The Best Powerlifting Chest Workouts to Help You Bench Heavier

If an even bigger pair of pecs is the apple of your eye, you may carry out countless chest exercises to achieve your aim. However if in case you have targets of being a aggressive powerlifter, your predominant focus needs to be the bench press, one of many three aggressive lifts in a powerlifting meet. That’s to not say dumbbell flyes and single-arm presses are forbidden, however all roads should level to the bench. 

A powerlifter's muscular chest.
Credit score: Mike Orlov / Shutterstock

There are, nonetheless, quite a lot of powerlifting chest workouts that, relying on the place you might be in your coaching, can goal completely different targets. Whether or not you’ve hit a plateau, have to refine your urgent approach, or wish to acquire measurement — there’s a powerlifting-focused exercise for you. Preserve studying for 5 particular exercises, after which get able to embrace the strength gains

[Read: How to Do the Bench Press — Perfect Form, Variations, and Alternatives]

Greatest Powerlifting Chest Exercises

Editor’s Be aware: The content material on BarBend is supposed to be informative in nature, however it shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation. When beginning a brand new coaching routine and/or weight loss plan, it’s at all times a good suggestion to seek the advice of a trusted medical skilled. We’re not a medical useful resource. The opinions and articles on this website usually are not supposed to be used as prognosis, prevention, and/or remedy of well being issues. They aren’t substitutes for consulting a professional medical skilled.

However First, a Phrase on RPE

RPE stands rate of perceived exertion, and it’s a measure of how a lot effort you’re exerting throughout a set. You’ll see RPE in nearly each exercise beneath, so it’s necessary you perceive how one can use it. 

The scores run from 1-10. One represents a raise that requires little to no effort and 10 is essentially the most you may raise. The RPE scale is widespread amongst extra skilled lifters because it’s measured by really feel. A newbie could not have pushed themselves to the restrict earlier than, so it’s arduous for them to gauge what’s actually arduous and what isn’t. Right here’s a information to understanding RPE numbers. 

RPE Scale

  • 10 — At your max, you haven’t any extra reps.
  • 9 — There’s one other rep within the tank, however it feels arduous..
  • 8 — You’re starting to hit your 2-4 rep stride.
  • 7 — Usually, a weight one can transfer with energy (5-7ish reps).
  • 6 — Weight that one can transfer shortly for velocity work (+/- 8 reps pending on velocity/coaching aim).
  • 5 — A weight that somebody warms ups.
  • 4 & beneath — Mild weight that can be utilized for mobility, restoration, and type emphasis.

Greatest Powerlifting Chest Exercise for Competitors

Are you gearing up to your first competition? You’ll wish to maximize your energy so that you could raise essentially the most quantity of weight. The main target right here will likely be on the competitors motion itself. 

You’ll be able to’t fiddle along with your type if you’re coaching a contest raise. For a powerlifter, it’s not sufficient to get stronger at bouncing a bar off your chest. A powerful competitors raise means decrease the barbell to your chest, pausing for a second, after which urgent the bar to competitors requirements. 

A person performing a bench press.
Credit score: Kitreel / Shutterstock

How lengthy your pause must be varies relying in your federation. However for those who’re planning to compete, plan to follow holding the bar on your chest for no less than a second or two underneath management with every rep.

The Exercise

This exercise is designed to ensure you received’t get known as on a missed lift in competitors. You by no means wish to efficiently execute a raise after which rack the burden solely to seek out that you just didn’t wait lengthy sufficient to obtain your command to press it off your chest.

To organize for the pains of competitors, be sure your press is paused and managed so that it’ll move as a very good raise. The repetitions on this exercise are on the decrease finish — the amount will keep fairly low — that can assist you follow for a one-repetition max (1RM) try.

  • Paused Bench Press: 1 x 1 @ RPE 8
  • 3-Second Pause Bench: 2 x 3 @ RPE 7
  • 2-Board Bench Press: 2 x 5 @ RPE 8
  • Heavy Bench Press Maintain: 10 seconds @ RPE 10

Be aware: Check with your federation’s rule book to ensure your lifts are as much as competitors requirements. Usually this implies, butt down, head down, and toes on the ground with a paused repetition. Don’t neglect to hearken to the decide’s instructions. 

It’s a good suggestion to raise with a pal throughout this exercise to make sure you’re pausing lengthy sufficient. And, in fact, you need a spotter helpful when lifting with heavier weights. 

Greatest Powerlifting Chest Exercise for the Offseason

When you’re a aggressive powerlifter, your offseason could also be if you deal with building muscle. You’ve gotten the time and vitality to construct a strong base and add mass to your chest that can finally provide help to raise extra weight. 

Hypertrophy workouts ought to emphasize quantity, so you’ll discover medium to larger repetitions at decrease intensities. Increasing your train choice to hit your chest at completely different angles may also assist overload muscle teams in methods the bench press can not.

The Exercise

The bench press remains to be the cornerstone of your powerlifting chest exercise. Even when constructing muscle, your meat-and-potatoes raise is one of the best ways to load your pectoral muscle groups and build the chest

It additionally doesn’t harm that you’ll get stronger as you train the bench press — which is finally your aim as a powerlifter. Nonetheless, this exercise may also add in some machines and dumbbell work to assist promote hypertrophy (or muscle development). Your triceps may also get some direct work on this program, as they’re giant contributors to constructing a giant press.

  • Contact-and-Go (TNG) Bench Press: 3-4 x 8 @ RPE 6
  • Dumbbell Incline Chest Press: 3-4 x 12 @ RPE 8
  • Chest Flye: 3-4 x 15 @ RPE 8
  • Triceps Pushdown: 3-4 x 10 @ RPE 7

Greatest Powerlifting Chest Exercise for Approach

Your approach is essential in terms of efficiency on the bench press. Contorting your physique into an excessive arch isn’t just a social media eye-catcher — it’s additionally been underneath scrutiny and the topic of rule changes in 2023 from the Worldwide Powerlifting Federation (IPF). 

Everybody’s anatomy is completely different, so everybody’s arch received’t look the identical. However for those who’re fighting the bench press, regardless of your limb length or diploma of lumbar flexibility, it could be beneficial to focus on technique

The Exercise

A straightforward technique to improve your technique is to interrupt down the raise into numerous parts. Slowing down your tempo may also help your physique work out the right bar path to your press. 

The burden will likely be a lot lighter on this exercise with the concept your mastery of the shape will repay down the road. Don’t be afraid to experiment with completely different parts like your setup, grip width, and foot position. Discover what’s snug and feels robust.

  • 3-Second Eccentric Tempo Bench Press: 2 x 3 @ RPE 6
  • Toes-Up Paused Bench Press: 2 x 6 @ RPE 6
  • Spoto Paused Bench Press: 2 x 5 @ RPE 7

Greatest Powerlifting Chest Exercises for Plateaus

You’ve been training for a while however can’t appear to placed on any kilos in your bench press. Does this describe your coaching? It may be very irritating to seemingly make no progress — however not all is misplaced. Typically, all you need to do is attempt one thing completely different to interrupt by that bench press plateau

The Exercise

It might appear counterintuitive, however generally doing much less is extra. If you’re benching quite a bit, giving your self some time to ‘re-sensitize’ to the bench press could provide help to progress. 

On the flip facet, you may add in more sets of urgent briefly or add a brand new variation round your sticking level to assist break by that plateau. 

A person performing a dumbbell press.
Credit score: LightField Studios / Shutterstock

When you’re benching greater than twice per week and nonetheless not seeing any progress, do that exercise as soon as per week. It’ll assist enhance your press from extra angles and give your physique what is perhaps a much-needed break.

  • Bench Press: 5-6 x 6 @ RPE 8
  • Dumbbell Press: AMRAP* @ RPE 10 OR Bench Press: AMRAP @ RPE 10
  • Board Press at Sticking Level: 3 x 5 @ RPE 8

*AMRAP stands for as many reps as potential. Preserve clear type. When you’re doing a barbell bench press, ensure you’ve received a spotter.

The right way to Progress Your Powerlifting Chest Exercises

There are various methods to progress your powerlifting chest workouts. Your concern right here is general load administration and dosage. Too little and you haven’t any variations, however an excessive amount of and also you run the danger of damage. Take your time to seek out the balance that works to your expertise and expertise stage.

Minimal Efficient Dose

All people has completely different wants. Nonetheless, there’s analysis that can provide you some tips to begin with. A minimal efficient dose to gain strength has been proven to be three to 6 working units of 1 to 5 repetitions per week at 80 % of 1RM. (1) One other technique to put it’s to make use of an RPE of seven.5 to 9.5. 

So for those who’re not sure of the place to begin or are brief on time, simply attempt to work out no less than one to three times per week, performing a number of units at some respectable weight and energy stage.


It doesn’t matter the place you begin — regardless of the place you’re at, you wish to be progressing. Intensity refers back to the quantity of weight on the bar, and the way heavy it’s relative to how you’re feeling. 

As you progress, you may add extra weight to the bar and thus increase the intensity. That is usually what you wish to do main into a contest, as you wish to raise the heaviest weight potential throughout your meet. You may as well use pauses and different types of velocity work to extend the depth as you acquire extra expertise.


You’ll be able to select to progress with your volume as effectively. That is the place you hold the burden the identical, however you both carry out extra reps or extra units. You’ll want to push extra quantity within the offseason if you find yourself attempting to construct extra muscle. It will provide help to create an even bigger base so that you could construct extra energy down the highway. 

Progress Is Not Linear

Regardless of the way you select to progress your exercises, know that progress shouldn’t be linear. You’ll have a day the place you’re feeling unbelievable and go up in weight, and you could have one other day the place the lifts are gradual and sticky so you need to do quite a bit much less. That is regular, as your efficiency modifications daily based mostly on components like sleep, nutrition, and your general stress levels

While you zoom out to the larger image, you’ll possible see progress over an extended interval, which suggests you’re heading in the right direction. Progression will come with time there isn’t any have to drive depth or quantity from daily. Put in some sincere work, and also you’ll discover you’ll naturally add extra weight, units, and reps onto the bar. 

Anatomy of the Chest and Bench Press

The extra you recognize concerning the bench press, the higher you’ll perceive which parts will provide help to develop into stronger. Realizing the place every chest muscle attaches and originates from may also help you enhance your mechanics. Training the chest is all about pushing your arms away out of your physique, and that’s precisely what you might be doing within the bench press.

Pectoralis Main 

The pectoralis main is the prime mover and muscle of the chest. It’s the largest muscle that originates from the sternocostal and clavicle head, which then inserts into the higher a part of the humerus. The pec main horizontally adducts the arms collectively, and assists in flexing and extending the arms

Pectoralis Minor

The pec minor is a a lot smaller muscle, originating from ribs three to 5 and attaching to the medial border and coracoid means of the scapula. Its predominant perform is to assist draw the scapula forward and down


Because the title suggests, the triceps consists of three muscle heads (an extended head, a lateral head, and a medial head). The lengthy head originates from the infraglenoid tubercle of the scapula and the opposite heads originate from the radial groove of the humerus. 

A person exercising his triceps using a cable machine.
Credit score: Srdjan Randjelovic / Shutterstock

These all connect to the olecranon course of and are liable for extending your elbow. Your triceps are primarily what helps you lock out the bench press.


The rhomboids usually are not a part of the chest muscle groups. However they’re value mentioning right here, as they’re liable for retracting your shoulder blades. They originate from the T2 to T5 spinous course of and connect to the medial border of your scapula. This retraction helps create a secure shelf so that you can bench from.

Get Constructing

As a powerlifter, your predominant aim is to increase your one-rep max throughout the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Relying on the place you might be within the season as a lifter, you have got many choices to deal with exercises that can provide help to build a bigger press. 

Don’t be afraid to enterprise into chest workouts that stray away from the standard bench press. Nonetheless, when the time comes and the bar is loaded, don’t lose deal with what your precise aim is. Prepare arduous, practice good, and get these three white lights to sign a profitable raise.


  1. Androulakis-Korakakis P, Michalopoulos N, Fisher JP, Keogh J, Loenneke JP, Helms E, Wolf M, Nuckols G, Steele J. The Minimal Efficient Coaching Dose Required for 1RM Power in Powerlifters. Entrance Sports activities Act Residing. 2021 Aug 30;3:713655. doi: 10.3389/fspor.2021.713655. PMID: 34527944; PMCID: PMC8435792.

Featured Picture: Mike Orlov / Shutterstock

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