Everybody wants a big bench and many of the athletes I work and consult with are judged and tested on their bench press strength. Thus, I’m always looking at unique ways to rapidly get the bench up. Here is a routine utilizing principles of high frequency training and concentrated loading and unloading that has been the SINGLE most effective routine I’ve found for increasing the bench press for intermediate level lifters. Increases of 10 pounds per week are not uncommon. This may not be the best set-up for an advanced powerlifter going from a 500 pound bench to a 600 pound shirted bench, but in my experience it is the quickest way to get you up to that 300 or 400 pound raw bench.
Greasing the Groove
This set-up uses some of the “Grease the Groove” principles of training a lift fairly frequently with low volume. This routine was originally designed for relative strength rather than hypertrophy, because the volume is so low per session. With a few minor adjustments, it can and WILL give your current hypertrophy oriented protocol a nice kick in the butt, as I will describe. Here is the set-up: Bench PressMon: 1 x 1 at 100% (max out), 3 x 3 at 85% Tues: 3 sets of 2 at 90% Wed: Wed: 3 x 1 at 95% Fri: optional: 4-5 sets of 1 at 80% (should be very light) Retest your 1rm each Monday and base your weekly percentages off of that. Let percentages be your guide but don’t take them as gospel. Use a weight that allows you to get all the reps without going to complete failure. If you fail to increase a week, back off on the weights for a week or 2 and build back up. Progression should be relatively steady and ongoing. To implement this into your regular hypertrophy oriented setup, all you have to do is make sure you do all your other chest, shoulder, and tricep work sometime between Monday and Wednesday. Make sure your routine contains no pressing or tricep movements from Thursday through Sunday other than the light bench on Friday. Here is one way to set it up: Mon- Mondays bench followed by your normal chest and Back workout Tues: Bench Wed: Wednesdays bench followed by your normal Arm workout Thurs: Off Fri: Bench followed by Legs Sat and Sun: Off Or Mon: Bench, horizontal pressing and pulling Tues: Quad dominant lower body Wed: Bench, vertical pressing and pulling Thurs: off Fri: Hip Dominant Lower body Sat: Accessory work of your choice You can set it up however you want and do whatever other lifts you want as long as you allow your pressing muscles to recover Thursday thru Sunday. How much extra work you do is really not an issue as long as you follow those principles.
Why It Works?
This set-up works through 2 mechanisms.
1. Frequency: By hitting bench 4 days per week you’re honing the technique and strengthening the mind to muscle connection.
2. Loading/Unloading: You hit bench 3 days in a row followed by 4 days away from it (The Friday workout is light and done just for technique). You’ll also be pounding your pressing muscles with more volume via additional hypertrophy work. For those unfamiliar with it, concentrated loading uses the principle of loading and unloading. If you load yourself often enough and intensely enough to create a chronic 5% decrement in performance when fresh, you should rebound back with a 5% increase in fresh performance when you cut down on volume and allow yourself to recover. Most concentrated loading schemes take place over weeks or months. You run yourself into the ground for a few weeks then back off. Your performance initially drops, but as you let that fatigue dissipate you find your performance shoots through the roof. This routine loads and unloads over the course of a training week. For more on the topic read my Planned Overtraining article. You may find that by Wednesday of each week you’ll be feeling pretty beat up. You’ll be sore and tired. Most bodybuilders are taught never to train through soreness and to always allow full recovery. As you will find, this really isn’t necessary. You will be pleasantly surprised how well your strength holds up throughout the week. You will be even more surprised how strong you feel after a few days rest – not to mention how much bigger you are.
A: Your results will be better if you’re eating to grow. That doesn’t mean you can’t use this as part of a recomp, but it won’t work nearly as effectively if you’re starving.
B: Use a proper bench setup. Keep your shoulder blades pulled together and down. Keep your chest up. Lower the bar to your lower chest while attempting to pull the bar down with your lats.
C: Use the percentages as a guide but not as gospel. Make sure you can get all your reps by yourself.
D: Pay attention to your shoulder health. Get a decent amount of horizontal rowing and rotator cuff work in throughout the week. Give it a shot and feel free to fill me in on your results.