How to Improve Your Bench Press

Written by the Boostcamp staff
Aug 20,2023 | 10 min read 4647

Skyrocket chest gains with an improved bench press

When it comes to the big three compound movements, the favorite of many people is the barbell bench press. Sure, the barbell squat and the deadlift are fun movements as well, but to a lot of avid gym goers, bodybuilders, and powerlifters alike all love to hit some heavy weight on the bench press. It is a true test of strength, letting the weight hit your sternum and pushing it back up off of you. The one problem is, it is not always the easiest lift to improve your strength on, so how do you do it? 

Let’s dive in.

What is the Bench Press? 

The barbell bench press is an exercise that has been used by bodybuilders, strength athletes, and regular gym goers for many years. The barbell bench press is also one of the big lifts that athletes are to perform in a powerlifting meet, with the other two being the barbell squat and the deadlift. The bench press is an exercise that is often used in hypertrophy and strength training programs, as it is great to build the muscle mass in the chest and improve your strength output.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the barbell bench.

Pros of the Barbell Bench Press

  • Increased upper body strength

  • Stimulates pectoral growth 

  • Stronger bones

Cons of the Barbell Bench Press

  • Higher risk of injury compared to alternative chest exercises such as machines or dumbbell presses

  • Limited range of motion and a set bar path

Muscles Worked With the Barbell Bench Press

Now when it comes to the muscles that are worked during the barbell bench press, it is not only the pectoral muscles! The barbell bench press is a compound movement, meaning it recruits multiple muscles and joints to be completed, whereas an isolation exercise would only target one muscle group. So, what muscles are recruited during the barbell bench press?

Because it is a pressing exercise, the shoulders are utilized during the movement, mainly the front deltoids. This is why sometimes you will see lifting programs grouped in chest and shoulder movements on the same day.

Aside from the shoulders, the triceps are also heavily used during the bench press, as it is a pressing movement. Many bodybuilding and hypertrophy programs incorporate a “push day” which will group chest, shoulders, and triceps together on the same day. 

Ways to Improve Your Barbell Bench Press

Image courtesy of Instagram (attack_the_weakness)

Now that everything has been laid out, let’s take a look at the ways to improve your barbell bench press. 

Strengthen Secondary Muscles

As stated above, the bench press is a compound movement and in order to improve it, you should look at strengthening all of the muscles involved. For one, strengthening your shoulders will help improve your barbell bench press. Movements such as front raises and presses will transfer over to improving your bench press, as they strengthen the front deltoids which are heavily recruited while bench pressing. 

Aside from that, strengthening your triceps is great for improving your bench press. It can help to overload the triceps with movements that will simulate the bench press. One exercise that is great for really packing on strength and size in the triceps is the close grip bench press, which is just like the barbell bench press but the hand placement is closer together, so it almost entirely removes the pectoral activation. Another exercise to add strength and size in the triceps is skull crushers, dumbbell or barbell. 

Isolating the triceps will also help to strengthen the elbow joints, which are strained during the bench press.

Improve your Diet and Supplement Routine

Many people underestimate the power and importance of getting proper nutrition and its effects on improving your strength. Sure, junk food and sweets are great on the taste buds, but in reality they do not do much for your gains. If you want to improve your bench press, focusing on getting in the proper nutrients to help your muscles grow and recover is key. Diet is one way to make sure you are hitting your macros, but supplementation is also important to getting in the nutrients that a diet cannot get you.

Some supplements are also specifically designed to help improve strength and add muscle mass. Here is a list of supplements that can help improve your bench press: 

  • Creatine helps inflate the muscle and improve ATP production to get an extra rep or two in. For example, if you bench press 225lbs for 3 reps, once you start taking creatine you may be able to get it for 4 or 5 reps. 

  • Protein powder helps to maintain proper protein intake, which is the most important macronutrient for building muscle.

  • Pre-workout helps with muscle pumps and energy for the gym.

Sleep and Recovery

Some other things that are heavily neglected, but have a massive impact on your strength and muscle are the sleep and recovery protocols. For example, if you bench pressed on Monday, you do not want to do it again on Tuesday or even Wednesday, as the muscles need time to properly recover and repair, and in order for that to happen you need to be conscious of what you eat and how you sleep between sessions. Yes, you need to watch how you sleep.

Sleep helps generate testosterone and human growth hormone in the body, which are two of the most important hormones for building muscle mass. So be sure to get that much needed shut eye!

Follow a Program

One of the most surefire ways of improving your bench press is by following a program. A well written lifting program will help you incorporate things like progressive overload as well as deload weeks, track your progress, and overall hold you accountable for what you do in the gym. 

One place to find over 50 great, free training programs, or create your own custom workout routines is the Boostcamp App. You are also able to track your progress.


Improving Your Bench Press Wrap Up

Overall, the bench press is a true testament to your strength, and a great way to pack on size. As one of the big three compound lifts, it is always nice to work on improving it. There are plenty of ways to improve your bench press, do you agree with our methods? 

Check out the Boostcamp App for some great programs. Also, be sure to follow Boostcamp on Instagram and subscribe on YouTube!

*header image courtesy of Wikipedia