T Nation

Calling Big Benchers


I need some guidance here...I'm starting to realize I don't have the first clue how to train my bench press. Every time I go in there to bench it's a total shit show.

I'm close to hitting 600 and 500 raw in the DL and SQ at 220 in the next couple months or thereabouts, but I struggle to hit a legal bench w/ 315 on a good day. I'm very weak off the chest.

I feel like the other 2 lifts have grown from lots of heavy GMs, some GHRs and core work, as well as just doing the lifts. I feel like I know how to train those lifts...but I don't have anything like GMs to train the bench.

I don't really know after several years of serious training what assistance work even helps my bench. Need a little guidance from some big benchers. What lifts work for you? How do you put your training together?



CT wrote an article called "8 weeks to a bigger bench." And, I think Tate wrote something like "Bench 600 lbs" or something like that.

Check them out.
Good luck.


My bench isn't huge, but if you're weak off the chest, theres a few things you should focus on.

More full range/low end work. Theres a lot of stuff here, flat, incline, decline, floor press, low pin work, 1-2 boards etc.

Speed work. Faster the bar moves, the faster you can get it to the triceps to lock it out.

Also, do heavy db work as a second exercise or on a RE day.

Just for confidence sakes, I like also doing really heavy high pin work as a second exerercise.

I've done 365 at 198.

Hope I helped.


"If you want to bench a lot you have to bench a lot"

                         -Boris Sheiko-


I agree with this and would only add that heavy military presses and paused bench presses may help with the bottom half of the bench.


I would say take some time off from actual benching. I get the impression(perhaps incorrectly) that you've been benching frequently in hopes of improving.

I say drop bench for a while and work on some of the other suggested exercises already on the thread. Go 6-8 weeks using different exercises as your max effort pressing exercise. Then see if you bench is any better. You could also consider a short hiatus from horizontal pressing altogether. Focus on vertical pressing for 2-4 weeks. It couldn't hurt to switch things up a little.


If you are weak off the chest, it is a matter of pec, lat, and shoulder strength. I guess the person above had good intentions of saying "load your triceps" but a raw bencher can lock out nearly anything he gets off his chest.

Yes, triceps are very important in benching. However, if you are weak off the chest, then you need to do more assistance exercises such as cambered bar bench press, dumbbell bench press, blast strap pushups, pushups with pushup bars or hex dumbbells, overhead presses, speed bench press with pause at the chest, or Bradford press.

You do need strong triceps and lats to keep your form together at the bottom and lowering of the bench press, otherwise your elbows will flair out too soon.

I have a 335 raw bench at 230 which is not incredible but I am very happy with it as of now since I too am a poor bench presser. Here is my routine.

Speed Bench Press Day
1) Paused speed bench (3 different grips): 8 x 3 @ 60%
2) 3, 4, or 5 board press: work up to 3-5 RM
3) Cambered bar bench press, blast strap pushups, or dumbbell bench press*
4) Dumbbell. cable, or supported rows
5) Tricep pushdown with V, straight, or fat bar
6) Barbell or dumbbell curls

Max effort bench press day
1) Work up to 1 - 3 RM on 1 or 2 board press, floor press, flat bench press, or incline press.
2) Pullups/Chinups (overhand, parallel, or underhand)
3) Face pulls, reverse pec-deck, or bent over lateral raises
4) Close grip bench press, dips, or tricep extensions
5) Incline dummbbell or hammer curls

*I work up to 2 working sets of 8 - 12 reps on all assistance exercises.


What are you doing to improve your Bench right now?


Bricknyce, good info I could put to good use. My weakest point on bench is right off the chest. It's very frustrating. Question, have any of you guys ever delt with this. My first rep will be my worst especially going really heavy, sometimes even needing slight assistance, but I will then lock in and rep two, three, four, will be solid.



Good tips ExNole.

A few other things I would suggest playing around with here that I have found worked for me quite recently.

Do active recovery work. The day after your ME day, do either pushups or some very light DB presses for around 30 reps. Pick a back movement like facepulls with bands and do same. Then take a couple sets to do 100 rep band pushdowns with around 25 in a set. It could even be with those dinky elastic tubes they have in most gyms. I've found that after this, I recover MUCH better.

Try taking out tricep extension work other than for active recovery. Simply put, I think that this did shit for my bench and in fact may have held it back simply making it a little more difficult to recover from the bench workouts. If you're doing supplemental stuff like close grip inclines, DB presses, close grip presses etc., your triceps will be hit plenty hard enough to stimulate strength gains.

And lastly, throw in movements that you haven't done in a while. Whether it's 1 board close grips, DB floor press, close grip inclines, etc. if you haven't done it in a LONG time or ever, throw it in to the mix.

Good luck.



Right now I train it twice a week.

One day, I work up to a heavy single above 90% 1RM on the Bench, then do 2-board working up to a heavy 5. Then lat work and some shoulder prehab.

The other day I do benches again for many sets of 3-5 reps. Follow w/ lats and overhead or dumbbell work and shoulder prehab.


So far you have had many people shoot in the dark at what your problem is. But no one has mentioned form as an issue. If you are weak off the chest you may have poor set up. You may be flairing your arms. You may not be staying tight in the bottom. There are a host of problems besides a muscle weakness.

Post a video of yourself benching from the front and the side. That will shed some light on the problem.



Do you do any DE work? If you are slow off the chest, you may need to do some speed work 8-10 sets of 2-3 reps in the 50-60% 1RM range w/60sec rest between sets.


I agree with above. We will need to see what you're doing before we can really be of any help.

If it is a weakness, you need to focus on your chest, lat, and shoulder strength. Its apparent that it isn't the triceps.

Personally I'm very strong to the chest, and weaker in the tri's. When I fail a bench, its the lockout that fails not the off the chest.

For the record, my bench at the moment is 410 at 212 lbs.


I'm not sure about being able to get a vid up anytime soon...I'll try.

But Meat, like you suggested, my set-up is not good, I don't really understand leg drive, or at least I can't do it, I can't stay tight at the bottom w/ heavier weights, my elbows flare out on the way down and I don't feel like I have good eccentric control of the bar.

I can knock off a couple strict standing military presses w/ 225, but I can only bench about 315 on a good day. I'm much stronger off a 2-board, I can hit at least 4 good paused reps off a 2-board w/ my max bench.


In addition to what I wrote above, I believe if your elbows flare out when benching, then you are simply not jacked enough. Your elbows flare out if your lats and triceps are weak. The less jacked you are, the less stability you have. I think leg drive is pretty simple to understand. Setup properly and throughout the entire lift, press into the floor with your feet. There are several articles on proper bench press technique on www.elitefts.com and www.metalmilitia.net. Or better yet, buy a good instructional video or attend a seminar by Elite Fitness or Metal Militia. Or BEST yet, go to a powerlifting gym and learn from guys who know what they are doing on a day to day basis. You must pull your shoulder blades together when benching and press your head into the bench as you press.

Breathing is important too. You must hold your air for the entire lift. Before beginning the lift, take a large breath of air using your STOMACH (not your chest) and hold your air until you are DONE with the lift, NOT as you are COMPLETING the lift. Also, if your elbows flare, well, make a conscious decision to not let them flare out. This helps too. But it really is most likely weak tris and lack of upper back and lat mass.

I went to a Metal Militia Bench Press seminar and it was awesome. You want your technique corrected, see Sebastian Burns or Bill Crawford if they come to a town near you. I also have attended seminars by DeFranco and Jim Wendler. I also attend a PL gym. This is REALLY the way to learn.

In addition, if anyone thinks that being jacked does not matter, just look at the all time best benchers and you will see they have huge lats, shoulders, traps, and tris.


I like do front raises (yes that sissy exercise) on a incline bench (45 degrees). That helps me, in particular, on the bottom position.


As you can see from this photo of one of the baddest bench pressing SOBs, Glen Chabot, you need thick traps, shoulders, and lats to bench properly.



Do the first three weeks of Sheiko and pause every rep.