Bench 9 19 D

So you want to have a bigger bench? Normally, we’d tell you to get in line but in this case, we’ll just urge you to read on. In our first seminar on adding serious weight to your bench press totals, we learned about the value of Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT), which calls for moving submaximal loads with maximal effort in order to trick your central nervous system into recruiting more muscle.

This week, we’re addressing a tactic that boosts bench totals indirectly. Arm training.

Arm Training Matters

Let’s face it: there isn’t a Muscle & Fitness reader out there that wouldn’t mind adding a little size to their arms. Vanity aside, let’s examine how bigger arms can boost your bench.

Strong triceps are extremely important to locking out heavy bench presses. For some people, weak triceps can seriously inhibit the amount of progress that can be made under the bar on chest day. If your tri’s are strong and well-trained – with the right balance of additional tactics that we’ll cover in the seminar – you are more likely to be a presser with totals on the upswing.

Obviously, the triceps are going to get the best work from compound movements like weighted dips, close-grip bench presses and close-grip decline bench presses. To fully develop a muscle, a variety of exercises and set and rep schemes need to be applied.

Single-joint movements for high reps should also be included to make your arms grow and support heavy weight for big bench presses. Additionally, high rep single joint movements are great for joint health as they keep articular cartilage lubricated, which permits healthy joint functioning. This is particularly important since heavy training – the kind that you want to do like a boss – can produce a lot of wear-and-tear on joints.

Barbell curl 22

I don’t mean to upset the strength purists, but curls are for more than girls. Biceps help stabilize heavy weights. Think about a massive storm with very high winds: a tree with a large trunk is much more stable than a tree with a skinny trunk. Bench presses are the storm and your biceps are the calming, stabilizing force. In addition, making stronger biceps a priority helps you to build strength in balance. As you work toward aesthetic symmetry, symmetry of strength should also be pursued – strong biceps and triceps, a strong chest and back. Keeping these things in balance reduces the risk of injury and physique imbalances while keeping strength gains on track.

Furthermore, strong forearms help you squeeze the bar tightly, making the weight feel much lighter in your hands and translating the force better throughout the working muscles.

Press Point

To ensure that you keep your strength gains on track with the bench press, make sure that you are regularly training your biceps, triceps and forearms. Stronger triceps help with pressing heavy weight to full extension. Stronger biceps aid in the stabilization of weight on the bench and with complementary lifts and stronger forearms help to better translate generated force into the bar on each rep. Vary your exercises and rep ranges but be sure to keep at least some of your work in the lower, strength-producing ranges (6-10 reps). 

Next Week: Bench Press Seminar 3: Stop Stretching.

Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at

Strength Stack

Supplement             Dose

Whey protein              20 grams 30-60 minutes pre-workout; 40-60 grams immediately post-workout


Caffeine                      200-400 mg 1-2 hours before workouts


Creatine                      3-5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 3-5 grams with breakfast


Beta-alanine               1-1.5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 1-1.5 grams with breakfast


Ribose                        5-10 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 5-10 grams with breakfast


Taurine                       1-3 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes


Tribulus terrestris        250-750 mg with breakfast and one hour before workouts; do not take it on rest days


Fish oil                        4-6 grams in 2-3 divided doses with meals