How to Improve on Bench Press; Five Lifts for Incredible Strength

Super Bench Pic

This is where we really get into some exciting stuff, for along with how to improve on bench press, the following workout and tips are geared for giving you continual and measurable gains in overall size and strength.

You can not have one without the other.

If you want to build mass, you must get strong.  The stronger you are the heavier you can lift and the more muscle mass you build.

Get strong to get big, period!  


The Five Lifts:

As stated in previous articles; if you want to put on overall muscle mass and build incredible strength, you must use compound lifts.

Now, for the program I am giving you here, we are using five of the best.

  1. Squat
  2. Bench Press
  3. Dead-lift
  4. Barbell Row
  5. Overhead Barbell Press

That’s it.


There are no isolation exercises or antagonist pairings, no five exercises per muscle group, no extended sets or any of the other 100’s of variables.

‘Whoa, whoa’ I hear you say, ‘what about curls and extensions and press-downs? I want big arms dude!’  Measuring-biceps

Yep, I know.

It is very hard to get yourself away from the mentality of needing to do all those additional exercises.  However, I’m not here to muck about, I am here to help you really pack on quality mass and build awesome strength.

Compound lifts are multi-joint and maximal muscle movements.  That’s what makes them so good.

Believe it.

Your arms, abs, hams, glutes, traps and calves all receive a good amount of stimulation through these compound movements.

  • Squats

    – also work your core/abs, glutes, hams, calves, lower back stabilisers and many more small muscle groups.

  • Bench Press

    – also works your triceps, shoulders and core (also putting tension on your quads, hams, calves and glutes when performed properly).

  • Dead-Lift

    – puts tension on virtually every muscle group in your body!

  • Barbell Rows 

    – also work the arms, traps, keeps tension on leg muscles, core and back.

  • Overhead Press 

    – also works arms, core and stabiliser muscles


Arnold doing Heavy Dead-lifts!

Think about it.  It is no coincidence that the majority of photos you see of Arnold, Franco, Dave Draper, Reg Park, Lou Ferigno and just about every other legendary bodybuilder throughout the history of the sport are of them utilizing these compound lifts.

Also, consider the fantastic muscle mass of power-lifters and strongmen.

The majority of these guys focus almost exclusively on these compound lifts.

Sadly, with all the magazines and hype and ‘breakthrough scientific muscle building technology’, these true mass and strength building gems are being forgotten by today’s seekers of better bodies.

Don’t be fooled.

Sure, there is definitely a place for additional exercises and we will certainly get to those in future articles.

A modeler first starts by slapping on larger amounts of medium; clay or plaster or whatever medium they choose to work with.  Then they begin refining their project by sculpturing it then, finally, adding the definition.

Your medium is your own body.  First, slap on the muscle mass.  Then begin refining that mass, finally adding the definition.

The following workout progression is based upon the original 5 x 5 concept by the great Reg Park.


Reg Park – not small by any means!

Because you’re here with the intent of learning how to improve on bench press, you will find the bench is performed in each alternate workout – so, I hope you don’t mind the prospect of ‘slapping’ some mass on your chest whilst gaining overall strength and size :-)


The 5 x 5 Chest Specialization Workout:

You will be training three days per week with this workout.

I will be writing up the example workout for a Monday, Wednesday, Friday routine.  However, you may alter this to suit your own lifestyle requirements, as long as you maintain a full day between.

For example; you may find Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday works better for you, or another combination.

I also recommend training around the same time if possible.  For example; if you do your first workout for the program at 5 p.m then try to follow with the next workout at 5 p.m or close to it.  This will give you a full 47 hours between workouts (considering your first workout finishes by 6 p.m).

The lifts are:

  • Squats 5 x 5
  • Bench Press 5 x 5
  • Barbell Rows 5 x 5
  • Overhead Barbell Press 5 x 5
  • Dead-Lifts 1 x 5 (5 x 5 when stated)

Below is how the workout is set out:

Week One:

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Squat 5×5 Rest Squat 5×5 Rest Squat 5×5 Rest Rest
Bench 5×5   Barbell Rows 5×5   Bench 5×5    
Dead-Lift 1×5   Overhead Press 5×5   Dead-Lift 1×5    


Week Two: 

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
Dead-lift 5×5 Rest Squat 5×5 Rest Dead-lift 5×5 Rest Rest
Bench 5×5   Barbell Rows 5×5   Bench 5×5    
Squat 1×5   Overhead Press 5×5   Squat 1×5    


Each workout should take around 45 minutes to complete.

I ask you to give this workout 12 weeks initially and, if you follow the other components of a good mass gain plan, you will see some awesome strength and size gains.

The reason for the 1 x 5 on Dead-Lifts and Squats (when required) is due to the fact that both of these exercises work similarly and both are very taxing.  Therefore, when 5 x 5 is performed on one then 1 x 5 is quite sufficient on the other in the same workout.

Bench Press Tips:

  • Set your bench in the squat rack and set the safety bars to just below your chest level (if you get stuck, you only have to lower the bar below your chest toward your abdomen and you can turn your head and slide out – been my savior many times J)
  • Set the bar about 5 inches below lockout.
  • Set your position by laying on the bench and bringing your feet back and planting them so you feel a slight stretch in your quads.
  • Place your hands on the bar, slightly more than shoulder width apart, and pull yourself up a few centimeters.  Squeeze your scapular (shoulder blades) together and lower back to the bench, maintaining the squeeze.
  • Lift the bar – a slight arch in the back is good.  However, be sure to keep your butt on the bench and your feet on the floor.
  • Lower the bar to your chest (nipple line is a good focus) then press the weight straight up until your elbows just lock out.
  • Always control the weight – never let it control you.
  • On the eccentric (lowering the weight) keep control and use strength
  • On the concentric (pushing the weight) ‘explode’ with force and push the weight fast


Progressive Overload:

I’m sure you have probably heard this term used in magazines or around the gym.

What does it mean exactly?

Well, the extension would read ‘Progressive Overload of the Muscles’.

This may be achieved in a number of ways.  For the benefit of the above workout, we will focus initially on the most obvious method of employment – a gradual and continual increase of the weight lifted in a given exercise.

So, my suggestion would be: work out what your 5 rep max is on each exercise.  Begin your 12 week training program by lifting no more than 80% of this.  Then add gradual increments – say 3 to 5kg (1.5 – 2.5kg per side) – each workout.

Please remember to always factor in the weight of the bar.  If you are unsure of the weight of the bar then ask your gym manager or weigh it yourself if scales are present.  An Olympic bar usually weighs 20kg.

Therefore: if your starting weight for squats is 60kg (bar + 20kg plates per side), your beginning weight would be 48kg (bar + 14kg per side).

So, if you were to progress at the rate of 3kg (1.5kg per side) per workout, your squat weight over 12 weeks (3 squat workouts per week) would be, week:

  1. 48kg, 51kg, 54kg
  2. 57kg, 60kg, 63kg
  3. 66kg, 69kg, 72kg
  4. 75kg, 78kg, 81kg
  5. 84kg, 87kg, 90kg
  6. 93kg, 96kg, 99kg
  7. 102kg, 105kg, 108kg
  8. 111kg, 114kg, 117kg
  9. 120kg, 123kg, 126kg
  10. 129kg, 132kg, 135kg
  11. 138kg, 141kg, 144kg
  12.  147kg, 150kg, 153kg

See that, Whoa!

That is a 31.5% increase in your squat over a 12 week period!

That means an awesome increase in strength along with a good ‘slapping’ on of mass.  Tell me if that don’t hit the spot :-)

Apply the math to all five lifts.

Even if you made progress at less than half that rate, are you gonna tell me you’d turn down a strength increase of 15% over 12 weeks?

Note: Only add weight if all reps were met in previous workout for the particular exercise.  If you didn’t complete 5 sets of 5 full reps then don’t increase.  Try to push through on your next workout for that exercise.

Maintain the weight in the following workout for that exercise.

If, after three consecutive workouts, you can not move past that weight, then lower the weight by 10%.

Therefore, if you are unable to complete all reps at 80kg, then back down to 72kg and commence adding to each workout – this way, you should bust through the plateau.

Of course, there will come a time when you legitimately can not continue to add weight.

When this occurs, and you are unable to meet your reps more than three workouts, then you will move on to another level of programs – don’t worry, it’ll all be here.


Click Image to Find Out More on Chest Specialization Workouts








Can females do this program?



Sorry, guys…you aren’t the only ones.


Hey girls, come on board!

The thing is, most girls are under the delusion that if they lift weights they will get big and bulky.

Let me be very straight forward, and I do not intend to be offensive, but unless you’ve got a set of balls or inject testosterone, you are NOT going to bulk up!  Girl_Squatting_Image

I have watched one particular girl, at the gym I attend, working out religiously over the past 5 years.  She has been doing all the above compound lifts along with additional isolation exercises and the result…she has a very well toned body, though is definitely not bulky or masculine in any way.

So…c’mon girls, start lifting and get the body you’ve always dreamed of!



So, how to improve on bench press while adding overall size and strength:

Do the 5 x 5 Chest Specialization Workout:

  • Squats 5 x 5
  • Bench Press 5 x 5
  • Barbell Rows 5 x 5
  • Overhead Barbell Press 5 x 5
  • Dead-lifts 1 x 5 (5 x 5 when stated)

Along with a good nutrition plan, adequate rest, progressive overload and a good supplement regime.

Give this workout 12 weeks.

If you are still making strength and size gains (more than likely you will be) then continue on this exact program.  Otherwise, change it up by considering other workouts featured on this site: Click Here 

Thousands of people worldwide have, and are, benefiting from the 5 x 5 style of training program.

If you have any questions or relevant information you wish to share, regarding this article on how to improve on bench press, please leave a comment below or send a message to me


Train Hard, Train Well, Train Safe –

Blessings Be,







Rich Far

Founder of Bodybuilding for Mass



Thank you for reading:

How to Improve on Bench Press; Five Lifts for Incredible Strength 

Comments (25)

  1. Renato

    Touche. Sound arguments. Keep up the good work.

  2. Gary

    Tried this workout for the 1st time tonight. It only took me 20 minutes to complete ( don’t know if this is a good or a bad thing?)
    5×5 squats 70kgs
    5×5 bench 50kgs
    1×5 deads 90kgs

    1. Rich Far

      Hi Gary,

      Great job for giving this a try.
      I thank you for bringing to my attention that I have not detailed the appropriate rest times for this workout. Being a Strength training protocol, it is important to rest at least 2 minutes between sets and up to 3 minutes.

      This will mean a bit longer in the gym though is a vital element in the strength building system – your body needs to be recouped enough to be most productive in handling the increased demands of heavier weight.

      Also, be sure to perform at least two warm up sets for squats and bench to prime the working muscles for what lay ahead as well as for injury prevention.

      Let me know how you go :-)

      Train Hard, Train Well, Train Safe –

      – Rich

  3. GoFiskit

    Hi Rich Far I added these bench press techniques to my routine workout and when I done with my bench presses I feel really great. Hope this workout plan will work for me. :)

    1. Rich Far

      Hey, that’s Great you’re giving this a go – I think you’ll be quite awed at the gains you should make in both strength and size. The 5 x 5 style workouts have stood the test of time and have gained many advocates (I expect you shall be one of them).

      Train with Passion –

      – Rich

      1. GoFiskit

        Yes you are right Rich, 5 x 5 chest specialization workout is great. I also doing this workout after every 2nd day and 5th day of week and I saw the results as well.

        1. Rich Far

          Good Job!

          For quite some time on this workout schedule you will just continue to get stronger and stronger.
          After eight weeks, you will be lifting more weight than ever. And as I say – the stronger you get means the heavier you lift means the Bigger you Grow!

          Blessings Be –

          – Rich

  4. GoFiskit

    Interesting post. I am a fitness repair tech from Denver, CO and also a fitness geek. I found this very interesting ad I will definitely include these exercises to my workout. Thanks for sharing such useful and healthy post.

    1. Rich Far

      Hi and thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts.
      I give you a cheer for the work you do – you help to keep us safe and able to use equipment for peak performance.
      After including these lifts in your workout, come back and let us know how you went.

      Train Hard, Train Well, Train Safe –

      – Rich

  5. andy

    Good info and well presented. Now I just need to find someone to spot for me ;)

    1. Rich Far (Post author)

      Hi Andy,

      Thanks for visiting my site.
      If you don’t have a training partner or someone to spot you, it doesn’t mean you can’t go Heavy.
      Make good use of squat/power racks. I have trained solo for a number of years now and am continually ‘raising the bar’ – I use the power rack for Squats, Bench Press, Close Grip Bench, Overhead Press etc

      You can lift to your max on all lifts safely by taking a little time to set-up correctly – having safety bars in place and pins set to good positioning.

      Wishing you Health.

      Train Hard, Train Well, Train Safe –

      – Rich

  6. RicGlass777

    Trying this right now after a long injury break. Wanting to get some muscle before I start cutting. Put on 10kg while off. Feeling good atm. I’m on Instagram RicGlass777 Documenting my recovery.

    1. Rich Far

      Sounds good – just approach the heavy lifts tentatively, last thing you want is to aggravate the injury site. It is always such a bugger to be prevented from training due to an injury or other ailment.
      Best Wishes with your recovery and progress.

      – Rich

  7. Ali

    It’s great that I came across this site because I was planing on getting a gym membership this week. Thanks so much for the advice! Keep it coming

    1. Rich Far

      That’s great Ali – I wish you well with commencing at the gym.
      I hope to see you back here and if you have any questions please ask, I am happy to help :-)

      Click Here for my post ‘How to Gain Muscle strength and Size; 3 Focus Lifts’

      Train with Passion Ali,

      – Rich

  8. Thaddeus

    Grat work out routine I personally prefer dancing and eastern practices like bagwa, but this has great information for anybody who’s interested in weight lifting

    1. Rich Far

      Thank you Thaddeus for visiting and the positive feedback :-)

  9. John

    Hi Rich, interesting article. From time to time I have been a bit interested in just a little body building, not at all from the competition viewpoint but just to have a little better than average physique. I did a little weight lifting when I was younger, but had no guidance or training. Now I’m 64 and have a little injury in the tendons of my right elbow, which is taking months to heal, and a painful shoulder that has been taking several years to get healed. Both injuries came from over-doing it with outdoor tools like shovel and post-hole digger. I’m wondering if there is any way that I could do the workouts in your program, or would I just worsen the injuries?

    1. Rich Far

      Hi John,

      Thank you for visiting my site and taking the time to post a comment/question.

      It’s never to late to begin a lifestyle of Health and Fitness. However, considering the injuries you state, I would definitely recommend obtaining the advice and ‘go ahead’ from your Doctor or other health Care Professional prior to commencing any exercise program.

      I have personally worked through injuries, though still advise against it – I am stubborn and at times possibly a little ignorant when it comes to heeding my own advice on sub-staining from weight lifting whilst nurturing an injury :-)

      So…Absolutely consult a Health Care Practitioner prior commencing any exercise program.

      Best Wishes John,

      – Rich

      1. Keli

        You’ve got it in one. Cold’nut have put it better.

        1. Rich Far

          Thank you Keli :-)

  10. Dan

    Hey Rich, I really like your site. You’ve really simplified the understanding of how mass building works. I’m a father with a full time career that comes with a fair amount of overtime. I’d love to gain some mass and figured I’d need to live at the gym. After reading this I kind of feel encouraged by the schedules you posted. I’m gonna have to give this program a try.

    1. Rich Far

      Hi Dan,

      Thank you heaps for visiting and leaving a comment.

      I too am a husband and father (of 7 beautiful children) with a full time career with considerable overtime. However, my friend, that’s no excuse for not being able to workout.

      The great thing is, there are now gyms that have 24hr membership access!

      You do not need to live at the gym – 40 to 60 minutes is all it takes. It’s what you do out of the gym that counts Big in your progress.

      A Healthy Lifestyle is Nutrition, Exercise, and Rest.

      You may be interested in reading this article: Click Here

      Thanks again Dan,

      – Rich

  11. Liam

    Very well written article! Informative and educational. Lots of info without being a wall of text.

    1. Rich Far

      Thanks Liam – I appreciate the positive feedback :-)

      Wishing you well,

      – Rich


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