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Bench Press Relative Strength Training Help

Coach CT,

I am a 16 year old wrestler and a big fan of your work.

I have been lifting weights to help with wrestling for the last 8 months, cycling your 915 program with good results. I have a problem though which would be awesome if you could help.

I am one of the weakest guys on my team and my wrestling coach told me if I don’t bench 315(without getting fat) by September, I am out of the team. I currently bench 225 for 2 and I am 6’1, 175lbs.
Do you have any strategy to increase my relative strength in the bench press so much in only 3 months?
I’d love to push my body with whatever work you suggest. I’m no stranger to hard work and will do whatever you tell me.

Could you please help me with this?

Young Man,

I have been a head high school football coach for thirty six years and I am puzzled at some of the things coaches say or do.

I can’t help you with the bench press question; all I can say is you will go far in life with an attitude like yours.

Good Luck,

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That is quite likely one of the dumbest thing a coach ever said…

Well, not true…

I heard a figure skating coach (the first athletes I worked with 17 years ago were figure skaters) tell a 13 years old girl that if she lost her extra 10lbs she would get her double Axel.

One college football player I trained was told by the new coaching staff that he would lose his starting job (linebacker) if he didn’t gain 20lbs during the off-season… now, he was already the strongest guy on the team and wasn’t the fastest… adding 20lbs would have made him a worse player.

I jokingly told my player that we would train as usual, he would still be the strongest of the team and at the weight-in just put weight plates in his pockets.

That was a joke, but he actually did it… and it worked!!!

Anyway, of course this has no bearing on your situation.

You can’t force strength gains. First your likely have long arms. So the bench press will be a constant battle for you.

Honestly how many 16 years old kid can bench press a true, solid form, no cheating 315lbs? 16 years old with long arms… with your body type it will take you some time to reach your strength potential on the bench press.

You remind me of one of my friends. at 16 we was almost exactly like you 6’2" and competed in powerlifting at 171.

He actually held the junior Canadian record on the deadlift with 535 (long arms = good leverage for the deadlift) but he could barely make 225.

He trained hard for years and eventually reached a 425lbs raw bench press and a 500lbs bench in competition (with a bench shirt). He also squatted and deadlifted in the 700s.

But by that time he was close to 300.

But the lesson here is that it took him about 10 years toi reach those levels, And he is a guy with a strong passion for training AND actually had very good genetics (his father was a national champion in Olympic lifting).

To reach a 315lbs bench from 225lbs took him about a year or maybe more.

So reaching it in 3 months is highly unlikely. I suspect that your coach only told you that to motivate you to get stronger. Because he obviously has no clue as to how fast strength can be gained, the effect of leverages on strength and how dangerous it can be to have a young guy try to go up to fast in strength.

If you are in this for your lifetime what does it matter how much you lift in 3 months? If a good college wrestler can bench 365 you have 5 years to get there. If you try to go up too fast you risk limiting how high you can go and might get injured in the process.

Thanks a lot for your kind words.


Ok, I understand that I should not rush things and I am ok if I won’t be able to increase my bench that much in 3 months, but at least I want to try and do my best.

Should I do a program like the Complete Power Look and just let my body gain strength that comes with it, or do you think there is something better for my situation?

That’s the thing… you have two choices:

  1. focus on your overall development as an athlete which necessarily means that your bench press will go up a bit slower because it will receive the same attention as other elements.

  2. Focus on maximizing your bench press performance which might slow down your overall development because you wont be able to focus as much on other elements.

Your body has a limited capacity to adapt, so it can only positively adapt to a certain amount of stress. Let’s call this “training money”… you have a certain amount of money to invest. You can spend a lot of it on one thing but you will have less to spend elsewhere. You can’t just do your normal program but add more bench press work because it might negatively affect your capacity to adapt.

From what you told me, I understand that it is more wise to focus on option 1 rather than maximizing just the bench press and slowing everything else down because in the end, there is no way to hit 315 in only 3 months.

I though of something of a middle ground to structure my training and it would be awesome if you could give me some feedback on it. It looks like this:

Bench Press: 915 template+one back of set at 160, rest pause until I hit 30 reps, with 30’’ rest between attemps.
Incline Press: 3x6-8
BB Shrugs: 4-5x10-12 (3’’ pause at the top)
Front Plate Raises: 100 total reps with 25 pounds plate
Rear laterals on the pec deck: 5x20

Front Squat: 915 template
Paused Front Squat: 5x5
Walking Lunges: 3x5/leg
Speed Deadlift: 5x2/80% with Chin Ups 5x2/80%
Cable Rows: 3x8-12

Speed Bench: 5x2/80%
Push Press: 915 template
Military Press: ramp to a top set of 5, 1 back off set of 8-20 reps
Dumbell Shrugs: 4-5x10-12 (3’’ pause at the top)
DB Rear Delt Raises: 5x20
10’ Tricep Work

Speed Front Squat: 5x2/80%
Deadlift: 915 template
Pull Ups: 4x5, 1xMAX without weight
Pendlay Rows: 3x6-8
Kroc Row: 1x20-30
10’ Biceps and Forearms

How does it look? Do you think it will work or it’s would be better to do something else?

I just add the rest pause set on the bench press so as not to do too much, but if I am able to get something like 20 reps with 160 won’t my bench press max increase too?

Middle ground rarely works. It’s like a deer in the middle of the road… he sees a car coming in an he is not sure if he wants to go forward or go back… only to be hit by a truck because he couldn’t make the decision!

But your training might be fine I’ll look it over

30 reps might be a tad high if strength is your goal. I would much rather see you do something like one of these two strategies:

  1. using the same training weight as for your work sets and do a giant cluster (doing one rep at a time, with 10 seconds of rest) to failure.

  2. Using about 80% of your max and doing 3 repetitions EMOM for 10 minutes. This means that everytime a new minute starts you do 3 reps. That will not give you 1 minute of rest… if it takes you 15 seconds to complete the 3 reps you will have 45 seconds of rest.

Why the super high reps if you want to get stronger. I get that high reps can help with tendons and might help recover. But I feel like going heavier but in good form would be more beneficial.

Too many sets especially as an assistance exercise when you already did a lot of front squatting. I would actually suggest hanging band technique (HBT) front squats instead, more specific to your sport.

95% of the population, even good athletes get nothing out of walking lunges do split squats or bulgarian split squats instead.

Just to get a greater stimulus do the eccentric superslow (5-7 seconds), pause on the chest and explode

A rest pause set with the top weight for 5, trying to get a total of 8-10 reps would be better.

I personally get nothing out of this movement. I don’t like it. I think that a lot of people “like it” just because it is a “big name” exercise. If it works for you fine… but don’t do it just because it sounds good

Wow, words can’t describe how thankful I am for your help. I will change everything as you tell me and work as hard as possible on it :slight_smile:

I thought about doing Kroc Rows not because of the name, but because the gym has dumbells only up to 100 pounds and I already do about 15 reps with them. I didn’t think about another way to keep progressing but now that I look at this again I might do Meadows Rows where I can load the barbell as much as I want.

Again, thanks a lot for this, you are awesome :slight_smile:

Why does your wrestling coach care about your bench numbers… I could see him wanting your legs and back to be as strong as possible but the bench? For wrestling? Now if he was a track and field disc and shot coach that’d make a lot more sense but to ask a high school kid who weighs 175lbs to bench 315… Come on

I don’t know why man, but I know that I must do as he says.

He actually tests us at front squats, bench press and weighted pullups.
But I don’t know why he wants me to do that. Maybe because I am not as strong as the other wrestlers. Most of the guys on the team bench more than 315, one dude does that for 5 reps and he is 150lbs!

Or you can hold the peak contraction for 2-3 seconds per rep, which is actually transferable to wrestling

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yeah but he is likely 5’5" with short arms which is perfect leverage for heavy bench pressing. Bench pressing 315 when your stroke is 1 foot is not the same as if it is 2 feet!