Best Exercises to Improve Your Bench Press

Written by Jack Boardman

 Improve Your Bench Press

You know that you’re developing as a weightlifter, or at least getting keen when you are looking for exercises to improve your ability in other exercises.


The bench press is the cornerstone of many gym routines. It is integral in building upper body strength and, as a compound lift, is essential for mass muscle building.


The aim of a compound lift is to engage several muscles at once in order to strengthen and grow them. The primary reason to work on your bench press may be to build a bigger chest, but you may not realise that other muscles are also developed whilst bench pressing.

close grip bench press

A properly executed bench press works your pectorals (chest), your anterior deltoids (front shoulders), triceps brachii (the backs of your arms), and latissimus dorsi (the broadest muscle on your back).


If you want to improve your bench press, there are a few things to consider. First, make sure that your muscles are not exhausted before you lift. For an optimum bench press session, it should take place after a complete day of rest for the muscles involved.


Second, look at the reps and weight you’re lifting. If you’re doing too many reps at a lighter weight, lower the number of reps while increasing the number of sets and the amount you’re lifting. To increase strength, when you reach a plateau you should drop the number of reps when you up the amount you’re lifting. When your body adjusts, with time and practice, add on the reps again until you’re ready to increase the weight again. Your growth will, of course, depend on nutrition and the amount of protein and calories you’re consuming and burning off.

close grip bench press

The next point is that, while you may be bench pressing regularly you might not be improving in strength because that’s all you’re doing. If this rings true then it’s time to start looking at individual muscles, rather than a one size fits all approach to bench pressing.


Stick to free weights – that is, barbells and dumbbells – as these will engage more muscle fibres than the Smith machine or assisted lifting machines.


It’s a standard approach to look at what’s in front of you first, so begin with the chest and break it up into parts. This way you can look at your upper chest, lower chest and the fly motion with the following exercises:


Incline bench press (dumb bell and barbell)

Decline bench press (barbell and dumbbell)

Tricep press down


Weighted boxing

chest dips exercise

Many bodybuilders recommend that you bench with your back; in other words, you should engage your back for power when pressing outwards. This means developing your lats. This is achieved with rowing and reverse flies, as follows:


Reverse cable fly

Seated row

Decline row

chest press

Much of the push comes from your triceps, so these should be fresh and rested for a chest day. You’ll otherwise need to develop your tricep strength.  This muscle is developed by extending the arm and with closer grip presses. Try the following exercises:


Close grip bench press

Cable pull down

Overhead cable extension

Shoulder press with barbells

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Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile organisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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