There are many great bench press programs if you are wondering how to increase your bench press.
Whether you are trying to build upper body muscle mass, or just look really cool at the gym, a strong barbell bench press is one of the absolute best ways to make this happen.
My experience and knowledge about bench pressing comes from the fact that at 6’ 10” and having about a 7’ wingspan I was able to bench press a maximum of 365lbs earlier in my lifting career.
For some, this might not be too impressive, but while also playing college basketball at the time and clearly focusing on speed and basketball skill I thought this was a pretty impressive accomplishment!
Two things which I learned during my crusade through bench press prominence is that there is not one single program which will get you to your goals but it is a combination of different methods, and also that building your bench press can also be a crucial part of any fat burning program since the movement itself works so many muscles!
Best Bench Press Programs
My bench press was built through a combination of numerous different methods, so I will outline those for you.
The exact program I used is a little bit incoherent since I generally go more off of “feel” than an actual program.
Anyone who I talk to about training knows that my method for building a body is far more reliant on understanding yourself, and understanding the effect that training should have; rather than just giving a person a certain amount of sets, reps, and exercises to do.
Anybody can sell you a workout program, but not everyone can teach you how to learn about yourself.
I strongly believe that all physical goals are possible and personally subscribe to the theory of “Endless Human Potential.” If I can bench press 365lbs with my unusually poor physics for pressing, I know a whole lot more people could be pressing over 500lbs easily!
5×5 Bench Press Program
When I began lifting around 15 years old I started with the basic 3 sets of 10. After this, I discovered the “pyramid” technique of lifting; 10-8-6-4-6-8-10.
Both of these didn’t do much for me, and rightfully so. Those were extremely beginner programs and training styles.
You can make progress as a novice with these bench press programs, but after this, you need something substantial.
The first real bench press program that followed was the 5×5 approach. Still basic, but it works.
I actually made strong progress lifting this way since it was so easy to follow and stay on track. Any program which you are consistent with will work to a certain extent, and the 5×5 training method proves this.
If you’d liked to have a customized version of the 5×5 program and a digital way to track your progress with this program, check out:
3×5 and 5×3 Bench Press Programs
After using the 5×5 method for a while and managing to bench press nearly 300lbs, I began to feel that the programming was getting a bit stale to me. I wasn’t gaining as much size or definition as I used to, and my numbers were slowing down. This is when I decided to play around with my methods a bit.
One thing which seemed to help me quite a bit was something close to a traditional 5-3-1 program, but with a little twist.
I would start with a weight I could move for 5 sets of 3 reps. Then, move this to 3 sets of 5 reps. Followed by again going for 5 sets of 5 reps.
I’ve used this for back squats as well and had just the same results.
If you have used 5×5 for a while and want a change, I suggest you try this out!
You can really attack the weights heavily in this workout program because if you have been training correctly your body will learn to adapt as you want it, and you can push yourself more and more.
This program is great for people with a high level of motivation, as you can pick and choose the weight which you want to push forward at your own pace well!
10×3 Bench Press Protocol
This is probably my favorite program to increase my bench press and it is the reason I was able to push my bench press over 350lbs, and also where I discovered that bench pressing can really boost your metabolism and help you burn fat!
Start with a weight that you can easily get for 6-7 reps because you want to give yourself room for growth over a period of about a month.
It’s simple, 10 sets of 3 reps. Keep rest times to around a minute and a half.
Don’t rush the rest, but also don’t rest too long.
The beautiful part of this program to increase your bench press is that your body actually adapts and the weights become easier to move towards the later sets.
I don’t totally understand this and I don’t think there is an actual scientific reasoning, but I have proven it to myself both on perceived exertion as well as heart rate monitors. It literally becomes easier as you go on.
Also, 30 reps also are a lot of pressing for a heavy weight! Many traditional strength programs have you only performing 10 or less maximal working sets, and here you perform 30!
I suggest add 5 total pounds to the bar each workout, and work up slowly.
The cumulative effect of moving a heavier weight for that many reps will ultimately boost your 1 rep max far more than you could ever believe!
Reverse Pyramid Training
As the name suggests, reverse pyramid training is the “reverse” of pyramid training. Pyramid Training is a standard weightlifting training system that starts with lighter weights and higher reps and then progresses to heavier weights and lower reps. For example, a standard pyramid bench press program day would look like this:
- Set 1: 10-12 Reps @ 60% 1RM (1 Rep Max)
- Set 2: 7-9 Reps @ 70% 1RM
- Set 3: 5-6 Reps @ 80% 1RM
- Set 4: 3-4 Reps @ 85% 1RM
This is a simple form of traditional pyramid training.
Reverse pyramid training, on the other hand, would be the opposite. Unlike traditional pyramid training programs, you won’t do a very low rep set. However, you’ll probably start at 5-6 reps.
Additionally, you will begin your training program with your “heaviest” set and then work up to the lightest set.
- Set 1: 5-6 Reps @ 85% 1RM
- Set 2: 7-9 Reps @ 80% 1RM
- Set 3: 10-12 Reps @ 70% 1RM
- Set 4: 12-15 Reps @ 60% 1RM
As you can see, another advantage of the RPT training program is that you should also be able to use a bit higher % of your 1RM per set because you do not need to “save” energy for the end.
This is a simple explanation of the reverse pyramid training program, which is all it needs because it is a simple program! By performing your heavy set first, you shift your body into a temporary state of heightened muscle fiber activation. This means that all of the lighter sets you do afterward will promote more muscle growth than if you did them beforehand.
This is a great program to increase your bench press to use for 6-8 weeks at a time.
The Bench 300 Program
The Bench 300 bench press program is a program to increase your bench press that you can only get access to by subscribing to BodyFit by Bodybuilding.com.
This bench press program is designed to do one thing: move you from 225lbs for a few reps to bench pressing 300lbs.
In this program to increase your bench press, each weight for each rep is laid out for you so there is no guessing or math involved! It is a 12 week program that will help you bench press more weight!
8×8 – The Honest Workout
Known as the “Iron Guru”, Vincent Anselmo Gironda was a popular professional bodybuilder and also the owner of “Vince’s Gym.”
Gironda referred to training density as training intensity, and he is of the view that a bodybuilder should strive to increase the amount of work done in a given amount of time. Gironda believed that you can decrease your rest intervals while maintaining a constant increase in your training density.
This is reflected in the training style of Gironda’s pupils who took rest within a time in a range of 10 to 15 seconds between sets. Crossfit is a prime example of this theory.
The 8×8 system was always one of his favorite workouts, as it emphasizes exercising with several sets and reps; creating a shorter but much more effective workout overall.
With most of his workouts lasting for an hour or less, Gironda trained that way to give the muscle groups time to recover from hard training sessions.
The 8×8 strategy has worked incredibly well when attempting to increase my overall bench press, as it focuses both on power and strength, as well as reducing body fat. This method involves doing 8 sets of 8 reps with about 30 seconds of rest to start with. I promise you, it works!
Start with a weight that you feel will be even too light for you.
Work your way up by increments of 5-10lbs total per workout.
When you find a way that you are proud of accomplishing, try shortening the rest time!
The last type of workout I will shortly comment on is the German Volume Training or 10×10 method. I have written about this before so I won’t go into too much detail, but it is another amazing high volume bench press program to help increase your bench press.
If you want to do German Volume Training to increase your bench press, I don’t suggest that you do this for more than 4 weeks. German Volume Training is much better for increasing muscle mass than improving strength, but it can be a nice shock to your body if you are constantly doing low-rep bench press programs.
If you’d like to follow along with a customized German Volume Training plan, check out:
Accessory Exercises to Increase Your Bench Press
Outside of the sets and reps in my favorite bench press programs, there are other ways you can improve your bench press. In fact, there are tons of assistance exercises that can dramatically increase your bench press as well.
Check out these additional tips for improving your bench press!
Early on in my training, I made this mistake, so I won’t let you! Strengthen your rear delts, and it does not take too much more than a consistent approach to doing face pulls. They are truly a miracle exercise for people who bench press a lot.
One of my biggest limiting factors early in my lifting career was imbalances in my body, generally caused by a poor understanding of the body. As I got older, I became wiser. Start every upper body day off with face pulls as a warm-up and you will feel the difference quickly, I promise!
Face pulls will improve the health of your shoulders, as well as their ability to move weight!
Take this from someone who has beaten shoulders from years of basketball but can still easily bench over 315lbs with almost no bench press training anymore, face pulls will save your shoulders!
Check out this video of me performing kneeling face pulls:
Dumbbell Floor Press
If you are doing a lot of barbell bench pressing, you should also maintain your shoulder health with the dumbbell floor press. The dumbbell floor press is a great exercise for building balanced and stable shoulders, and it is also a tricep killer.
It is the perfect accessory exercise to any barbell bench press program.
Concluding Thoughts – Picking the Best Bench Press Program for Yourself
I am here to tell you today that if you want to bench press 3 plats, 4 plates, 5 plates, whatever it is, YOU CAN!
Personally, I believe in higher volume training than most people. Not just high volume and light weights. But a high volume of heavy weights. I used to have days where I would bench press twice per day at different times, and still make strength gains. Strength does not come from rest days; it just does not!
Neither does muscle mass; it just does not!
My body is not made for bench pressing, but I was able to bench press 365lbs due to the fact that I was motivated to improve my bench press, and that I understood the value of different forms of training.
Along with this, I am also here to tell you that building your bench press can be very effective for burning fat off of your body!
10×10, 8×8, and 10×3 are all amazing strategies for burning fat, whether it is by using the bench press or basically along with any other movement. Use these tips and go build your best body, today!
Learn More: The Best Dumbbell Chest Exercises