Pretty much everybody loves doing the Bench Press, and because of that, it’s very easy to overdo it.
Between pushing the intensity too high and letting form break down way too much, it makes a lot of sense why people plateau so quickly.
I’m going to go over some of the best ways I’ve found working with clients to break past these roadblocks, so many people find themselves stuck behind!
Let’s get started!
Use Dumbbell & Barbell Variations
One of the first things I recommend you do if you’ve hit a plateau on your bench press is to start using different variations.
There’s a million different barbell and dumbbell bench variations which means you have a ton of variety to choose from when you get stuck.
I recommend picking 1-2 new variations and keep progressing on them for awhile.
Say you’re doing standard bench press now, you can switch that out for close grip bench to train the triceps harder while also throwing in an incline dumbbell bench to train the chest more.
This new variation will allow you to build more muscle mass and strength as opposed to just hammering the standard barbell bench press.
You should stick to the new variations until you stop making progress with them.
Once that happens you can switch to another variation or switch back to your standard barbell grip and see where you’re at.
By doing this, you can see what exercises are actually driving your bench press by switching 1-2 variables at a time.
Bench More Often & Use Different Rep Ranges
The bench press is one of those exercises that tends to respond better to higher volume training, similar to the overhead press.
If you’ve been stuck in a training rut for awhile and you’re only benching once per week, try 2 bench press sessions per week and see how that works.
If you’ve been benching 2 days per week you can push it up to 3 times per week.
If you decide to go this route make sure to use different rep schemes each workout to prevent staleness.
The other thing you can do that I mentioned before, is using variations as well.
If you bench 3 days per week you can use 3 different variations!
You can pick any barbell variation that is close to your normal grip on the bench press.
By doing this, you will stress more muscle fibers and build more strength compared to doing only one bench press movement per week.
The most important factor that benching more often solves is improving your technique!
Strength is a skill, to get stronger at certain movements you need to consistently work on your technique every workout.
By benching more, you get to drill technique multiple times per week which will help ingrain the motor patterns.
It’s very similar to practice for sports.
The players that show up to practice 5 days per week are going to get better faster than those that only show up twice per week.
Also your coach will probably cut you from the team if you’re missing practices.
But you get the point lol.
One way you can vary your rep ranges is pretty simple and works well!
One bench day will be about power.
You train hard in the 3-5 rep range, trying to push the bar explosively and increase the weight you can use.
Another day will be about strength. Pushing in the 6-8 rep range will help push your strength.
And finally the third day is all about hypertrophy, pushing the 8-12 rep range to help build muscle.
By rotating these rep ranges you make sure to train all muscle fibers in a way that will build your bench press strength overtime while also building up all the muscles that are required to build a big bench.
Namely; your chest, shoulders, and triceps.
Start Using Pauses
This is something that will help you build almost any movement which is using pauses.
By pausing each rep for 1-3 seconds at the bottom of each rep, you build explosive strength and help take away the stretch reflex that assists you on the concentric portion of the lift.
This is also going to help with starting strength off the chest. Which is usually where people fail on the bench anyways.
Using pauses makes a ton of sense in theory as well. If your best bench press is 300 for 10 reps, think about how strong you’ll be if you back the weight off and build back up to 300 for 10 paused?
Obviously 300 for 10 touch and go isn’t your best anymore!
And once you take the pause away, I guarantee you’ll hit a new PR as well!
Push Your Overhead Press
One lift I’ve used has increased my bench more than anything else and that’s the overhead press.
The stronger your overhead press is, the stronger your bench press will be.
It helps build the shoulders, triceps and upper back which are all incredibly important to build a stronger bench press.
Also, consider using the standing paused overhead press to get the most out of the movement as well!
Leg Drive & Upper Back Stability
I shouldn’t have to say this but the bench press isn’t just an upper-body movement, it’s a full-body movement.
Just like the overhead press, squat, and deadlift; your entire body needs to be strong and stable to move maximal weights in the bench press.
The two main things that a lot of people get wrong from what I’ve seen in commercial gyms, is upper back stability and leg drive.
Most people I’ve seen set up to bench simply flop down on the bench with a flat back, put their feet wherever, and then proceed to unrack the bar and do whatever with it.
This isn’t just a bad way to bench press, it’s also a great way to get injured and make sure you never hit your strength potential on the bench press.
To remedy this, you want to make sure you’re digging your traps into the bench and getting into a slight arch.
At the same time, you want to make sure you’re incorporating leg drive to push your legs down into the ground and create a stable platform to push off of.
This will allow you to generate the most power and transfer it directly to the barbell.
To learn more about how to get set up properly on the bench press and also how to use leg drive efficiently, check out my videos right here!
Incorporate Hypertrophy Phases?
And finally, potentially the most important thing to help you break past plateaus, hypertrophy training!
For the majority out there, a bigger muscle is going to be a stronger muscle.
And while you may see a lot of smaller guys squatting and deadlifting there bodyweight many times over, when it comes to the bench press, the strongest in the world are all absolutely massive.
Between their chest, shoulders, triceps, upper back, and upper body in general, you won’t see a guy benching 500 lbs that doesn’t look like he lifts!
The more muscle you have in the upper body, the stronger your upper body movements will be.
Because of this, you want to focus on building your upper body as big as you possibly can.
This means that going in and maxing out every week isn’t only a bad idea, for most people it’s going to be a complete waste of time.
And sure you could max out every couple of months to track progress but simply doing heavier weight for more reps is a better way to test and more importantly train!
To get stronger at the bench press for life, you need to back off the heavy weights for periods of time and actually focus on building muscle.
This means getting stronger in the 5-20 rep range, focusing on getting stronger, and pushing your body to grow.
If you can only bench 200 for 5 and you slowly progress to doing 200 for 20, I guarantee you not only built more muscle, you also got stronger as a result.
Basically all this boils down to is backing off the heavy weights and pushing for rep PR’s to spur new muscle growth and strength.
Until next time,