T Nation

Increasing My Bench Press


I've been doing Rippetoe's Starting Strength for about 2 1/2 months and have gained 12 pounds so far...but I'm still very weak and it definitely shows in my pathetic main lift numbers.

At this point in my program, 3x5:

Squat - 235 (still gradually increasing, not sure of my 1r.max)

Deadlift - 235 (still gradually increasing, not sure of my 1r.max)

Bench - 125 (stuck at 125, not increasing, don't know my 1rep max)

My bench has been stuck at 125 for like 3 weeks now, what can I do it increase it? any tips? I work out alone so I'm not always able to get someone to spot me.

Also...my left arm is significantly smaller than my right, I recently started doing left arm seated hammer curls at the end of my workouts..only 1 set of 10 reps...bad idea? good idea? I'd like to know what would be most effective to attempt to even out - or at least somewhat - my left arm with my right.

  1. What were your starting numbers to get a better picture.
  2. Which part of your left arm is smaller (bicep, tricep)?

If you have made little gains in the bench press then maybe the volume/intensity is not right for you, change it up. If however your coming off a 30lb increase then you have plateaued in your current setup.

a. Switch to incline press
b. Switch to dumbbell flat press
c. Get yourself in a rack and push yourself, it is possible you may be going to easy on yourself because you don't have a spotter. The rack will solve this.


Bad idea

Do only as much work as your weak arm can do, and eventually it will catch up

Also reassess your form to see if it may be contributing to the imbalance


My starting numbers were very very low..I was extremely weak when I started, I started out benching 85 pounds, squatting..

I believe I started 95, deadlift was 115 or something like that...I was able to increase the squat and deadlift pretty easily I think my body just had to adapt. With the bench i was able to increase weight pretty comfortably until i hit 125. Both the bicep and the tricep of my left arm are considerably smaller.

I don't necessarily feel that much stronger but I know I've gotten stronger because I couldn't even do a full pushup when I started now I can do full pushups with ease.

As a matter of fact I'm pretty sure the majority of the weight i gained went to my chest/shoulders.. my shoulder def. feel stronger and much broader than when I started but I still feel weak in the arms.

Yasser you may be right..my lack of a spotter makes me more conscious and I don't push myself as much for each rep for fear of dropping the bar. I already do dumbbell flat presses every other workout, 3 x 10, 50 lbs.

Rayjay - that may be part of it, but if I keep doing what I'm doing and not do any isolation exercises for my left arm you really think it will catch up? The bench press and the flat dumbell press are the only exercises working my arms, and as I said my left is considerably weaker and smaller.


Yes, if your doing the exercises with proper form then the left arm will catch up

It probably wouldn't hurt to observe how much you use your right over your left outside the gym too - chances are you favour your right - and try to use lefty more in everyday life


alright I see..yeah I definitely favour my right arm hard compared to my left..i rarely use my left for anything.


I plateau'd at 145 (6RM) couple months ago and it pissed me off cause I had finally managed to bench one plate and got stuck 10 pounds higher -_-'

Regular benching of any angle didn't break it, so what I did was include both incline and flat bench in my routine and have a spotter help me perform 4 forced reps at the end of my last sets. Fast-forward 4 or 5 weeks later I was doing 185 (6RM) on flat. Just need to force your body into adaptating man.


I was stuck at 165 for 5RM I started doing Inclined Dumbell Press At the biggining of chest day followed by declined Barbell press and then Dipps with added 25lbs then did flat bench last.....

I did this for 6 weeks then when I did my flat bench first 1 month ago Im now at 190 5RM so Its a reall mater of how to train and training to failure make sure you PUSH YOURSELF TO THE MAXXX! Have a spotter and youl break that barier!

Good Luck and Train Hard


I think most plateaus are mental. Especially in the beginning. I used to have a plateau of squatting at 315. I was scared I wouldn't be able to handle 315 for more than triples. Too much more than that and I was scared to do doubles or singles.

So after a while of doing the 8x3 thing with 315 on squats, I loaded up 315 just to see how many I could get in.

I stopped after ten.

I bumped my weight up after that.

The take home lesson is that sometimes, you bump the weight up anyways. If you get it, great. If you don't get it, you'll still get in three or four. And the workout after that, you get all five. Maybe. But you keep trying.


I too have the same problem its mainly in my head and I know this but the fear of dropping the bar and being uglier than i am now is very real.

I do not have a spotter but when my gym is empty I do my heavy workset on a bench in the smith machine

I have got where I couldnt get the bar up once and it rested on the stops and i slid out from under it unharmed got mad and tried again


I know the mind is ALOT stronger than any
muscle. My son simply could not bench
the 2 45lb plates.I slipped two 10 plates
on before he finished out with the 35's.
HE punched out two reps easy.Later, he could/would not repeat the lift.


My bench really improved when I strengthened my shoulders. As a matter of fact, I stayed off the flat bench for about three weeks and just did inclines, flyes, and extra shoulder work.


Note: This will contradict Rippetoe's program, and might not be wise if you are currently on it.

Consider strengthening your accessory muscles. Benching involves more than chest muscles, such as shoulders and triceps. Military press and close grip bench press, plus a couple other to foster these accessories.

Consider strengthening your back with exercises other than deadlifts; Your back is a gigantic muscle that helps stabilize your body as you perform the bench press. Building a strong back may in fact help your bench.


You can add 3 x 8 dips and 2 x 8 tricep extensions on friday's workout (where you get 2 days of rest). The bodybuildin.com writeup has this as an acceptable amount of axxessory work to add in after a while of being on the routine.

It may help you get through your plateu.


Don't use the smith machine. If there's no one around, use the rack with the pins set at a level that gives you a full range of motion, but will not let you get hurt if you drop the bar.


When you bench, does your chest get sore? Does it feel fatigued? Can you feel it contracting on each rep?

My bench used to suck. I had trouble with one plate. A huge part of the problem was my shoulders were dominant in the exercise. This resulted in shoulder pain and a crappy bench.

I worked with just the bar for a while, focusing on really squeezing my chest. I also pre-fatigued with flyes before each set. After a while, when I was comfortable with my chest involvement, I started upping the weight on the bar. It only took a few months for me to hit bodyweight on the bench (around 200 lbs right now).

I should also point out that I only bench as much as I can bent-over row. I think keeping balance between front and back has been a huge part in my quick improvement.


What kind of increase are doing week to week. I am assuming its 5lbs.

Look at it this way 5lb is 5% of 100. Asking for 5% linear increase over 10 weeks is unreasonable for anyone. You just can't increase linearly like that. I would say that a 40lb increase in weight at that rep range is pretty awesome for anyone. In this case that is almost a 40% increase in two months. That is phenomenal. Good work.

You can probably attribute the MASSIVE progress on deads and squat to huge increase in strength and better neural firing patterns(your body just got better at doing the movement and learned to recruit more muscle fibers). I am willing to bet that you have done much more benching in the past compared to squatting and dling, so there wasn't that "mind muscle" learning curve that probable experienced either your squat and DL.

Just lay off the bench for a week or two/ Do some DB presses or something. Another option would be to drop 10-20lb off your working weight and work back up over a few weeks.


^ thanks for the advice. I was able to do my last set with a spotter today and I can say there was a big difference, I was able to go all the way down for about 8 reps and I maintained pretty good form throughout...

I guess with the spotter there I was able to just concentrate on the exercise and not worry.. what if I can't get it up (pause). pemdas, thanks for the support and I guess it's a good increase in two months but I also started at a pathetically light weight.

And yeah, for 2 months I followed usctrojan's ecto workout so I was benching but not squatting or deadlifting. I only started to squat and deadlift when I started rippetoe's starting strength. To my surprise I was actually able to deadlift 3x5 sets across of 245 pounds...felt like puking after..