How to Get Your Bench Press Up After Being Away from the Gym

increase your bench press after taking a break from the gym

So, you’ve been away from the gym for a while but now it’s time to get back in there and build some muscle.

You’re prepared to not be as strong as you were before. That’s okay because you know that you will get it back.

However, you didn’t expect to be so weak on the bench press.

Don’t worry. I’m going to help you bring your bench press up after being away from the gym with a specific 4-week training routine.

Of course, there will be a ‘heavy’ focus on the bench press. But I’m also going to show you how to add more muscle size to your chest.

If you’d like to get a jump-start on increasing your bench press, check out powerlifter/strongman Mike Westerdal’s program called Critical Bench 2.0.

Why Your Bench Press Sucks After Taking a Break

Jason Stallworth 405 bench

First, you need to understand why you’re bench press sucks compared to your other lifts after taking an extended break from working out.

In fact, you may find that you’ve gone down in all of your pressing exercises more than other exercises.

There are two possible reasons for this:

  • Your muscles used for pulling and your lower body muscles (back and legs) are much larger than your pushing muscles.
  • Many have a mental block with the bench press.

Naturally, your back and leg muscles are going to be stronger and hold their strength better than other smaller muscles. So you may notice that your strength didn’t decrease as much on lifts like barbell rows, t-bar rows, squats, deadlifts, etc.

That’s probably the core reason why your bench press seems to far behind when coming back to the gym.

But let’s address the mental aspect of bench press. Think about it – what’s the question that you get asked the most?

‘Hey bro, how much do you bench?’

People are fascinated by this exercise and consider the bench press to be a main feat of strength. This is why getting strong on bench press can be a mental barrier for many, myself included.

But you’re about to solve that problem with the chest routine below…

Routine to Regain Your Bench Press

incline barbell press chest day chest exercises

Let’s get right to the ‘meat and potatoes‘ here. I’m going to take you through a 4-week chest workout routine that’s going to help you get those numbers back up.

Now, this is going to do more than just increase your bench press strength. The workouts are also designed to help you build muscle. I’ll explain exactly how that method works after the workout.

Notes About This Workout Routine:

  • This is a 4-week routine designed to get your bench press back up after taking a break from the gym
  • You will be doing bench press twice a week – one will be a full chest workout focused on conditioning and hypertrophy followed by just bench pressing for power 3-4 days later
  • You’ll need to increase your calories during these 4 weeks
  • Warm-up sets are not listed to make sure you do 1-2 warm-up sets before starting your working sets.

Rest Times:

  • Rest 2 minutes between sets of bench press (this applies to both workouts each week)
  • Rest 45 seconds to 1 minute on the remaining exercises

Week 1

Workout 1: Full Chest

  • This first chest workout is a great way to ease back into the gym without injuring yourself.
  • Stick with weights that you can do the reps listed without going to failure.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press3 x 12, 10, 8
Incline Dumbbells Press3 x 8
Dumbbell Flyes3 x 10

Workout 2: Bench Press-only

  • 3-4 days later, you’ll just do bench press, and you’ll do 5 sets of 5 reps.
  • Choose the weight that you did for 8 reps in your first workout for the first 3 sets.
  • Increase the weight by 10% for the last final 2 sets.

*On these workouts, you can do other exercises for other muscles; just make sure you do bench press first, while you’re at your strongest point. This applies to the rest of the bench press-only workouts as well.

ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 5

Week 2

Workout 1: Full Chest

  • You’ll use the pyramid method for bench press, for this workout by increasing the weight each set by 10-15% as you go up, and then go back down to where you started.
  • You’ll also add an additional set to the other exercises.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 12, 10, 8, 10, 12
Incline Dumbbells Press4 x 8
Dumbbell Flyes4 x 10

Workout 2: Bench Press-only

  • 3-4 days later, you’ll do the 5 x 5 method again.
  • Start with the weight you ended with on your last bench press-only only workout for the first 3 sets.
  • Increase the weight by 10% for the last final 2 sets.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 5

Week 3

Workout 1: Full Chest

  • Start your bench press with the same weight you did 8 reps for in your last full chest workout.
  • Increase the weight by 5% each set.
  • You’re also adding more volume to this workout with an additional exercise and some of the other exercises have changed – this will help target different areas of your chest muscles.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press4 x 8
Incline Bench Press4 x 8
Cable Flyes Flyes4 x 10
Machine Press3 x 12

Workout 2: Bench Press-only

  • 3-4 days later, start with the weight you ended with from your last bench press-only workout.
  • Increase the weight by 10% each set.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press5 x 5, 4, 3, 3, 3

Week 4

Workout 1: Full Chest

  • Start your bench press with the same weight you ended in your last full chest workout.
  • Increase the weight by 10% on your final set.
  • You’ll also be changing up some of the remaining exercises.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press4 x 6
Incline Bench Press4 x 8
Pec-dec Flyes4 x 10
Dumbbell Pullovers3 x 10

Workout 2: Bench Press-only

  • 3-4 days later, start with the weight you ended with from your last bench press-only workout.
  • Increase the weight by 5-10% each set.
ExerciseSets x Reps
Bench Press3 x 3

**If you’re a serious lifter and need to boost your strength on all of your compound lifts, be sure to check out Critical Bench 2.0.

Method for Increase Bench Press Strength Explained

cable flyes crossovers for shredded chest

The ‘biggest’ thing here is training chest twice a week. Let me explain how and why this works, especially when coming back to the gym after a long break…

The first workout is a full chest workout, and that’s more of a bodybuilding workout. These types of workouts do two things:

  1. Condition your chest muscles so that they can handle more volume and overall resistance, which in essence will help you get stronger, faster.
  2. You’re targeting your chest from different angles, which is going to build up the muscle tissue in your pecs.

The second workout focuses solely on the bench press. Here, you’re lifting heavier weights with lower reps. This is going to build your strength back up, and here’s why:

  • Your muscles will become accustomed to the heavier weights
  • The way these workouts flow, your strength will progressively increase each workout

These two chest workouts that you’re doing each week complement one another. You’re building more muscle and increasing your bench press strength.

Taking Your Bench Press to the Next Level

I’ll say it again, getting stronger on the bench press is often a battle in your own mind. It’s a lift that many get stuck at.

But you can break past that plateau and get your numbers up. You just have to be diligent and 100% committed to that goal.

I ‘strongly’ believe it’s best to have some help, too. Especially if you’re serious about lifting and getting as strong as you possibly can.

And the best person that can help is Mike Westerdal, creator of Critical Bench 2.0. And as I mentioned earlier, Mike’s program is also going to help you get stronger in your other lifts.

If you’d like to learn more about Critical Bench 2.0 and how to get started, just click the button below:

I’m glad you’re back in the gym, training hard, and I hope you got some value out of this post. If so, please share it so that you can help others who may be wanting to start back.

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,

Jason