T Nation

Jumpstarting Bench


Hey guys, been running 531 for a while now (3 cycles BBB, and Young Jim Wendler presently) however i feel like my bench is not improving at the same rate as my other lifts. I know time and commitment are key to strength training so i continue to bust my ass. Just wondering how you guys bust through a bench plateau, i know its the hardest lift to bring up out of the big 3..


Would you consider your weak point in the bench to be near the bottom or top of the lift?


When i get to near maximal weight i can unrack, lower, pause, and get the bar about halfway up and that's where the lift starts to fall apart. So i guess finishing the lift near the top would be my weak point. I workout alone so its hard to get footage..


Hm, well it sounds like it could just be your triceps aren't as strong as your chest. This could be a simple fix, either focusing on close grip bench, or really pushing it on your overhead pressing.

It might also be a technique issue. Try keeping your elbows tucked close to your sides and then flaring them around the point where the bench transitions from mostly chest to utilizing more shoulders and tris.

If none of that works there's lots of good articles and threads on here about how to train to get through any sticking points in your lift


Lets say its my tris and i want to add in close grip/floor press, where and when would you add that in a program? On bench day or maybe OH day? Not one to change a program around but i don't see much harm in adding an exercise on one day.


I've just recently started 531 myself, so I can't really give any expert advice or anything, but it seems like making a change to a program to fix a specific problem/challenge that your facing is totally different from just changing shit around because you think it's "better". @MarkKO may have more insight on 531 programming than I do


I'd first absolutely rule out that it's not technique related. Make videos every bench session, ask advice from coaches (who know how to bench properly). If your form is solid (which no offence, probably will need some work as do all people in any lift) then start to focus more on variations like the close grip or floor press if you have a weak lock out.

A good decider for technique could also be overhead progress. If your OHP isn't stagnant, then tricep strength isn't the issue, it's most probably technique, lest probably chest strength.


You guys are awesome, thanks.

  1. If it is still improving, however slowly, don't worry and don't change a thing. Improvement is still improvement.

  2. If it has stopped improving (no rep PRs for one or two cycles, regularly struggling to go beyond minimum reps), then the first question I have is whether you have lost weight (not muscle, just scale weight). No lift is as weight dependent as bench. Even a couple of pounds can drop your bench noticeably. If you have lost weight and it's deliberate just accept your bench is going to drop a bit before starting to increase again. Be patient. If you haven't lost weight and progress has stopped, my first suggestion would be to bench as your pressing assistance. That'll get you a second bench day to all extents and purposes, which is usually enough to get things moving again. You can also look at your assistance work on press and bench days, and make changes to your exercise selection (beyond using bench as press assistance) to target your bench. In doing this, it is generally worth giving equal attention to your upper and middle back because that's a key link in the bench press chain. My go to exercises are: dips, flat DB bench, incline DB bench, heavy DB rows for high reps and chest supported rows, pull aparts and pull-ups/fatman pull-ups.

  3. This last one cannot be over-emphasised: the LAST thing you want to do is change core elements of the program (ie dropping press to have an extra bench day).


Hmm I have lost a couple pounds this last month unintentionally. I enter my food and calories in an app and eat around 3000 cals a day, right now I weigh 185-190lbs depending on water. Suppose I'll add some calories to my diet and see how that goes. And I would never change a routine, but adding a second bench somewhere in the week shouldn't hurt, I'm not gonna subtract anything I'll just add it in.


I found an article on "ramp up" on this site instead of warm up useful. Your warm up sets actually reach a training max slightly higher than your intended working sets to simulate your nervous system. For example, if your squat work sets would be 5 sets of 3x315, then your warm up sets would be 10xbar, 8x135, 6x225, 4x275, 2x315, 1x335, and then five sets at 315. At least that's how I applied it.


What does "feel like it's not progressing" actually mean?

Numbers don't lie. Post them.

Also, you could try using a template for your goal. Accessory and assistance that make sense for what you actually trying to accomplish.

Also, overhead is harder to bring up, not bench.


Ok, had to pull my log out and check my bench numbers from the past few cycles. So my max 4 cycles ago was 245lbs, on my 1+ sets i was doing ok around 3-4 reps. On my next cycle i added 5lbs to the bench max, i was only able to get 2 reps on my 1+, decided to try this TM again with the same result. I then decided to drastically reduce my TM down to 230lbs to readjust, work on form and do some rep work. It just feels like I've been stuck at the 230-245 for months. Hope this makes sense.


It does make sense, and I wouldn't worry. You're just taking a while to go up. Stick with it, don't change anything and if you really want do some benching after your press. It'll come up given time.


I'm going to get flamed here but this was also one of my issues with 5/3/1. Benching once per week was not enough volume for ME. I was deconditioning. What I do now is Bench 5 x 5 at approx. 70% one one day and alternate this with 5 x 5 at 60% adding 5lbs to the bar whenever the heavier day 5 x 5 is achieved. I now do the press after my heavier 5 x 5 day and follow it up with dips and rows.

What the OP might try is adding in some medium bench or close grip/dip work on lower body days for extra volume if this is needed.

First though as others have mentioned technique must be ruled out.


You did 250 for 2 reps. That's not progress?

Choose a template for strength. Keep accessory to s minimum and seriously look at your food intake and conditioning.

no need to cluster fuck your training.


Your training max is too high if you're not getting at least 5 reps on the 1+ day. Also, it's probably not a problem with your lock out. If you're not using a bench shirt, that is very rarely the problem. It's probably that you're just not generating enough speed/force out of the bottom, and the middle is where it slows down.


This!!!^^^ If you're missing right at or under 90°, is almost always the case with raw benching. Pin pressing, floor pressing, 1-2 boards, speed work will get you moving again.