How to Add the Bench Press to Your Workouts

New to the Bench Press? Learn how to add this staple exercise to your training program.

Bench Press

Every athlete wants a big Bench Press. It's a measure of upper-body strength, and its often viewed as a test of manliness. At the Athletic Performance Training center, we do this exercise only to improve athletic performance. (Learn 3 common Bench Press mistakes.)

The concept is simple. You press a heavy bar off your chest. However, the benefits go beyond building chest strength. The Bench Press:

  • Builds muscle mass through the upper torso, including the chest, shoulders and arms
  • Develops strength and power through the chest and shoulders
  • Improves muscle endurance in the chest and shoulders
  • Improves bone density
  • Directly improves sport movements like throwing, swinging, shooting (basketball), and blocking

If you are new to the Bench Press or starting a new phase of training, do not arbitrarily select a weight and get under the bar. You might not get the most from the exercise, or you could set yourself up for injury. Follow this max-testing protocol to determine your one-rep max (1RM). (See also Get more from your Bench.)

The Bench Press One-Rep Max Test

  • Perform a thorough warm-up with a weight you can lift at least 10 times.
  • Always have a strength coach or training partner spot you.
  • Increase weight by about 10 pounds per attempt, until you reach a weight at which no repetitions can be completed.
  • Rest 2-3 minutes between attempts.
  • The weight lifted prior to your failed set is your one-rep max.
  • Document your results.
  • To avoid excessive fatigue, limit max-testing sessions to four to six attempts. If you fail to reach your max, take a break and try another time.

Once you establish your 1RM, you can proceed to a Bench Press program. Try the following workout for two days per week for six weeks. Then retest your max and repeat.

Bench Press Workout

  • Start with a warm-up set of 10 reps at 50% max
  • Perform 3-5 heavy sets of 4-6 reps at 80% max
  • Finish with 1 set of 20 reps at 50% max
  • Always use proper form and full range of motion

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: CHEST | BENCH PRESS | WORKOUTS | COACH | POWER | EXERCISE | BENCH | PRESS | INJURY | ENDURANCE | FATIGUE | ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE | RANGE OF MOTION | TRAINING CENTER