How to Increase Bench Press Weight: A 5-Step Guide and Training Program

This five-step guide and sample workout from STACK Expert Joe Giandonato teaches you how to add weight to your Bench Press.

If this has happened to you, you're not alone: After piling on an additional 5 to 10 pounds per week on your Bench Press, you suddenly find yourself stuck.

The tips below will help you blast through this intermediate stage plateau and help you continue to increase your Bench Press.

RELATED: Bench Press Grip Guide: How Hand Placement Changes the Exercise

Bench Press

1. Consider adopting new set-rep schemes

Traditional parameters of 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps worked to build strength when you first arrived on the scene, but their effectiveness often runs dry as you become stronger. Consider performing more sets and transitioning into 3- to 5-rep territory to really promote gains. This will permit you to use heavier loads and provide more "first reps" on each set. Another option is to perform each repetition individually or in cluster sets, which involve performing a repetition, re-racking the barbell, and continuing this sequence until you reach a predetermined number of repetitions.

RELATED: STACK Fitness Weekly: The Guide to Building a Big Bench Press

2. Bolster your back strength

The upper-back muscles, particularly the trapezius, rhomboids, and serratus anterior muscles, stabilize the shoulder girdle and help lifters better absorb the force of the bar on its downward descent once it is unracked.

"I'd suggest aiming for a ratio of 3 to 1, meaning three repetitions of horizontal Row or Pulldown for every Bench Press repetition performed within a week's training," says strength coach Josh Bryant, the youngest lifter ever to bench press 600 pounds raw. "The volume of Rows and Pulldowns will also help build work capacity, thus further supporting bench training and, for lifters desiring size, help stimulate muscular hypertrophy."

RELATED: Never Bench Press With Your Feet in This Position

3. Arm yourself

"Very few men with spaghetti arms bench press huge weight," says Bryant.

"Obviously, the triceps are crucial to lock the weight out and can be built through close-grip bench, board presses, various extensions, and a plethora of other exercises."

Still, Bryant says a training program should not leave out the biceps and forearms.

"Biceps help stabilize heavy weights, and strong forearms help you squeeze the bar tightly," he says. Remember, weak arms equal a weak Bench Press.

RELATED: Beginner's Guide to the Bench Press

4. Have a need for speed

"While certain exercises have increased my Bench Press throughout the years, I attribute much of my success to focusing on achieving good bar speed," says Anthony McCloskey, a 215-pound powerlifter with a 620 shirted Bench Press. "It's not always the amount of weight on the bar, but how fast you move the bar throughout the lift. Responses to training don't solely result from the amount of weight on the bar. You also respond to how much force was produced, how fast the force was produced, how long you produced it, and how many times you produced it."

5. Tap into P.A.P.

PAP, which stands for Post-Activation Potentiation, is a phenomenon in which intense muscular contractions elicit increases in muscular force during subsequent bouts with lighter loads. For instance, a lifter performs a set with 300 pounds, then the next set with 200 pounds. Muscular activation increases, since the body had just produced the force necessary to move 300 pounds.

Intermediate Bench Press Program

Week 1

  • Bench Press - 1 x 3 @ 82.5% 1RM
  • Bench Press - 2 x 3 @ 77.5% 1RM
  • CAT Bench Press - 5 x 1 @ 70% 1RM
  • Close Grip Bench Press - 3 x 6
  • Plate Loaded Row - 6 x 10
  • Neutral Grip Pulldown - 4 x 12
  • DB Shrug - 3 x 15
  • Barbell Reverse Curl - 3 x 10

Week 2

  • Bench Press - 1 x 2 @ 85% 1RM
  • Bench Press - 4 x 2 @ 80% 1RM
  • CAT Bench Press - 5 x 1 @ 70% 1RM
  • Close Grip Bench Press - 4 x 5
  • Plate Loaded Row - 6 x 10
  • Neutral Grip Pulldown - 4 x 12
  • DB Shrug - 3 x 15
  • Barbell Reverse Curl - 3 x 10

Week 3

  • Bench Press - 3 x 1 @ 87.5% 1RM
  • Bench Press - 7 x 1 @ 82.5% 1RM
  • CAT Bench Press - 5 x 1 @ 70% 1RM
  • Close Grip Bench Press - 5 x 4
  • Plate Loaded Row - 6 x 10
  • Neutral Grip Pulldown - 4 x 12
  • DB Shrug - 3 x 15
  • Barbell Reverse Curl - 3 x 10

Week 4

  • Bench Press -  1 x 3 @ 90% 1RM
  • Bench Press - 1 x 2 @ 85% 1RM
  • CAT Bench Press - 5 x 1 @ 70% 1RM
  • Close Grip Bench Press - 6 x 3
  • Plate Loaded Row - 6 x 10
  • Neutral Grip Pulldown - 4 x 12
  • DB Shrug - 3 x 15
  • Barbell Reverse Curl - 3 x 10


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: LAT PULLDOWN | BENCH PRESS | BICEP CURL | EXERCISES | FITNESS | TRAIN | BENCH | PRESS | BARBELL | LIFTS | SHRUG