I want to increase my 1RM on bench press. I lift about 2 years. At the beginning it went great and fast. But when I reached 220 lbs it stopped. It hasn't changed in the last year.

  • I go bench press once a week, after it some dumbbells and push ups. Ussualy 3-5 series. 1-10 reps and ~2 min pause on bench press. 5-15 reps on another exercises.
  • Sometimes I go triceps after chest workout (2 exercises), sometimes I go arms separately
  • I have a good technique. I have a right diet (enough macro/micronutrients and calories).
  • I don't feel overtrained. I have deload weeks sometime.
  • No, I don't try my 1RM every training.

I tried to lift like this:

  1. week: deload
  2. week: 12+ reps
  3. week: 8-12 reps
  4. week: 5-8 reps
  5. week: 2-5 reps
  6. week: 1RM test

With adequate weights of course.

A friend advised me to focus on triceps. So I started to train triceps harder with bigger weights, mainly dips. I also tried eat more and supplement creatine. Nothing helped.

Overall, it is about 16 series on chest, 12 series on triceps and 4 series on front shoulders per week.

On pull exercises my strength is growing. Slowly but surely.

So how to increase strength on bench press? Can you give me some tips, how to overcome my stagnation? Am I doing anything wrong? Should I try some training program?


  • When you attempt your 1RM, what's your failure point? Does it drop straight down? Can you hold it but it sticks at your chest? Does it just hover in the air? Can you post a form-check video?
    – C. Lange
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 21:33
  • This answer to my own bench press question might give you some insight as well: fitness.stackexchange.com/a/41680/31284
    – C. Lange
    Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 21:35
  • Currently lack the time for a proper answer, but a trick to find out what is most likely the weak link in the chain: Load a light weight on the bar (~50% 1RM) and bring the bar to the sticking point (the position where you struggle the most/the bar travels the slowest at high loads). Make small, bobbing up/down movement around that point for several seconds. First muscle that produces a burning sensation is most likely the weakest link. Also, if you want to progress with your bench no matter what and willing to sacrifice performance in other lifts for that, google the Smolov Junior routine. Commented Apr 6, 2020 at 22:56

5 Answers 5


I bench press once a week

I personally would not expect my bench press 1RM to increase past the absolute novice level if I only bench pressed once a week.

Consider bench pressing three times a week. I'm not sure I see the value in 12+ rep sets, but otherwise your approach of training different rep ranges (some call it "undulating periodization") sounds promising if you would just increase the frequency from 1x/week to 3x/week.

Should I try some training program?

Yes, that would be a very good choice.


Try micro loading, benching 2-3 times a week, and eating more. See if you can find some 1 or 1 1/2 pound plates in these trying times. Speaker magnets work well if you have iron plates and can’t find something to microload with.

Unless the weight you’re moving with your other triceps and chest exercises loads the chest and triceps more than the bench itself (highly unlikely), you’re not going to get stronger. You don’t see powerlifter doing push-ups, triceps extensions, etc... to get bigger bench numbers. They bench.


There are three general mechanisms for strength gain: technical, hypertrophic, and neural. (Of course, the technical has a neural component, but the distinction will become clear as I explain further.)

Technical mechanisms include position, posture, grip, and movement mechanics. Considerable gains can be made, often immediately, by simply optimising your position and posture. And of course, mastery of stability and movement control is critical.

It is important to understand that no single set of choices here will work for everyone, since variations in body geometry and muscle composition will affect those choices. However, some basics are universal: both feet should be firmly planted on the floor; the glutes should be activated; you should perform the valsalva manoeuver; and if you are training purely for lifting strength, you should arch you back to reduce the angle of flexion in the shoulder.

Hypertrophy is critical for a large lift since our strength is directly proportional to the cross-sectional area of our muscles. A high-volume, moderate-load training regimen involving technical variation and sets to fatigue and/or failure maximises the hypertrophic response.

This comes with a caveat, however. A regimen of moderate loads and sets to failure is neurally sub-optimal for pure strength. The regimen also stimulates the development of a greater mass of non-contractile tissue. Thus, if you are interested in absolute strength, there may be no reason to limit hypertrophy training. However, if you are interested in relative strength, it is preferable to compromise optimal hypertrophy with more strength-orientated hypertrophic gain—that is, to build muscle bulk through heavy rather than moderate loads.

After a basic technical and hypertrophic foundation has been lain, neural development is where gains are made. This involves lifting with maximal or near-maximal loads (1-4 repetitions maximum) with high frequency, and before failure or fatigue. If you have developed your strength primarily with hypertrophy protocol, pure strength training will generally result in considerable and rapid strength gain.

Generally, if absolute strength is sought, your approach should be to focus on hypertrophy, later alternating periods of strength and hypertrophy training. By contrast, if relative strength is sought, after a base of general strength and hypertrophy is attained, you should focus entirely on heavy lifting.

I hope that helps.


One thing I think you should really watch out for is your shoulder health and mobility. It is better for the shoulders to benchpress with elbows tucked not flared. I think it is also better for the posture. Tight pecs cause rounding of the shoulders. If your triceps are weak relative to the chest this causes you to flare the elbows and use more chest muscles. I think it may also be a good idea to use a somewhat narrow grip to make the exercise even more triceps dominated.


Back in the days I did benchpress I observed good results with negativ reps at 75% of 1RM until total failure. Th negative set came right after a regular set at the same weight pushed until failure. But honestly i would not recommend doing that, it s a lot of stress for the shoulders. Anyway I would not recommand to do bench press at all as long as you re not going for benchpress competition.

  • Welcome to the forum. As a general rule of thumb, try not to offer advice that does not address the problem that the original poster (OP) is trying to solve. That is, if the OP says "I want to increase my 1RM on bench press," try to avoid saying things like "don't do that" (unless you are proposing that not doing bench press will improve it). Your advice about performing negatives was entirely reasonable, and would be received better without the comment that follows. I hope that helps.
    – POD
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 7:12
  • I see your point but I do not agree. I do not want to advice something that is potentially dangerous without pointing out the risks.
    – Philippe
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 8:25
  • I would understand your point, and I think that it is fair, in such cases that someone is proposing doing something that is inherently dangerous. But there is nothing inherently dangerous about bench press or negative repetitions. That is to say, yes, all exercise is potentially dangerous if it is performed incorrectly, excessively, or beyond the limitations of the individual, but those factors are not inherently part of the exercise being proposed.
    – POD
    Commented May 20, 2020 at 10:38

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