How to Improve Your Bench Press, Part 1: Lift Like an Athlete

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It's the exercise you love to love: the Bench Press. To help you improve your favorite move, STACK presents a four-part series on the Bench Press. Tune back in each week for a new article.

It's a question on the mind of every high school athlete: "How can I improve my Bench Press?" Athletes want to move big weight— and for good reason: it's the king of all upper-body exercises.

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LeSean McCoy's weight room workouts enhance his game.

The Bench Press is a great exercise to strengthen the chest, shoulders and triceps; it's also an excellent way to improve horizontal pressing power and strength—the type of strength that is extremely important in contact sports like football, wrestling and hockey. It will help you block defenders, throw stiff arms, secure a football and hold certain positions longer. It will also help you avoid unfavorable positions.

While the Bench Press offers many benefits, athletes need to understand its role, which is to build strength. You need to train smart and incorporate functional training—not just worry about moving heavy weight. In this case, less is more. Overtraining the Bench Press can lead to injuries and decreased athletic performance.

High school athletes should Bench Press no more than twice a week. In most cases, once a week is enough. If you Bench once a week, you can perform a Dumbbell Bench Press variation on a different upper-body workout day to help strengthen your pressing muscles. If you are Bench Pressing twice a week, other horizontal pressing exercises, such as the Dumbbell Bench Press or Machine Bench Press, are unnecessary and will only detract from recovery. I do not recommend direct and isolated chest exercises, such as Cable Crossovers, because they do not help athletic performance and won't help improve your Bench Press.

Check back next week for another article on how to build a bigger Bench.


Joe Meglio is a strength and conditioning coach at the Underground Strength Gym in Edison, N.J. Mentored by one of the brightest minds in the strength and conditioning industry, Zach Even-Esh, Meglio has worked with athletes at the high school, college and professional level. He specializes in training baseball players. Besides being a strength coach, Meglio competed in his first powerlifting meet in 2010, setting the New Jersey state record for Squat, Deadlift and total in his weight class and division. He will graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University in May 2011, following his final season as captain of the baseball team. For more information, please go to

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