T Nation

Longtime Bench Plateau

I’ve basically been plateaued in the bench (within a small range) for the last three years, at 270-285 at a bodyweight of 205-210. Three shoulder separations (football and rugby) haven’t helped, but they also haven’t kept me from lifting heavy for the majority of the year.

Feel like I’ve tried everything, from that crappy Critical Bench Program to linear progression to Westside style training for the last four months. Nothing has done more than raise it temporarily by five to ten pounds, even as my other lifts have progressed.

Been lifting about seven years altogether, and I know my bench sucks for that amount of time, though I guess I could barely get 100 lbs. for a few reps when I was a skinny teenager. It’s also my major training goal, especially because I’ve only just been able to deadlift and (front) squat again after ankle surgery and then sciatica.

I don’t want to just gain weight and improve it that way, don’t want to be above 215, tops, for cardio reasons I don’t want to get into, not the typical narcissist abs stuff you see on the photo forum.

Should I be trying Russian volume programs, stick with Westside (despite minimal results so far), basic stuff like 5x5? Just at a real loss, and getting frustrated, 315 has been a goal for far too long.

Just to summarize…you want to increase your bench press, but you don’t want to gain bodyweight. Is that correct?

If it isn’t working, try something else. Add in weighted dips, rack lockouts, pause rep bench, flyes. You make it sound as if you just bench. If you only do the one exercise your body will get used to it.

You must understand, the bench press is a Tri/delt/lat movement, with the pecs doing almost nothing.

Have you done board presses? post up your routine.

Are your upper back and lats as strong as your chest?

There is that saying about shooting a cannon from a canoe…

[quote]GDollars37 wrote:

Should I be trying Russian volume programs, stick with Westside (despite minimal results so far), basic stuff like 5x5? [/quote]

Yes, to all three of them.

Start with 5x5 for 1-2 months, continue with Sheiko (not neglecting back, rear shoulders and rotators) and put some icing on the cake with WB. Repeat if necessary.

[quote]eisenaffe wrote:
GDollars37 wrote:

Should I be trying Russian volume programs, stick with Westside (despite minimal results so far), basic stuff like 5x5?

Yes, to all three of them.

Start with 5x5 for 1-2 months, continue with Sheiko (not neglecting back, rear shoulders and rotators) and put some icing on the cake with WB. Repeat if necessary.
[/quote]

Assuming your shoulder can withstand it.

  1. Bill Starr’s 5x5 dual factor (manage your diet if you want to minimize fat gain
  2. Sheiko program
  3. Something different or go back to it. You could even do Korte’s 3x3

[quote]superdad4 wrote:
Just to summarize…you want to increase your bench press, but you don’t want to gain bodyweight. Is that correct?[/quote]

Not exactly. I’d like to gain 5 to 10 pounds, but don’t want to just do a real bulk in an effort to get strength gains along with the weight.

I don’t think a 1.5 x BW bench is that impressive, and that’s what I’m shooting for.

[quote]tveddy wrote:
If it isn’t working, try something else. Add in weighted dips, rack lockouts, pause rep bench, flyes. You make it sound as if you just bench. If you only do the one exercise your body will get used to it.[/quote]

Do all of those except flyes, which hurt my shoulders and I have always thought are more of a hypertrophy exercise than a strength one. Will post a few weeks of my routine when I get the time later tonight.

Is there a weak spot? Like a sticking point, or does the weight above max simply descend upon you, and can not be moved through any of the range of motion?

Reason I ask is because there is usualy a sticking point or something, not just a complete failure.

[quote]FightinIrish26 wrote:
Are your upper back and lats as strong as your chest?

There is that saying about shooting a cannon from a canoe…[/quote]

Not as strong as my chest, but I don’t think anybody’s are. How many people row what they bench, from casual gym-goers to Mendelson?

Can do 9-10 pronated grip chins on a good day, have been working lats 4x a week to try to thicken them up for benching. Barbell row isn’t great, but that’s more a function of grip than back strength. Can T-bar row about 200 lbs. for a set of eight, which isn’t too far under what I bench.

[quote]themonthofjun wrote:
eisenaffe wrote:
GDollars37 wrote:

Should I be trying Russian volume programs, stick with Westside (despite minimal results so far), basic stuff like 5x5?

Yes, to all three of them.

Start with 5x5 for 1-2 months, continue with Sheiko (not neglecting back, rear shoulders and rotators) and put some icing on the cake with WB. Repeat if necessary.

Assuming your shoulder can withstand it.

  1. Bill Starr’s 5x5 dual factor (manage your diet if you want to minimize fat gain
  2. Sheiko program
  3. Something different or go back to it. You could even do Korte’s 3x3

[/quote]

Thanks, where can I find info on dual factor 5x5 (I have Bill Starr’s original book at home) and Korte 3x3? Have liked working up to a max triple in the past.

[quote]GDollars37 wrote:
superdad4 wrote:
Just to summarize…you want to increase your bench press, but you don’t want to gain bodyweight. Is that correct?

Not exactly. I’d like to gain 5 to 10 pounds, but don’t want to just do a real bulk in an effort to get strength gains along with the weight.

I don’t think a 1.5 x BW bench is that impressive, and that’s what I’m shooting for.[/quote]

I would like to be mega-rich but I don’t want to have to work or go to school. Clearly there is some way around leaving the bed and actually doing something. Life is just so hard.

I truly don’t understand people who make shit hard for no reason. You may have “cardio issues”, but then it would stand to reason that if you simply can’t gain much more body weight that you shouldn’t expect to get all that much stronger past neural adaptation.

It is that simple and for the life of me I can’t see why everyone in this thread but one other person actually touched on that issue.

Genetics are the primary factor in those who can lift certain amounts of weight at certain body weights. Even they would have to go up in muscular body weight to move past their best numbers by a large degree. That is why there are weight classes and why you have made this way more complicated than it ever needed to be.

[quote]Disturbed T3Ch wrote:
You must understand, the bench press is a Tri/delt/lat movement, with the pecs doing almost nothing. >>>[/quote]

Congratulations on your first post at T-Nation. We are so glad you are to teach us how to work tri’s, delt’s and lat’s with pressing movements that do almost nothing to engage the pecs. This is truly revolutionary.

Please post your pull up/rowing routine for chest development as well. I’m always up for new ideas.

[quote]Tiribulus wrote:
Disturbed T3Ch wrote:
You must understand, the bench press is a Tri/delt/lat movement, with the pecs doing almost nothing. >>>

Congratulations on your first post at T-Nation. We are so glad you are to teach us how to work tri’s, delt’s and lat’s with pressing movements that do almost nothing to engage the pecs. This is truly revolutionary.

Please post your pull up/rowing routine for chest development as well. I’m always up for new ideas.

[/quote]

LOL.

I did chest yesterday. Who knew I was NOT training my chest by doing a benchpress?! All of these years, and NOW they tell me!

Fuck this…I’m off to the gym to do some toe raises…for my neck.

[quote]Professor X wrote:
Genetics are the primary factor in those who can lift certain amounts of weight at certain body weights. Even they would have to go up in muscular body weight to move past their best numbers by a large degree. That is why there are weight classes and why you have made this way more complicated than it ever needed to be.[/quote]

Prof,

I’ve heard you mention this a couple of times, but I’m not sure what validity it has. I agree that competitors at elite levels of development in the “Iron Sports” (o-lifting, PL, BB, Strongman) cannot be there without genetic gifts.

Does, that mean it’s pointless to strive for goals in relative strength otherwise? It seems to me like you’re just making an easy out for the same type of people who are “hardgainers” in the BBing world.

Someone who does not have the genetics to be elite in the 165 class will not have the genetics to be elite in the 242 class. Yes, adding BW will undoubtedly increase an indivuals capacity to lift weights, but it won’t necessarily make them more competitive in sports with weight classes.

So I wonder what basis you have for your assumption that “Genetics are the primary factor in those who can lift certain amounts of weight at certain body weights.” Training for relative strength his (in my opinion) more complicated than training to gain strength without any consideration to BW. Recovery and training becomes a whole different issue when calories have to be limited. For the person of average genetics who doesn’t care to do much research, gaining decent levels of relative strength will be much more difficult.

But for many people, squatting 3xBW raw will be no less impossible than achieving 20" arms.

Let me know if anything needs clarifying.

-Matt

LOL!

Apparently our physiology has been all wrong. No wonder my glutes are always sore the day after heavy shrugs.

[quote]Matt McGorry wrote:
Prof,

I’ve heard you mention this a couple of times, but I’m not sure what validity it has. I agree that competitors at elite levels of development in the “Iron Sports” (o-lifting, PL, BB, Strongman) cannot be there without genetic gifts.

Does, that mean it’s pointless to strive for goals in relative strength otherwise? It seems to me like you’re just making an easy out for the same type of people who are “hardgainers” in the BBing world. [/quote]

Unless you are in powerlifting meets, worrying about relative strength BEFORE worrying about ABSOLUTE STRENGTH makes no sense to me. Your “relative strength” will be based on genetics, neural adaptation and learning of technique. There isn’t anything more to it. Once you have learned an exercise well and trained your muscles to respond efficiently (which for some is easier than others), if you expect to gain more strength, you should also expect to gain some lean body mass. It seems some of you truly believe that strength will simply increase infinitely without any more increases in lean body tissue and this just isn’t the case. Once those factors mentioned above are maxed out, you should expect to gain lean body mass to move up in strength.

Strength is directly related to an increase in muscle contractile proteins. While ‘individual A’ may be naturally stronger than ‘individual B’ while they both may weigh the same, past maxing out those factors they will both have to gain lean body mass to continue moving up in strength. Strength and size are NOT completely disassociated.

Also, with this statement:

[quote]Matt McGorry wrote:

Someone who does not have the genetics to be elite in the 165 class will not have the genetics to be elite in the 242 class.
[/quote]

Aren’t you simply repeating the point I was making? That would be the case because GENETICS are the primary factor is how strong someone can become at a certain weight. You will not go from “absolute weakling” to “world class strength athlete” without ever gaining a pound. Those “world class athletes” were genetically ahead of the game from the beginning.

Prof, what you said cannot be argued with, once you max out your nervous system, you’re not getting stronger without adding mass.

With less than a 1.5 x bodyweight, I really doubt he’s maxed his potential though.

With that said, your advise is still spot on, getting the strength by adding bodyweight is still the way to go. Look at what lifters in weight classes do, they add weight to get stronger, then make weight for the meet. After doing this for long enough, they simply cannot make weight anymore, and go up in weight class.

Before you all go and look at my profile and conclude I know nothing, I’ve competed in a weight class for years and had to make 160 pounds. I’d go as high as 190 to get more powerful and then make weight. I would do this and not lose strength… well from 190 I did, it was too far, but 180 to 185 was fine.

I cannot remember who wrote about it, but you can lose muscle and keep, or even gain strength.

Back to the OP. If you want to maximize your strength without gaining weight, Russian style frequency will get you there like nothing else. If that doesn’t work, and you’re healthy, then just listen to the Prof, you need to add weight.

Roland