T Nation

Is My Bench Getting Worse?


I have been lifting for over 20 years and started lifting raw the last few years. I am still improving in my squat and deads but I think my bench is going backwards. At mid 30-40 years old I could hit 500 lbs in a bench shirt every meet, at the time, I would say 400-405 lbs was max, 365 x 3-4, 385 x 2, were pretty regular. I did a ton of assistance for the shirt, most of which were board presses 1, 2 and 3 boards. I always trained regularly 5-6 times a week with 3-4 benches. From 41-43 years old I had some issues and wasn’t training regularly and lifts went down. I have since got back on a regular routine of raw lifting and my squat and dead are jumping 10-15 lbs each meet but bench has been stagnant, at times I think it is worse. I would also say my geared lifts except bench are back to normal although I train them very sparingly. I have tried some variations of assistance for bench and cut it out at times altogether to see if it helps. Nothing has really changed. I have done 500 lbs over the last year however I was at 215 lbs and normally compete at 205 lbs. This upcoming training session, I am going to do my old program with the same assistance as when I was benching big. Anyone got any suggestions as to what else might be happening? I am 45 now and lifetime drug free, I don’t use supplements other than a stimulant free pre-workout. My bench has ranged from 350-360 in all meets over the last few years. I bench 3-4 times a week, one close grip, one legs up and one speed. I have added a 4th day of light benching. Strange thing is, when I had very sore elbows, for about a year, my bench felt stronger. I don’t max out except at a contest. I know most will say I am just getting old, but the other lifts continue to improve and I feel as good as I did when I was early 30s.


There could be many factors here.

3-4 times a week might be too much frequency at 45 especially if you’ve been training hard and consistent for 20+ years.

Also it could be your supplemental movements need to change.


If something doesn’t work, try something else. Don’t just keep trying to make the same thing start working. It sounds to me like benching with extremely high frequency no longer works for you. Have you tried lower frequency, at potentially higher intensity and/or volume?


What specifically are you thinking with assistance? Most assistance now do give me elbow pain. I mainly do dips, JM Press, push-downs, and extensions of some sort. I mix these up every 2-3 weeks. with legs up bench I might do some Inclline/decline but that changes every 2-3 weeks as well. And my rep schemes change every 2-3 weeks. So I might do 6x4 close grip for 3 weeks, and 5x3 legs up bench, and 9x3 or 6x5 (3 grips) speed with chains or bands. I am always switching. I usually use boards, or slingshot after from 3-5 reps usually. I cut out all assistance my last go around and this did not help at all. Do anyone think higher rep ranges will work for all benching movements? Maybe stick with rep schemes for longer periods of time?


High reps on assistance work, without a doubt. In fact, I would incorporate sets of 20 or more from time to time. Gets blood flowing to the affected area without undue stress.

I like to use bands for a lot of my assistance work. Just bands. So I’ll step on a band and do curls with it for about 20 reps, throw it over a chin up bar and do press downs with it, and alternate between the 2 exercises without resting, for 3 sets or so each. It gives a great pump, and is easy on the joints. Doing heavy, low rep work so much is your problem I believe.


I was a top 10 bencher for years in the WPO and APF/APA. Benching 3-4 times per week is out of the question. When I was competing in my late 30’s -mid 40’s I benched 2X/week. One heavy day and one light. I was not drug free and I did not bench that often. It would be nice to see exactly what your main lift routine looks like (sets/reps) as well as your tri assistance work.


Sorry…missed your post on assistance work. Let me read it.


Dips will kill your elbows. JM Press ok, push downs ok. I do rolling tricep extensions and tate presses. I assume you are not doing all the tricep assistance you mentioned each workout. That is way too much. As far as the main lift, I think what Louie says is work up to a max, whether it be 3 reps, 5 reps, 1 rep. When you have maxed, change the main lift next time out and work up to a max. So on and so forth…So…lets say a 1 board to hit a max of 3 reps. My sets look like this 1X16 …1X12 …1X10 . All of those warm ups with no board. 1X8, 1X6, 1X3, 1X3, 1X3, 1X3, 1X3, 1X3. Increasing the weight obviously on all sets. If I hit the last set of 3 I do the same routine next time out, and so on until that last set of 3 is your true max. Then change to another main lift. Next time you rotate back to the 1 board main lift go for a 1 rep max. My core main lifts are the 1 board, 2 board, close grip no boards and maybe incline. Rotating when I hit a max.