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Many athletes aim to increase the bench press by 50 lbs but don’t know how to get there. A big bench press can increase your strength performance, increase your muscle mass, or even improve athletic performance for your sport.
So, how do you increase your bench press by 50 lbs? If you want to increase your bench press by 50 lbs, use a kicking leg drive to maintain an arch. Don't let the barbell sink onto your chest. Use the widest grip possible. Keep the shoulder blades back and down. Then, use a training program that changes reps, sets, and volume daily. Finally, add variations like incline, decline, and dumbbell bench press.
This is just an overview, so you won't want to miss any details on how to program a workout to quickly add to your bench press.
In this article, I will go through whether or not it is possible to increase your bench press by 50lbs, what factors affect your bench press progress, and how to manage your training program to give you the best rate of improvement.
Is Increasing Your Bench Press By 50lbs A Lot?
No, increasing your bench press by 50lbs is not a lot and is realistic. However, it will be a lot easier for novices and intermediate lifters than it is for more advanced athletes.
Increasing your bench press by 50lbs may require you to make changes to your technique. You’ll also need to follow a training program that is appropriate for your experience level and provides ample recovery time to allow performance gains to occur.
Novice and intermediate lifters may find that improving bench press technique may contribute more to their progress when compared to more advanced lifters whose technique has already been dialed in.
If you’re wondering how to improve bench press strength, it comes down to good technique. which will include not only the quality of your setup and execution but also the choice of bench press grip width on the barbell. Generally, most people will benefit from using as wide of a grip as possible.
The wider the grip, the less the range of motion there is, which means that you have to do less work to press the weight up. The less work each repetition is, the less stress you may have to recover from.
Once you have a good technique base, you will need a good program. But a good program will not necessarily be the hardest program you can find. As a program’s difficulty increases, you may not be able to recover from the training stress, and the risk of injury increases. Any injury that occurs will set your bench press strength back considerably.
An appropriate program will also include bench press variations and accessories that address weaknesses that are specific to you. Your bench press may be weak off the chest, for example. By definition, you are only as strong as your weakest link in the bench press. So, selecting bench press variations that reinforce weak points or good technique will be essential.
Another important technique cue in the bench press is to keep your wrists in a neutral position and in line with your hands and forearms. Learn more about proper wrist positioning in the bench press in Bench Press Wrist Position: 5 Rules To Follow.
Want to improve your bench press technique?
Factors That Influence How Long It Takes To Add 50 lbs To Your Bench Press
For beginner to intermediate lifters wondering how to increase bench press strength, you may be able to add 50 lbs to your bench press within a year. For advanced lifters, this may take between 1 to 2 years, and for elite lifters, this may take multiple years.
The time it takes to increase your bench press by 50 lbs will vary depending on multiple variables. Major factors include your sex, arm leverages, training experience, lifestyle, upper body mass, and training fatigue management.
How Sex Influences Your Bench Press Improvement Rate
Generally speaking, men have biological qualities such as higher testosterone levels that allow them to put on more muscle and strength than women. As such, it will take less time for men on average to increase their bench press by 50lbs.
Research has documented that differences in upper body strength between men and women are associated with the fact that women tend to have a lower percentage of lean muscle mass around their upper body.
How Arm Leverages Influence Your Bench Press Improvement Rate
Arm leverages refer to how long your arms are. Your arm length affects your range of motion at the elbows and shoulders during the bench press.
You can’t change your arm leverages, and while you can make technique adjustments to work around your genetic disadvantages, you may not be able to increase your bench press as quickly as someone with shorter arms.
The longer your arms are, the more range of motion that your bench press bar path has to travel through. Generally speaking, this means that there is more work done during each repetition and it can be harder to progress because your leverages put you at a disadvantage.
If you have long arms and struggle with the bench press, check out my 5 Tricks For Bench Pressing With Long Arms (Technique for Tall People).
How Training Age and Biological Age Influence Your Bench Press Improvement Rate
Your training age refers to how long you have spent training in a certain modality. In this case, it refers to how long you have been weight training.
As a novice lifter, you can get stronger and build muscle quickly. As you become more experienced, your rate of improvement will naturally slow down. Research has even shown a range where weightlifters and powerlifters will peak in their performance.
As your training and biological age increase, the rate at which you can improve your bench press decreases. This is due to the natural phenomena that are your biological and genetic ceilings. The body has natural processes to stop you from gaining infinite muscle.
For example, your body produces a protein called myostatin, which naturally inhibits muscle growth and is believed to increase as you get older.
Testosterone production, which is strongly associated with muscle mass and strength, also declines as you age and contributes to the difficulty in improving your bench press performance.
Research has also shown that the changes within the body are different depending on what stage you are at in your training age. During the early years of training, a lot of the fast gains occur due to improvements in your nervous system. As you progress, a larger proportion of your strength gains are more linked to overall muscle mass.
Learn more about newbie gains and how long you can expect them to last in How Long Do Newbie Gains Last? (Science-Backed).
How Lifestyle Affects How Quickly You Can Increase Your Bench Press
Training acts as the stimulus for muscle mass and strength growth, but the adaptation occurs outside of the gym. Your lifestyle will contribute significantly to how much adaptation occurs.
Your lifestyle includes factors such as nutrition, work and life stress, sleep hygiene, and supplementation. These all contribute to this hypothetical bubble or capacity that is your ability to make gains, which is sometimes referred to as your adaptive reserve.
Nutrition also includes micronutrients (all of the vitamins and minerals in your food) and macronutrients (protein, fats, and carbs), which are all essential for your body’s survival and health. They are also important for determining how well supplied with resources your body is to gain muscle and strength.
While eating more can help you increase your bench press, it doesn’t mean you should eat whatever you want. Learn more about eating for powerlifting in Do Powerlifters Eat Whatever They Want? (No, Here’s Why).
How Upper Body Mass Affects Influences Your Bench Press Improvement Rate
Upper body mass has a positive effect on your bench press improvement and performance. It can increase performance by simply having more mass on the torso, which reduces the range of motion. Bigger muscles are also associated with stronger muscles.
Your muscle mass, particularly in your upper body, including your shoulders, chest, arms, and back muscle mass, can determine how strong your bench press is. Research from Brechue and Abe and Ye et. al showed that more lean muscle mass has a positive correlation with powerlifting performance.
Other studies have shown that gains in lean body mass explained about 46% of the variation in bench press gains.
Are you wondering how to bench more weight and build muscle in the upper body, particularly in the chest? Check out some examples of additional exercises you can do on chest day.
How Training Fatigue Management Influences Your Bench Press Improvement
Training fatigue management refers to managing the variables that dictate how difficult your training is and how much fatigue you accumulate. Fatigue refers to the negative effect of training that acutely reduces training performance.
Anyone can train to the point of severe fatigue, but that does not necessarily lead to the best outcomes in strength improvement, including progressing the bench press.
Extremely hard workouts increase the possibility of overuse injuries. Overuse injuries are when minor tears in the muscle tissue reach the point of major damage. Any injury will lead to a major drop in performance in the bench press.
Also, there is the element of diminishing returns because there is a hypothetical limit to how much gains can be stimulated over a certain period of time. Beyond that hypothetical limit, there is pointless work that does not provide value to the athlete.
7 Quick Improvements For Bench Press Technique
Here are 7 simple, but effective tips to help you increase your bench press by 50 pounds:
- Cue “meet your chest to the barbell”
- Use a kicking leg drive to maintain an arch
- Do not let the barbell sink onto the chest
- Use your widest grip possible on the barbell
- Keep the shoulder blades back and down
- Cue “press away from the barbell” or “press yourself into the bench”
- Take a deep breath in and brace
1. Cue “Meet Your Chest to the Barbell”
This is one of my favorite bench press cues as a powerlifting coach. This cue is best used during the descent of the barbell to the torso. It does two things: it helps maintain the arch in the bench press, and it stops the chest from collapsing as the bar comes down.
The common problem is that when people bring the barbell down, they are hesitant to touch it on the chest near the bottom, and their arch collapses. This consequently increases the range of motion that is performed.
The cue to “meet your chest to the barbell” helps maintain a good shoulder blade positioning in the bench press. You do not want the shoulder blades coming out of position and rounding forward when you lower the bar. This places unnecessary stress on the small stabilizer muscles and makes the bench press more difficult when you press the barbell.
Wondering where exactly on the chest the barbell should touch? Check out Where Should The Barbell Touch Your Chest On Bench Press?
2. Use a Kicking Leg Drive to Maintain an Arch
Using leg drive makes a bench press more than just an upper body pressing movement. Using a kicking leg drive is a very useful cue to help maintain an arch and a good relationship of the shoulder blades with the torso.
When you use a leg drive to drive your arch, you need to kick to drive your feet across the surface off the floor instead of pressing your feet into the floor. This will help lift your ribcage upwards and backwards toward the rack, which helps maintain the arch and keep the pressure on your upper traps.
With the barbell pinning the shoulder blades down, the leg drive will help keep the shoulders in a relatively more depressed (downward) position.
This will ultimately lead to a better arch, a safer and more stable position of the shoulders.
Is using an arch in the bench press cheating? Get our expert opinion in The Bench Press Arch (How To Do It, Benefits, Is It Safe).
3. Do Not Let the Barbell Sink Onto the Chest
When the barbell touches the chest at the bottom of the range of motion, do not let the barbell sink into you. If you let this happen, you unnecessarily increase your barbell range of motion and corrupt your body’s position on the bench press.
By letting your torso collapse when the barbell sinks into the chest, you end up putting yourself in a less stable and less optimal position to press the barbell up. Overall, this makes the repetition unnecessarily harder than it needs to be.
4. Use Your Widest Grip Possible on the Barbell
Using your widest grip possible refers to going as wide as you can while being as strong, comfortable, and stable as you can. It does not mean going to the maximum possible width if it causes any pain or discomfort anywhere (for example, in the wrist) or if you are in a position where you are weaker.
Using your widest possible grip is one of the best ways to increase your bench press. It will enable you to get away with the shortest range of motion that you can. The less you move the barbell, the less work you must contribute to each repetition.
5. Keep the Shoulders Blades Back and Down
Keeping the shoulders blades back and down will help stabilize your shoulder joint during the benching movement. This will help keep the pressure in your upper traps during the bench press while enabling you to stick your chest out.
Maintaining this position for your shoulders will allow the major muscle groups that are the prime movers in the bench press to work properly, thereby increasing bench press strength and power.
Additionally, by keeping the shoulder blades back and sticking your chest out, you don’t have to lower the bar as much to touch it to your chest. The result is a lower range of motion, which makes the rep easier to execute and enables you to lift heavier.
6. Cue “Press Away From the Barbell” or “Press Yourself Into the Bench”
This cue is specifically for the upward portion of the bench press repetition. It has the same objective as the above cue, which is to maintain a retracted and depressed shoulder during the motion of the bench press movement.
When novice lifters try to push the barbell, they often allow their shoulders to come out of position and round. This is because the motion of pushing in everyday life involves throwing the shoulders forward.
The cue of “pressing away from the barbell” or “pressing yourself into the bench” helps you remember to keep the rest of your posterior muscle groups (the muscles at the back of your body) engaged. It also encourages more tricep action as opposed to pectoralis minor (the smaller of the two pectoral muscles in the chest) action, which can round the shoulders forward.
7. Take a Deep Breath In and Brace
Not breathing properly is one of the most common mistakes in the bench press. By making sure that you take a huge breath in and brace, you maximize how much the ribcage can expand. The brace acts to seal the tightness and tension throughout the whole body.
When your ribcage really expands with rigidity from bracing, you maximize the stability of your torso and shoulders during the full repetition motion. By maximizing stability, you will not leak energy by attempting to balance the barbell while it’s in motion. This means you can put more energy towards simply pressing the barbell.
Learn more about bracing and how to breathe properly in the bench press in my article How To Breathe Correctly In The Bench Press (Step by Step).
How To Increase Your Bench Press In One Month
Here are six effective ways to improve your bench press strength in just one month:
- Use progressive overload
- Use a range of rep ranges
- Include accessory exercises in your program
- Focus on explosive lifting
- Get a spotter
- Increase your triceps strength
Use Progressive Overload
Progressive overload is a key component of strength-building in any exercise, and the bench press is no different. This means gradually increasing the stress that you’re placing your muscles under.
You can progressively overload in both the barbell and dumbbell bench press by
- Increasing the weight you’re lifting
- Increasing the number of reps or sets that you do
- Increasing your range of motion
- Slowing down the tempo of the reps (increasing time under tension)
The first two are the two most common methods of progressive overload. However, you can have fun and play around with each method above to maximize your bench press progress.
Use a Range of Rep Ranges
Those of you who are beginners to the bench press won’t need to play around too much with your rep ranges. You will probably see strength gains within the first few months, even if you only use the same rep range every time you lift.
However, as you progress into an intermediate or advanced, you can vary your rep ranges slightly to boost your bench press strength as much as possible.
For example, one week you might work within a 1-3 rep range, the next within a 3-6 rep range, and the next within 8-10 reps per set. Make sure you adjust the weight on the bar accordingly so that you still find each set challenging.
Include Accessory Exercises in Your Program
Accessory exercises are those that you can perform alongside another exercise to improve your strength and technique. The best accessory lifts for the traditional wide-grip bench press include:
- Incline barbell bench press
- Decline barbell bench press
- Dumbbell bench press
- Close grip bench press
Generally, your accessory movements should be exactly that – they should be accessories to your main lift. They should enhance your main exercise (in this case, the bench press) so that you can lift more weight and get stronger in the movement. If you use this training technique, they can also be used to pre-exhaust your muscles before the main lift.
Focus on Explosive Lifting
Explosive training is the best way to gain strength and muscle size compared to training with a slower tempo.
Explosive training challenges the fast-twitch fibers in the chest muscles, helping you build power and strength. As a result, you’ll be able to lift heavier in your bench press. Make sure you’re maintaining great form and technique throughout your explosive sets, and you should still be in full control of the bar.
Get a Spotter
Having a spotter will give you the confidence to lift heavier, knowing that you’re in safe hands. If you get stuck under the bar, they’ll be able to help you lift the bar back up. Make sure your spotter is somebody who knows what they’re doing and is able to quickly jump in if you need help.
Increase Your Triceps Strength
Your pectoralis major, pectoralis minor, and anterior deltoids are the primary movers in the bench press. However, your triceps are essential for the rep portion, where you ‘lock out the weight’ (at the top of the press where your arms are fully extended).
You can't neglect your triceps if you want to improve your bench press in just a month. Make sure to train your triceps regularly to build their strength and power. This will translate over to your bench press strength.
Great exercises to increase your triceps strength include:
- Skull crushers with the EZ bar
- Close grip barbell bench press
- Dumbbell overhead triceps extensions
- Weighted triceps dips
- Cable triceps pull down
Bench Press Programming: 5 Programming Variables
A good program for bench pressing will be a program that is most appropriate to you. It should include variables that are managed around what works best for your situation as a lifter. Understanding the principles of how to apply these training program variables will be very important.
Here are some important bench press training program variables to consider when you’re considering how to get better at bench press:
- Exercise Order
- Exercise Variation
- Exercise Frequency
- Training Volume
- Training Intensity
1. Exercise Order
The order in which you perform your exercises can make a huge difference when it comes to strength performance. Exercise order refers to where you position the different exercises within a training session and also within a training week.
Research suggests that exercise order isn't very important for muscle hypertrophy. However, for muscle strength, exercises performed earlier on in the session seem to produce better gains when compared to exercises done later on in a session.
So to increase your bench press, it is best to keep this exercise at the start of the session. You can then perform other chest exercises and upper body movements when you finish your sets of bench presses.
2. Exercise Variation
Exercise variation refers to the variety of exercises you perform in a single session. Exercise variations change a small element of a movement so that it’s still similar to the primary movement but executed in a slightly different way. The purpose of choosing alternative exercise variations is to emphasize certain aspects of the original moment.
In the context of increasing the bench press, you may choose an exercise variation that fixes a specific weakness of yours such as failing halfway.
Alternatively, you may choose an exercise variation to emphasize a portion of the bench press range of motion, focus on a certain muscle group (like isolation chest exercises to build more chest muscle), or even change a bad movement habit during the execution of the bench press.
Here are some bench press variations that you can use to help improve your bench press weaknesses. Considering these factors is important when thinking about how to lift heavier weight:
- Long Pause Bench Press – bench press where there is an extended pause to increase time under tension at the bottom of the bench. It is a good variation for people who collapse or are weak off the chest.
- Medium or Close Grip Bench Press – bench press where the hand is gripped on the barbell at a narrower than usual position compared to a regular bench press. It is a good variation for people who over-flare their elbows during execution.
- Tempo Bench Press – bench press where you lower the bar down slowly, usually for a count of 3 or 5 seconds. This is good for people who tend to be inconsistent in technique with their repetitions.
- Spoto Press or Spoto Bench Press – bench press variation where the barbell is paused very close to the chest but not touching the torso at all. It is good for people who tend to let the barbell collapse on their torso.
For even more bench press variations that can help you increase your bench press, check out Bench Press Variations For Powerlifting: Top 9 Exercises.
3. Exercise Frequency
Exercise frequency refers to how often an exercise or group of exercise variations are trained throughout the week. Higher exercise training frequency is not always better or necessary. They need to suit you in terms of training experience, your preferences, and training availability.
Most novice to intermediate lifters will benefit from training the bench press 2 to 3 times per week. Advanced to elite lifters will benefit from training the bench press 3 to 5 times per week. However, there may be exceptions to these recommendations depending on the situation.
Increasing exercise frequency may not necessarily mean harder training. For example, you may spread your workload over more days to minimize training fatigue and maximize conditions for good technique to be practiced.
What’s the most optimal bench press frequency for you? Read How Many Times Per Week Should You Bench Press? to learn how often you should bench press.
4. Training Volume
Training volume means how much training is performed in the program. This refers to the total number of reps in most cases, but it can also refer to the rep range or the number of sets.
Training volume can dictate how hard the training week is going to be, i.e., the more training volume there is in the week, the harder the training week is.
Training volume has an inverse relationship to training intensity. The higher the training intensity, the less training volume that can be performed in training.
The more advanced you are as a lifter, the more work capacity that you have and the more work you need to bring about more gains. This means that, in general, higher-level lifters will have higher training volume.
5. Training Intensity
Training intensity is a term that can mean two things: objective training intensity or subjective training intensity. Objective training intensity is the percentage of a 1 rep max that a weight is. Subjective training intensity refers to how close to failure a set is.
The training intensity that is appropriate to you is associated with your level of experience as a lifter. The general consensus in research suggests that the more experience you have in terms of training age, the higher the average training intensity (percentage of your 1 rep max) that you should be training in.
In terms of proximity to failure, more novice lifters should avoid training close to failure because novices generally do not have consistent techniques. Training close to failure can exacerbate inconsistent or even poor technique.
As a lifter becomes more advanced, it may be more appropriate for them to train closer to failure.
How To Increase Bench Press By 50 Lbs: Sample Workouts
As I’ve mentioned, it’s easier for novice lifters to increase bench press strength by 50 lbs than for more experienced lifters. Experienced lifters need more specificity in their training because they cannot progress as quickly as newer people.
As such, two sample programs below for intermediate and advanced lifts that can help increase your bench press ad will be great if you’re wondering how to increase max bench weight during your lifts.
Sample Intermediate Bench Press Program
This intermediate bench press program uses daily undulating periodization, which means that the volume and intensity change on a session-to-session basis throughout the week. Using a sample of different intensities is useful as you can have slightly easier days to recover from the harder or heavier days.
The program is progressed weekly for 4 weeks before a deload, and the bench press load in each session is increased by 5lbs per week.
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 4 x 6 x 75%
- Barbell Row 3 x 10 3 to 5 reps in reserve
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 3 x 4 x 70%
- Lat Pulldown 3 x 10 3 to 5 reps in reserve
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 3 x 4 x 80%
- DB Curls 3 x 10 3 to 5 reps in reserve
- Skullcrushers 3 x 10 3 to 5 reps in reserve
Sample Advanced Bench Press Program
This advanced program is similar to the intermediate bench press workout program but differs in the following ways:
- Higher training frequency
- Higher training volume
- Higher peak training intensity
- More accessory exercises
- Adding pyramid bench press sets
The program is progressed weekly for 4 weeks before a deload, and the bench press load in each bench press session is increased by 2.5lbs per week.
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 3 x 8 x 75%
- Barbell Row 4 x 10 3 reps in reserve
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 3 x 4 x 70%
- Lat Pulldown 4 x 10 3 reps in reserve
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 3 x 4 x 80%
- DB Curls 3 x 10 3 reps in reserve
- Skullcrushers 3 x 10 3 reps in reserve
- Warm Up
- Bench Press 4 x 3 x 85%
- Dumbbell Rows 3 x 10 3 reps in reserve
- Cable Flys 2 x 15 5 reps in reserve
Looking for ways to increase your bench press without doing more bench press volume? Check out How To Increase Your Bench Press Without Benching (3 Ways).
3 Products To Help You Increase Your Bench Press
Resistance bands can improve muscle activation, helping you engage the right muscles during the bench press. You can also use resistance bands to add more tension to the barbell, challenging your muscles more than just pressing the bar.
You can use hanging chains in the bench press to make the weight heavier toward the movement's top. As you press the barbell higher and get nearer to the lockout, the chains are lifted off the ground, adding extra weight to the bar. They’re helpful when pushing for a new PR and maximizing muscle recruitment during the bench press.
Wrist straps can improve your grip strength. They enable you to focus more on your form and technique and less on losing grip on the bar. They also lower your risk of a wrist injury and enable you to push past your usual limits to achieve new PRs.
Most people should be able to increase their bench press by 50lbs. You can improve your form to quickly increase your bench press.
Use a kicking leg drive to maintain your arch, don't let the barbell sink onto your chest, and use the widest grip possible.
The program you use should have undulating periodization with various rep ranges from 1-4 all the way up to 8-10.
You'll also want to incorporate bench press variations like incline or decline bench press.
The best thing for you to do is to be as realistic as possible based on your level of training. You should never try to force gains to come by training harder, as this may not work in your favor. Focus on good technique and a sensible program, and monitor how you progress over time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why Is My Bench So Weak?
If you lack strength in your bench press, it’s likely due to weak contributing muscles (chest muscles or triceps) or poor technique. Increasing your upper body strength and perfecting your form will help you improve your bench press strength.
Do Push-Ups Increase Bench?
Push-ups will help to increase your bench press by increasing size, strength, and power in your chest muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids. They will also improve muscular endurance in your upper body, thereby improving your bench press.
How Many Reps Increase Bench Press?
You will want to work in the 1-5 rep range for between 4 and 6 sets to maximize your strength. If performing sets with very low reps, ensure you use a heavy, challenging weight to elicit muscle growth.
What Are The Most Common Mistakes In The Bench Press?
People make several common mistakes in the bench press, mainly with form and technique. Many people lift too heavy, bend their wrists backward, use the wrong grip width, and bench press with a flat upper back.
What Grip Width Should You Use In The Bench Press?
Generally, you should use a grip width between 1.5 and 2 times your shoulder width when performing the bench press, with most people finding that they are more comfortable with a grip nearer to 2 times shoulder width.
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com