Workout Tips

Lift Doctor: Bigger Bench and Better Squats

The Doc's workout prescription for improving training performance and results.


“What’s the best way to increase my bench press weight?” – Michael Maclean

If you want to get your bench numbers up, it is all about technique and strengthening your chest, shoulders, and back. I wrote a pretty good How to Bench Press guide on my site that should help dial-in your technique.  As a quick overview, make sure you set up with lots of tension on the bench by driving your feet down into the ground and your upper traps into the bench. Pull your shoulders back and keep your chest up to finish the intitial setup. 

Instead of lowering the weight, think about ‘rowing’ the weight down to keep tension on your lats and maintain a good foundation. Also, make sure that your elbows track at about 45 degree out from your sides, and not flared out in line with the top of your shoulders. When the bar touches your chest, drive your feet down into the ground and jam it back upward in a straight line.

Compound Moves

To drive up your numbers, you should also incorporate compound exercises into your program to build the muscles that build a big bench, i.e., the shoulders, triceps, and chest.

I love heavy dumbbell military presses and shrugs to build the shoulders and traps.  We typically stick in the 3-4 sets of 8-12 rep range. To develop a massive back, you can’t go wrong with heavy t-bar rows, bent over barbell rows, and chin-ups. These 3 exercises should form the cornerstone of your back training.  In addition to bench pressing with a barbell, you should be hitting a ton of push-ups and dumbbell bench press variations.  Crush them for high reps and even push into the 20, 30, 50 rep range. 

Finally, as with any specific lift, to get better at it, you need to regularly incorporate it into your workouts.