Recently, I came across an article discussing how to hit a 300 bench. Undoubtedly, 300 and 315 are essentially “rights of passage” in the lifting world. Until you hit 315, you aint shit.
But that in my mind is quite alright. Hitting a personal record in just about any lift is commendable, but hitting milestones that community has set forth, now that’s something to shoot for.
About 6 years ago was the first time I had ever hit 315 and at the time I was elated. Even though I had spent actual years hovering around 300-315, it was at last that I finally hit that milestone.
But that feeling was short lived. For the next 4 years, I spent hovering around that weight, going up and down, never to really progress. At one point I did get up to 350 for a double, but again, that was just in my mind, good luck and good timing.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that I had really begun to make progress, hitting the elusive milestone of 365 pounds for the bench. On top of that, I hit a second personal goal of repping 315 for 5 and 275 for 10.
This isn’t an opportunity to brag, but rather impart the knowledge I’ve learned about benching in a way that might help you reach your bench press goal.
In this article, I’m going to discuss the variables I manipulated over the course of 3-4 months, to increase my bench press by about 50 pounds. It’s my hope that after checking out this guide, you’ll have some ideas to try out for your own.
As a disclaimer: This article is not intended to teach you how to bench. This is more of a guide for someone that is already comfortable with benching, but looking to gain a competitive edge. Keep in mind, this is all based on experience, while using some scientifically-backed techniques. Certain aspects may or may not work for you. I suggest manipulating these variables to be appropriate for you own training.
Building Your Own Bench Technique
First and foremost, it’s important to point out that we are all individuals. There are thousands of “get a big bench” today guides out there, all telling you the best ways to lift.
That’s not what this is. I’m simply providing a guide of how I increased my bench significantly. There are literally thousands of different variables and different ways to bench-press, so you need to figure out what is the best starting point for you.
Countless different articles touch on the importance of a wide grip, a narrow grip, scapulae retracted, elbows in, arched back, etc. There are so many different variables that I’m not going to act like I can tell you what to do.
I personally use a very narrow grip, no further than shoulder width. In fact, most people would consider my grip to be “close grip.” Through a series of pec injuries and years or improving my own technique, I’ve found this to be the best method for me, as I’m a fairly triceps dominant presser.
Again, many people prefer wider grips and even ultra-wide grips. You need to adjust how you bench until you find what works best for you. I'll touch on this point a bit later. While you can follow advice, remember at the end of the day there is a best way to bench for you as an individual. You need to find that or create it.
Techniques I used To Build A Bigger Bench
Below are explanations of a few of the techniques that I used to build a big bench, even though I use them for other body parts and muscle groups as well.
Daily Undulating Periodization
Daily Undulating Periodization is a method of structuring your training program on a week-to-week basis, as well as long-term.
If you’re at all familiar with periodization, it’s simply a method of structuring your workouts and manipulating weight and reps to constantly provide increasingly stressful stimulus.
For example, most beginner athletes follow what is known as “linear” periodization. It’s called such because it adjusts weight and reps in a linear fashion. In essence, over the course of months, athletes using a linear model of periodization start with light-weight and high repetitions and steadily move towards lower rep, higher weight work.
However, I follow what is known as Daily Undulating Periodization. Typically, this is a style of periodization used by more experienced trainee’s. Rather than progressing in a linear fashion (straight from high rep to low rep and heavy weight), you’ll undulate the reps and weight scheme from one workout to the next.
For example, If I bench for 10 reps today, the next training session might be 4 reps (and heavier weight) and the next workout after, might be 12 reps.
Essentially, this method first allows you to use certain movements, like the bench very frequently. Second, it allows you to work those muscles in a wide range of rep and weight ranges, to essentially cover all of your bases while continuously improving your technique.
Research seems to corroborate that this is a fairly good technique and honestly, it makes sense to me. Linear periodization has an issue that once you work in a certain rep range for a month or so, you move on to not look back. Unfortunately, it’s likely that many of the adaptations you received during that training block, might go away since you aren’t using them. That seems kind of strange, but it’s similar to what happens if you run for a while and then stop. You essentially lose to ability to continue running long distances.
The same thing happens here. If you aren’t continuously training in a certain rep range, you can expect that your previous performance when you were, to diminish. So, by using DUP, you’re hitting many different rep ranges to ensure that you’re adapting within each range for the ultimate package.
This technique is near and dear to me, and is the primary technique I used to build my big bench. In essence, it’s the same technique as how baseball players swing a weighted bat before they step up to the plate. Only the plate in this instance is your working sets.
The technique works like this. First, pick the movement and rep range. Based on the rep range, you should know what typical weight you’d use. For example, if you’re benching 8 reps today, you’d take a mental note of your 8 rep max.
Based on your Rep Max weight, you’ll actually work up to a weight that is about 110-120% of that weight. But the catch is, you only do 1-2 reps, never to failure. Afterwards, you drop down to your normal working weight and then lift more than you ever have in your life.
Essentially, you’re stimulating the nervous system to put forth more effort than you actually need. Since you prime yourself with heavy weight and then drop weight drastically, the body is still primed for the heavier weight, giving you the perception that you’re much, much stronger.
For a full, in-depth article discussing the science of this technique and how to actually use it, please check out this article on Post Activation Potentiation.
Rest Pause is another technique that has taken just about every aspect of my training to the next level.
Rest pause provides you with two distinct benefits. First, rest pause uses high repetition work, with fairly small rest, meaning you’ll get a huge pump and thus have a high level of metabolic stress, which might be relevant for muscle growth.
Second, you’re literally increasing, often doubling the volume you can do for a given weight, which if you don’t know, could literally change the game for you in terms of growth.
Take for example the dumbbell bench press. Lets say you can normal max out with 80 lb. dumbbells for 8 reps. With normal training, you’d probably slowly work up to 80 pounds, complete 1-2 sets of 8 and then move on.
With rest pause, the work doesn’t start until you hit 8 reps.
From here, you take 3 short sets and combine them, using the heavy weight. Essentially, you’ll take your initial weight, lift until 1 rep short of failure, rest for 30 seconds, go to failure, rest 30 seconds and then go to failure again. That’s one set.
It sounds a bit crazy (and it is) but the principles are sound.
Consider what you just did in that above scenario. While you might typically finish or fail with the 80 pounds at 8 reps, with rest pause, you’re doing upwards of 12-15 reps, with weight you normally max out with for 8 reps.
By simply taking a couple deep breaths between “mini-sets” you’ll recover a bit to increase the total number of reps you can do with heavier weight.
If there is a technique to expedite the growth process, Rest-Pause is it. For more information and full guide on this technique, please check out our Rest-Pause guide.
The Slingshot, which can be found here, is a very simple, yet extremely effective piece of equipment that can expedite your bench growth. Here’s a video of me using it.
Essentially, this piece of equipment gives you a boost off the chest, allowing you to use heavier weight for overloading the top portion of the lift. Most people like myself, struggle with locking out the bench press, so this piece of equipment helps you work directly on that issue, while continuing to allow you to use a full range of motion, even with weight heavier than normal.
While you don't need the slinghost per se, I've found it to be quite valuable for improving the bench press.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock (or just not up to snuff on exercise science research), you’ll know that increasing the frequency or how often you train muscle groups is important. More frequent stimulation means more frequent growth stimulation, so on and so forth.
However, increasing frequency is even more important if you’re specifically attempting to get better at a certain movement. By consistently working the same technique 3-4 times per week, you begin to really settle in by focusing on moving the weight, rather than worrying about technique.
Additionally, I also recommend increasing the frequency that you train with heavier weights.
In addition to perfecting technique, you also need to perfect your technique under heavy load, since your movement patterns will probably change when maxing out versus normal rep work. Further, getting accustomed to weight that was once very heavy for you, will increase not only your confidence but also your ability to move heavier weight.
For reference when I was focusing on increasing my bench, I benched 2-3 times per week and ensured that for at least 1-2 sets, I was working over 315 pounds. By doing so, within a few weeks, there was no question in my mind that lifting 315 was easy, leaving the door open for continued progress above and beyond that amount.
If you’re specifically interested in building your bench, you should bench often and lift heavy often to allow you to be accustomed to the rigors of very heavy training.
Perfecting Your Technique For Yourself
I mentioned it earlier, but I really want to drive this point home. While it’s important to have a safe and effective technique, you need to manipulate your technique until you find what works best for you. By doing so, you’ll create an environment for growth that is both safe and effective.
Like I mentioned, I use what is typically considered to be close grip, which is very different from how many other people bench. But it works for me, and really, that’s what matters.
While this isn’t a “how to bench guide” per se, these are the techniques and ideas I used to increase my bench press to 365 in the matter of a few months.
I suggest attempting to use some of these techniques in ways that can help you actually increase your bench press.
If you aren’t sure how to do that, consider looking into my services as a training coach or imply inquire about what options I provide (I provide many, just ask). I use all of these principles and more in every training program I provide.
Additionally, consider downloading my 12-week Strength & Hypertrophy program named Potentiate. This program was based on the techniques I used to build my biggest bench, squat and deadlift ever. Best thing is, it’s free (donations accepted). You literally have nothing to lose but everything to gain.