4 Tips on How To Increase Your Bench Press in 2022
When you think of a super-fit gym goer getting their workout in, you probably envision them laying down on a bench and pumping some iron. That’s because the barbell bench press is perhaps the most effective weightlifting exercise for growing bigger chest muscles.
But don't get discouraged if you’ve hit a plateau and you’re not seeing the results you’re hoping for. With just a few corrections to form and a few tips, you can maximize your upper body strength in no time. Here are some of our favorite tips for hitting some PRs on your bench press.
1. Master the Form
One of the main reasons you might not be seeing the results in your chest muscles like you’re hoping for is that you haven’t perfected the form. Good form not only prevents injury but also makes your workout more effective.
Here are some important cues to keep in mind:
- Tuck those elbows in: Beginners may keep their elbows flared out to the sides of their body, but this puts more emphasis on the shoulder joints rather than the chest. This can cause shoulder impingement. Just tuck your elbows towards the side of your body about 30-45 degrees for maximum activation and strength gains.
- Arch that back: When doing a bench-supported chest press, you want to lift your lower back slightly off the bench, keeping your upper back on the bench. This forces you to activate your chest muscles rather than your shoulders.
- Bring those feet in: Rather than resting your feet flat on the floor, you want to bend your knees and bring them closer to your head. Keep your toes on the floor and press through it. This tightens your kinetic chain and gives you more power every time you pump those heavy weights.
2. Try Different Variations
Not only do you need to vary your workouts to ensure that all parts of your chest are being utilized to their full potential, but you also want to make sure that you’re not getting bored during your chest days. There are loads of different chest press variations that can help keep things fresh while strength training.
There are three main ways you can change up your chest press to focus on different muscles and build up rep ranges to blast out your chest: grip, equipment, and incline.
Something as simple as changing the way you hold the dumbbells or barbell can focus on different muscles in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. The classic barbell chest press focuses on the chest, and you’ll hold the bar with your hands slightly wider than chest width.
However, if you want to focus more on your triceps, bring your hands closer together so they’re just above chest width. This will still work your chest, but you’ll start to feel your triceps fatigue sooner. You can also face your palms towards each other with dumbbells for a close grip bench press, which also favors the triceps.
And if you want to focus on your anterior deltoids (your shoulder muscles), you can extend your grip a bit wider than shoulder width.
All three of these variations can strengthen the muscle groups involved in pressing heavy weight during a chest press. Just be sure to have a spotter on hand once you progress to higher rep ranges.
Even the most experienced powerlifters and bodybuilders can start to hit a wall if they just do a barbell chest press. But dumbbell chest presses are just as effective (if not even more).
Using dumbbells allows you to get a greater range of motion than barbells. When you lift those weights over your chest, think about bringing your biceps closer together to really squeeze your chest muscles at the top.
And on the way down, don’t be afraid to let your elbows drop down a bit lower than the bench. This gives you an awesome stretch in your pecs, making the move more effective.
A flat bench press targets the middle portion of your chest (sternocostal head). But if you want to increase your weight, you want to ensure you’re working all parts of the chest. And you can focus on different portions by just changing the incline on your bench.
An incline bench press at about a 30-degree angle to the floor will target your upper chest (clavicular head). Not only does this help you move more weight, but it also gives you a more sleek, toned look around your neckline.
To target the lower portion of your chest and make your pecs look big and bulky, you can decline the angle of the bench towards the floor. The form and movement are exactly the same, but this now targets a completely different portion of the muscle.
3. Perform Accessory Exercises
If you want to lift heavier weights in your bench press, you’ll want to grow the primary muscles used to perform this movement. In particular, that’s your tricep and shoulder muscles.
You can grow those triceps with exercises like skull crushers, triceps extension, and tricep push ups with your elbows tucked in at your sides. You can grow those shoulders with moves like dumbbell shoulder presses or lateral raises.
In general, full-body workouts that incorporate compound exercises tend to be more effective than targeted, isolated exercises. If you can strengthen the muscles involved in a chest press, you’ll naturally be able to move more weight the next time you unrack the weights.
4. Progressive Overload
If you want to start lifting heavier weights, you need to start doing that! Progressive overload is the process of increasing your weight or rep max over time. This is the quintessential way to build muscle and increase your bench press.
At the end of your rep range, you should have difficulty getting that weight up over your chest. If you can get to the end of your range without much difficulty, it may be time to increase your weight by five pounds.
You can always try dropsets, too. Go super heavy for the first few repetitions until failure, then drop down to a 15-20 pound lighter weight and finish your set. This is one of the best ways to hit muscle hypertrophy and really start building those muscle gains.
The bench press is a classic exercise for a reason. And once you master the form, switch it up with variations, add some heavier weights, and grow those supporting muscles – you’ll be pumping iron like nobody’s business.
But if you feel like you’re hitting a wall, it’s probably time to get some personalized strategy for getting closer to your goals. While you could continue with barbells and dumbbells, Speede’s AI-backed training is superior — it works to adapt to your movement, recommending the perfect amount of resistance to help you build more muscle and amplify your workouts.
In just 10 minutes, it can feel like you’ve finished a 30-minute session. From isokinetic training to excentric muscle mass targeting, we use the latest muscle technology to get you closer to your goals than ever before. Book a demo today and get started.