Last updated on February 9th, 2023 at 01:23 pm
The most common gym-related question to determine someone’s manliness must be, “How Much Do You Bench Bro?”
So, there’s nothing more frustrating than performing bench press regularly, but finding that your numbers are actually going down.
This is obviously not great for progression, and definitely not great for the ego.
Allow me to explain what’s going on here.
The most common reason your bench press has gone down would be that your training lacks any variation. You bench press the same reps, the same sets, and the same time every single week. Basically, your body has adapted to the stress, and the muscles are no longer being worked as well as they initially were. Other things to consider are whether you’re recovering well enough, if you’ve lost weight, and how often you bench press. Furthermore, how often you press a load above your head, e.g. shoulder press, may also have an impact.
1. Your Bench Press Training Lacks Variation
I’m never quite sure where the “standard” workout came from.
You know what I mean – the first time you ever enter a gym you typically perform 3 sets of 10 reps of every exercise.
It’s only once you start to educate yourself, learn how your body reacts, and take on advice from others that your training protocol may change.
Now, I’m not knocking the good old 3×10, but it’s important to realise that the body adapts fairly quickly to exercise.
And by this, not only do I mean the bench press, but any exercise.
This is typically why most of us at one time or another hit a plateau in our training.
That being said, hitting a plateau could also mean that this is the maximum capacity at which your body can work a particular exercise.
But, in truth I don’t think many of us get anywhere near to this point.
The human body is far more capable than we give it credit for.
So, when it comes to the bench press it’s probably time to re-evaluate how you train the movement.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but Monday seems to be “bro day” no matter where you go.
Basically, for every guy, everywhere on the planet, Monday is chest day.
Okay, I exaggerate, but hopefully you get my meaning.
How to Vary Your Bench Press Training
So, the easiest “variation” would be to actually train chest on a completely different day.
I will say that you need to be careful which day, as you don’t want the previous day’s training to impede on your bench press.
As an example, if you’ve trained your shoulders, or triceps, or even both, the day before, you’re probably not going to be bench pressing to the best of your ability.
So, choose wisely.
You should also look at varying your reps and sets on a regular basis.
I know that we all measure progression by simply trying to lift more weight, or do one more rep, than the week before.
However, if your bench press isn’t increasing, has stalled, or even gone backwards, a little variety could be just the key.
And funnily enough, you may even find that reducing the weight on the bar, and performing more reps, will actually help you to eventually lift more weight.
So, if you’re currently pumping out 3 sets of 10 reps every Monday morning, it’s time for a change.
Why not try 4 sets of 15 reps on a Wednesday one week.
Then the following week you can hit 5 sets of 5 reps on a Tuesday, and so on.
2. Your Recovery SUCKS!
When I speak of recovery, I’m basically talking about everything you do when you’re not in the gym.
However, I would say that one of the main culprits that halts progression, and can even see your bench press numbers go down, is poor recovery.
I would include how you eat, what you’re drinking, how you’re sleeping, other daily activities, how you relax in the evenings, what your home life is like, your relationships, basically the whole shebang.
For me, I think it’s actually extremely hard to overtrain for most of us.
But, it is definitely possible to under-recover.
In fact, I’m all for high frequency training, and hitting certain exercises and movements multiple times a week.
And I definitely include the bench press as one of those exercises that you can do a few times a week.
That being said, if your recovery isn’t on-point you’ll definitely struggle.
And this of course could be why your bench press has gone down.
So, it’s probably time to take a good, hard look at these various areas of recovery.
Are you eating enough?
Do you take on adequate fluids on a daily basis (water of course)?
Are you getting at least 7-8 hours of “good” sleep every single night?
Is there anything currently happening in your life that is causing you undue stress or anxiety?
If you can fix these things then you should start to notice significant improvements in your bench press, and your overall training.
3. Have You Lost Weight? (Even Water Weight)
Did you know that the lift most affected by losing weight is the bench press?
You would think that it was more likely that the squat or deadlift would be severely impacted by weight loss.
I mean, they are typically more demanding on the body and the Central Nervous system than the bench press.
However, as it turns out it’s the bench press that will suffer the most if you lose weight.
Plus, even if this is just water weight, so in effect you maintain your muscle mass, your bench press numbers can go down quite dramatically.
Perhaps, you’re currently in a cutting phase.
Then again, maybe you’re trying to lean out.
It could even be that you’ve upped your cardio and conditioning workouts.
So, it may be time for you to jump on the scales and see what’s going on.
As I say, just because your squat and deadlift numbers haven’t been affected, this doesn’t mean that you haven’t lost weight.
Furthermore, even losing water weight over just a day or two can have an impact on your bench press.
So, if you are someone who generally does chest on a Monday, your weekend activities may hold a clue for you.
4. How Often Do You Bench Press?
Okay, I’ve spoken about the importance of recovery, but also of the fact that it’s hard for most of us to overtrain.
However, just to be contradictory, this can work both ways.
If you are bench pressing every single day in an attempt to up your numbers, I actually see nothing wrong with this.
That is, as long as you are varying your intensity, and indeed the lifts you are performing.
That being said, this is never a permanent solution.
If you want to increase your bench press, you should only look to “specialize” with the lift for a few weeks at most.
Then it’s time to take your foot off the gas pedal, potentially have a week off from bench pressing, before returning to it once more.
Then again, if you’re only bench pressing once a week (on a Monday no doubt) then as I say, your body may well have adapted to this.
So, it could be time to up your bench press game and perform the movement more regularly.
Basically, you need to find a happy medium.
5. How Often Do You Shoulder Press?
Now this is going to sound weird, but trust me it will help.
How’s your overhead pressing work going?
For many of us, if we want to increase reps or load on a particular exercise, then we work that exercise more often.
And this of course makes perfect sense.
However, this is often done at the expense of training other exercises or muscles.
That being said, overhead pressing can have a huge impact on how well your bench press goes.
So, I’m talking about the military press, push presses, dumbbell shoulder presses, etc.
Basically, your bench press strength corresponds to shoulder size and strength.
Therefore, if you get stronger in the overhead pressing movements you will find that your bench press will dramatically increase too.
And this can actually happen without even training the bench press.
So, take a look at your training, and see if you happen to be training shoulders less in an attempt to increase your bench press.
This could actually be the answer as to why your bench press numbers have reduced.
Key Learning Points
- If your bench press has stalled or is going down it’s likely that your training lacks variety. So, it makes sense to change the weights used, sets, reps, and even the day of the week you perform bench press.
- Your bench press will suffer if you’re not eating or drinking enough, and not getting ample sleep. Recovery is essential when training.
- The exercise most affected by weight loss is the bench press. So, if you’re struggling with the movement check whether you have lost weight.
- Although recovery is important, if you want to get better at any exercise it make sense to perform it more often. So, to see increases in bench you can definitely perform the movement more than once a week.
- Get stronger at overhead pressing movements and you’ll notice that your bench press also improves.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.