When it comes to strength training, one of the most common questions is, “How often should you bench press?”
Some weightlifters are inclined to bench press every day, but is this an effective way to increase strength and build muscle, or is it bad to do the bench press every day?
In this article, we will discuss the pros and cons of bench pressing every day, the important factors to consider when determining how often you should bench press, and aim to answer the question: how often should you bench press?
We will cover the following:
- Should You Bench Press Every Day?
- Factors to Consider When Deciding How Many Days Per Week You Should Bench Press
- Is It Enough to Bench Press Once a Week?
Let’s dive in!
Should You Bench Press Every Day?
As mentioned, one of the most common questions regarding training frequency is, “How often should I bench press?”
Typically, this question stems from the goal of trying to achieve the minimum effective dose for maximal results.
In other words, we want to train bench press just enough to support hypertrophy and improvement in strength without overdoing it and risking injury or adding unnecessary training volume and training time in the gym to your busy schedule.
Some advanced weightlifters, competitive bodybuilders, and even recreational athletes who have become serious about changing their body composition or achieving greater levels of strength and building muscle rapidly take the approach of wanting to bench press every day or as often as possible in their strength training program.
While some athletes may be able to safely bench press every day with light loads, this is often not the most effective or the most efficient approach to facilitating muscle growth and strength gains.
Plus, it can lead to wasted time in the gym when you could either be doing other things in your life, focusing on recovery, or training other muscles with different lifts to support well-rounded strength.
If we look at the week as a continuum, on the lowest end, we have the option of doing the bench press once a week, and at the maximum frequency, someone might consider doing the bench press every day.
Generally speaking, beginners may do bench press workouts twice a week, while advanced strength athletes and bodybuilders may bench press upwards of four days per week.
However, in order to help you determine the optimal bench press workout frequency for your own strength training routine, let’s do a deep dive into how to determine how often you should bench press.
Factors to Consider When Deciding How Many Days Per Week You Should Bench Press
So, how do you decide how often you should bench press?
Deciding whether you should bench press every day, once a week, or somewhere in the middle is a matter of considering numerous factors regarding your training and your current fitness level.
Here are the most important factors to consider when deciding how often you should bench press:
#1: Your Primary Training Goal
The first thing to consider is your primary training goal.
Typically, when discussing primary strength training goals, people mostly consider the goals of increasing strength, building muscle or hypertrophy, improving muscular endurance, and general fitness and wellness as the Chi goals that should govern the overall architecture of your strength training program.
While these strength training goals are all important factors to consider when determining the optimal bench press frequency, it can also be helpful to dial in more specifically within each of these general goals to address the specific lifts or muscle groups you are focusing on.
Beginners and those focusing on general fitness and wellness typically aim to do total-body strength training workouts with roughly a balanced spread of exercises that target muscles in the upper body and lower body.
However, powerlifters, strength athletes, some bodybuilders, and athletes training for certain sports may focus more on specific compound exercises such as the squat, deadlift, or in this case, the bench press, or may have a more general upper vs. lower body focus to their strength training program.
This does not necessarily mean that even if the squat, deadlift, or lower-body exercises are your primary targeted lifts and muscle groups, you won’t do upper-body exercises or the bench press.
However, if you are primarily interested in improving your strength performance in lower-body exercises, you will likely train bench press fewer days per week, and someone who wants to do a bench press-focused training plan to hone in on upper-body strength.
#2: Your Skill Level
The bench press should be considered as much of a skill as it is a strength exercise. There is a lot of technique, coordination, and precision that needs to go into perfecting your bench press execution.
As such, particularly if you are a beginner or relatively new to powerlifting or advanced weightlifting, training bench press once a week may not be sufficient to really progress your bench press performance effectively.
Much in the same way that learning to swing a golf club properly or do the high jump is a skill that requires plenty of practice, the bench press also deserves time, repetition, and practice to fully master the proper bench press technique.
Once you have been strength training for at least a year or two and have had many bench press workouts under your belt, it is certainly possible to drop down your bench press frequency to one or two days per week if your true focus and training goals lie elsewhere in different lifts and muscle groups.
However, if you are a beginner, training bench press more frequently will help develop the neuromuscular patterns and coordination necessary to reach proficiency and eventual mastery of the bench press.
Doing just one bench press workout per week may not provide enough opportunity to practice nor enough stimulus to your neuromuscular system to master the technical proficiency you need for the proper execution of this strength exercise.
#3: Workout Intensity
Another factor to consider when trying to determine how often you should bench press per week is the intensity of your bench press workouts.
Muscles need adequate time to recover after weightlifting workouts.
If you are lifting maximal, near-maximal, or heavy weights to increase strength (85-100% of your bench press 1RM), your muscles need up to 72 hours between bench press workouts to repair and recover.
Thus, when doing heavy bench press sets to increase strength, you should not exceed 2 to 3 press workouts per week.
Hypertrophy-based workouts that use between 65 and 85% of your 1RM typically require 48 hours of rest between workouts for the muscles to recover.
This means that you can theoretically bench press record 3-4 times per week, depending on the days per week that you train.
On the other hand, if you are training for muscle endurance, using low weights and high reps (no more than 65% of your 1RM), your muscles may need only 24 hours of recovery between workouts, potentially permitting you to bench press every day.
However, even with light weights, bench pressing every day still might not be ideal based on your training goals, training level, and other workouts.
#4: Exercises You Perform
Several exercises target the same muscles as the bench press, such as the dumbbell chest press, cable press, and push-up.
Therefore, if you perform these exercises in your strength training routine, you will not need to bench press as often.
Is It Enough to Bench Press Once a Week?
In terms of increasing strength, the bench press is somewhat unique relative to lower-body exercises like a squat and deadlift in that it is often ideal to train bench press more frequently if your goal is hypertrophy and increased strength.
Evidence suggests that bench pressing once a week will not result in the gains from bench pressing three times per week.
Similarly, bench pressing twice a week will not elicit as much of an improvement as you may potentially get from squatting or deadlifting twice a week, and bench pressing three times a week resulted in greater gains.
It is not entirely clear why this is the case, but the smaller upper body muscle groups may need a more frequent training stimulus to really hit that “minimum effective dose” referenced for optimizing gains in mass and strength.
With that said, if you only want to perform barbell bench press once a week, you can supplement and vary your resistance training program by doing dumbbell chest press to work the same muscle groups with a similar movement pattern while providing your muscles with a different training stimulus.
For more ideas about chest workouts, check out our guide to chest-strengthening workouts here.