Add 50lbs to Your Bench Press



Struggling to get past a plateau on your bench? Still pressing only 135 lbs for your 1-rep max?

Then pull up a seat (or bench!) and pay attention as we’ve got a few to help you instantly add 50 pounds to your bench press!

Now, before we get rolling, it’s important to mention the pointers given here are in regards to improving your bench press for powerlifting -- not bodybuilding! The two have drastically different set ups and significantly different goals.

Powerlifting vs Bodybuilding Benching

The goal of a powerlifter is to lift the maximum amount of weight, and the benching set up uses mechanical advantage of leverage to further increase the amount of weight you can lift with each rep. However, the goal of a bodybuilder is build and sculpt muscle. They’re not concerned with 1 rep maxes or anything like that. The want the most bang for their buck from a given weight, and try to make the movement as inefficient as possible to make the muscles work harder, inducing greater muscle breakdown, which translates to better growth.

To put it another way, powerlifters are trying to lift the maximum amount of weight in the most efficient (easiest) manner possible, while bodybuilders are trying to “get the most gains from the least amount of weight” by making the movement as inefficient as possible.

Now that you’re clear on the goal of this piece, grab a pen and notebook as we’ve got some tips on how to make your benching more efficient and moving more weight!

Upper Body Position

We’re starting from the top and working our way to the bottom. Setting up on the bench, arch your upper back so you’re “stacking the shoulders.” To accomplish this, imagine you’re pinching a pencil between your shoulder blades, and don’t let it move the entire time you’re benching. This sets the lats, rhomboids, rear delts, and scapula.

Keep your head on the bench, and make sure to keep a little curve in the lower back if you are “stacking” everything properly.

When you take the weight off the rack, the weight should settle into your lats. So, squeeze your lats and image packing them down to your hips.

That’s it for the upper body, now let’s address the lower body.

Lower Body Position

Many people think the Bench Press is purely an upper body movement, but in reality, it’s a total body movement. In line with this, we want to create sufficient leg drive from our lower half to help power the barbell up.

Most people have their feet way out in front of them, which robs your body of any leg drive whatsoever. So first, pull your feet back towards your head -- if you’re flexible this will be easy, if you have tight hips, try doing some stretching, foam rolling, or mobility work prior to benching to loosen things up a bit.

Once you have your feet pulled back, point your heels directly perpendicular to the barbell to create maximum leg drive. This means toes are straight forward, not turned in or out!

Bring your feet back, shimmy them into place, screw your feet into the floor, and remember to drive through your heels, NOT the ball of your feet!

Bar Placement & Movement

Begin by taking hold of the bar and bringing it out over your chest to approximately where the bottom of your sternum is, definitely below the nipples. Ladies, this is where the bottom of your sports bra would be.

Remember we’re trying to create maximum mechanical advantage with minimal distance the bar actually travels. Due to this, some powerlifters have a very pronounced arch in their back, while others have a less pronounced one.

Anyway, take hold of the bar, keep shoulders locked down, shoulder blades pinched back, and bring the bar over your chest. Then proceed to “row” the bar down to your sternum moving along a straight path. Remember we’re aiming for efficiency of movement here. To do that, you need to move the bar across the shortest distance possible (i.e. a straight vertical line.).

Don’t start with the bar over your face, then pull it down to your sternum, and back up over your face. That’s a much longer bar path, incredibly inefficient for your purposes here, and will ultimately hinder your benching strength.

You’ll want your wrists straight and elbows underneath and inline with the bar when you lower the barbell and when you press it up. This creates a solid line of force production for maximum power output. If your wrists are bent or elbows out of line with the bar, you’re creating inefficiencies in your bench press, and therefore “leaking energy” which robs you of your pressing power.

Remember, keep arms in a straight line (90 degrees) to the bar when pressing the weight for best results!

Grip Width

How wide you grip the bar isn’t a one size fits all case. It’s highly individualistic and affected by the length of your arms (humerus, radius, ulna, etc.). So, it’ll take some experimenting to figure out exactly where your hands should be on the bar so everything stays in a straight, 90° line when benching. Play with a few different grips, even if you’re normally a close-grip bencher, to find out where is the best hand placement to keep your elbows directly underneath the bar while benching. (Hint hint: It’s probably wider than you think!)

Time to Bench!

That’s it! Those are the key points you need to remember each and every time you approach the bench press. You can even take the very notebook you just wrote these tips down on with you, and read over them during your rest periods between bench sets to keep them constantly in your mind.

Remember, shoulders stacked, head on the bench, arch in the lower back, drive through the heels, straight / vertical bar path.

These are the secrets to successfully increasing your bench press by 50 pounds (or more)!

Now, it’s time to execute the movement! Practice, practice, practice. You get better at the things you do often, so if you’re wanting to seriously up your bench press and dominate your next powerlifting meet, then you better spend a good deal of time under the bar!