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How Much Can I Increase My Bench Press Each Month?

by
author image Martin Booe
Martin Booe writes about health, wellness and the blues. His byline has appeared in the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and Bon Appetit. He lives in Los Angeles.
How Much Can I Increase My Bench Press Each Month?
Newcomers to fitness may reap large benefits more quickly than old hands. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

If you're wondering how much and how fast you can jack up the amount of weight you can bench press, you might find it helpful to ask yourself a couple of questions. First up is, what's your fitness goal? If it's to add muscle mass, then you want to approach this methodically. Next is, just what are you trying to prove?

While increasing your load at a steady rate can be both a sign of progress and a method of achieving it, it's more important to look at the bigger picture. Being in too big of a hurry can lead to injuries or burnout, both of which can be set-backs. Think of the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race!

Read More: Muscles Used in the Bench Press

Welcome to Muscle Beach

That said, much depends where you are in this journey to Muscle Beach. The newer you are to weight-lifting, the faster you're likely to be able to pile it on, initially making rapid advances in the first months.

The neuro-muscular system in one of the body's most adaptive systems, and can increase its strength by 25 to 100 percent in three to six months, according to Jack H. Wilmore and David L. Costill, authors of Physiology of Sport and Exercise. However, it's worth noting that much of the progress may occur merely by improving technique and skill in producing force.

A beginner starting at a meager 50 pounds might easily double that in the first month, while a more seasoned trainer might have to fight to increase by 10 to 15 pounds in a month. That's because of the overload principle, which holds that in order to effect physical change, an exercise must be done at a greater intensity than what the body is used to handling. When you're just starting, it doesn't take much in the way of extra stimulus to create new muscle fiber.

Sooner or later, everyone hits a plateau in their ability to lift more weight.
Sooner or later, everyone hits a plateau in their ability to lift more weight. Photo Credit: Antonio_Diaz/iStock/Getty Images

Hitting a Plateau

The body is smart. Sooner or later it figures out what course of development you're trying to get it to take. Then, like a sullen trail pony, it seems to just stop in its tracks and refuse to go a step further, no matter how hard you kick in the spurs.

That's why the biggest challenge most people face after they've taken up fitness is the proverbial plateau. Resistance training increases strength, adds muscles mass and improves bone density. This is something you want to get right and killing yourself trying to peak out isn't getting it right.

Bench Press Maximus

Serious weight trainers work from a percentage of what's called their 1RM, which is the maximum amount of weight you can lift for one rep. They lift a percentage of that weight for a number of reps that's based on their goals. For example, a hard core muscle trainer might do three to five sets of only three reps of 90 percent of their 1RM.

However, this is not necessarily something you should try on your own because you can seriously mess yourself up. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing one more more sets of eight to 12 reps of a weight that has you struggling by the last couple of reps. That's definitely conservative, but you get the idea. Once you get your game going, you can use the American Council on Exercise rep table to chart out a course from there.

Read More: How to Get Started with Weightlifting

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