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Goal: 500 Pound Bench Press

First time I’ve ever started a thread on here. This is an ego thing in some ways, but also a goal I’ve been chasing.

Little background here, when I was 17, my oldest sister (36) passed away from kidney failure and heart problems due to juvenile diabetes. Then about 4 and a half years later, a girl I was going to marry cheats on me, so I broke that off, only to have my mother pass away less than a year later. So in about 5 years, crap hit the fan in a huge way for me and it wasn’t good. I developed depression, had to take anti depressants, and also gained about 100 pounds of nothing but pure fat. I was weighing a good 350 or more. High blood pressure followed.

My best friend got me back into the weight room at the beginning of 2012. Weighing 350 or so, it was humiliating. At one point, I’d benched 350 early on in college. I couldn’t squat 300, I couldn’t bench 315 when I began training again with him. It was hell. But slowly, I got back into some shape. Then my boss gave me 5-3-1 from Jim Wendler. Since that time I’ve squatted 585, military pressed 280, lost about 55 pounds while replacing a good bit of other lost weight with muscle, and about a month ago I bench pressed 435.

My question, and honestly my goal, is whether I can bench press 500 by May 7, 2016. I’m getting married that day to a girl who came around while I was still a round ball of fat but was getting stronger. She, along with my best friend and my boss, helped me feel alive again. So I want to be the strongest I’ve ever been and may ever be on the day she marries me. So as motivation, I’ve taken what was a lifelong goal and decided to chase 500 before that date (side note, I want to knock out the last 15 pounds on squat and put up 600 before then also, but that is a much more doable goal I think).

Is it realistic, or is the 65 pounds standing between me and that goal too much? I follow 5-3-1, and have been putting up, for myself, good numbers on my rep PR’s every week. 330 for 9 last week (5 plus week) and 350 for 7 this week (3 plus week and I honestly believe I had 8 in me but I left it on the bar). I’m getting stronger. Just unsure if that amount of weight in that time frame can be gained.

It doesn’t matter what others think. Benching 500 is a different beast - MUCH different than gaining 65 pounds to get to 400. I mean, way different. It’s not “just 65 points”. Anyone that says so has zero idea or experience.

Plug away. Stay consistent. 500 may fall. But perhaps not in that time. It may, but you can’t make a timetable for a lift that few have done. 400 pound bench is easy. 500 is another story.

[quote]Jim Wendler wrote:
It doesn’t matter what others think. Benching 500 is a different beast - MUCH different than gaining 65 pounds to get to 400. I mean, way different. It’s not “just 65 points”. Anyone that says so has zero idea or experience.

Plug away. Stay consistent. 500 may fall. But perhaps not in that time. It may, but you can’t make a timetable for a lift that few have done. 400 pound bench is easy. 500 is another story. [/quote]

Thank you for the response. This is the response I expected. Not discouraged. I know 500 is a different level than what I’ve done. I am proud to be as close as I am already. Your program works big time though. I know it’s a matter of time. I’ll keep the goal, but I’m not going to live and die with it. 500 is the goal at some point. If I get it before that date, I’ll consider it a bigger accomplishment.

How much time passed between you hitting 400 and 500? I figure you’re the exception, not the rule and my timetable will be far different and longer.

Not going to tell you it’s impossible, but definitely a tall mountain to climb.

I can understand the allure of 500, but don’t get too fixated on that number. Even if you end up at 445, you’ll still be stronger than you’ve ever been on your wedding day–that’s pretty frickin’ AWESOME.

That being said, 5/3/1 for powerlifting might be your best shot. This version goes with more of a 3/5/1 progression so that you can do heavy singles/jokers after your last working set every other week (3’s & 1’s weeks). This will allow you to keep progressing as usual with your training maxes, but also give extra practice at the heavier weights.

The other option would be to use boring but big (5x10 @50-70% of TM assistance sets) to simply grow as much as possible (in my mind, having to get re-measured because you don’t fit into your tux any more is an awesome problem to have), translating into more strength. I’m someone that responds really well to this type of volume, but not everyone does. I have also used the 3/5/1 style with good results.

Go for it and good luck!

[quote]l-bomb10 wrote:
Not going to tell you it’s impossible, but definitely a tall mountain to climb. 5/3/1 for powerlifting might be your best shot. This version goes with more of a 3/5/1 progression so that you can do heavy singles/jokers after your last working set every other week (3’s & 1’s weeks). This will allow you to keep progressing as usual with your training maxes, but also give extra practice at the heavier weights.

The other option would be to use boring but big (5x10 @50-70% of TM assistance sets) to simply grow as much as possible, translating into more strength. I’m someone that responds really well to this type of volume, but not everyone does. I have also used the 3/5/1 style with good results.

I can understand the allure of 500, but don’t get too fixated on that number. Even if you end up at 445, you’ll still be stronger than you’ve ever been on your wedding day–that’s pretty frickin’ awesome.

Go for it and good luck![/quote]

Boring But Big has been how I’ve attacked my bench for a while now. I give 5-3-1 and BBB the most credit for taking me from a lifter who was stuck around 375-385 and all of a sudden I was over 400 and constantly moving up. And you’re right. I’m going to be stronger than ever on that day. Considering the hell I went through, I’m pumped about that.

Got 6 reps of 370 today on my 5-3-1 week of the cycle. Felt good. Most reps of a weight that high I’ve ever gotten. Great freakin program.

It’s pretty clear that 500 on bench is definitely that number that a very limited percentage of people ever reach. Analogous to perhaps a 700lb pull. I think you can do it, mind over matter man.

Thank you. Regardless of if it comes before my goal date or not, I’m getting 500 at some point in my life.

Update on the side note about my squat, I’m currently climbing my way back up to get ready to attempt 600. Every set is producing ten reps right now on my last set, regardless of what rep week it is. I can literally see and feel my legs getting bigger and stronger again. Sticking to the plan and taking it slow, but man it’s feeling good (though the mornings after are interesting).

Also on a side note, I am using 5-3-1 to get ready for an alumni football game that is being planned between my high school (same school I coach at so I have access to our weight room which is freakin awesome) and our old rivals. So the workouts and every PR are legitimately exciting right now. Can’t say enough how much this program has changed things for me. I owe you Wendler.

Good thread, glad to read about your progress. I hope you hit your goal!

I think its possible to get close but you will have to really dot your i’s and cross your t’s ie tons of workout supps like Plazma, 8 hours sleep every day minimum, great nutrition etc

So, after I posted my last response last week, I literally walked outside and plowed the driveway, and upon finishing, I slipped, and as my left leg stepped down, I felt a huge loud pop in my knee. I am waiting on MRI results, but it’s likely I’ve torn my patella tendon, my acl, or possibly both. So there goes the squatting goal and hurts my leg drive for bench pressing.

Bad luck man, damn bad luck.

Bringing this back into discussion. After my knee injury last year (complete rupture of the patella tendon), I had to do some big time reevaluation of my training. Rehabbing is still what I am going through with my knee, squatting is finally back in my life but it’s ridiculously light weight. I haven’t had a bar on my back since the night before the knee injury.

While I was still laid up, I gained back a decent amount of weight (sitting around feeling sorry for yourself is seriously unhealthy). But I made myself get back into the weight room while my leg was still locked in extension (I used boxes from box squatting to prop my leg up while I benched).

I won’t be getting 500 before my wedding, I don’t believe, but my PR’s on bench right now are changing at a ridiculous rate. A few weeks ago on my 5-3-1 week of a cycle, I got 350 for 6 reps on bench and was semi-pleased with that. Yesterday, on my 3-3-3 week, I put 370 up 7 times. It’s the first time since the injury I’ve been this strong, and considering I was basically off my feet on my backside for two months, I feel this is great progress. When you consider I’ve had to learn how to bench with weak leg drive, I am pretty happy.

This is just an example, it has been consistent like this since November. For the last few cycles, my reps have stayed the same regardless of the weight or what week I have been on. Last cycle, I put up 6 reps on every week of my working sets. This cycle, so far, it has been 7 reps two weeks in a row. If I even get 5 or 6 next week with 390 pounds, I’ll be pumped.

So while I doubt I can get 500 before May 7 of this year, I am giving 100% effort to getting that goal within the next few years. This program is legit. And because it is so easy to use and adjust, I was able to use it to pick myself back up after such a shitty injury.

Congratulations on getting off the couch and not feeling sorry for yourself. Good luck with the goal.

I hear all the time, “training isn’t life, don’t take it so seriously” and shit like that. For many, the role of physical challenges help in all areas of their life. Gives them some footing of what it feels like to struggle and succeed.

Thank you, I would probably have fallen back into old bad habits if I didn’t have this program to get me back on my feet.

I don’t see myself reaching a point where I stop training again. Hell, I’ve got a guy I coach with who powerlifts trying to talk me into doing bench press competitions. When I see numbers that other put up, I just laugh at that, but I’m enjoying getting stronger. Some people want to do burpees all day long, others want to run long distances. I want to slap 45’s on a bars and see how strong I can get.

This is awsome congrats on the comeback keep us updated

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Reading that you benched with your leg propped up made my day. Stay strong!

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Thank you. I never even thought about what it looked like, or how dumb some people might think I was for getting back to lifting while I was all messed up. The hardest part was finding a place to sit my crutches where the football players we train wouldn’t stumble over them. If there is something that can trip them, high school kids will find that and trip no matter what.

After the PR last week on my last set, this week only got 390 for 4 reps on my 5-3-1 week. Had an extra day of training last Friday, so I played around with incline and did 365 for a single rep. That heavy rep plus shoveling snow all weekend apparently didn’t translate well. Still feeling good though. I’m going to keep updating until I either realize I just can’t get 500 or until I put it up for a rep.

So, I have to say, I went off of 5-3-1. And it helped me hit my goal. I bench pressed 500 pounds last Monday night, using the Ed Coan 14 week peaking program. I’m posting this on this board for 3 reasons:

  1. I still think the reason I got 500 is 5-3-1. It’s what got me to a 435 pound PR last spring before my knee injury. It’s also what I used after my knee injury, when I had my leg up in the air or laying limp on the ground while I was basically only able to use my upper body to put up weight on bench press. The strength I developed doing that without leg drive was ridiculous when I finally was able to set up properly and push hard again. I honestly think 500 was coming before the end of summer regardless of what program I used, as long as I was smart and stuck with it.

  2. I’m bragging. It’s cocky or arrogant or whatever else you want to say, but I feel good about it and don’t mind letting you know. After some of the crap I’ve dealt with in life, putting up 500 pounds feels freaking good.

  3. Doing the other program gave me some insight as to why 5-3-1 is the best program out there. The Coan program was the first program I’ve ever done outside of 5-3-1 for powerlifting. While the results were dramatic, I would never dream of doing this program full time, and honestly I’ll probably never leave 5-3-1 again. My joints were on fire while I was going through the 14 weeks. It was borderline at times. I have been sore, like a truck hit me, with 5-3-1 before, but never did I feel the inflammation in my joints like I did with Coan’s program. 5-3-1 is a program you can use long term and not have that kind of issue with. You’ll have inflammation here and there, but it’s not a part of the program. With the other one, I was lifting in pain at times. My ego kept me going through it and I’m lucky I didn’t injure myself. I never felt like I was at risk with 5-3-1 like I was with Coan. Coan is a good program, don’t get me wrong, it clearly worked for me, but I think 5-3-1 is the consistent, plateau busting program that won’t cripple you if something goes wrong down the line.

So to wrap up, I want to say thank you once again Jim for the ridiculously good program you provided us with. I wouldn’t have put up 500 without it, and I wouldn’t be the guy I am today without it. I am returning to it full time next week and do not ever plan to stop it. It’s the perfect program in my opinion. It was only my greedy need to hit that goal before I got married (which happened Saturday) that made me try something else. While that was successful, it came at a cost, and I’m just thankful I got what I wanted before the cost become more than just pain in the elbows, wrists, and shoulders. Any other PR I ever hit will be through 5-3-1.

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