T Nation

bench press reps

Looking for some suggestions. I’m a 49 year old male, about 155 pounds and around 11% body fat. [yes, I know i’m light, but I was 186 and 26% bodyfat two years ago and 147 and 10% bodyfat a year ago]. My gym’s annual bench press competition is in mid June (winner does the highest number of bodyweight reps). Last year I lifted at 145 (rounded down from my bodyweight of 147) and did 12 reps. I want to lift at 150 [max bodyweight 152 1/2] this year and would like to shoot for 18 reps (the winner in my age group did 17 last year). Suggestions for a regimen specifically intended to attain that goal would be appreciated. [sorry if this is a stupid question - it’s my first post.]

You might try the ladder method. I’ve never used it with bench press, but it seems to be good for increasing reps on other exercises I’ve tried (chins, dips, pushups).

You start with 1 rep, then 2, then 3, etc. Take a short rest between each rep (I usually use 4-5 seconds rest for each rep in the previous set; thus on the 3rd set you would rest 15 secs). You can experiment with different rest intervals

When you reach a point where you feel like you would fail if you did 1-2 more reps, work back down to 1. For example, in your 5th set (5 reps) you feel like you would fail at 6 or 7. Go back down–your next set would be 4, then 3, etc.

You can do several sets of ladders in the same workout. For example, work up to 5, back to 1, then do something else for a different bodypart. Come back and do another ladder later.

This lets you get lots of reps in a short time, without going to failure. Yesterday, for example, I used ladders to do over 100 weighted dips, but I never did more than 5 in any set.

Doesn’t sound like a stupid question to me. Search for an article by Dave Tate in previous issues of the e-magazine about bench pressing. I believe that it will address your needs.


Big Bad Bench
A Complete Program for Testosterone Readers
by Dave Tate

…issue # 158

Good Luck Lawman!

“If the guys on the bench were as good as the guys you have out there, they’d be out there in the first place”

~ Frank Robinson

Actually you are training for muscular endurance here so I would suggest you to train at a higher rep ratio.

lets say do 135 for 15 then 140 for another 15 and so on. Another thing you can do is 120 for more then 20 or 25 reps remember we are going for as many reps as you can so thats muscular endurance.

Fitone’s right- there are many individuals out there with high 1RM’s, who can’t “pump them out” with a lighter weight. I agree you’re better off training more like a bodybuilder with higher reps.

If you’re blessed with good recovery abilities, I think you might want to check into Chad Waterbury’s 100reps article:


Worked great for me when used in addition to my regular workouts (chest and abs were the focus for me). To avoid overtraining, you need to ensure rest and nutrition are spot-on too though.

One more thought:
If there’s enough time b4 the comp, you could also look at some of the Ian King chest stuff- will greatly help with bringing up your weak areas. Be careful though- you’ll be sore as hell the next day till you get used to the workouts.

Good luck, SRS

Muscular endurance is important here, but so is max strength. If your maximum strength increases, the given weight(150 in this case) becomes a lower percentage of a 1-rep max. You will automatically be able to do a higher number of reps with a weight that is a lower percentage of max. For the best results you should emphasize maximum strength, muscular endurance and speed/dynamic workouts. (the latter will help increase max.strength). PM me and I can provide you with a sample plan that includes a form of Density Training that I have used successfully with many trainees. Also, what is your 1-rep max? This will help identify the areas you need to work on.

Thanks very much to all who replied. I suppose I now actually have to accomplish this mother.