How To Increase Bench Press: 6 Techniques To Lift More Weight

The bench press is one of the foundational weightlifting exercises found in most strength, power, and bodybuilding workout routines.

For this reason, one of the most common questions that weightlifters ask is: “How do I increase my bench press 1RM, or how do I improve my bench press weight?”

As with most of the training exercises, there are various general strength training strategies for how to increase bench press weight, as well as specific bench press workouts and bench press training exercises to help increase bench press 1RM.

In this guide to how to improve bench press performance, we will provide some of the best tips for how to increase bench press weight 1RM so that you can hit higher weights and see bigger gains in strength and mass no matter where you are in your weightlifting journey.

We will cover: 

  • How To Increase Bench Press Weight At The Gym
  • What Is the Best Way to Get Better At Bench Pressing?

Let’s jump in!

Bench press exercise.

How To Increase Bench Press Weight At The Gym

Ultimately, getting better at bench pressing, or increasing your bench press weight for your max lift and your bench press workout sets, takes time.

There is no “magic bench press workout“ that will instantly deliver results.

However, if you are a novice weightlifter, you may be able to improve your bench press weight quickly by honing in and perfecting your bench press technique, and you will see faster gains in bench press improvements due to “newbie gains.”

As your neuromuscular system gets conditioned to the coordination and muscle recruitment patterns necessary for the best bench press execution, you will be able to start lifting heavier weights pretty quickly in the early stages of your bench press workouts.

However, increasing your bench press 1RM generally operates on the law of diminishing returns such that advanced weightlifters who have mastered the bench press technique will have to work harder to attain even smaller improvements in bench press performance.

This is not to say that you can’t get better at bench press and start lifting heavier, even if you have been doing consistent bench press workouts for a long time.

However, you will have to be patient with seeing massive gains in bench press 1RM and dial in on some specific strategies to boost and improve bench pressing weight.

Bench press exercise.

What Is the Best Way to Get Better At Bench Pressing?

Here are some tips for how to increase your bench press and lift heavier bench press loads with proper technique:

#1: Get Your Bench Press Form Checked

If you are new to weightlifting or have hit a strength plateau with your bench press, getting your bench press form and technique evaluated by an experienced personal trainer or weightlifter who can give you some pointers could be helpful.

Oftentimes, there are subtle form adjustments you can make regarding hand spacing, bench press breathing technique, elbow flair, and even mental cueing or how you are thinking about executing your bench press that can lead to some surprising gains in bench press with little training time other than adjusting to a better bench press technique.

For example, a simple bench press trick to help mentally cue the movement is to think about snapping your elbows into extension at the finish.

This helps you push through the rep and helps prevent your shoulders from coming forward off the bench at the finish.

Tricep cable exercise.

#2: Strengthen Your Chest and Triceps

Specificity is key when trying to improve any lifting exercise. This means that if you want to get better at bench pressing, you have to do bench press workouts.

However, in addition to doing standard barbell bench press reps, you can do bench press variations that target the same muscle groups but different fibers in these muscle groups and alter the emphasis on the bench press muscle groups.

For example, in addition to the standard barbell bench press exercise, your bench press workouts should include dumbbell bench presses.

Using dumbbells requires you to recruit each side of the upper body individually, which can help correct strength deficits between your right and left side.

Most weightlifters are noticeably stronger in their dominant hand, so a valuable training tool for improving bench press performance is focusing on the dumbbell bench press, particularly with the weaker side of your body.

You may even do a unilateral dumbbell chest press to build up and correct any strength imbalance between the right and left sides.

Incline bench press.

The best bench press workouts to increase bench press 1RM should also include benching at different angles.

The incline bench press and chest press target the upper portions of the pecs, and the decline bench press and decline chest press target the lower portions of the chest.

Incorporating different angles of incline bench press and decline bench press in your bench press training program will help you really maximize the strength and muscle-building stimulus in your pecs for better flat bench press performance.

You can also manipulate the hand spacing to target different portions of your pecs, triceps, shoulders, and serratus anterior muscle.

Plus, using a narrow grip bench press or wide grip bench press will alter the relative involvement of your push/press muscles, helping build overall strength in the muscles used by bench pressing.

This again will translate to better holistic and synergistic strength in your bench press muscles when you test your 1RM for bench press.

Tricep extensions.

To improve benching, you should also perform supplemental exercises to strengthen your chest, triceps, shoulders, serratus anterior, and upper back.

Incorporate exercises such as the following: 

  • Chest flys with different angles of the bench
  • Kneeling landmine chest presses
  • Kneeling landmine overhead presses
  • Push-ups of all varieties, including decline push-ups and weighted push-ups
  • Skull crushers
  • Triceps extensions
  • Cable machine triceps push-downs with a rope attachment 
  • Cable crossover machine chest flyes 
  • Football bar presses

#3: Play Around With Reps and Sets

The reality is that if you want to get stronger at the bench press, you have to lift heavy.

Studies suggest that the ideal rep range to build strength for bench pressing is 5-8 reps per set.

However, there are also merits to varying the number of reps and the relative percentage of your bench press 1RM that you use in different bench press workouts in your training program.

Building muscular endurance and mainly muscle mass by lowering the weight a little bit and increasing the reps to the 8 to 12 range every so often will help you build muscle, which can help increase bench press strength over time.

Bench press exercise.

#4: Find the Right Training Frequency

In addition to training the bench press muscles, you also want to find the right training frequency as part of how to improve bench press 1RM training plans.

You generally need to do more volume than you might think in order to increase your bench press weight.

This means more sets and reps of the bench press per workout and hitting the bench press in your workouts more frequently throughout the week.

Research has found that performing around 8-10 sets of chest/triceps exercises per week is the sweet spot for maximizing bench press strength.

Performing less than 4 sets per week has been associated with much fewer improvements in the bench press and even the 4 to 8 sets per week training frequency did not yield the same strength improvements as doing 8 to 12 sets of exercises for bench press muscles per week.

However, beyond 12 sets per week, the increases in bench press strength plateaued and even declined after about four months.

Your muscles need adequate time to recover, and if you are doing too much bench press volume with too much frequency, you will supersede the capacity to keep pace with repairing muscle damage after your bench pressing workouts, reducing performance over time.

This suggests that you can do too much, and the real sweet spot for bench press training frequency is right around the 8 to 12 sets per week volume.

Bench press exercise.

#5: Don’t Forget the Triceps

Although we discussed that your bench press workouts should include triceps exercises, the importance of strengthening the triceps to improve bench press cannot be understated, as the triceps are key synergists to the pecs when you perform a bench press.

Studies have found that weightlifters who perform at least three sets of triceps isolation exercises per week see a greater improvement in bench press strength over time. It sometimes takes at least six weeks to really see the payoff.

However, an improvement in bench press strength by about 8% has been demonstrated when the bench press training program includes a minimum of three sets of different triceps isolation exercises every week.

#6: Use Chains

According to research, bench pressing with chains can be a great tip for how to increase bench press 1RM.

Because the weight of the chains gets heavier the higher you press up, you can build explosive power and strength and even out the strength demand through the bench press range of motion.

Don’t use chains in every bench press workout, but relying on the training tool at least once a week is a great tip for getting stronger for bench pressing.

To get better at bench pressing, check out our ultimate upper chest workout here.

Bench press exercise.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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