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Workout Routines That Increase Your Max Bench Press

author image Heather Hitchcock
Heather Hitchcock has been writing professionally since 2010. She has contributed material through various online publications. Hitchcock has worked as a personal trainer and a health screening specialist. She graduated from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science.
Workout Routines That Increase Your Max Bench Press
Strengthening the rotator cuff muscles can improve your bench press. Photo Credit Martin Barraud/OJO Images/Getty Images

Many weightlifters at some point hit a plateau in their bench press. It seems no matter how much they try, their bench press max will not increase. Many possible factors may account for why your bench press max will not improve, including technique, over-training, weak shoulders or weak triceps muscles. By making a few changes in your workout routine, you can increase your max bench press.

Max-Effort Bench

Devoting one day a week to maximum-effort training is one of the best methods to develop maximal strength, according to personal trainer and powerlifter Dave Tate. Maximum-effort training involves completing one to three repetitions at 90 to 100 percent of your one repetition maximum. Once a week, start your max-effort bench press routine by warming up for 10 reps at 50 percent of your current 1RM. For set two, increase your weight to 70-percent 1RM and perform six reps. Set three, increase weight to 80-percent 1RM and perform four reps. Set four, increase weight to 90-percent 1RM and perform two reps. Set five, increase weight to 100-percent 1RM and perform one rep. Rest two to three minutes between sets and increase 1RM weight by 5 lbs. each week.

Partial Reps

Include partial reps into your workout routine to help get past your sticking points. Sticking points usually occur at either the bottom or midpoint of the bench press. Doing partial reps at 50 percent of your current 1RM for 15 to 20 reps can help strengthen your weak area. If you are getting stuck at the bottom half, perform your reps from the midpoint to the bottom of the movement. If you are getting stuck at the midpoint or higher, perform reps from the top of the movement to the midpoint. Perform one to two sets of each type of partial reps following heavy bench press for best results.

Grip Position

Changing grip width and arm position can help to improve your max bench press. Because people have different body sizes, limb lengths and strong points, the ideal grip width and arm position can vary greatly from one individual to the next, according to personal trainer and fitness coach, Tom Venuto. On a light chest day or following a heavy bench press, alter your grip width slightly for either a closer or wider hand placement on the bar, then perform one to two sets of 12 to 15 reps at 50 percent of your current 1RM. For best results, alternate hand placement each week.


Weak shoulders and triceps are common reasons why bench press plateaus occur. Regularly including shoulder-strengthening exercises, especially those targeting the rotator cuff, and heavy triceps exercises such as close-grip bench press will help improve your 1RM. Technique also plays a significant role in your bench press. Ensure that your shoulder blades are squeezed together, your lats are spread out and your feet are flat on the floor when performing the bench press. Additionally, it is critical to use an experienced spotter when performing any heavy lifts.

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