Overcoming Plateaus in the Bench

Over a year ago if you would have asked me what was my weakest lift; I would have definitely responded "Bench Press." Something as little as a 5 lb gain was hard to come by. I can remember working my butt off for 6+ months for a measly 5 lb Increase on my bench press. In the world where my other lifts were steadily increasing, working hard for little return in investment was a very tough concept to wrap my head around. 

August 2015 I competed in my first meet and benched 165 lbs. Fast forward to July 2017 and I benched 215 lbs in competition. That's 50 lbs in a little less than two years. Progress did not come easy or instant but overtime I was able to continuous put more weight on the bar. Now I am able to bench over 225 on a weekly basis.


1. Frequency. Smaller lifters need constant exposure with the movement to drive progress.  3-4x a week is recommended. Larger lifters can drive progress with a little less frequency of 2-3x a week on average is common.

2. Volume. A couple sets/reps per sessions will not get the job done. Volume drives hypertrophy and bigger muscles will increase your strength potential. The goal here is to continuous do more work over time. Spend some time at the end of each workout and focus on general upper body hypertrophy.

3. Micro-loading. You may not be able to add 5 lbs each week to your working sets without resulting in a failed rep. However, fractional (.5 lb -1.25 lb) plates will allow you to continuous add weight from week to week in smaller increments.

4. Technical proficiency. I believe the bench press is the lift that you need to be the most technically consistent in. Any slight deviation in bar path, lack of leg drive, etc. can result in a missed lift. Perfecting those variables, can enhance your ability to lift more weight.

5. Weight gain. Don’t be afraid to gain some MUSCLE. The bench press is the most body weight dependent lift. Make sure you are eating according to your goals.

6. CONFIDENCE. If you don’t believe that you can do something, the barbell will prove you right.

7. Persistence. You will never gain progress as fast as you would like. There will be great days and there will be days you feel your absolute weakest. You must stay the course and trust the process.

Many of the tips listed above are not dependent of each other and one variable will drive the next. A sound training program will include enough frequency, volume, and loading over time that will allow you to practice technical proficiency and build your confidence that will allow you to become STRONGER over time. YOU must be persistent and consistent in your training to reap the benefits. 

To learn more about Samantha Calhoun, click here! >>

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