Hitting a plateau and struggling to set a personal record on the bench press is something that all regular lifters will experience at some point during their training careers. In this article, I will discuss 5 strategies you can use to shoot past your bench press plateau.
Tip #1: Increase Bench Press Volume
The easiest way to break out of a bench press plateau is to start benching more regularly with some extra volume. Avoid maxing out for a few months and instead try to hit rep records by performing 3-4 sets of 6 to 10 reps twice per week on the bench.
For example, if your max is 300 pounds, try starting a workout by warming up to 240 pounds and hitting as many reps as possible on one set. Right after that, drop down to 195 pounds and knock out a few sets of 10 reps. Sometimes a break from heavy benching is all you need to break a bench press plateau.
Tip #2: Hit Your Weak Points After Benching
As described in the bench press exercises article, try adding in some bench variations based on where you fail when attempting a max bench press. If you fail near your chest when maxing out, try some pin presses. If you fail near lockout, try board or floor pressing.
Tip #3: Eat more!
Although I am sure you have heard this many times before, adding in more calories along with intelligent training is a sure-fire way to increase your bench press. If your bench press is stagnant, add in an extra 300 calories a day along with tips #1 and #2 and you should see your bench start to rise within a few weeks! Extra calories are the easiest way to move past a bench press plateau.
You can get an easy 300 muscle-building calories by consuming a scoop of whey protein and two spoonfuls of peanut butter. Chocolate protein goes great with peanut butter – you can mix the powder and peanut butter in a bowl with a little bit of water to make “protein pudding”. This tastes great and is really easy to make!
Tip #4: Improve Overhead Pressing Strength
While this tip is not as fast acting as the previous bench press plateau breakers, it is still a very effective way to increase your bench press in the long run. I have found that most lifter’s bench press increases by one pound for every pound they add to their standing barbell overhead (military) press.
Hitting this lift hard and improving shoulder strength has a lot of carryover to bench pressing.
Tip #5: Train the Medial Head of the Triceps
The medial head of the triceps is a key muscle used during the bench press. It is also typically neglected during many traditional triceps movements. As a result, throwing in some extra work for this muscle group can significantly improve stagnant pressing strength.
Some good exercises for this group include any sort of short-range bench press, such as a bench press lockout. You can perform this exercise by setting up a bench in the squat rack and placing the bar on the safety pins so the bar is just a few inches from lockout. You should load the bar up with a lot of weight for best results (more than you can max bench).
Another good exercise for the medial head of the triceps is the triceps pushdown. When performing this movement to boost your bench press, you should be sure to use somewhat sloppy form, use a lot of weight, and keep the bar very close to your body at all times. This may seem a little strange, but this hits the medial head of the triceps hard.
A more traditional triceps pushdown with strict form and pushing the bar away from you to lock out emphasizes the lateral head of the triceps. This is a good bodybuilding exercise as it helps develop the lateral head of the triceps, contributing to the ideal horseshoe triceps shape. However, it does little for the bench press.
By employing these 5 strategies, you will be able to break past your old bench press plateau in no time at all!