The bench press is without a doubt the holy grail of all ego lifting exercises. I can’t tell you how many times someone has asked me how much I bench.
This is usually the most common question when 2 bro lifters are talking about their workouts and is the source of either a ton of pride or disappointment among men all over the world.
Although I’m a fitness model and my chest development is one of my strong points – the bench press has always been a very weak exercise for me.
I am a naturally skinny guy and I have very long arms. This means that I am not built to be a power lifter and bench pressing heavy weight has always been a struggle.
1 Year ago my bench press stats were the following:
Height: 6 ft. 1
Body Fat: 8 Percent
Bench Press: 225 for 7 Reps
Max Weight: 275 Lbs.
The problem was that I was stuck around the 275 mark for over a year. I simply could NOT improve my bench press and it was a source of constant frustration.
Over the last year I have tried and researched just about every trick in the book to improve my bench press stats.
I am now proud to say that I am in the exclusive 315 lb. bench press club, or the “3 plate bro club” after being stuck at a measly 275 lbs for over a year. More impressively I did this while keeping my body fat levels low and my weight about the same.
Height: 6 ft. 1
Body Fat: 7.5 percent
Bench Press: 225 for 14 Reps
Max Weight: 325 Lbs.
How did I go from being stuck at a 275 lb. bench press max to pumping out a 40 lb. improvement? We are going to cover 10 outside the box rules to improving your bench press in this article.
Regardless of where you are at in your fitness journey from a beginner lifter to 10 years in – this list will without a doubt boost your bench press max by 20-30 lbs. and help push you past a plateau.
I have hit a few different plateaus in my bench pressing career and it is extremely frustrating.
Before I get into the list tricks to improve your bench press – let me revisit one of my favorite quotes of all time.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Albert Einsten may not have been an avid bench presser but he sure did know what he was talking about!
This rule not only applies to life but bench pressing. Some of these rules may seem a little “out there” – but I can assure you that the quickest path to you improving your bench press is trying new things consistently.
Without further ado – let’s get into the tips…
You simply cannot continue to go in the gym doing that same boring bench press pyramid routine at the start of your workout. This is such a common mistake and it drives me crazy to hear guys complaining about their lack of strength gains and they tell me the exact same boring pyramid set routine.
The old school bodybuilders use to live and die with the ‘push-pull’ supersets. This is the concept of super setting a back and chest exercise since they are opposing muscle groups.
The crazy thing about this combination is that you will actually feel stronger after you fatigue your back. I recently repped out my career high with 225 lbs. directly after a wide grip pull up set to failure.
On top of this you are training 2 major muscle groups which has a powerful anabolic effect on your body and will no doubt help you secrete more strength boosting testosterone.
To try out this routine pick a pulling exercise and perform between 8-12 repetitions. Then rest 30-45 seconds and get on the bench press. Repeat this for 4-5 sets once a week and you will not only build muscle faster but boost your lagging bench press.
2. Back to Back Chest Day
Sometimes all it takes to improve a stubborn muscle group is MORE VOLUME. This means that you implement the advanced training strategy of back to back chest days.
The theory is quite simple. You attack your pectorals on back to back training days at maximum intensity. You then rest your pectorals for 5 days. You are going to create more healthy micro tears with the added volume and back to back training days vs only working out your chest ONCE every 5 days.
Expect to be really sore 2 days after your back to back chest day.
Let’s think about this logically for a second. What’s the worst that could happen if you train your chest on back to back days?
Are you going to shrink? Of course not! Your body responds to new stimulus and more overload. Train insane or remain the same!
3. Pre Chest Day Carb Loading
The more glycogen you have stored in your muscles the better they will perform heavy compound movements such as the bench press. I was training for a long time with low muscle glycogen – and my bench press numbers suffered.
One of the best things you can do to boost strength is to adopt a high carb/high protein diet about 36 hours before your training session.
This will ensure that your muscle glycogen is at full capacity and you are ready to push some heavy weight.
How many carbs do you need? It really depends on the person but for me personally I will make sure to take in my body weight x 3.5 in the 36 hours leading up to my workout. I weigh about 200 lbs. so this means that I make sure I take in 700 grams of carbohydrates before my workout.
My favorite “strength boosting” carbohydrates are sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, pineapple, watermelon, jasmine rice, red skin potatoes, and wait for it, fruit loops with marshmallows!
I have a massive sweet tooth and my body actually reacts well to simple sugars. Try it out and see for yourself! The sweet cereal kills my sweet tooth and is really low in fat so it goes perfect with my low fat, high carb, high protein diet leading up to my bench press workout.
4. German Volume Training
German volume training is another advanced weight training strategy designed to put more overload on your muscles and boost strength. It’s an awesome strategy for improving your bench press and I implemented it in my routine to burst through into the 3 plate club after 1 month of it.
What exactly does German Volume training entail? You will be performing 10 total sets in the 8-10 repetition range right around 60 percent of your 1 rep max weight. The kicker is that you are only resting 60 seconds between sets. This may not seem very challenging the first 4-5 sets but just wait for the last 5 sets!
Here is the German volume training routine that I followed for a month to pack on 10 lbs. to my bench press max.
Since my current bench press max was 305 when I started GVT – I used the following weight: 305 x 0.6 = 185 (I rounded up 2 lbs. to make it a 45 and 25 on each side)
I then performed 10 total sets with 185 lbs. – and rested 60 seconds between sets.
My goal was 10 reps each set – but I was not able to accomplish this until my 4th GVT workout with 185. Try out this workout a few times and you will no doubt see a boost in your strength!
5. Pre Workout Adrenaline
One interesting note about strength is how adrenaline can actually increase it instantly up to 5 percent. This means that the combination of a really high quality pre workout drink and super exciting music can get your adrenaline pumping enough to lift a new career high.
Every single chest workout I would make sure that I jacked myself up on my favorite pre workout (GAT Nitraflex) – and I would listen to some hardcore upbeat training music.
Whatever music got me the most fired up that day I would blast it and get into my zone while I drank my pre workout. When my energy was at its peak I would unleash my adrenaline on the bench press and have the mentality to push out as much weight as I could each workout. Try it out for yourself!
6. Workout Log
One of the best things you can do to always improve in the gym is to keep a workout log. You should be tracking your weight and repetitions for all of your workouts and the next time you perform the same exercise you should look back and see what you did last time.
Say for instance you see that you bench pressed 225 lbs. for 5 repetitions the last workout. You will have this in your mind as you are bench pressing and you will focus all of your energy on getting to 6 repetitions. Most guys go in the gym and really have no idea on the exact amount of weight and reps they did on a particular exercise.
Having the mentality that you are always going to improve will no doubt transfer into crazy strength gains over the course of just a few months.
This is by far my favorite strategy when focusing on my weak points such as the bench press.
7. Intra Workout Nutrition
Chest days can be brutal and as a naturally skinny guy with a fast metabolism I’m always trying to get in the most calories I can. One of my favorite things to do is to drink a protein shake in the middle of my workout with added maltodextrin and creatine.
Since muscle glycogen and creatine are both depleted as you train with intensity – it makes sense to replenish this in the middle of your workout so you can train with maximum intensity and strength from start to finish.
This added muscle building and strength boosting nutrition will be huge when trying to finish a workout at maximum intensity.
8. Leg Day
I really cannot stress how important leg day is. You have to understand that 3 of your largest muscle groups are in your legs (glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps).
Training these muscles and placing heavy overload on them is going to have the biggest impact on your testosterone levels which is going to help you boost strength and pack on lean muscle mass.
Don’t be the bro who skips leg day. We have all been guilty of this at one point in our gym career – but I can tell you with 100 percent conviction that if you want to bring up your bench press – you should also be doing some heavy squats, DB walking lunges, stiff leg dead lifts and leg presses.
These exercises will result in a giant boost of testosterone and turn you into a machine! Hit your legs hard twice a week. I dedicate an entire workout to my quadriceps and a separate workout for my hamstrings and glutes. Its no coincidence that ever since I started working my legs more everything else improved – including my bench press.
9. Post Workout Insulin Spike
We talked a lot about advanced training strategy, but one of the most important factors to you boosting strength is repairing those damaged muscle tissues.
Back to back chest days are meaningless if you don’t understand how to feed your body what it needs to grow back bigger and stronger.
The best way to repair damaged muscle tissue is to initiate protein synthesis immediately after working out – and this is done with a powerful post workout insulin spike.
The combination of simple carbs and high quality protein will replenish muscle glycogen, and shuttle amino acids directly into your cells to initiate protein synthesis, growth, and recovery.
When I’m looking to boost strength I make sure to consume at least 1 gram of carbohydrates per lb. of bodyweight in the 90 minutes following my workout.
I will have a post workout shake that contains 60 grams of carbohydrates, or I will eat a bag of gummy bears along with my whey protein shake.
These are 2 sources of fast carbs that pair perfect with my whey isolate. Then I will have a lean piece of fish or chicken for my post workout meal and load up on more simple carbohydrates.
White jasmine rice is really carb dense and goes perfect with my protein so I will typically have about 2 cups jasmine rice – which comes out to 100 grams of carbs.
To get in my final 40-50 carbs I will enjoy a bowl of cereal. I rotate between frosted mini wheat’s, fruit loops and lucky charms. Seems silly but these are all carbohydrate dense choices and spike my insulin post workout.
This is the 1 time of the day when you can actually eat fast carbohydrates (aka sugar) and have it benefit you – so enjoy it and chow down on your favorite low fat and high carbohydrate treats!
10. Triceps Annihilation
When you are bench pressing it is crucial that you improve the strength of your triceps so you are able to lock out those heavy repetitions. Your triceps are heavily involved in the bench press movement – so if you want to lock out those heavy sets easier you better bring up your triceps.
I see a lot of guys placing huge emphasis on their biceps – but you hardly see a powerful looking set of horseshoe triceps!
I have a hard time isolating my triceps but one of my favorite strategies is to train them with “eccentric overload.”
This means that you are focusing more time and tension on the lowering part of the movement – as opposed to actually contracting and lifting the weight.
You create more micro tears on the negative portion of the repetition – and it is a very popular bodybuilding strategy.
To boost your stubborn bench press and bring up your triceps try 8 sets per week of heavy eccentric overload decline Skull crushes. I like to stay in the 6-8 repetition range on these.
This will place more direct stress on your triceps. Make sure to take at least 3 seconds going down on all repetitions – and keep those triceps under tension the entire time! Don’t pause at the top or bottom of the movement.
Get in the habit of training your triceps at least twice a week and place a ton of emphasis on the negative portion of the repetitions. Your bench press will soon thank you!
Hope you enjoyed my 10 outside the box tips on improving your bench press! As you can see it’s a careful blend of hacking your workouts, nutrition, mindset, and supplements.
I can promise you that if you can implement even 5 of these tips into your routine right away you will see a drastic improvement in your bench press within 3 months! Implement all 10 of these and you will be on the fast track to being in the exclusive fraternity of “3 plate bros.” I hope to see you there soon!