3 Tips to PR Your Bench Press

1. Practice the “Powerlifting Pause”

Even if you have no intention of doing a powerlifting meet in your life, I do think you can gain a lot from practicing the sport specific pause that powerlifters have to do during the bench press.

Having to control and pause the bar on your chest during the bench press means there’s not much “cheating” the lift that you can do. You can’t rely on momentum to move the weight for you, and you can’t just get really good at slingshotting the bar off your stomach to hit bigger and bigger bench PRs.

When you pause your bench reps you know that YOU actually moved that weight. This can add some reliability to your training and guarantee your bench isn’t just as good as your ability to bounce a rep.

That and when you do go back to tough and go reps after having to practice pause reps for awhile, it’s going to feel next to weight less.

2. Practice Singles

Something that often get’s overlooked when going for a bigger bench PR is the specificity that is involved in the first place.

If you want to be good at doing one rep at a high intensity, you have to practice doing one rep…at high intensity.

This doesn’t mean max out every single bench session, but instead, program some routine heavy singles into your regular training. This get’s you used to the distinct “feel” of lifting one really heavy rep, that you can’t really practice with your normal strength set’s of 3’s, 4’s, and 5’s.

I’ve seen many gym bros jump from doing sets of 8’s or sets of 5’s right into trying to max out, and wonder why it feels so much harder than their volume sets. This is a skill that needs practicing.

3. Build Up Your Base

Now…just because you’re going to be doing singles doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also be BUILDING your bench.

You’re going to have to put in the prerequisite volume if you want to see your bench move anywhere. This means plenty of submaximal not that exciting set’s to slowly build up your strength and skill with the movement. The stronger and more experienced you get, the more work you are going to have to put in before you see a new bench PR.

Too many individuals focus on constantly TESTING their strength but not actually laying the ground work to BUILD it in the first place. While it may seem like grunt work the “boring” volume sets are going to be the driver of your progress and make up the majority of your training, not the PRs. May as well get used to them and embrace it. Enjoy the process not just the end result.


Matt Molloy

Matt Molloy

I'm a graduate the University of Pittsburgh with a major in Exercise Science. I’m a local guy (North Penn) and athletics has dominated my life. I've led teams in basketball, baseball, soccer, golf and my passion, long distance running. I've been strength training for 6 years with a focus in power-lifting but have recently stretched to strongman since joining the pride here at the Den. When I’m not in the gym I enjoy, spending time with my friends, music, and relaxing and playing some video games.