T Nation

Bench Not Progressing ~ 1RM Stalled

I’ve been using 5/3/1 Full Body Template since January.

This is my first year training the barbell bench - and I use a relatively close grip, approximately a thumb’s length outside each inner ring.

2/2/12 - Started with a 90kg 1RM (conservative estimate due to frequent RC injuries)…
11/4/12 - Tested 1RM and got 105kg.

14/11/12 - 1RM still at 105kg. I get this weight relatively easily on my heavy days, and I do regular singles as I have been using the 3/5/1 sets and reps template combined with FBT for the last 2 cycles.

My other lifts are 227.5kg dead, 170kg squat, 75kg oh press.

I eat well and recover well, and my bodyweight has increased from 89kgs to 93kgs @ 6 foot tall since January. Nonetheless, I have added more food into my diet recently to try and help my bench.

Training-wise I have been following 3-day-per-week Full Body 531, and using Weighted Dips, Bench, and Press as my pressing exercises on the respective training days. I do fuckloads of chins, pullups, kettlebell swings and also DB row once per week.

Beginning this current cycle, I have changed my template around to benching every training day; 3/5/1 plus singles Monday; “dynamic” 5 x 10 @ 60% on Wednesday; and 3 x 5 @ 65, 75, 85% Friday. I am still OH Pressing but have dropped the weighted dips to accomodate extra bench pressing.

I’ve also slightly widened my grip to ensure my elbows do not drop below the bench top, and watched the usual recommended youtube videos.

…pretty much, my other lifts have progressed well but I want to force my bench to catch up somewhat. 7 months of no movement seems ridiculous. I do make my set reps every week, but never get more than 2 reps above the required now.

My rep-based “predicted max” fwiw is always 105kg and under.

One other point: my overhead press has progressed slowly too, but this isn’t unusual.

I feel my 1RM should have increased, but it hasn’t… so perhaps there is a massive form issue I am unaware of.

Is there anything else I can do?

And can any of you strong benchers see obvious form issues in my sets below?

Both videos have me benching a couple of reps short of max effort. Can provide better ones / different angles / higher weight if necessary.

bench @ 47 seconds
[video]2519[/video]

bench @ 49 seconds
[video]2520[/video]

Thanks.

Have you been hitting rep pr’s often?

[quote]gorangers0525 wrote:
Have you been hitting rep pr’s?[/quote]

Not really; the reps seem to be scaling down with the weight.

Here’s a couple of max effort sets:

16/08 - 7 x 87.5
29/08 - 5 x 92.5
12/09 - 6 x 90
27/09 - 3 x 95
10/10 - 4 x 90
27/10 - 3 x 95
13/11 - 5 x 87.5

***I have attempted 110kg twice in the last 7 months and failed both times. I have repeated my 105kg a few times though.

I’ve been blocked there too and the method i used was doing lot of triceps and pecs. On monday, i would do 3/2/1 waves for bench and on Thursday Clusters reps for 5 sets. As for triceps, i began to do 3 x 5 at triceps pushdown followed by Skullcrusher. For skullcrushers i would use a tempo of 6-0-4 for the two first reps, the the two reps following i would go two reps explosive. Then you repeat that cycle another time. For a total of 5 sets of 8reps.
I also adddc a lot of exercice that prone explosiveness. As for example, I would do on every other day, 6sets of 3 reps of Power Snatch focusing on speed. It’s really effective because it helps synergists muscles that are involved in the bench press movement. It’s kind of my dynamic day. I rotated my exercices,too. I put a lot of CGBP using the pattern of rep 1 : 6 second pause at chest, rep 2 : 5 second pause, etc… for a total of 3 sets of 6 reps. It helped me explode more from the chest which was my weak point.
My approach is very different from other powerlifters from this site but since i’ve add a lot of power movement, i guess that have a benefic effect on my CNS.
As a personal example, my bench went from 225 lbs to 250 lbs @ 155 lbs in approx. 3 months.

[quote]panzerfaust wrote:

[quote]gorangers0525 wrote:
Have you been hitting rep pr’s?[/quote]

Not really; the reps seem to be scaling down with the weight.

Here’s a couple of max effort sets:

16/08 - 7 x 87.5
29/08 - 5 x 92.5
12/09 - 6 x 90
27/09 - 3 x 95
10/10 - 4 x 90
27/10 - 3 x 95
13/11 - 5 x 87.5

***I have attempted 110kg twice in the last 7 months and failed both times. I have repeated my 105kg a few times though.[/quote]

I think Jim would suggest taking 90% of one of your rep maxes and really trying to hit some pr’s. But I’m sure you’re sick of hearing that lol.

I had a similar problem. I found two things helped. One was technique. Watch the so you think you can bench once or twice. The other was to switch the style around every week or so - close grip, incline, floor press, pin press, 2 board. That’s helped lift my bench by 15kg in ~6 months.

I was thinking you should try a month or two where you sub ohp with close grip or floor press. Still do ohp as an accessory.

Eat more.

OP,

benching frequency is important. I think adding the extra bench work is a good idea, and I did something similar. I would also recommend a lot of body building style work for your upper body. High volume triceps especially.

I did an experiment with high volume dumbell work for one cycle of 5-3-1 and then heavy barbell work for accessory exercises the next month. I did this for 4 months. My lower body lifts did not really benefit, but my overhead press and my bench sure did.

Granted, I was not doing full body 5-3-1. On the dumbell months I was hitting 5x10 db bench, and db incline on seperate days. I would also hit high rep pulldowns/db rows as well. After these two I would do 5x10 of a lateral raise or db extension.

On the “heavy” months, I would do my bench or OHP and then a heavy variation for 6+ reps.

I would try to increase the dumbell weight on month 3, and beat the rep/weight records in month 4(barbell work).

I also did a speed bench day on either squat or deadlift day for 9x3.

I hit a really easy 330 bench at my last meet, narrowly missed 350. Previous meet PR was 315 in July.

I have noticed in the past that 3xweek pressing is what gets my bench moving. Just some thoughts though.

As I said before, that experiment did not work for my lower body lifts too well…

Thanks for the input everyone.

It looks like I am on the right track with 3 x weekly benching and eating more than usual.

Good suggestions regarding skullcrushers and body-building style triceps accessories. Because I train fullbody 3 x weekly I do have limited space to add exercises, but I will see what I can do. I had to drop weighted dips to fit in the Wednesday benching, but will try and figure out a way to include them again.

I’ve exceded my dead and nearly hit my squat targets for the year, so I am happy to sacrifice a bit to increase my bench.

Will also start varying my grip width. Perhaps my “normal” grip for 3/5/1 Monday, close grip for dynamic Wednesday and wide grip for Friday. Does that sound logical?

And yeah, I will watch the SYTYCB? series a few more times.

Thanks; will report back in a few months and hopefully have a less dismal bench.

Try upping chest/shoulder/tri assistance.

Watched your videos. I had a really similar problem, and my bench didn’t move for about a year. Just started making some serious progress again. This is what worked for me.

  1. I think your form needs work. You look like you know how to bench, like you have watched plenty of videos and understand what a good setup is like - but you haven’t quite figured out YOUR best setup. In your videos, I think you look a little soft. Your back doesn’t look as tight as it could be, you don’t seem to be getting as much leg drive as you could be, or have a very tight arch, and you seem to be pressing the weight out of the rack which is making you loose. While SYTYCB is an awesome tool, personally I simply found my best form by experimentation. Like I said, I can tell you KNOW how to set up, but I think you just need to play around with the setup. Try your feet closer, wider, try arching harder, try to pull your scaps back crazy hard, try to find the best spot on your back/traps to drive in.

Also, I think your grip is too narrow, because of the way your forearm angle changes as you bring the bar down. I think if you take your grip out a little bit and really focus on pulling the bar to your chest, it will help keep your forearms perpendicular to the bar which is gonna help your press.

  1. One big change to my training that helped get me over my plateau was adding in a day where I do a bunch of sets of heavy bench. like 10 x 3 at 85%, or 15 x 2 at 90%, something like that. I really feel like it helped me lock my form in, get comfortable under heavy weight, and learn how to move heavy singles smoothly. Also, adding in some paused benching made a huge difference for me. It increased my strength, my confidence under the weight, and improved my touch n go technique drastically. So I might suggest, instead of the 5 x 10 @ 60%, doing some heavy weight for a lot of sets, and maybe pausing the first rep of each set or something like that.

  2. While benching more often is definitely gonna help get your bench up, I personally found that pressing more often was even better. Granted, my standing strict press is awkwardly strong compared to my bench, BUT I find that increases in my press ALWAYS correlate with increases in my bench, AND I find that I can train press hard and heavy more often than bench in terms of recovery. So maybe, instead of benching 3 times a week, bench twice a week really hard, and strict press 3 times a week. I have been doing that - strict pressing for a bunch of heavy doubles of singles tues (dead stop), doing 5/3/1 strict press fri (touch n go), and then pressing to a max saturday - and both my bench and press have been steadily climbing for the first time in a while.

So anyways, that’s my advice. Good luck, bench is supposed to be a fun lift and it BLOWS when you can’t get it moving. Just keep at it, taht’s the most important thing. Eventually you will find what will work.

I have heard of many people (myself included) who failed to progress using 5/3/1 for bench. If it doesn’t unstick itself soon, try another progression scheme.

[quote]N.K. wrote:
Watched your videos. I had a really similar problem, and my bench didn’t move for about a year. Just started making some serious progress again. This is what worked for me.

  1. I think your form needs work. You look like you know how to bench, like you have watched plenty of videos and understand what a good setup is like - but you haven’t quite figured out YOUR best setup. In your videos, I think you look a little soft. Your back doesn’t look as tight as it could be, you don’t seem to be getting as much leg drive as you could be, or have a very tight arch, and you seem to be pressing the weight out of the rack which is making you loose. While SYTYCB is an awesome tool, personally I simply found my best form by experimentation. Like I said, I can tell you KNOW how to set up, but I think you just need to play around with the setup. Try your feet closer, wider, try arching harder, try to pull your scaps back crazy hard, try to find the best spot on your back/traps to drive in.

Also, I think your grip is too narrow, because of the way your forearm angle changes as you bring the bar down. I think if you take your grip out a little bit and really focus on pulling the bar to your chest, it will help keep your forearms perpendicular to the bar which is gonna help your press.

  1. One big change to my training that helped get me over my plateau was adding in a day where I do a bunch of sets of heavy bench. like 10 x 3 at 85%, or 15 x 2 at 90%, something like that. I really feel like it helped me lock my form in, get comfortable under heavy weight, and learn how to move heavy singles smoothly. Also, adding in some paused benching made a huge difference for me. It increased my strength, my confidence under the weight, and improved my touch n go technique drastically. So I might suggest, instead of the 5 x 10 @ 60%, doing some heavy weight for a lot of sets, and maybe pausing the first rep of each set or something like that.

  2. While benching more often is definitely gonna help get your bench up, I personally found that pressing more often was even better. Granted, my standing strict press is awkwardly strong compared to my bench, BUT I find that increases in my press ALWAYS correlate with increases in my bench, AND I find that I can train press hard and heavy more often than bench in terms of recovery. So maybe, instead of benching 3 times a week, bench twice a week really hard, and strict press 3 times a week. I have been doing that - strict pressing for a bunch of heavy doubles of singles tues (dead stop), doing 5/3/1 strict press fri (touch n go), and then pressing to a max saturday - and both my bench and press have been steadily climbing for the first time in a while.

So anyways, that’s my advice. Good luck, bench is supposed to be a fun lift and it BLOWS when you can’t get it moving. Just keep at it, taht’s the most important thing. Eventually you will find what will work.[/quote]

Hey man, thanks for the detailed reply. I appreciate it.

  1. I agree, I am pretty soft in my set-up, and have not found my “ideal form” yet. I expect with experience this will improve. But yeah I do need to concentrate on tightness and setting my upper back.

I may need to invest in a reputable bench rather than my homemade one, as this possibly messes with my attempted setup a bit too - though the dimensions are comp standard.

Any tips/cues for “rowing” it out of the rack? I honestly don’t understand this - to me I have to lift it out. Is it set-up related, or simply the body mechanics?

Though I widened it slightly recently, I will definitely try widening my grip more. I hadn’t thought about the fact that at the bottom of my press, my elbows are not at all beneath the bar. In fact, when I miss heavy singles, I feel like the bar rolls back towards my face as I come off my chest, probably because my elbows have come too far forward. I actually had not though of this until now, and it could be a major issue.

  1. I will consider this, as I am likely to spend the next 6 or so cycles really focusing on bringing my bench up. I will evaluate at the end of this cycle and see where I want to go. I must admit the “speed” benching I am doing feels relatively pointless; I tend to respond to singles training for my other lifts so will give that some thought.

  2. Again, that is interesting and good to hear what worked for you. I’m going to try a range of approaches over the next few months; pressing more is definitely one of them, as I love the OHP. If I do try pressing 3 x weekly, I would likely go: M-Bench+DB Press, W-BB Press, F-Bench+Push Press.

Very interesting advice and definitely food for thought. I’m a total novice bencher so I have time to try various approaches.

The grip width / elbow adjustment is one I will look into immediately.

Cheers!

Pulling the bar out of the rack is definitely a weird cue, kind of hard to wrap your mind around and hard to figure out physically hahaha.

For me, I try and think of it as just tightening my lats. Once I’m under the bar and tight, i simply squeeze my lats (like i’m “breaking the bar,” which is a cue i’m sure you have head before). This FORCES my elbows to extend fully, which gets the weight out of the rack, but actually makes my back/setup tighter. In your unrack, it just looks like you are pressing with your triceps, which isn’t activating your lats, and when the weight gets heavy and it’s harder for your triceps to get it out of the rack, it looks like your shoulders start to come forward a tiny bit and you’re losing tightness that way as well.

Honestly, not sure if that cue will help but give it a try. And I am by no means a great bencher haha, so if any of the stronger and more experienced guys need to add to or alter what I said, maybe that would help out even more. Either, way, I’m glad you got some stuff out of my post. Good luck.

^ N.K. that’s great advice. Those three points along with a lot of bodybuilding type assistance are what got my bench to move for once and are continuing to work. I got bored of hitting only one top set for bench on 5/3/1, so this new setup with plenty of triples is a more fun way to train at the moment as well.

Try move your bench more towars to rack and then try to get little more arch.
Now it looks like your bench ends just where the bar is on rack.

I had similar problem and this way i get more solid base.

I tried that unracking cue mentioned above, squeezing the lats, and it seemed to help. Also widened my grip. Anyway, the high volume sets felt a lot better so I will stick with it and see how I progress. Still need a lot of work but it should head me in the right direction at least.

10 sets of triples was awesome but fuck I feel it today hahaha.

Some benching with wider grip etc @ 50 seconds in.

[video]2523[/video]

Thanks guys.

One thing that helped me break my benching plateau was doing lots of singles/triples. I also hit my tricep hard through military press. Increasing frequency and eating more definitely helps as well.

I agree traditional 531 + the 5x10 accessory stuff is not quite effective. I would keep the 531 sets, ditch the accessories, and pump out lots of singles/triples after.

Looks like you could pull your shoulders down some more. Seem to be pulled together but more into a shrug than a row position. Also could try touching a little higher towards your chest. But I think if you pulled your shoulders down some more the position you’re at would be good. I would also do more rowing than pull-ups for raw lifting. Really, maybe the dips and overhead pressing just aren’t working for you. Try extensions or JM presses or board presses or something different. Also, the higher frequency might work better for your lower body than upper body. I benched once a week forever until I finally stagnated. Just some things to think about to see if you can clear up the issue and get some big PRs.