Skip to main content

What’s the best way to improve your bench press?

Increasing your bench press is often considered the ‘holy grail’ in most gyms. Every wanna-be meat-head gathers around the bench press in a pair of flip-flops, trying to impress their mates by lifting more than Oprah Winfrey’s mid-morning snack.

The technique I’m going to focus on, will see you bust through pretty much any plateau and improve your bench press numbers. It’s a technique called ‘Ramping’.

What is ‘Ramping’?

It’s a proven technique (which I’ve used many times), which means ‘ramping up’ or activating the nervous system while trying to minimise fatigue (especially when lifting the weight as fast as possible).

This technique can be applied to pretty much any exercise in the weight-room.

Traditional Setup

SetWeight liftedComments
160kg x 8First warmup set – very light
280kg x 8Second warmup set – Still light but a big jump from the previous set
3100kg x 6Third set we go a lot heavier, but can’t get out the same amount of reps
4100kg x 4The previous set with 100kgs used up all our energy reserves
590kg x 4Lowering the weight hasn’t made it any easier to complete the required number of reps

Why does it fail epically?

In the above setup, the difference between the last warm-up set and the first work-set is too large. The last warm-up set should feel more like another work-set.

‘Ramping’ Setup

SetWeight liftedComments
175kg x 8First warmup set we start at 60% 1RM
285kg x 8Second set we add 10kg
395kg x 8Third set we add another 10kg and keep the rep range the same
4100kg x 6Set 4 we go heavier again but this time reduce the number of reps
5105kg x 5The last set our nervous system is ready for the onslaught due to the progression, therefore lift more weight and reduce the number of reps once more.

Most importantly

Anything over 60% of your max can affect strength and size gains. You MUST attempt to lift the bar with as much speed as possible. No speed, no gains. Also, too many reps during the warm-up will only deplete energy levels from your working sets.

In a nutshell

#1 Start with a weight that is roughly 50-60% of your 1 rep max.
#2 Perform many sets of the desired rep amount, each one being heavier until you hit the maximum weight you will use.
#3 It can be done with any number of reps, although for strength I’d use 3-6, and for muscle-mass I’d use 6-8 or 8-12 (depending on the muscle being worked).

Editor’s note: Don’t drop your form to lift heavier unless you want to send yourself to the emergency ward. What are some other techniques you used to increase your lifts? Comment below.

Clint Nielsen

Author Clint Nielsen

Clint is a dad and husband trying to stay in shape. He's also a highly opinionated fitness enthusiast and author of Reveal The Steel. Follow him on: Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+

More posts by Clint Nielsen

Join the discussion 10 Comments

  • Clint,
    Wait till the meatheads get a hold of this! They will be benching even more! LOL. That’s a great observation about showing up with the flip flops. What a bunch of Dicks! I like the guys that wear skull caps down low, almost over their eyes, in the middle of summer. They should just wear a t-shirt that says, “Hi everybody, I’m a big douchebag!”

  • Clint Nielsen says:

    I wonder if anyone would wear such a t-shirt. Perhaps I could hand them out to people for free.

  • Clint,

    I used to do the traditional setup a few years ago. I did my first warmup set with the bar only and the next with very low weight. Now, I don’t even bother with these because they are just a waste of time and energy.


  • Hey Clint,

    Great information! Too bad I can’t bench press any more thanks to a motorcycle accident. :-(

    Right now I just have to stick with pushups and DB exercises using relatively light weight.

    Thanks for bringing back some good memories though!

    Best regards,

    ~ Pete

  • Project Swole says:

    I also enjoy the overload technique where you do a set of 5 with a certain weight, crank the next set up to a weight you can get for 3 and do 2 reps with it. Now hit that first weight again and try to get at least 7 reps. Hit that heavy weight +10 lbs for 1. Finish off by trying to hit that first weight for at least 7 again, if not 8-10 to finish off the exercise.

  • Spotted your website via msn the other day and absolutely enjoy it. Keep up the great work.

  • What a very nice and insightful post! It’s a fact that muscle growth is highly dependent on what one is eating, what one is lifting, one’s genetics, and what one’s goal is (and you’ve got to have a well-defined goal or else you’d be chasing after your goal forever). In addition to that, one needs to have discipline and dedication to take it to the very end (attainment of the goal that one has set). It shouldn’t be a spur of the moment kind of thing. You need to follow through, just like in anything that you want to succeed in in life. And lastly, it’s all about making everything work together—working out without the proper diet won’t cut it, taking jar after jar of supplements won’t get you bulked up if you don’t pump iron. You need to make everything work together—the right workout program, a proper diet, supplements, and a healthy lifestyle.

  • You are good writer. Thank you.

Leave a Reply