Want to Improve Your Bench Press? Here’s How

Here’s a quick post on how to improve your bench. This is an incredibly dumbed down ‘bench booster’ article.  I skim over a lot of things that can be elaborated on to a MUCH greater extent.  My goal is not to bore you, but to give you some quick hints so you can get results in the gym.


Specific Exercises to Work on

Incline bench – incline bench hits your chest and shoulders. Gains will certainly transfer to flat bench press.

Dumbbell Floor press – floor press is used to eliminate leg drive, isolating the prime movers (main muscles used) and synergists (assisting muscles) for the bench press.

Close grip bench – narrowing your grip on the bar will hit more of your triceps, helping with your lockout on the bench press.

Dumbbell bench press – this will activate many of your balancing and stabilizing muscles. Get these muscles used to firing and you will feel more comfortable on the bench press. You should gain stability, and less of your nervous system  will be devoted to balancing the bar, as it becomes second nature.

Dips – I’ve heard a few people say doing dips has not improved their bench. Quite frankly, I don’t think they’ve helped me a whole lot either, but it doesn’t hurt to throw them in at the end of a workout. They’ll get your triceps going. Your pecs are also used during dips; however, I doubt to the extent where their ability to lift hundreds of pounds off your chest is improved.

Shoulder Press – I feel this is the most underrated exercise in improving your bench, especially with younger or newer lifters.

My Top 3

Shoulder press

Dumbbell floor press

Incline bench

Important tips

These additional tips are just as important, if not more important than the above exercises.

 Strong back – A strong back is incredibly important. Lay off the bench a little and incorporate more pulling exercises. Think of your back as being the foundation when you bench press. You should be doing far more pulling exercises than pushing/pressing – preferably a ratio of 3:1.

Have a spotter – having a spotter allows you to ‘set your back’. When benching alone, you have to reach up, lift the bar and manoeuvre it into its starting position on our own. When you lift the bar from the rack, your scapulae (shoulder blades) slide out of their retracted, optimal position. Having a spotter lift some of the weight as well as hold the weight while the bar is above you gives you the opportunity to set your shoulders – retract your shoulders (link) and keep them in a strong/sturdy position. You should be able to feel this position once you get it.

Strong stable base – it kills me to see young lifters benching and having their legs flail about while they try to push out that last rep. There should be limited movement in your legs – the only movement should be a result of you pushing hard into the ground. Let’s see a strong leg drive people!

Work with 85-95% of your max– you aren’t going to reach your goal of benching 300lbs if you constantly do three sets of 10-12.  Work with 85-95% of your max. Get down into the 1-3rep range and really grind it out. Ideally you would have a spot for these.

Find out your weakness – where is your sticking point (the hardest part of the movement, giving you the most trouble)?.Do you experiencedifficulties in getting weight off your chest?

If so, work on your explosiveness. Drop the weight and improve on powering the bar away from your chest. Right from the get go, move with speed from the chest, lower bar back down, then explode up again. This will help you through your sticking point.

If your sticking point is during the lockout, then work on improving tricep strength.

You can also use other tools to improve your lockout. Chains and bands will be helpful as they increase the resistance at the top of the movement.

Grip hard – when you grip the bar hard, your rotator cuff muscles are turned on, or activated to a greater extent, thus creating a higher degree of stability and strength in your shoulder. This process is called irradiation. 

Remember, you aren’t considered a legitimately strong bencher until you can press 1.75 times your body weight.

Every one of the specific exercises and tips could have been a separate post in itself, but I wanted to keep it quick and simple. Try these out when you bench press, and you will experience positive results.

Remember to leave any questions or comments in the comment box below. If you would like me to go into further detail regarding any of the specific exercises or tips mentioned, feel free to let me know and I’ll get back to you. Maybe I’ll do a separate post in the near future going into much more detail.

Remember to check out my Facebook page, or join me on Twitter.

 Lift heavy,


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  1. Movement Based Training: 5 Elements to Your Workouts | Jeremy Smith - August 13, 2012

    […] and in that post there are quite a few alternatives to the conventional bench press. Check it out HERE. Push […]

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