T Nation

Bench More Often - SRA Curve


#1

I was watching some JTS videos and reading some articles this past week, and I came across a graphic of the SRA curve. I looked into it more and had an epiphany of sorts. I’ve always understood the principle of stimulus recovery adaptation, but to actually read and hear about it and realize that it is a quantifiable thing really made me think consciously about it. I have heard from various YouTubers that pressing movements can be performed more frequently than lower body movements, but I didn’t really think much of it until I heard Chad Wesley Smith speak on the subject.

So, please correct me if I’m wrong (really), but this is my understanding of the SRA curve:

Stimulus:
Altitude of the stimulus curve is dependent on the amount & size of muscles being used. It also depends on the intensity and volume that said muscles are being subjected to.

Recovery:
Slope of the recovery depends largely on nutrition and rest. Better recovery will generally lead to a better (higher altitude) adaptation curve.

Adaptation:
Sort of a sum of the stimulus and recovery curves.

So less stimulus leads to less of a required recovery curve and less of an adaptation. A weak (slope with a low numerical value) recovery from a steep stimulus curve will lead to less of an adaptation. In short, adaptation is entirely dependent on stimulus and recovery.

Big muscles (posterior chain + quadriceps) require more energy to move the weights that they are capable of moving (which are higher than those used in upper body exercises most of the time), as well as requiring more effort from the nervous system. This leads to more fatigue.

Now to the good stuff: how often can I bench? In other words, how long after the initial stimulus of my bench workout can I bench again? Personally, I have found it to be every 3 days. Bench, rest day 1, rest day 2, bench again.

Side note: I’m not on a bench-only program. I’m on 5/3/1 right now, and it’s been working for me pretty well. I’m just seeing if it is compatible with a small tweak.

My current split is Bench, Squat, rest, Bench, Deadlift, rest, Bench, Squat, rest, etc. By “current split,” I mean this is what I’ve been doing for the last week. Lol. I’m not a crazy strong bench presser, but my hope is that by better utilizing the principle of the SRA curve, I’m able to progress more quickly.

Now, this is what I really would like everyone’s opinion on:
Should I increase the volume and/or intensity on my squat and deadlift days since (at least for the next month or two) I’ll be benching every other training day? I get good nutrition and good amounts of sleep, so recovery isn’t an issue for me. I’ve heard that deadlifting once a week works well, but how about low-bar squats?

I realize this post is probably entirely too long. I apologize for that, but if you took the time to read everything, thank you.


#2

Awesome that you’re trying to learn the principles underpinning training. Once you’ve a solid grasp of the principles, applying them is just as much a learning experience.

How good is JTS’ stuff tho. All kinds of knowledge gains.

Understand it however the fuck you want but it boils down to this.

If you can tolerate more workload for a certain lift or overall per week, per workout and recovery in time for the next day you squat go ahead. Bigger stimulus = more gains.

Be conservative with the increase tho. Monitor your progress and how you feel workout to workout and week to week.

If you are already doing relative high weekly volumes/workloads then increasing volume may actually be detrimental overall. Exceeding MRV/doing too much work consistently will drive you into the ground and halt progress.

Aside from that, stuff like joint health is worth considering e.g. low bar squats may beat up knees, wrists, elbows, and shoulders. Higher frequency and workload will increase the stresses on these structures. Worth it? Maybe.


#3

There are people benching anywhere from once to six times a week and getting good results. There isn’t a specific answer to how often you can bench, part of it will depend on your age, size, and strength, which are some of the main factors determining how fast you can recover. But another thing that some people seem to overlook is how you actually train. People training six days a week are usually doing several light sessions and not a lot of volume in any one, while those who can’t bench more often than once a week are usually doing a lot of volume at a high RPE in that one workout. Look at the sample Sheiko programs, you bench in every workout but lots of those sessions are light, sets are far from failure, and not every workout has a lot of volume.

I don’t understand your logic, why would you increase volume and/or intensity for sq and dl because you are benching more often? How much volume you should do will depend on how much you can recover from. Squatting twice a week is a good idea for most people because it’s arguably the most technical lift out of the three, but one day could be light squats for technique practice. If I only squat once a week then it feels awkward every time, right now I do some light squats (60%x2x5 sets) as a warmup before deadlifting and my squat feels good. I got that from Josh Bryant, by the way.


#4

I guess I forgot to state this, but I was previously rotating through my workouts: Squat, bench, and deadlift. I had a 1:1:1 ratio going on. Since I’m going to be benching more frequently, and taking the same amount of rest days, I won’t be deadlifting or squatting as frequently. Each squat and deadlift session will essentially get an extra day or two of rest between sessions since their frequency is being temporarily decreased.

So I’m not increasing intensity or volume on squats/deads because I’m benching more frequently. I’m planning on slightly increasing volume and/or intensity for sq/dl because I’ll be performing sq/dl less frequently.

I may pair light squats with heavy deads, and heavy squats with light deads. That way I can get more volume without draining myself. Thanks for that idea homie


#5

Yes, I haven’t been powerlifting for long, but I do understand that making drastic & uninformed changes will almost always lead to disaster.

I’ll experiment with a few small tweaks to add volume and intensity to my lower body sessions to give myself a larger stimulus curve. I might as well, since I already know I have 5-7 days between both squat sessions and deadlift sessions anyways. No point in not taking advantage of that time; I can afford to take on a big recovery curve as long as I’m benching 2-3x per week.


#6

What is your age, bodyweight, and best lifts?

Most people can handle approximately an equal amount of upper body pressing (counting OHP and any pec/tricep assistance work) and lower body volume. The exact numbers will vary, but that’s a starting point. Unless you really can’t handle two upper body workouts in a week, it doesn’t make sense to do less and benching doesn’t cause nearly as much fatigue as squatting or deadlifting so there is no reason to reduce squat and deadlift volume. Depending on how much you were doing in one bench session previously, you may want to reduce volume per session so that you are able to recover from benching more frequently. You have two main things to worry about with recovery: muscular recovery and fatigue. If your upper body is still sore from your last bench workout and you are supposed to bench again today then you aren’t fully recovered, and if you are burnt out and all your lifts are down it could be because you accumulated too much fatigue and you either need to reduce volume per session or deload.

Basing your training on a theoretical analogy (SRA curve) is not really a good idea, and if you can’t do two upper body and two lower body sessions in a week you have a problem unless you are old, over 300lbs., or an elite level lifter. Just manage volume in those sessions and you should be fine.


#7

Another thing to consider, since you are following Mike Isratel’s work, is that the PL templates they sell at JTS and Renaissance Periodization have options that include full body training where you would be benching every workout as well as squatting and/or deadlifting.


#8

The reduced squat & deadlift volume is simply a product of my increased bench frequency. It isn’t an intentional “f*ck squats and deadlifts, I wanna BENCH,” I’m just trying to optimize my strength gains on the bench because I feel like I’m naturally good at benching.

I’m glad you brought this up. Previously, I was doing my 5/3/1 sets, then 3x8 paused barbell bench, then 3x10-15 DB bench, with as much tricep work as I could handle. It took me a solid 2-3 days just to get rid of soreness. This past week, since I’m trying to bench more frequently, I have been reducing volume to just my 5/3/1 sets with 2-3x5 with 225 just to get a bit more volume and 3x8 DB floor press, and that’s it.

I’ve never had a problem with my 1:1:1 ratio for squat/bench/deadlift. Training 4-6x each week is and has been normal for me for the last 5 years so there’s no issue with my fitness level or recovery as of right now.

I just turned 20. My bodyweight has been floating between 200-210 (I weighed in at 210 one time a few weeks ago; that’s the heaviest I’ve ever been). We’ll say 205 because that’s been my mean and median weight for the last 3 years.

My best lifts right now are 425x3 for deadlifts, 305x8 for squats, and 250x7 for bench. All have been achieved within the last month and were pretty much expected PRs (not in a cocky way), just because I’ve only been on a structured program with a good diet for about 3 months.

The steady increases are great, so I would have no problem going back to the 1:1:1 if this increased bench frequency doesn’t work. It’s really just an experiment. I figure it’s better to experiment when I’m young and can handle benching 3x per week, as opposed to when I’m 40 or 50 and everything hurts all the time.

Please elaborate on this, because I thought all good programs took some form of an SRA curve into consideration.

Thanks dude, sorry for such a long response haha


#9

Why do you want to change your training so drastically when you are still hitting PRs and progressing?


#10

There’s a guy named Leon Brown who just set another IPF bench world record the other day in the 105kg open class, despite the fact that he is over 50 years old. I met him at a meet this summer, he told me that he benches three times a week and one day he maxes out. He trains like that year round. I don’t know all the sets and reps he does, but its irrelevant, the point is that you can adapt to more frequent training as long as the total volume over the course of the week is manageable. Even if you’re a little bit sore from benching two days ago, you can still bench today. You don’t actually need to be 100% recovered from session to session, and some people even go so far as saying that you don’t need to recover from week to week although I wouldn’t necessarily agree. Anyway, your body will get used to more frequent training and you will not get so sore from each workout. That doesn’t mean that higher frequency training is inherently better, but there are also several studies that found that (from a hypertrophy perspective) training a muscle group less than twice a week is suboptimal.

If you haven’t had problems recovering so far then reducing bench volume per session and adding another bench day shouldn’t be a problem at all.

The only people talking about SRA are Mike Israetel and Chad Wesley Smith. That doesn’t mean that they are wrong, but some people seem to get the impression that they should be fully recovered with zero fatigue before they can train again and that simply isn’t the case. That’s not even what they are saying. A standard 4 day upper/lower split where you bench twice a week, squat once or twice, and deadlift once or twice doesn’t violate the concept of SRA at all unless you are fucking huge (300+lbs), extremely strong (elite level), old (and some guys in their 50’s can still manage), or you have some other kind of health problems. There is no reason to overthink stuff and reduce volume when you haven’t run into recovery issues. You are young, you can probably handle a lot more than you think you can.


#11

This guy recently stopped benching twice a week, although he does push ups and some other stuff on his 2nd upper body day:


#12

It doesn’t seem like a very drastic change to me which is why I’m willing to do it.

Plus, I’m greedy. That’s the main reason.


#13

What do you recommend for a split? I’m essentially doing upper/lower right now with a rest day every third day. Squat/bench/rest, deadlift/bench/rest, etc.

Also: How effective is doing light deads on a heavy squat day and vice versa? I think that’d be a good way to get in some extra volume


#14

Basically that, but you could also try switching the order so it’s upper-lower-off. That way you will be much less fatigued on bench days and the bench days shouldn’t produce enough fatigue to affect the squat or deadlift days. I haven’t heard Jim Wendler say that anywhere despite the fact that other coaches have said so, but perhaps that is why the standard 5/3/1 template is set that way.

I never really found I got any additional benefit from deadlifting more than once a week, and if you are going to deadlift after your main squat workout then you will have to work with some light weights on DL. Light squatting before deadlifting actually works very well, not so much for “extra volume” but rather some technique practice and it also warms you up for deadlifting. My squat technique doesn’t feel too great if I only squat once a week and I’m not sure that two heavy squat sessions are really better than one plus a light one so that’s what I’m working with now and it’s going good. There are several coaches and lifters that program light squats on deadlift day such as Josh Bryant, Dan Austin, and Jeremy Hartman. The other option is to do light squat after deadlifting, the only way that I have had success with that is if I bench in between and I still don’t like it.


#15

Thanks for this whole conversation Chris. You’re full of good ideas man!!