Muscle for life

11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press

11 Scientifically Proven Ways to Increase Your Bench Press

If you follow these 11 scientifically proven tips, you can quickly increase your Bench Press strength and prevent injury.


Like it or not, the Bench Press is one of the primary lifts on which your strength is judged. Nothing turns heads faster in the gym than an impressive Bench Press, and it’s the first (and often only) lift people want to know your numbers on.

There’s a good reason for this beyond ego, though.

The Bench Press is one of the best upper body exercises you can do because, when performed properly, it trains not just the pectorals but the lats, shoulders, triceps, and even the legs (through a proper leg drive, as discussed later in this article).

Every chest workout or push workout should include at least a few sets of the Bench Press.

That said, like the other big compound lifts (Deadlift, Squat, and Military Press), the Bench Press is actually quite technical. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’ll quickly hit a plateau, which is not only frustrating, but can set you up for injury as you try to break through it by compromising form.

So, in this article, we’re going to look at 11 safe, scientifically proven ways to increase your bench press and, in some cases, also reduce the risk of injury.

Tip #1 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Pump Yourself Up

how to increase bench press max

If you an experienced weightlifter, you know the importance of being mentally prepared for heavy lifts. You can psych yourself out or up and hit or miss a lift accordingly.

You’ve undoubtedly seen powerlifters go through what sometimes looks like a ridiculous, satanic ritual before attempting a lift, but did you know that pumping yourself up like that has been scientifically proven to work?

A study conducted by researchers at AUT University with elite rugby players found that when they pumped themselves up for a Bench Press set, force production increased by 8%.

Researchers also found that distraction significantly decreased force production–there was a 12% difference in force production between the pumped-up and distracted lifters.

The takeaway here is pump yourself up your for heavy lifts and concentrate on each rep as your perform it–no talking, being talked to, or mental wandering.

I don’t stomp around the gym like a madman to get pumped up. I find that the right workout songs helps dramatically for getting pumped up.

Also, before I grab the bar, I like to take 10 to 15 seconds to focus on the lift I’m about to perform and visualize myself performing it successfully.

I know that sounds kind of silly but research shows that visualizing a successful lift before performing it can increase strength.

Tip #2 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Mix Up Your Rep Range

The subject of “ideal” rep ranges is complex, so I won’t dive into it in this article. (I do talk a bit about it on my article on hypertrophy, though.)

Instead, I’ll keep this short and sweet:

  • If you’re new to weightlifting (you’ve been lifting for less than a year), this tip doesn’t apply to you. You should stick to the advice give in my article on the ultimate chest workout.
  • If you’re an experienced weightlifter, however, you can benefit from working in different rep ranges, or periodizing your training, as it’s known.

I will be discussing periodization in more detail in my next book, and will be sharing a full periodized program for advanced lifters, but here’s a periodized chest workout that you can use to help increase your bench press:

Incline Bench Press: Warm up and 2 sets of 2 to 3 reps (~90% of 1RM)

Incline Bench Press: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps (~80% of 1 RM)

Flat Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps

Flat Bench Press: 2 sets of 8 to 10 reps (~70% of 1RM)

The 2 to 3 rep work provides maximal overload, which is crucial to building muscle and strength; the 4 to 6 rep work is the “sweet spot” for myofibrillar muscle growth; and the focus of the 8 to 10 rep sets is cellular fatigue, which also stimulates muscle growth.

Tip #3 to Increase Your Bench Press:










Lift Explosively

how to increase bench press workout

While many people believe that slowing the weight down improves performance, research says otherwise.

This study demonstrated that, when bench pressing, lowering the bar quickly (1 second) and, without pause, then exploding it upward results in greater power gains than a slow descent followed by a pause and explosive ascent.

That said, don’t bounce the bar off your chest at the bottom of the rep. This isn’t only cheating, it can hurt quite a bit as the weights get heavier.

Don’t simply “drop” the weight toward your body, either–you want to feel as if you are pulling the bar toward your chest, which is something we’ll be talking more about soon.

Tip #4 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Give the Bench Press Priority in Your Workout

You might be surprised how many guys write me concerned about their Bench Press being stuck, but who are performing as the last exercise in their workouts.

They usually start with dumbbell work, then maybe move on to Dips, and finally come around to the Bench Press for their final few sets.

Well, studies such as this and this have shown that the order in which you do your exercises has a significant impact on your strength and overall performance capacity on each.

This is why my Bigger Leaner Stronger and Thinner Leaner Stronger workouts always begin with big, compound lifts like the Bench Press, Deadlift, Military Press, and Squat, and then move on to more isolation-type exercises like Dips, Dumbbell Rows, Side Lateral Raises, and Lunges.

Start your chest workouts with the Bench Press and you’ll be most likely to make progress.

Tip #5 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Make Sure You’re Not Under- or Over-Training

how to increase bench press quickly

Like “ideal” rep ranges, optimal training frequency is a hotly debated subject. The bottom line is it boils down to workout intensity and volume.

The lighter the weights and fewer the sets per workout, the more often you can train the muscle group. And, as a corollary, the heavier the weights and greater the sets per workout, the less often you can train the muscle group.

I’ve tried many different splits and frequency schemes, and what I’ve found works best is in line with an extensive review on the subject conducted by researchers at Goteborg University:

When training with the proper intensity (focusing on lifting heavy weights), optimal frequency seems to be about 40 – 60 reps performed every 5 – 7 days.

While training each muscle group 2 to 3 times per week is trendy right now, and while it’s workable (if volume is programmed correctly), it’s not necessarily more effective than training each muscle group once per 5 to 7 days, at the right volume.

The bottom line is when it comes to muscle and strength gains, research shows that proper workout volume appears to be more important than frequency.

If you do less than the optimal volume, as given above, you will be leaving some gains on the table. If you do more, you’ll probably end up overtraining.

Want a workout program and flexible diet plan that will help you build muscle and lose fat? Download my free no-BS “crash course” now and learn exactly how to build the body of your dreams.

Tip #6 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Work On Your “Upper Chest”

Yes, there is a part of the “chest muscle” that forms what we call the “upper chest.” It’s known as the clavicular pectoralis. Here’s what it looks like:


An underdeveloped upper chest not only looks bad, it compromises your overall Bench Press performance.

Avoid this by always including incline pressing in your chest workouts, which has been proven to be particularly effective for building all of the muscles involved in the flat Bench Press.

Tip #7 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Vary Your Grip Width









Powerlifters have been using different grip widths for many years and studies back this up as an effective method for increasing bench press strength.

Research has shown that a wide grip (several inches wider than shoulder-width) emphasizes the larger, prime mover muscles (the pectorals), whereas a narrow grip (right at shoulder-width, or slightly narrower) emphasizes the smaller muscles involved, such as the arms and shoulders.

By varying your grip widths, you’re able to focus on each of these muscle groups and strengthen each, which can help you break through sticking points.

A good way to do this is to include 1 to 2 wide-grip sets in your chest workouts, and close-grip sets in your arms workouts.

Tip #8 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Keep Your Elbows Tucked and Protect Your Shoulders

how to increase bench press by 100 lbs

The Bench Press gets a bad rap for ruining shoulders, but that’s not the whole story. It’s bad for the shoulders when performed incorrectly, and the biggest mistake people make is flaring their elbows out as they ascend.

Research has shown that keeping your arms at about a 45-degree angle relative to your torso, and using a medium grip, is the best way to protect your shoulders.

(And don’t worry, including some wider- and narrower-grip work isn’t going to get you hurt. Just ensure the majority of your bench pressing is done with a normal, slightly wider than shoulder width grip.)

Tip #9 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Stay Off the Smith Machine

It’s been proven time and time again: if you want to get strong on the Bench Press (and Squat), stay off the Smith machine.

The reason why is simple: the Smith machine simply activates less muscle fibers than the free weight Bench Press.

If your gym doesn’t have a free weight Bench Press station, change gyms. If you can’t, then you can begrudgingly use the Smith machine (it’s better than no bench pressing at all).

Tip #10 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Try to Pull the Bar Apart

This is another old-school powerlifting tip that has been scientifically validated.

The idea is simple: as you descend, pull the shoulder blades together and try to actually bend the bar in half or “pull it apart,” and maintain this position and tension as you ascend.

You should feel like you’re pulling the bar down toward your chest, and doing this not only increases shoulder stability, it also accounts for a fair portion of the upward force.

This, by the way, helps explain why you can’t dumbbell press as much weight as you can bench press. More stabilization is required with dumbbells, but more importantly, you can’t generate this lateral force as it would cause the dumbbells to move away from each other.

Tip #11 to Increase Your Bench Press:
Set Up Properly and Maintain It Through the Lift

how to increase bench press fast

An improper setup can bleed a surprising amount of force on the bench press, and this is why powerlifters are very deliberate with their positioning under the bar. The major points are these:

  • “Screw” your shoulder blades into the bench by setting up onto your upper back, with a lower back arch big enough to fit a fist in between it and the bench.

Don’t lose this position when you lift the bar off the rack and maintain it throughout each rep.

  • Create a stable lower body base by placing your feet directly beneath your knees and forcing your knees out, which will tighten your quads and activate your glutes. 

This allows you to push through your heels as you ascend, creating the “leg drive” that you’ve probably heard of.

  • Grip the bar as hard as you possibly can.


What do you think about these tips on how to increase your bench press? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

admin admin

I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

If you like what I have to say, sign up for my free newsletter and every week I'll send you awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious "diet-friendly" recipes, motivational musings, and more.


If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Bigger Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Thinner Leaner Stronger

Want more awesome stuff like this? Enter your email address to get the weekly newsletter.
LIKE MUSCLE FOR LIFE? Let Google know!
Leave a Comment!
  • Sam

    Thanks Mike for another useful article. In this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rT7DgCr-3pg) video about form he said go to 90 degrees – ie u don’t need to touch your chest? – Is that right in your opinion? Also I’ve found my deadlift weight increases much faster than my squat or bench and currently (I’m nearing the end of the cutting phase) I’m struggling to increase the weight each week. It’s probably 10lbs each 4-6 weeks currently (I’m focusing on good form and reps usually increase slowly per week per workout during cutting) – is that to be expected during cutting? My weight is dropping by about 1-2lbs/week. Thank you.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sam! I generally like Herman’s stuff but he’s wrong here. You don’t need to stop at 90 degrees if you keep your form in.

      Great on your gains while cutting. Many people on other programs LOSE strength while cutting. 🙂

      • Sam

        Thanks Mike. PS thought of a 12th tip -> get a power cage! I’ve just bought one (fed up of doing squats and benches not at full capacity as lack of proper catches or spotter) and feel more confident benching in the power cage to go full on! Final ques – as a follow-up, is it normal on BLS that some lifts might be “static” in poundage whilst cutting? Thx

        • Sam

          PPS theoretically (because we’re all friends in the fitness community!) say u had an MMA fight with the Herman, you’d beat him right? Or do a tag team Matthews/Herman vs Hodgetwins….? I’d pay to watch that… Damn I need to get a life…

          • Michael Matthews

            Hahahah I pick Layne Norton!

        • Michael Matthews

          Good tip! I totally agree. I would get a cage too if I were training at home.

          Yup, strength stagnates at some point while cutting. It’s normal.

      • I believe it depends on the person’s arm length. What Scott says applies to me because my shoulders (especially rotator cuffs) are affected more than my chest when I touch the bar to my chest versus stopping 1 inch from my chest. I believe that is because I have long arms for my height (I;m 5’6). Nonetheless, I strive to keep it at 45 degrees to take stress off of shoulders. This was a great article. You made me remember some tips I forgotten about. 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks Marcus. I have pretty long arms too (I’m 6’2 and my arms seem to be abnormally love, haha) and find it best to touch my chest.

  • MsJadensDad .

    Is the guy in the sunglasses on a field trip or something? One of these things is not like the others….

    • Michael Matthews


  • Nathan

    Hey mike sorry that this is on the wrong article but in terms of a previous post on metabolism, how long do you reverse diet for before you start cutting again. I’ve worked up to 2600 cals over a month. Is that long enough to reverse diet.

  • Kevin

    Great article Mike I just have a few questions…is that the chest workout in your new book? I know you’ve said it was going to be RPT style. If so why do you have 3 flat bench movements and not 2 flat and 2 incline?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yeah, the advanced program will be similar to RPT and while I alternate between emphasizing flat and incline, I actually do like the idea of emphasizing incline in this article because many people neglect it. 😉 I changed.

  • dear please provide images with each tip it would be more better

    • Michael Matthews

      I’ll see what I can do. 🙂

  • Kevin

    Hi Mike,

    Great article. I’ve just bought your book and would like you to clarify the method of progression with weights. If I am doing 4-6 reps, say I hit 6 reps on the first set of bench press for example, on my next set do I increase the weight or keep it the same across all the sets and then increase next workout? Do you work by specific percentages for progressive overload? And is it the same for smaller muscle groups?

    Thanks very much for your time.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Kevin!

      I like increasing my weight once I hit 6 reps. So set 1, 6, add weight, get 4 or so next 2 sets, work with that weight next week until 6, go up, etc.

      I go up by 5 to 10 pounds.

      • Kevin

        Thanks for the response Mike. Really appreciate it.

        • Michael Matthews


      • jag

        In the past I’ve always been varying this, but this advise has definitely worked. Increasing every time you hit 6 reps regardless of set is great. I’ve seen consistent growth over last 6 weeks with all my big lifts! And recently have started to go past all my prs.

        • Michael Matthews

          Awesome! Keep up the good work!

  • Mike

    Hi Mike, I’m going to implement this proticol for increasing my weighted chin ups..and also for my standing shoulder presses. I’m wondering if I need work on my barbell bench press form. I have always been stronger with dumbells than with the barbell. I also get pain in my right shoulder when I barbell press with any significant weight and bring the bar down to my chest. So I traditionally have stuck with dumbells because of it. No need to get injured. Any thoughts, or heard this before? Appreciate the great information and idea.

  • Jim

    Hi mike. In your honest opinion, do you think jeff seid is natural. I find it hard to believe at only 19 years old!! I find it such a shame there are so many steroid users in the fitness industry bringing false hope to people with their crazy pump workouts lol

    • Michael Matthews

      No, I don’t think he’s natural, and I also don’t think he’s 19 or 6 feet tall.

  • Yehor

    Thank you very much!

    • Michael Matthews


  • Ajay

    Hey Mike good stuff as always. I was wondering if you could help me on this problem I have with my chest. It seems like every time I try and press hard and quickly my sternum feels like it’s tearing. It hurts really bad too; I had to stop doing dips because of it. Any advice would be appreciated.

    • Michael Matthews


      Hmm I’m not sure about that. Are you dealing with any kind of injury?

      • Ajay

        Well I guess I might have overtrained my chest a bit. Coming from a background where I have had a bit of chest fat I tried many different methods to reduce it quickly, even go so far as going to Arnold’s workout to try and gain lean chest mass. I was doing like 15 reps on dips and chest presses (incline and decline as well) and 15 reps on the pec dec. I know now that I should do 6 reps thanks to your articles. I know you may not be a doctor but do you reckon I should lay off chest for a while? Or would I be able to do low reps but with light weights just to prevent muscle loss?

        Thanks for the quick reply as well!

        • Michael Matthews

          Hmm yeah I would definitely lay off it if it’s hurting. You might have strained a muscle and you need to let it heal.

  • Afzal Shah

    Mike I like your stuff I have got a lot of help from your books and articles.I want ask you that my traps are bigger than my shoulders and chest and my traps gets big continuously but my shoulders and chest doesn’t grow it’s like they have stopped growing now what should I do?

    • Afzal Shah

      This is me as you can see my traps are bigger than my shoulders and chest

      • Michael Matthews

        Looking awesome!

        • Nilu Roy

          Afzal Shah , YOU ARE A LIAR . This is John Abraham’s picture. He is an Indian Actor

          • Afzal Shah

            I know who john Abraham is but this my picture I will post my other pictures if you want

      • Amit

        Afjal shah chutiye this is John Abraham’s picture, A renowned Indian actor

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Dude you have a killer physique. Are you currently doing any trap work? And what’s your chest and shoulder training like?

      • Afzal Shah

        Thanks mike its an honor getting a complimented from you.yes am doing trap work I do dumbbell shrugs barbell shrugs then upright barbell rows this is my traps routine.my chest training is like first I do warmup than I do barbell bench press then incline barbell bench press then decline barbell bench press then dumbbell bench press then incline dumbbell bench press then dumbbell flys.my shoulder training is like I do warmup than rear delt raise then side lateral raise then military press then one arm military press then one arm lateral raise then front dumbbell raise then upright barbell rows then shrugs and barbell shrugs and I don’t change my routine I stick to this routine In my opinion confusing the muscles is bullshit it is a big lie

        • Michael Matthews

          Okay I would drop the trap work out. Your traps are big enough and deadlifting will maintain them.

          I would also drop the decline and focus on incline. Your chest days should include 6 sets of incline followed by flat and then you can finish with flyes. Make sure you’re pushing your incline weights heavy too (4-6 reps).

          Start your shoulder training with military press and again go heavy. Gotta blow those suckers up. 🙂

          • Afzal Shah

            Thanks for the advice mike really appreciate it I will apply these changes to my routine and see what happens thanks.

          • Michael Matthews

            Great let me know!

  • Chris

    Great article Mike. I was hoping you could clarify something on #2 Mixing up your rep range. Are those 4 exercises all in one daily routine or mix one or two those into your daily routine? Also, any thoughts on how doing decline bench press will help increase flat bench press?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! That would be a full workout.

      Not a fan of decline. Reduced range of motion = muscles have to do less work.

  • Eric Farto

    Good afternoon, Mike! Thanks for the great tips and well-written article!

    I’m kind of frustated…I keep increasing strenght and weight on all exercises, but bench press is the one that I stagnated. I can’t get out of 68kg (30kg each side, plus 8kg of the bar). I always stops at 2-3 rep. What’s funny is that with 5 pounds ligher I do 6 reps with ease. I’ve been in this dilemma for 3 months. Did you face this problem as well? I feel like doing everything correct, and maybe is a matter of time to increase strenght.

    Obs: The nice part is that my chest is increasing, specially the upper and the middle. Right now I’m weighting 81kg, and 1,81m height. Soon I’ll send some photos to update in the site 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Eric! Bench press is such a bitch! So many people get stuck on it.

      Here’s one little trick you can do:

      On the 3rd day after chest day, start your workout with a chest warm-up and 3 heavy sets of incline barbell press. Then move on to your normal workout. This won’t be enough to interfere with your next chest day, and can give you a little boost.

  • Yazeed Al Matrudi

    Very good article but if you add picture would be more informative.

  • Gonna test out #1 and #3 today as I’m planning on breaking a bew bench record of 112,5 kg’s.

    I’ve actually had some mind blowing bench press gains in the last 2 months, as I benched only 87,5 kg’s after I came back home from the army back in january, and last week I was actually able to easily bench a 110.

    I had a total testosterone level of 1507 ng/dl last checkup and believe it or not it’s all acquired naturally (I’m bit of obsessed with natural testosterone and actually have my own blog about the subject).

    So I believe that the huge gains in my bench press are probably caused by the high testosterone, as chest muscles are filled with androgen receptors.

    My rep range is usually 4-8 and sometimes I’m doing 2 rep sets.

    Diet is a mix of intermittent fasting and carb loading currently and I’m favoring androgenic foods such as celery and parsley with tons of organic eggs and avocados.

    Just wanted to chime in to this great post and want to thank you for delivering such awesome content and tips. Your blog is like a gold nugget in a huge sea of shit that is the internet. Thanks for your great work and keep it up!

    • Michael Matthews

      Awesome, let me know how it goes. And great job on your progress.

      Holy shit on the T. That’s steroid level. Link me to your blog?

      You should be able to crush it with T levels like that.

      Keep up the good work brother and thanks for the support.

      • Hah yeah muscle seems to be packing on with speed 😀

        here’s the link to the blog if you want to check it out, I have to admit that English is not my main language so don’t mind the spelling errors and obscure sentence structures.

        Here’s the link – Anabolic Men

        • Michael Matthews

          Cool! You should post scans of your bloodwork. It will greatly improve credibility.

          • Yeah I was planning on getting a new scan as the previous one was taken in army so I’m not able to access that information anymore, but you’re right I really need to get some proof about it on the site as soon as possible cause the traffic is rising rapidly and ofcourse there’ll be the doubters coming along too.

            Awesome to get feedback from you man! Thx.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah I mean it would be like if I didn’t have any pictures of me anywhere. I could have the best information ever but it wouldn’t be credible if I couldn’t show I walk the walk.

  • Pingback: Get Workout Motivation: 7 Ways to Get Fired Up | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: How to Build a Kick-Ass (and Affordable!) Home Gym | Muscle For Life()

  • Julien

    Hi Michael,

    A friend told me that I should avoid the bench press altogether. He said the bench itself restricts the full movement of the scapula, therefore putting unnecessary and unnatural levels of stress on the shoulders. Your thoughts on this?

  • Pingback: Debunking the Myth of Weightlifting and Joint Problems | Muscle For Life()

  • Greg

    Doesn’t tip #2 contradict chest days in bigger leaner stronger? I do love the advice though

    • Michael Matthews

      I actually talk about periodization in the sequel to BLS, which will be out soon. It’s more for advanced lifters, that’s all.

  • ogreking

    How do I increase bench grip. I have dropped the bar on my chest twice this Year. It feels like I just let go mid rep. This is 75% max when it happens. Any advice helps but I am going to start with forearms.

    • Michael Matthews

      Yikes. Are you wrapping your thumbs around the bar?

  • Pingback: Why Time Under Tension is Overrated for Building Muscle (And What Matters More) | Muscle For Life()

  • Wak from Brooklyn

    Definitely good adive , it’s also stuff I never heard before like ” like try to pull the bar apart”, I definitely will try that bro and I’ll let u know about my progress

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks man! LMK how it goes.

  • Pingback: 8 Proven Ways to Break Through Weightlifting Plateaus | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: 6 “Everyday” Weightlifting Mistakes That Keep People Small, Weak, and Frustrated | Muscle For Life()

  • Dale

    I thinl that also having a partner to motivate you and also fix your mistakes can make a big difference too. I just seen today tha if a girl sits on your waist your testosterone increases to 97.9% which help preformence and muscle growth. Not sure if its entirely true but I’m sure that can really motivate a man.

    Max bench: 175 ibs
    Age: 16
    Weight: 120-125 ibs

    • Michael Matthews

      Lol if you have girls to straddle you while you lift, you’re doing something right.

  • Pingback: Why You Probably Shouldn’t Do Full-Body Workouts | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: Why You Probably Shouldn't Do Full-Body Workouts | Muscle For Life()

  • Pingback: The Absolute Best and Worst Ways to Build Muscle | Muscle For Life()

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:


    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • sam

    I’ve started gym 2 months. I’m 25 and 6 foot 2 inches in height and struggle with 50 kg since starting. I can do 45 pretty easily. Please could you give some advice?

  • Austin

    Hey Mike when I bring the bar down to my chest it doesn’t matter what my form is, ALL the weight feels like it goes to my shoulders and so my bench has been at my bodyweight for about a year. Is there any harm in trying what Scott Herman says when he says to bring it down to a 90 degree angle like an inch above the chest?

    • It does hit your shoulders but it’s still training your pecs.

      • d’angelo

        Fuck you bro! Suck a dick

  • Eric

    Lmao, there’s certainly NOT a separate “upper chest.” The clavicular portion and sternocostal portions share a common point of insertion on the humerus and a common innervation. Multiple EMG studies have shown that higher angle of inclination does not recruit a disproportionate number of clavicular fibers. In my personal experience, I’ve found that incline presses actually hinder progress on the flat bench because nueromuscularly, they’re not training the same bar path. If you want a bigger bench, you practice THAT movement, in THAT plane, not similar movements in other planes.

      • Eric

        From the article you linked:

        “No significant differences were seen in upper pectoral activation between incline and decline bench press. It is concluded there are variations in the activation of the lower pectoralis major with regard to the angle of bench press, while the upper pectoral portion is unchanged.”

        As I said- no separate “upper chest” and no way to target it by changing the angle. Thank you for demonstrating my point.

        • Nice job cherry picking from the abstract. There WAS a difference if you look at the data and check out the other two papers as well.

          This is basically going into the DYEL territory. 😛

          • Eric

            But hey- what do I know? I’ve only bench pressed three times my body weight, drug-free, with a pause, in a sanctioned meet. And I’m only a licensed PTA. Clearly, I have neither the experience, nor the education to add anything of value to this discussion.

          • Just read the papers my man. The clavicular head DOES exist and you CAN emphasize it in your training.

          • Eric

            BOTH of the papers conclude that you can not. Not sure what part of that you’re not seeing. Already quoted the Glass/Armstrong article, and the Barnett piece says the same thing:

            “Also, the clavicular head of the pectoralis major was no more active during the incline bench press than during the horizontal one”

            How is this lost on you? You provided multiple sources that come to the same conclusion, but it doesn’t fit your bias so you ignore said conclusions?

          • http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/1995/11000/Effects_of_Variations_of_the_Bench_Press_Exercise.3.aspx

            Pectoralis major (sternocostal head) – EMG activity was highest in the order: horizontal > incline > decline > vertical.

            Pectoralis major (clavicular head) – EMG activity was highest in the order: incline > horizontal > decline > vertical.

            Anterior deltoids – EMG activity was highest in the order: vertical > incline > horizontal > decline.
            Triceps brachii – EMG activity was highest in the order: horizontal > decline > vertical > incline.

            Latissimus dorsi – EMG activity of the latissimus dorsi was very low in all conditions but was higher in the decline press than in the other presses.


            The researchers found no significant difference in EMG activity of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major between the incline and decline bench press.

            This lack of significant finding was in direct contradiction to the findings of the previous study and may have been related to the smaller difference in inclines used (30 vs. 40 degrees for incline and 15 vs. 18 degrees for decline).



            Pectoralis major (clavicular head) – a reverse grip led to greater muscle activity compared to a standard grip.

            Pectoralis major (sternocostal head) – there was no difference between a standard and a reverse grip. A very narrow grip led to a significant reduction in muscle activity.

            Triceps brachii – the very narrow grip led to the highest muscle activity but there was no significant difference between standard or reverse grips.
            Biceps brachii – a wide grip produced greater biceps brachii activity for both standard and reverse grip widths. A reverse grip increases biceps brachii activity in comparison with a standard grip.

            All that said, I reread your original comment and actually agree that training incline bench isn’t vital for improving bench press strength.

            It is, however, important for building full, well-developed pecs that don’t look bottom heavy.

          • Eric

            You just won’t let this go will you? Direct quotes from the Barnett article you keep referring to (“Effects of Variations of the Bench Press Exercise on the EMG Activity of Five Shoulder Muscles.” full text here: http://www.sweatpit.com/forum/studies/bench/Effects%20of%20Variations%20of%20the%20Bench%20Press%20Exercise%20on%20the%20EMG%20Activity%20of%20Five%20Shoulder%20Muscles.pdf )

            “The clavicular head of the pectoralis major will not be an effective flexor in this phase of the vertical press. This may also explain the lack of expected increase in activity during the transition from flat to incline press.”

            “The incline press does not result in greater activation of the clavicular head of the pectoralis major than does the horizontal press.”

            ^^ point blank from the source YOU keep referring to.

            And why is that? Because there is no separate muscle named the “clavicular pectoralis.” That’s a nonsense term made up by I don’t know who to sound smart. You have ONE pectoralis major muscle, with two heads that share an action of medially rotating the glenohumeral joint and adducting it. You can’t perform these actions with only one head and not the other, or with one head more than the other.

          • Alex

            Mike, keep helping hundreds of thousands of men and women realize their dreams of being fit and improving their bodies! You’ve changed my life and I’m sure the lives of countless others that follow your program — Thanks for what you do!

            Eric, thank you for your input.

          • Will do! Thanks for the support. 🙂

          • Saran Gill

            In support of your claim mike:


            and apparently the guillotine press is king of all!

          • Nice thanks for sharing! Yeah it’s sketchy though. 🙂

          • Michal


            Jeff has something to say as well 🙂

          • I completely agree!

          • Ah yeah sloppy wording on my part. It’s a part of the muscle (head) but not a separate muscle.

            My point is that you can emphasize that head over the lower, larger portion.


          • Eric

            Even that picture shows a non-significant difference between horizontal and incline presses, which is why the authors conclude what they do- inclines offer no advantage to the clavicular head over flat bench. The reason I’m busting your chops so much on this is I feel like if you’re going to title your article “11 Scientifically proven ways…” you have an obligation to present actual scientific evidence, not made-up muscles or inaccurate info. People who don’t know better will read this piece, and start doing a bunch of inclines with the hope that their bench will improve more and that they will somehow change the shape of their muscle, which isn’t physiologically possible.

          • Remember though that EMG has serious limitations and is NOT the final word.

            Here is where anecdotal evidence has value IMO. If you neglect incline pressing and do a lot of flat and decline pressing, you’re very likely to develop a “bottom heavy” chest.

            I used to have the problem myself and have worked with hundreds of guys that had the same issue. You correct it by emphasizing the incline pressing.

          • Eric

            Interesting insofar as I have also trained hundreds of clients who have developed very well rounded and muscular chests by doing ONLY flat bench movements and no inclines or declines. So that’s a moot point.

            Either way, though, that has nothing to do with your article. The article is on how to increase bench press strength, not how to shape your pecs. Given that I’ve benched in the low 400s weighing 140-145 pounds, I believe my anecdotal eveidence trumps yours.

            You’ve been incorrect on every point you’ve made, had your own evidence used to retort your replies, and are trying to tell someone who had been a multi-time national record holder how to excel at a lift he was elite at (even after your cute “do you even lift” comment). Why don’t you just admit you were wrong, revise the article so it reflects the most accurate and up to date info, and move on?

          • Congrats on your success in your lifting. That’s great.

            I disagree that incline pressing is useless but there’s no need to argue about it.

            The article has already been fixed. The point is more or less pedantry but I appreciate the attention to detail.

          • mike

            congrats you won a debate 🙂 i’ve heard before that incline is overrated, thanks for clarification.

  • Joel

    Can you mix a shoulder and chest workout together? Like do 2 chest exercises that involve the front delts and then do a lateral and rear delt exercises to finish?

  • wombleranger

    Great advice, seems that i have been using most of these techniques for years and didn’t even realize it(trying to pull the bar apart). In my youth i was always prone to shoulder injuries because i used wide grip but flared my elbows to near 90 degrees, in retrospect it’s amazing i still have full ROM in both shoulder’s!

    • Nice! Yep, you’re a lucky man. Hope you’re doing it right now!

      • wombleranger

        Doing much better these days.

  • Adam

    Hey, Mike. It’s Adam again.

    I am 17 years old, male, 148 lbs. My bench press is, to say the least, atrociously low. I bench roughly *get ready for this, Mike, it ain’t pretty* 65-85 lbs. And even with those numbers, I struggle to do 10 reps, 3 sets consistently.

    As everyone in my age group claims numbers in the 200s and 300s, I am not even hitting 100!!

    So, obviously I need to keep working. But is there any advice to not get discouraged and to improve rapidly? And have you known anybody in the same situation? And what should I aim for in the short term?

    Thanks again,

    • Hey man.

      I hear you on the struggles with bench.

      Keep in mind that a lot of people don’t actually bench what they say. Not touching the bar to the chest, the spotter is helping with the lift, etc. 😛

      For help improving your chest though, check these out:



      Hope these help! LMK.

    • Brandon.

      Hello adam.brandon here. Do not be discouraged.we all had to start somewhere in the beginning. With bench press,try to do only 3 sets,but in your case,set one would be the bar. Go up as much as you can for set 2 to do your set 2. Same for set 3. Good luck.

  • Dylan Hamm

    Hey Mike, my name is Dylan.

    Im 20 years old, male, 205 lbs. Just started about 9 months ago powerlifting. I love it. But I feel like I’m getting no where with my bench press. My one rep max is around 280 lbs. I usually start off with warming up with 135, then just work my way up. I would love to get my PR up to at least 315-325 lbs. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • Hey man!

      Definitely can help here. Check this out:


      Texas Method might suit you really well.


      try the Sheiko program

    • Brandon.

      Hello dylan. Try this and see if it works for you. I bet you will laugh a,little bit when you read this what I’m about to say next. You said your max is 280. That’s good for someone your ago.the laughing part is this. Try doing 3 sets, but intend of 135..start at 90,then go to 185, then finish at 280. Let us know what you think of that. BRANDON.

  • Austin Bolte

    Great article! Using Critical Bench – click has been incredible for increasing my size and strength fast. After doing a bodybuilding show, I was ready to regain my size and strength. I also needed to increase my bench fast. I was really impressed with the program. It felt like I was getting stronger every week. And not just my bench, but my whole body. This program is a must for anyone looking to put on size and strength.

  • Shannon

    For adding the 1-2 sets of wide grip do you replace it with one of the regular grip bench press sets or just add it on?

    • Sorry but I don’t quite understand your questions. Can you clarify?

      • Shannon

        Hey Mike,
        Sorry for the confusion.
        question 1. for the original 6 sets of bench press (3warm up sets) I’m currently doing, do you add 1-2 sets of the wide grip to make it 8sets or just do 6 sets and replace it with wide grip?
        question 2: I’m currently doing flat bench press, incline bench press with 2 bicep exercises for my chest day. Should I just do the workout you listed in the article for chest day instead?
        Thank you!

        • Ah okay.

          1. I would just replace 2 of your normal sets with wide pressing.

          2. Sure, you can give it a go and see how you like it?

  • Christan Moseley

    Hi guys out there having trouble gaining muscle mass. My husband tried this system
    http://d0eb7wwdp7ybvm27u4vepxqxfb.hop.clickbank.net/ and we have seen remarkable results. He’s sexier than ever, bigger, faster, stronger and I love it as does he. Try it you want regret it.

  • Ed

    Hey Mike,

    On Week #7 of the 1YC and have made incredible gains so far. I’m 29 years old and am lifting like I never have before, even during my old football days. I’m making steady, significant progress in all my lifts but I have plateau’d (245 lbs) on the flat bench press the last 3 weeks. I follow the 5 day split, so day #5 always starts with a warm up incline bench followed by incline dumbbell work, followed by the 4-6 reps of flat bench. I’m putting up 245# 4-5 times but can’t get that last rep and find I’m burnt out by the last set. Should I deviate from the workbook and flat bench before the incline dumbbell bench? Any advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!


  • Joey

    Your point on the lateral force is simply contradictory of the article you reference. The experiment in the article notes that the lateral force is a result of the upward force muscles becoming engaged, not that the upward force is partially attributed to the lateral force. Your statements contradict, based solely on what is written. You have it the other way around.

    • The idea is that if you can increase the amount of lateral force generated, you can also increase the amount of vertical force.

  • Aman

    Hey Mike, I’m stuck on a dumbbell bench plateau.

    21 Years old/Male/5’11/Been working out for a year, but not consistently. Only recently have I started working out properly. I started out at 105 lbs, and now I’m 137 lbs.

    I’m currently repping flat dumbbell bench for 50lbs x9 reps for 3 sets I’m unable to hit the 10th rep, and been stuck at 50×9 for about 3 weeks. For the past 2 weeks, my bodyweight went up and down(lost some water weight), but I tightened my diet, and now I gained a lb the past week, like I used to earlier.

    I’m currently following PPL split, from Reddit’s r/fitness.

    Someone suggested me to pick up the 55s and rep them. I tried it and did 4 reps with them. Also, aside from flat dumbbell bench, I do incline dumbbell bench, dips, close grip barbell bench, tricep pushdowns, on my chest and triceps day. What do you suggest I do to break this plateau? I’m doing dumbbell bench, to fix my weaknesses(my left arm is weaker), and also my other lifts(squat, deadlift, etc) are going up.

  • Jema Deborah May Allcock

    Great article, I’ve actually utilised the smith machine into my routine to increase my 1 rep max, through a program given to me by a male body builder, and over the last 3 months I’ve gone from a 40kg 1 rep max to almost nailing a 70kg rep. I still do normal bench press on alternative weeks so that I keep the intimidate muscle working. But the smith machine has given me the confidence to actually pick up the weight and attempt the heavier weights, because I know I can always quickly huck the bar back on if I fail, where even with 50kg on normal bench the confidence is lost.

  • Briscan Andrei

    When we bench , we should follow the bar or have a fix point on the roof and look at him during our sets ?

  • Mike Mielke

    Hi Mike. Love your work. I read BLS and was going great for about 6 weeks. I felt like I did back in high school when I first started heavy lifting. I’m 43 now.
    Then injury to both my pecs, in about the same place. This is not the first time. I avoided barbell bench press for about four years due to my last injury. That one was accompanied by a popping sound from my left pec when it happened. I worked on my form and very slowly increased the load this time. I previously used too wide a grip for sure. But these latest injuries leave me wondering if some of us just should not do barbell bench presses. Is so, any alternatives? If you think this is still about form, any recommendations to fix mine? I have watched all the videos linked from your site. Many thanks!

    • Hey Mike! Sorry to hear about the injury. I’d avoid any exercises that hurt, and I’d double-check that you’re not flaring your elbows out during the lift. Maybe try dumbbell presses instead?

      Good luck with the recovery!

Sign in to Muscle For Life
or use your MFL Account