How Many Reps & Sets for Weight Training on a Bench Press?


One of the most important exercises for weightlifters and bodybuilders is the bench press. It is performed with a barbell on a flat bench. The bench press is a power exercise designed to build the chest muscles and add upper body strength. It works the chest, shoulders and triceps muscles. If you want to increase your bench press, you need to vary repetitions and sets and gradually increase resistance.

Importance Of Proper Form

  • Proper form while bench pressing will enhance the overall workout and prevent injuries. The proper way to do a bench press is to lie on the bench with both feet on the floor. Grab the bar at about shoulder width. Slowly take the weight off the rack and bring the barbell forward until it is directly over the chest. Inhale as the weight is lowered. Without bouncing it off the chest, lift the weight up and exhale. Use both feet to drive the weight up. Arch the lower back but do not lift it off the bench. Pump out the desired amount of sets and return the weight to the rack.

    It is advisable to use a spotter when bench pressing. Spotters can help you perform more reps and help prevent injuries. Most fitness experts also recommend that you rest 3 to 5 minutes between each set of bench presses. However, more intense and lighter routines sometimes allow only 30 seconds of rest between sets.

Setting Fitness Goals

  • If you are a weightlifter, it is important to decide whether you are training for bodybuilding, power lifting or just to add strength and muscle. Bench press workouts vary a great deal. For example, power lifters will spend more time on bench presses and often perform lower repetitions. Bodybuilders do more exercises and sometimes substitute dumbbell bench instead of using barbells. Novices should start slowly and focus on proper form. The bench press should be done only twice per week.

Recommended Routines

  • Novice weightlifters must gradually get used to the weights. You need to work through the initial soreness. Injury is a possibility if heavier weights are used too soon. Novices should start out with about four sets of bench presses. The first set should be performed with about 50 percent of body weight. Beginners should do 10 to 12 repetitions during the first set and stay between 8 and 10 repetitions on the final three sets. Beginners will add strength quickly with higher repetitions and should stick with high repetitions for the first three months.

    Those who have been training awhile can start lowering repetitions to build strength and size. Five sets of bench presses are recommended for most people. On heavier days, warm up with a set of 10 repetitions at about 50 percent of body weight. Then do one set of 8 repetitions, one with 6 and one with between 3 and 5 repetitions. Try to get at least 2 to 3 repetitions on the last set. Only power lifters and experienced bodybuilders should max out on the bench press. On lighter days, stick to 8 to 10 repetitions on the bench press.

    Power lifters and some bodybuilders like to pyramid their weights. This entails starting with a light weight and gradually going heavier until maxing out with one repetition. After resting, start with one rep with the heavy weight and then work your way back down. This can sometimes involve up to 8 sets of bench presses. Though many people see their strength increase with this technique, it is not recommended for most people.

    Notre Dame introduced a bench press routine years ago that is a much safer alternative to pyramid training. The Notre Dame method charts are available at most gyms.

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