“How much do you bench?” It’s the most common question in weight rooms all over the country. Even though there are better indicators of athletic ability, conversation always comes around to who can push the most weight off their chest. With that, here are a few bench press routines that can add pounds to your lift and inches to your chest. (Read more articles on the Bench Press.)
One of the keys to muscle growth is to recruit as many muscle fibers as possible. A great way to accomplish this is to change your grip to hit your muscles from different angles. Start wide and move your hands an inch or so closer together each set, for a total of six to eight sets.
If your goal is to add pounds to your bench max, few workouts are as effective as the 5-3-2 program. It’s as simple as it sounds. Perform three sets of five, three and two reps. The final set is as heavy as you can lift while still completing the reps. This heavy weight/low rep scheme is one of the best ways to build your strength.
Vary your workouts and break through training plateaus by performing the Dumbbell Bench and Dumbbell Incline. You won’t be able to handle as much total weight as you can with a barbell—generally athletes lift about 80 percent of what they do on the bar. However, you will activate and strengthen your small stabilizer muscles, which in turn will lead to bigger numbers on the traditional bench.
The key to drop or strip sets is time under tension, or how long your muscles are forced to work. Keeping your muscles under tension for extended periods of time is the quintessential way to build muscle.
Start off with heavy weight, but load the bar with smaller plates. Perform a few reps, stopping one or two short of failure. Have two spotters quickly remove plates, then perform another set. Repeat this sequence until the bar is empty. Don’t try to do this too often or you will burn yourself out. (Learn more about the best ways to incorporate drop sets into your workout.)
The chest isn’t the only muscle contributing to a strong bench. The deltoids (shoulders) and triceps also play important roles. Make sure you regularly perform vertical pressing exercises—such as the Military Press—to strengthen these contributing muscles.