuilder which is why it amazes me to see how many experienced lifters can’t seem to perform this fundamental lift correctly. I am going to quickly describe the correct bench press form just in case you need a refresher or never learned the correct way to bench press.

 

The Proper Way to Bench Press

You will start by laying flat on a bench with your feet flat on the floor about shoulder width apart. Before lifting the bar from the supports you will want to inhale a deep breath and expand your chest and rib cage so that you have the appearance of being barrel-chested. Your chest should remain in this expanded state throughout the duration of your set.

 

You will then exhale slowly as you lift the bar from the supports and then take a healthy breath as you are bringing the bar down in a controlled manner until it touches your chest across your nipples (or thereabout). You will then use the most explosive movement you can muster while simultaneously pressing the bar forward and exhaling until your arms near lockout position, at which point, you will begin the progression again and repeat the movement for as many reps as possible.

 

Remember that your back should remain mostly flat while performing the bench press with the emphasis being focused on expanding your chest for the duration of each set. Your hands should also be squeezing on the bar really tight almost as if you are trying to rip the bar apart. This will help to engage your forearms and give yourself a strong base from which to lift – trust me, this makes a big difference!

 

I hope to add a video soon that will show you exactly how to perform a proper bench press lift from start to finish. In the mean time, if you have any questions, feel free to post them to the comment box at the end of this posting.

 

intensity

Bench Pressing with Intensity

It should go without saying that if you want to bench press the most weight possible you will need to use a level of intensity that ensures that you are holding nothing back. Training with intensity is more mental than physical and requires a mindset of “going to war with the iron”.

 

Some lifters channel an inner anger before each set, some pump heavy metal music into their ears and others hype themselves up by talking to themselves silently or out loud. I happen to use the silent motivation approach where I talk myself up in my head, but whatever is going to get you mentally prepared to “attack the bar” will work just fine.

 

The negative symptoms of training without intensity can hardly be understated. Workouts that are lacking in intensity suffer from lighter weights being lifted and less reps being performed, both of which will significantly hinder your gains in size and strength over time. If intensity has been lacking in your weight training sessions, focusing on this one element could immediately add another five or ten pounds to your bench press and you cannot afford to continue to neglect training with anything but the highest level of intensity.

 

Always remember that you are training with the purpose of getting stronger and increasing your bench press strength. Give everything you have with maximum intensity during each set and your muscles will have no choice but to grow bigger and stronger.

 

Supplement with Creatine

My experience has been that most bodybuilding supplements are a complete waste of money and I do not believe that supplements are necessary to build significant amounts of muscle mass or additional strength. However, when trying to increase your one rep max weight on the bench press, supplementing with creatine can help by enabling you to store higher levels of glucose (sugar) energy in your muscle tissues which will give you an increase in explosive strength that can be particularly useful – especially when maxing out on a lift like the bench press.

 

Fortunately, creatine is one of the most affordable supplements on the market today and is the only supplement (other than whey protein powder, of course) that I use on a continual basis as a way to help boost my explosive strength and muscular endurance.

 

If your goal is to lift as heavy as possible, using a creatine supplement can help give you the small boost you need to add another few pounds of bench pressing strength. I want to reiterate that creatine is not required to get stronger, but my experience has been that it does help enhance my muscular stamina and enable me to lift heavier weights for one or two reps.

 

If you would like a cheap and easy way to purchase creatine online, and receive it fast,
this is where I buy mine
.

 

The Right Nutrition for Building Strength

When your goal is building strength, it is imperative that your body is not in a state of caloric deficit and that you are consuming a level of nutrition each day that is sufficient for gaining muscle mass.

A good general rule for you to follow is to consume 1 gram of muscle building proteins and 1.5 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight each day. This will guarantee that your body has all of the necessary muscle building nutrition required to pack on the additional muscle mass needed for you to continually grow stronger.

 

It’s Time to Increase Your Bench Pressing Power!

I think I have shared just about all of the tips I have for quickly building bench press strength and I hope that you will find them useful for quickly adding to your one rep max. If you put to use what I have shared in this posting, I am confident that the next time you are asked, “How much can you bench?”, you will be able to answer with a number that is more respectable than before you read this article.

 

And to my friend Adam, I would love to hear what you think of this posting with a comment below. Be sure to check back in after your remaining 3 months is over to let everyone know if you reached your goal of ripping out a 300 lb bench press by the end of the year.

 

If you would like a complete program that is guaranteed to increase your bench pressing strength by 50lbs in a matter of ten weeks, I recommend checking out the Critical Bench Website. The program provided on CriticalBench.com has been a big help in my ability to continually bench press more weight and I highly recommend checking it out.

 

Click Here to Visit CriticalBench.com

 

 

 

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