How many sets of bench press?
For beginners, you should perform 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions, making sure to pause 1 inch off (or gently touch) your chest on all reps. Pick a weight that you can perform all sets for the prescribed weights. If you cannot perform the 8-12 repetitions for all sets with the same weight, lower the weight.
This is good balanced start to training bench press. However if you are more experienced, we’ll talk in more detail here about how many sets of bench press do what and why.
How many sets of bench press should you do?
If you’re following a basic bench press program, you should be looking to do 3 to 5 sets of bench press during a chest session.
It all depends on your goals. Some advise that you should do as many sets as you can do within your target rep range without sacrificing your form.
A classic example of this is to find a weight that you can comfortably do 3 sets of 10 reps to without risking your form.
If that was easy, return the next session, and either add another set, and continue this practice until you get to 5 sets.
After you can comfortably do 5 sets of 10 at that weight, you may want to look at increasing the weight and revert back to 3 sets of 10 – and the cycle repeats as the weights get higher.
The science says 3 or 5 sets is better than one set.
How many sets of bench press for raw power?
If you’re an experienced lifter and you’re looking to know how many sets you need to just increase raw power – it may be significantly more than 3 or 5 sets.
Note: This method is only for those who are experienced with powerlifting bench press.
Smolov JR is always a good choice. It doesn’t have many reps, but it has a hell of a lot of sets with such intensity that you should only run this program 3 weeks at a time.
It involves benching 4 times a week:
Day 1: 70% of 1RM – 6 sets of 6
Day 2: 75% of 1RM – 7 sets of 5
Day 3: 80% of 1RM – 8 sets of 4
Day 4: 85% of 1RM – 10 sets of 3
And for the next week, you run the same program again except 5 to 10 lbs heavier.
Three weeks of this is possibly one of the most demanding months you would have for a chest workout, and no accessory work is recommended.
Notice in this set up, you’re doing a lot of sets but not a lot of reps. The highest rep range you go to on this program is 6.
So, how many sets of bench press?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for power and strength, you should be aiming for lower reps but a higher amount of sets with increased weight.
Whereas for endurance it would make more sense to have higher reps and lower sets.
If you’re just beginning your bench press journey, we recommend that you start with anywhere between 3 to 5 sets with around 10 reps on a weight that you can lift without sacrificing your overall form.
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 Radaelli R, Fleck SJ, Leite T, et al. Dose-response of 1, 3, and 5 sets of resistance exercise on strength, local muscular endurance, and hypertrophy. J Strength Cond Res. 2015;29(5):1349-1358. doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000758