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Best Approach to Training Bench

There are many ways to train for a big bench. People can focus on movement selection, build key muscles, emphasize intensity, emphasize volume, target weaknesses, master technique, etc. What is your training philosophy for bench? What results has it produced for you and/or others? What have you done to make the biggest or most consistent progress (aside from beginner gains)?

I don’t have a big bench and I’m interested to hear what others think. I do place more focus on squat and deadlift but I know that my bench has a lot of room for improvement. A big bench will help put up a big total.

Frequency made a big difference for me. At one point I was benching once a week and doing bench assistance work another day (db press, cgbp, military press) and it was moving up steadily. Then I started 5/3/1 with a tested 1rm of 300, in 6 months my squat and deadlift went up significantly but I only added 15 lbs. to my estimated max. Probably part of the problem was that on press day I was always doing dips as assistance and never benching. I was plateaued on everything so I switched over to RTS programming, starting with the Generalized Intermediate Program as it’s called, it had me benching 3-4 days a week. 6 months later I hit 345 for a single (paused) during a daily maxing cycle, my current estimated max is around 360. I have to run to work, I’ll add some more info whe I get a chance.

For me - high frequency (and by that I mean nothing less than 3x/week on up to everyday) and train only the lift. You’ll have to back it off at some point, but it works very very well. Programmed correctly you’ll be amazed at the results.

My bench is okay but it’s not by any means what I would consider to be “big”

But I do the cube king pin for bench
You can google "531 calculator"
Then a website called blackironbeast or something like that will come up
Go to that website then there’s a “cube” option

Click that and enter your bench and it will give you a spread sheet of a 10 week cube King pin cycle.

I follow it exactly
Plus do some extra tricep stuff at the end.

It’s helped me built my bench from 415 post surgery to what it is now at 550+

[quote]bigfatfuk wrote:
My bench is okay but it’s not by any means what I would consider to be “big”

But I do the cube king pin for bench
You can google "531 calculator"
Then a website called blackironbeast or something like that will come up
Go to that website then there’s a “cube” option

Click that and enter your bench and it will give you a spread sheet of a 10 week cube King pin cycle.

Thanks son I am going to try this because my bench SUCKS.
I follow it exactly
Plus do some extra tricep stuff at the end.

It’s helped me built my bench from 415 post surgery to what it is now at 550+[/quote]

[quote]bigfatfuk wrote:
My bench is okay but it’s not by any means what I would consider to be “big”

But I do the cube king pin for bench
You can google "531 calculator"
Then a website called blackironbeast or something like that will come up
Go to that website then there’s a “cube” option

Click that and enter your bench and it will give you a spread sheet of a 10 week cube King pin cycle.

I follow it exactly
Plus do some extra tricep stuff at the end.

It’s helped me built my bench from 415 post surgery to what it is now at 550+[/quote]

LOL, I would love to have an okay bench by your standard.

The cube method looks pretty interesting. Aside from rotating between rep, heavy and explosive work, there seems to be a lot of accessory volume work to build muscle. I don’t normally do that much direct shoulder and back work so I’ll keep that in mind.

Thanks for the replies.

Chris_ottawa - I will definitely consider daily maxing in the future but I’m still trying to hold off to stick to more traditional volume work for now. It would be nice to hear what you learned though.

Osu122975 - High frequency/volume seems to be a common thing. What exactly did you do and what were the key things you learned? Are you still making steady progress?

[quote]lift206 wrote:
Osu122975 - High frequency/volume seems to be a common thing. What exactly did you do and what were the key things you learned? Are you still making steady progress?[/quote]

I began w/ a 235 bench 4 years ago. I now have a 375 competition bench and 425 slingshot in the gym. So basically 140lb increase in 48 months. I did not always train HF, but my biggest gains have come from it.

Key is listen to your body. I usually go 4-6 weeks of lots and lots of singles in the 80-100% range. I only bench. Nothing extra. There really aren’t specifics other than go as heavy as often as you can and listen to your body.

When common weights begin to feel heavy or I’m just not into it, I back the it off and do bodybuilding and volume work in the 50-75% range for 2-4 weeks.

I am still making progress. I am aiming for 400 raw competition this year.

About daily maxing, one of the biggest benefits is that you get used to the feeling of heavy weights and you also get a lot of practice on your technique - it’s easy to have good technique with light weights but it’s hard to hold things together when things get heavy. I mostly did that because I was having issues with my squat, but it was good for bench as well. Like the other guy said it’s important to listen to your body, I was doing a lot of down sets the first week and it was getting to me. There isn’t a lot of information out there on it, but there is an e-book by Matt Perryman called Squat Every Day that explains a lot. For the record, I was training 6 days a week and just doing some squats with the bar on my day off to stay loose (I train in my basement).

When I started I wasn’t sure if I was going to do it for just a training cycle or longer, my plan was to just see how things go and get some practice on technique. Unfortunately after 6 weeks I caught the flu and for a couple days I was not really able to train, I deloaded for a week and then tried to start again, I managed 2 workouts but I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to continue. Either way it was worth a try and my squat technique improved a lot. You aren’t necessarily going for a 1rm or PR every day, just the heaviest squat and bench you can manage with good technique and then a couple down sets. For deadlift, at first I followed John Broz’s suggestion of doing speed pulls a few times a week but I found that more tiring than maxing out. Mainly I did the comp. lifts but I also used variations, for squat: SSB and front squat, paused down sets, bench: close grip, floor press, bands, slingshot, for deadlift the only variation I used is deficit pulls. On day I wasn’t pulling I would do some work for lats and abs.

So after that I went back to my own RTS-based program, I noticed that weights that seemed heavy felt really light now but doing high reps (by that I mean more than 3) for multiple sets felt like something brand new and I was getting sore as hell. Around the same time there was a discussion on the RTS forum on daily training and Greg Nuckols said he uses daily max cycles as a transition block and to increase volume responsiveness, the idea is that otherwise you would have to continually increase volume to make gains as you get stronger and you work capacity increases. He has an article on this site - I think the title is something like “Bulgarian Training” - and the main difference with the way he does things is that he uses no down sets at all, only singles. I plan to go back to that style of training at some point in the future, but I would take a slightly different approach. John Broz says “how you feel is a lie”, which I agree with to a certain point but if you are just constantly accumulating fatigue and doing lots of volume there is a good chance you are past the point of diminishing returns. In case you are wondering, I don’t take steroids. That seems to be a common presumption when people hear about daily training.

Anyway, from my own experiences and things I have learned along the way, all lifts can be trained several times a week as long as you don’t do too much volume in a single session. Some people have this idea that beginners need a 5x5 program but once they pass that stage it’s better to use less frequency for each lift and higher volume per session, there is no doubt that some people make good gains like that but for the vast majority it’s not the way to go. I’m not recommending daily maxing to you or anyone, but it’s one approach to training that can work if done properly.

As far as exercise selection, bench press and any variations that help your weaknesses are the way to go. There is no magic formula, just work on sticking points and build strength off your chest (assuming you are a raw lifter). I do military press here and there but no other shoulder work and I do absolutely no tricep isolation work.

I only have a 335 bench, but I hope it can help guys around my level: I use Westside with 4-5 variations I switch for ME every week with lots of dumbbell chest, shoulder, tricep, back and bicep work. Very basic, but it helped me go from a 270 lbs. 1RM at 17 to a 335 1RM at 18. A lot of guys here in Europe use high frequency with low intensity on everything except the main lifts, stuff like Sheiko. That has helped me acquire a very stable technique, and I think beginners should be doing something like it, but now I’m at 450/335/600, my technique is stable and so on, and westside works better.

Basically bench as often as you can with heavy weights with a little back-off volume. For me that’s about 3 to 4 days a week.

[quote]osu122975 wrote:

[quote]lift206 wrote:
Osu122975 - High frequency/volume seems to be a common thing. What exactly did you do and what were the key things you learned? Are you still making steady progress?[/quote]

I began w/ a 235 bench 4 years ago. I now have a 375 competition bench and 425 slingshot in the gym. So basically 140lb increase in 48 months. I did not always train HF, but my biggest gains have come from it.

Key is listen to your body. I usually go 4-6 weeks of lots and lots of singles in the 80-100% range. I only bench. Nothing extra. There really aren’t specifics other than go as heavy as often as you can and listen to your body.

When common weights begin to feel heavy or I’m just not into it, I back the it off and do bodybuilding and volume work in the 50-75% range for 2-4 weeks.

I am still making progress. I am aiming for 400 raw competition this year.
[/quote]

Man you do a pretty good job with auto-regulation. Sometimes I hear my body but I don’t listen and just continue to push, lol. I learned the hard way last year but have been doing a better job so far. Good luck on getting 400.

chris_ottawa:

I definitely want to give the daily maxing method a try in the future. I’ll have to read Matt Perryman’s book first. The Greg Nuckols article you referred to seem interesting. I’ll have to look into that as well. Thanks for the advice.

[quote]DaneMuscle wrote:
I only have a 335 bench, but I hope it can help guys around my level: I use Westside with 4-5 variations I switch for ME every week with lots of dumbbell chest, shoulder, tricep, back and bicep work. Very basic, but it helped me go from a 270 lbs. 1RM at 17 to a 335 1RM at 18. A lot of guys here in Europe use high frequency with low intensity on everything except the main lifts, stuff like Sheiko. That has helped me acquire a very stable technique, and I think beginners should be doing something like it, but now I’m at 450/335/600, my technique is stable and so on, and westside works better.[/quote]

I’ve been doing Sheiko the past year as well. I pushed the bench too hard and it started going backwards. I’m finally back on track.

[quote]DoubleDuce wrote:
Basically bench as often as you can with heavy weights with a little back-off volume. For me that’s about 3 to 4 days a week.[/quote]

Sounds like the general consensus.

[quote]lift206 wrote:

[quote]DaneMuscle wrote:
I only have a 335 bench, but I hope it can help guys around my level: I use Westside with 4-5 variations I switch for ME every week with lots of dumbbell chest, shoulder, tricep, back and bicep work. Very basic, but it helped me go from a 270 lbs. 1RM at 17 to a 335 1RM at 18. A lot of guys here in Europe use high frequency with low intensity on everything except the main lifts, stuff like Sheiko. That has helped me acquire a very stable technique, and I think beginners should be doing something like it, but now I’m at 450/335/600, my technique is stable and so on, and westside works better.[/quote]

I’ve been doing Sheiko the past year as well. I pushed the bench too hard and it started going backwards. I’m finally back on track.[/quote]

I just think the important thing is to leave the auto-regulatory element in your training, which when you’re working solely on percentages can be a bit difficult, if you have that certain number stuck in your head. The challenging thing about sheiko should, in my opinion, be keeping up technique under the great volume. The intensity should be relatively “low”.

Any PRs lately?

[quote]DaneMuscle wrote:
I just think the important thing is to leave the auto-regulatory element in your training, which when you’re working solely on percentages can be a bit difficult, if you have that certain number stuck in your head. The challenging thing about sheiko should, in my opinion, be keeping up technique under the great volume. The intensity should be relatively “low”.

Any PRs lately?
[/quote]

In December of 2013 I hit a 259 PR in a meet. I transitioned to full Sheiko training and hit paused PRs of 265 in February, 270 in May and 275 in August. Most sessions felt great and I didn’t grind that often. I didn’t care much about bench work and just did what was necessary. In the last training cycle leading up to the meet this past December I tried to push for a 10 lb PR in addition to cutting a few lbs. Most of the sessions were grinders. It was definitely a stupid mistake because I went backwards and couldn’t even hit 259 in the meet.

I recently did a Sheiko training cycle with 270 as my training max and finished the past month with a peaking cycle experiment. I went for PRs last weekend and hit 265 but missed 275. I found that my back was still sore during the last week so dropping the volume a bit one week out and sticking with 270 would have been the right choice. I have a better idea of what I’m capable of when peaking and how to execute but will still experiment a couple more times to make sure.

I’m going to run Smolov Jr. for bench and Smolov Base for front squat in a week and follow that up with a peaking cycle to nail down my peaking method. My highest priorities right now are to bring up my squat weakness and figure out the best way to peak (which I’m getting close). I think my bench training was fine. Benching 3x per week was new to me last year and it worked. I just need to learn to back off when I’m pushing too hard.

For anyone who’s interested to know, Greg Nuckols has a new e-book out on high intensity high frequency training, the Bulgarian Manual. It’s also free for the moment.

My only criticism: not enough deadlifting.

[quote]chris_ottawa wrote:
For anyone who’s interested to know, Greg Nuckols has a new e-book out on high intensity high frequency training, the Bulgarian Manual. It’s also free for the moment.

My only criticism: not enough deadlifting.[/quote]
Thanks. Just picked it up. I like his writing.