So you want to know how to bench press for a massive chest?
When two bros talk about lifting, the conversation doesn’t get very far before they starting asking each other how much they can bench.
It’s one of the most popular ways to measure strength even if half the time people are doing the reps with terrible form and tons of help from their spotter.
Nevertheless, people insists on sizing each other up with that simple question.
We’re not the biggest fans of this question for a variety of reasons. Most bros don’t go to the gym to bench more – they go to build a massive chest and the bench press is just one tool to help do that.
How to Bench for a Massive Chest
What generally ends up happening is guys go to the gym and try to lift as much weight as possible without regard to actually engaging the chest muscles and using proper form.
What makes matters worse is that most people tend to inflate their numbers, particularly on the internet (except those of us here at BroScience of course!)
Chances are, when you see these guys actually lift their bench max it’s with the help of a spotter who is practically deadlifting the weight off their chest for them.
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We’re going to take a huge leap of faith here and assume you are not one of those guys.
We’re assuming you are a SMART bro who trains to make gains, not to impress guys on internet bodybuilding forums.
You understand that while building strength is important, it’s not a tradeoff form poor form.
You would rather let your impressive physique do the talking instead of some inflated bench press stats. So if you are one of those people we will go ahead and assume the reason you are here is to learn how to bench press so your chest actually gets bigger!
Let’s start by dissecting the chest muscle (not literally). The pectoralis major comprises the majority of the chest muscles and contains two heads,
the clavicular and sternocostal heads. We understand that these terms are way outside of typical bro-lingo so let’s make it simpler.
The clavicular head is the upper chest and the sternocostal is the rest of the pec muscle – and generally makes up the majority of the chest, although the exact ratio varies from person to person.
When training, it’s difficult to isolate one part of the chest entirely. However, depending on the exercise we are doing we can certainly emphasize one part more than another.
Things like grip, bench angle and range of motion can all impact the parts of the chest that get the most work. In this article we will break down the different grips and bench angles to help you figure out the best exercises for your goals.
How to Target the Lower Chest
Bench angles of 0, 28 degrees, 44 degrees and 56 degrees have been measured in various studies however generally speaking 0 degrees or flat yields the best results for lower chest activation.
More recent studies also include decline bench angles into the studies but found no consistent advantage over flat benching.
Therefore, if you are looking for the best bang for your buck in terms of bench angle you should aim for flat or slight decline benching if you want to maximize lower chest involvement.
Keep in mind this will vary from person to person so figure out what works best for you.
Narrow, middle and wide grip have all been tested to measure lower chest involvement.
In most studies it appears as though the middle and wide grips were most effective. This is likely a result of the narrow grip bringing more tricep involvement into the exercise.
Between wide and middle grip there isn’t much difference in involvement so go with whatever works best for you.
Some studies suggest that wide grip increases your risk of shoulder injury so keep that in mind when setting up your routine.
How to Target the Upper Chest
Various bench angles have been measured but in most studies it was found that 40 degrees above parallel activated the upper chest the most.
However, some studies also found that anywhere between 30-56 degrees to be effective.
Therefore if you want to get maximum upper chest involvement stick within that range and see what works best for you.
In terms of using wide, narrow or middle grip most studies don’t find a consistent winner in terms of upper chest involvement.
However, there is still the heightened risk of injury from going wide grip therefore it is best to stick with middle or narrow grip for maximizing upper chest involvement.
The Biggest Bench Press Mistakes
Studies have also measured the effect of increased weight on chest muscle activation and found that heavier weight does in fact result in better activation up to a certain point.
Once you reach 80% of your 1 rep max, going any higher does not provide additional benefit in terms of chest activity.
This is likely a result of the weights becoming too heavy to properly control with the chest muscles therefore much of the additional tension ends up on the triceps and shoulders.
Since increasing weight results in more chest involvement as long as the weight is under control we want to do as much as possible to ensure that we are stable and able to support the weight properly.
One of the biggest ways to decrease stability is by performing the exercises on a swiss ball as this leads to a reduction in strength and therefore less upper chest involvement.
Feel free to go heavy when benching as long as you can control the weight as this will yield the best overall chest involvement.
However, stick to a stable position that will be able to support the weight and give up the swiss ball and please do not stick your feet up in the air while benching. Save the balance and core work for later.
For those that are actually serious about building muscle
Are you serious about building muscle?
If you are this paragraph here might be of interest to you.
If you are bench pressing properly you will be well on your way to building a great chest – as long as your testosterone levels are high.
You see, this key hormone is crucial to building muscle and without high testosterone levels you will have a hard time building mass regardless of what grip or bench incline you use.
Because testosterone is responsible for muscle growth and with higher testosterone levels you build more muscle.
Did you know that many men have low testosterone production?
If you are one of those unlucky guys that has low testosterone production there are a number of things you can do to fix that.
Make sure you are sleeping enough, eating healthy, exercising regularly and taking in the right ingredients.(see top ingredients for more testosterone production in this article here)
The best way to supercharge the natural testosterone production in your body and build more muscle without steroids is taking in an all natural testosterone booster.
These supplements contain ingredients that are scientifically proven to increase the natural testosterone production in your body.
Just make sure that the supplement you are using contains scientifically proven ingredients in generous dosages. – See the scientifically proven ingredients here.
We have actually made a free guide on the testosterone boosting ingredients that work and you can access it here on this site if you do not know which ingredients work. – See this guide here
If you want to get the most out of your bench press, you will want to use flat or decline bench press along with incline bench press to emphasize the two different heads.
However, make sure you don’t go too heavy on the decline or incline as this will take pressure off the chest and shift it to other muscles.
In terms of grips, go with middle grip as this provides the best combination of chest involvement while minimizing shoulder injury risk.
If, however, you are able to move more weight by taking your grip a bit further out (or in) feel free to do that if it works for you.
On that note, keep adding weight to the bar as long as you don’t pass 90% of your 1 rep max. The increased weight is going to activate the chest muscles a lot more effectively, as long as the form is good and you are able to control the weight.
That means getting yourself in a nice stable position (no swiss balls, no knees in the air) and locking yourself in. Finally, add in other exercises to compliment the bench press and help finish off the chest muscles.
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