a man exercising in the gym with a bench press

The bench press is a popular training tool and a hot topic among people who are into strength training. One question that keeps popping up is how often should you bench press? The optimum frequency for the bench press depends on several factors, such as your fitness level and training objectives. The goal is to do just enough to facilitate growth and build muscle without wasting energy, overdoing it, or causing injuries.

Experts recommend a bench press frequency of 2-4 days every week, but there’s no perfect training program that works for everyone. Read on to figure out the ideal number of times a week you should bench press. Learn how often to bench press to see results, and read about the advantages and disadvantages of benching more frequently.

Bench Press Training Frequency for Strength

The bench press is a more complex piece of gym equipment than most people think. Dumbbell and barbell movements on the bench press require highly technical skills, including precision and the coordination of multiple muscles. Lifters whose main emphasis is strength gain in the upper body can use the bench press to great advantage.

Generally speaking, if you want to build body strength, you will need to bench press more frequently, certainly more than once per week. Research backs up this claim. In a study that compared training once a week with training three times a week, people who trained three times a week showed more than double the improvement in strength over a 12-week period. This mirrors what most athletes claim – that their bodies respond best to higher training frequencies of 3-4 times a week, with a combination of barbell and dumbbell exercises on the bench press.

Before you rush out to buy a weight bench for a home gym, it’s worth noting that your strength gain will depend on other factors besides bench press frequency. These include the amount of weight, volume, and intensity. It’s equally important to do the correct accessory exercises to avoid injury due to overtraining. There are plenty of exercise guides available to help you plan the best training program for continued progress and strength gain.

Bench Press Training Frequency for Upper Body Mass Gain

young man doing bench press exercise for chest

If your aim is to increase muscle mass in a specific part of the body with strength training, you’ll have to take into account several training variables in addition to bench press frequency. Various things play a role in gaining mass in a specific body part, such as pre workout lean body mass, diet, and sleep.

In general, higher bench press frequencies tend to result in more improvements in muscle thickness. However, this can vary from person to person. In other words, if your aim is to increase lean muscle mass in the upper body, then you should increase your bench press with weight lifting curl bars to achieve your goal.

There’s something else you should keep in mind when developing your workout plans. Full body workouts can lead to better results in upper body mass gain. One study compared training 5 days a week with two different training programs. One group did a full body workout and the other group did a split workout. After 8 weeks, the group that worked on the whole body had made greater gains in bench press strength as well as overall muscle thickness.

How Often Should You Bench Press Heavy and Max?

Good workout plans help you build up to peak performance in 6-12 weeks. Beginners can sometimes peak earlier because their press strength is lower. Also, they don’t need to accumulate as much frequency and volume as more experienced lifters.

If you perform a range of exercises with an adjustable dumbbell set, your bench press frequency can be once a week. In this type of strength training, you can do a triple add set, where you start with a light weight with high reps and work your way up to a heavier weight with moderate reps. This helps recruit all the different types of muscle fibers in the target muscle groups, ensuring they have been completely worked.

An alternative to such workout plans is dividing your training into power and strength hypertrophy on a weekly basis. If you bench heavy consistently, you will get accustomed to the resistance training and make gains in body strength.

When it comes to maxing out, things are a little different. This is the weight you can bench for a certain number of reps without affecting your form. Experts recommend a max bench press every 6 weeks or so to assess your progress. It’s something you should do with care to avoid injury.

How Often Should You Bench Press If You’re Over 30?

People of all ages can build muscle by bench pressing. However, it’s important to get medical advice before beginning any strength training plan for muscle building. The training frequency for people over 30 depends on various things, such as previous experience, fitness goals, and the presence of any chest or shoulder blade injuries. To see results, you will have to be consistent over a period of time. Figuring out the optimum frequency may take some trial and error. For some people, a higher frequency of 3-4 times a week of bench pressing works better. Others may see results with two times a week of bench pressing.

The thing to keep in mind if you’re over 30 is that recovery tends to be slower. You may find you have niggling pains in your joints or muscle soreness, which can make returning to the gym challenging. Consistency is important, but ultimately, you have to go with medical advice. It is a good idea to understand the differences between an ez curl bar and a straight bar if you have reduced mobility.

A good rule of thumb is to be mindful of your own body and what it’s telling you. Also, mixing up the workout plans to include accessory exercises and range of motion can give the primary muscles like the shoulder blades time to recover, especially in those over 30.

How Often Should You Increase the Bench Press Weight?

man training doing bench press in a gym

During strength training, beginners should increase the amount of weight every week to maintain linear progression. If you’re serious about strength and conditioning, you may have to do this for up to 6 months. This will get you the best results in terms of gains in muscle mass, as well as fat loss.

While increasing the weight and bench press frequency is pretty straightforward for beginners, it gets a little more complicated as you gain experience. You cannot keep increasing the weight indefinitely. To make the most of your workout, you will need to perform variations of weight and rep schemes to keep progressing. This will help train different muscle groups, while steadily improving strength and volume. One way to do this is to develop a training frequency where you alternate strength and hypertrophy. For more experienced lifters, increasing the weight every 3 weeks or so is recommended.

How Often Should You Work on Specific Muscles?

If you want to work on your chest (pectorals) or shoulder blades, your bench press training frequency should be at least two days every week. In other words, depending on how quickly you recover, each target group of muscles should be trained every 2-4 days.

As you become more experienced, you’ll recover more quickly, even with increased training frequency. However, a word of caution here. Experts recommend that you shouldn’t push yourself to the maximum limit during every workout session. For long term results, a better approach is to increase volume gradually every week. This will allow you to recover and make steady gains. In a nutshell, be sensible about your training. Keep your long term goals in mind rather than trying to achieve quick gains and ending up with injuries.

Advantages of Training More Often on the Bench Press

A key advantage of more frequent bench press workouts is that the more you do, the more your technique will improve. Bench pressing is a skill. When you spend time practicing it, you improve. It’s like any other sport: for example, the more you practice your golf swing, the better your game gets.

Another advantage of increasing your bench press workout frequency is you will start seeing results more quickly. This is important if you’re struggling with stalled progress. This happens often with people who have been lifting for more than three years. When you’re a beginner, the rate of progress is quick and that keeps you motivated. However, over time, the progress becomes slower. Upping the workout frequency on a bench press can help you overcome a plateau in strength improvements.

If you’ve been bench pressing the same volume for 4-6 months, you may find your progress has stalled. What happens is that the body adapts to the stress you’re putting it under. To overcome the stall, you need to add training volume to your workout.

If you’re a competition lifter but you don’t have any event coming up, it’s a great time to ramp up your bench press workouts. The goal is to build training volume, and increasing the frequency of your workouts is the easiest way to do this.

Last but not least, if you want to focus on the bench press, then increasing your workout frequency is the best way to go about it. You don’t have to stick to one workout plan for the whole year. You can do a 3 days per week bench press schedule for 8-10 weeks and then cut back on the frequency and shift your focus to whole-body, well-rounded training. The advantage of experimenting with these periodizing strategies is that you may stumble upon a program that works exceptionally well for you.

Advantages of Training Less Often on the Bench Press

man building chest muscles with the bench press

If you’ve found a workout plan that works for you, it’s best not to fiddle with it. Meaning, there’s no point increasing your bench press training frequency if what you’re currently doing is working well for you. As long as you’re making progress, it doesn’t matter if you’re only bench pressing one day a week.

Another advantage of training less often on the bench press is that you’re more likely to be able to fit it into your schedule. Let’s say you only have time to work out for 45 minutes 4 days a week. You have to maximize this time and make it work for your fitness goals. You shouldn’t be comparing yourself to someone who has the time to work out 6 days a week for 2 hours each day. If you train less often on the bench press but still meet your strength goals, then all is well.

Restricting the number of times that you bench press in a week also reduces your risk of injuries. If you’re already struggling with niggling pains, it may even be a good idea to reduce the frequency of your bench press workouts. Your goal in such a situation should be to heal and get back to optimum function, not increase the frequency of bench pressing.

If you’re training for a competition, it’s important to peak at the right time, i.e., on the day of the event. This means you may have to train less frequently on the bench press or maintain the frequency at your current level in the lead up to the event.

Common Mistakes People Make with Bench Press Training

For many people, the goal is to at least be able to bench press their own weight. If you can do this, give yourself a pat on the back. You’re among the very few people who can. That said, don’t let your ego get the better of you. This legendary exercise has many benefits, but also many pitfalls. Here are the most common mistakes people make while bench pressing and what you can do to avoid them.

  • Overtraining is a bad idea and can lead to injuries. Instead, try taking periodic breaks in your bench press training and you’ll find you come back stronger.
  • Not splitting your bench press training is a no-no. Give each muscle the attention it deserves and train each body part once or twice a week to allow adequate recovery.
  • Poor form can undo all the benefits of bench pressing. Work on your technique before lifting heavier weights. This includes improving your grip, retraction of the shoulder blades, arching of the back, and resting your feet on the ground when you lift.
  • Warm-ups are essential, but too many warm-up sets can do more harm than good by exhausting you before you get to your sets. Your warm-up should be done with light weights and should include stretching.

The Wrap Up…

For most lifters, the bench press is a measure of strength. It’s often one of the first movements lifters will attempt in the gym. The best way to get the most out of your bench press training is to do it 2-4 times per week, focusing on each muscle group, planning different training adaptations like strength, power, and hypertrophy, and giving your body sufficient time to recover between bench press workouts.

References

  1. Comparison of 1 day and 3 days per week – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research
  2. High Resistance Training Frequency Enhances Muscle Thickness – Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research

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