If your goal is to build new muscle size, called hypertrophy training, the ideal rep range is 8–12 reps. The same rep range holds true for the bench press.
Now the truth is more complicated than that. You can build new muscle with reps as low as 5 and reps as high as 40.
So you will also want to balance out your rep ranges to continue to cause adaptations in your body.
I am a big fan of reverse-pyramid training, so with the bench press, it could look something like this:
Example of Bench Press Reps
- Warm-Up: 40% of your first weight
- Set 1: 8 reps of bench press with the heaviest weight you can do eight proper reps with.
- Set 2: Take off 10% of the weight. Now you might be able to do 10 reps of bench press.
- Set 3: Take another 10% of weight off. Now you might be able to do 12 reps of bench press.
Let’s say you can bench 185 pounds for eight reps with perfect, textbook form. You would warm up with 75 pounds and get warm—maybe do 12-15 reps. Then do Set 1 with 185 pounds, Set 2 would be with 165 pounds, and Set 3 would be with 145 pounds.
This would give you a good blend of reps across the hypertrophy spectrum, allowing for good adaptations across the board.
Now you could switch to some assistance exercises, like a weighted push-up or some incline dumbbell presses, and do the same thing.