2 Ways To Break Your Bench Plateau

14 Year Old 8th Grader Bench 275 is the most commented on YouTube video I have (WATCH IT HERE).  Either people want to put up their Internet numbers, claim he wasn’t 14, or ask how to improve their bench.

Actually, Jake went on to put up 315 easy while still 14, but I really have no motivation to put that video up and deal with the insane keyboard warriors on YouTube (the reason why you don’t see a whole lot of bench videos out of me).

Some of them do have legit questions though about their bench plateauing – not growing for an extended period of time.  In order to break that plateau, you need to identify what your weakness is and then choose one of the suggestions below to address it.


2 Ways to Shatter Your Bench Plateau

1.  Bench Less. I know people that bench 2-3 times a week – actually I know someone that benches EVERY OTHER DAY in pyramid fashion.   The problem is your body has adapted to the load and movement (law of adaptation explained).

Use the bench as your “testing exercise” and work in more bench variations – board pressing, close grip, band, chain, dumbbell, etc.   Also spend this time to develop your back.   Back muscles will not only get you thicker, but believe it or not your back and your chest muscles are connected.  If you have a glaring imbalance in one, the other will suffer.

Add pull ups, heavy barbell rows, and resisted supine rows.

2.  Get Strong Triceps. You know that little muscle on the back of your arm that a lot of people don’t see when they are doing their nightly mirror pose downs?  That’s the muscle group you should be working on to fill up your sleeve!

I highly recommend two exercises in particular – close grip bench and heavy dips. On close grip bench, make sure to really tuck your elbows and then drive the bar back up.

Heavy dips are awesome….if your shoulders allow.  If you have severe mobility issues or impingement, work on those before doing dips.  Don’t be afraid to do 5-6 sets of 2-5 dips.  Slap that weight on and get your bench up.

In the video above, it is no coincidence that Crazy Jeff can bang out dips with 140-185 lbs on his waist…his bench is also over 405 at a body weight of around 215.

Keep It Simple

I could rattle off at least 10 more ways to break your plateau, but I think that may water down this article.  I want to keep it simple and effective.  If you do bench too much, then follow #1.  If you do not do exercises in suggestion #2, then add them.  Done deal.

Enjoy your increasing bench press!

- Joe Hashey, CSCS -

Disclaimer: If your bench is under 135lbs, you haven’t plateau’d, chances are you shouldn’t even be benching yet anyways and that’s the truth.  Get stronger and read “The Truth About Weakness

PS.  Awesome job with the comments on the Healthy Oatmeal Pancake Recipe!

=>After 20 comments…

…on this article I will put out the next article on Primary Exercises and Progressions on Thursday.  Leave your thoughts below!

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  • jhashey

    Reply Reply April 27, 2010

    [New Post] 2 Ways To Break Your Bench Plateau – via @twitoaster http://synergy-athletics.com/effective-s

  • Mike

    Reply Reply April 26, 2010

    I second the triceps part. People will occasionally ask me what exercise I do for my biceps and I usually say I don’t really exercise my bicep. rarely do curls or anything like that(I will do those hold 1 arm 90 degrees while the other curls if anything on core days). I like the weighted dips, ring dips, banded skull crushers, and close grip bench. I guess the Olympic style lifts don’t hurt either. I just hope my new gym will let me store a gigantic tire out back for some flips!

  • Clement

    Reply Reply April 27, 2010

    Hi Joe, props for the great article! I’m benching 42.5kg now, which is not my bodyweight yet, but I’m just really getting started on strength training and went up 12kg in a single week! It just goes toshow that beginners can really improve at the speed of light!

    Anyway, I just read your article on GPP. Do advanced lifters still have to do it, and how frequently? It seems a lot like metabolic conditioning finishers to me. Correct ne if I’m wrong!

    • Clement,

      GPP is different than a metabolic finisher. It can be low or high tempo and placed anywhere in a workout.

      Advanced lifters absolutely have to do GPP. They still drag sleds at Westside and you will see most college programs incorporating it through the offseason.

      - Thanks for the comment! Joe

  • Mike

    Reply Reply April 28, 2010

    Completely off topic but I’ve started training for a triathlon and discovered the huge potential swimming has in being incorporated in my regular strength, conditioning, and Brazilian Jujitsu training. Seems like I could add it as a finisher to a strength workout by doing “sprint” distances. Or a complete cardio workout on other days. Do you have any input. Also it is somewhat relaxing so seems like it could be especially useful in tapering weeks.

  • Mike,

    Swimming is great – I just don’t post about it often since most people don’t have access to a pool. I would suggest completing it on regular workout days as a finisher OR on off days as recovery.

    A handful of weeks out of the event, then start switching over to distance more specific to your contests. Good luck and triathons are impressive! Enjoy


    - Thanks for commenting!

  • thefightgeek

    Reply Reply April 28, 2010

    Hey Joe,

    I’ve been following some of the concepts of the Gym Movement guys (like Mike T Nelson & Adam T Glass) …

    Anyway, one of the things they talk about is improving in any direction you can …

    The way I used this concept with my benching was as follows …

    I tried to improve at all the intensities from 80kg up (ie. 80kg, 90kg, 100kg etc.).

    By improve, I mean I tried to get more reps per set at each intensity. Or more sets at each intensity. Or increase the volume per time at each intensity. (three separate directions of improvement).

    Which ever ‘direction’ of improvement tested well on a given day, I trained.

    Not sure if this is exactly the way they outline, but it’s worked quite well for me so far …

    I went from a 115kg bench at the beginning of January to 155kg bench by the middle of march.

    I’ve been particularly pleased because I’ve had both shoulders dislocated in the past and have struggled with pushing and pressing movements in general … this approach seems to have by-passed those issues.


  • Ian

    Reply Reply April 29, 2010

    I think benching less frequently will help if you are hitting too much weight and / or volume in your sessions… However bench press is a skill as well so frequently bench pressing has actually really helped me, provided a lot of it is relatively easy, low-rep work. It really drills the technique in my experience and weights start to feel easier pretty quickly – interesting article on this here (http://www.cbass.com/Synaptic.htm) if you don’t mind me posting it.

    Just wish my shoulders would let me dip!


    • Ian, I know what you mean – I certaily would recommend keeping it in with less volume if you are only benching once a week. That one is more for the bench fanatics!


  • Clement

    Reply Reply April 30, 2010

    Thanks for the reply, Joe! Do you have any resources that would help me understand GPP better? I’ve a feeling I’m not incorporating it into my training as yet…

  • wrestler strength

    Reply Reply October 11, 2010

    I’ve been hitting the heavy dips big time in the last month or so and have really noticed a lot of good things going on with my bench. I know Louie has always been a big proponent of hitting the tris super hard and I’m really starting to find out why. Did you end up posting the Primary Exercises and Progressions? If so, where can I find it?

  • strength training for wrestling

    Reply Reply November 1, 2010

    Nice post! Thank goodness for those “keyboard warriors” eh Joe?!?!

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