How to Build Strength and Speed for the Bench Press

How to Build Strength and Speed for the Bench Press

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Several techniques can help you improve your bench press.

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The bench press is more than just an efficient exercise for building chest, arm and shoulder strength. In many cases, the bench press is a benchmark for upper-body strength. Whether you're an athlete trying to improve your performance or just someone looking for bragging rights in the locker room, the amount of weight you can bench press is significant. Pressing the bar rapidly isn't always necessary to build strength -- although a quick tempo may help -- but you can typically increase your bench press performance by progressively benching more weight. Additionally, you can improve and help avoid an exercise plateau by doing other exercises as well.

Improve Your Bench Press by Bench Pressing


Warm up properly, starting with five to 10 minutes of aerobic exercise before you start bench pressing. Warm muscles can lift more weight and are less likely to be injured. Also do warm-up bench presses with lighter weights. Do three or four reps with 50 percent or less of your normal load and then add roughly 30 pounds for each subsequent warm-up set.


Set your feet flat on the floor you when perform bench presses. Push through your feet as you lift the weight above your chest to gain extra power, which lets you press heavier weights.


Squeeze the bar tightly during barbell presses. A firm grip helps keep your elbows and the rest of your arms in proper alignment and also helps to fully engage your triceps.


Perform close-grip bench presses, using a shoulder-width grip, during your workouts. These exercises build your triceps, which are key assisting muscles during standard bench presses.


Tuck your elbows in close to your sides in the starting position. This technique helps you press the barbell straight upward.


Press the weight using a fast but consistent tempo. You must work harder to maintain a fast pace, which recruits more muscle fibers. As a result, a quicker tempo can build your muscles faster, allowing you to increase your speed further.


Perform bench presses two or three days per week, with at least one day between sessions. Do at least three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, or work up to that level. If your muscles aren't fatigued after 12 reps, add 5 to 10 percent more weight for the next set.

Alternate Exercise Options


Perform back exercises to build a more stable foundation for your presses and to prevent muscle imbalances. Do exercises such as bent-over barbell rows, seated cable rows and inverted rows, which target your back but also engage your chest muscles, triceps and shoulder muscles. Perform shrugs to strengthen your upper trapezius.


Increase your triceps strength with exercises such as close-grip pushups. Assume a standard pushup position, except for your hands -- place them below the middle of your upper chest. Keep your hands close together, so the tips of your thumbs and index fingers almost touch. Perform an otherwise-standard pushup by keeping your body straight as you lower your chest to the floor and then push yourself back up until your arms are extended.


Perform triceps dips by grasping a pair of dip bars with your arms and body straight and your feet above the floor. Lower your body until your upper arms are roughly parallel with the floor and then push yourself up to the starting position.


Do plyometric exercises such as the power drop to increase your bench pressing speed. Lie face up on the floor and have an exercise partner drop a medicine ball above your chest. Catch the ball with your arms extended and, in a continuous motion, lower your hands to just above your chest and then throw the ball straight up as hard as possible, using both hands.

Things Needed

  • Exercise bench
  • Barbell
  • Dumbbells
  • Medicine ball