Bench Press Progressions

What’s the Best Exercise for Developing a Strong Chest?

Bench Press.  That’s the answer.  Yes Dips, pushups, ball pushups, flys, etc. are good too.  Nothing works faster or better than bench press, but it’s also a source of frequent injury.  Be deliberate and slow on increasing weight.  A tear in the tendon of clavicullar head of the pectoris major is more common than you think.  Be patient with raising the weight, just be cause you can lift the weight, doesn’t mean your tendons can.

Breaking through plateaus

Now that I’ve scared you into never increasing you weight (10% per week is a good guide by the way), how do you actually increase weight when you’ve been stuck as the same weight for a while.  There are a number of ways including bands and changing the angle.  I explore the options in this video

YouTube video

Questions on Form

  1. How far apart should my arms be?
  2. Should I use a thumbless grip or closed grip?
  3. Should my back be flat, should my legs be elevated, or should my back be arched?
  4. Do my feet need to touch the ground?
  5. How many reps and sets should I do?
  6. How much weight should I use?


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  1. It depends on how long you arms are.  Generally I space my hands 6 inches from the inside knurling of the bar.  The wider you go, the more chest that is used.  The narrower, the more tricep.
  2. Closed grip unless you have a sophisticated spotting assembly like show in the video.  Closed grip will use more brachilalisradialis (forearm), while open grip uses more lats and triceps.  Using a fatbar is also excellent for bringing in more forearm recruitment.
  3. It depends.  The classic position is balanced overall and there aren’t any problems with it unless there are issues with a person’s back.  The Arched back variation is for powerlifting.  You can lift more like this because it recruits from the lower pectoris which is stronger.  On the contrary, it’s not as useful for developing the pectoris muscle.  The raised leg variation is also excellent for people that are short or have lower back pain.  It works more mid and upper pectoris.
  4. Yes, your feet should be on the ground, and if you are too short, use a yoga block or calf block.
  5. How many reps and sets?  6-8 for strength, 8-12 for hypertrophy, 12-20 for glyolytic, and 20-40 for burning fat.  Sets?  3-5 is customary, and there isn’t much reason for someone to vary from this scheme.  One set isn’t useful, and 5 sets are the correct weight is plenty.
  6. It depends on your goals and your rep range.  However most bench is done between 60%-80% of your one rep max.
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