T Nation

Maximal Bench

Hello Everyone,

I have been working pretty hard to get my power lifts up as much as possible. My squat is pretty decent, but over the last half year or so, I have been emphasizing my bench press. I have been implementing an upper/lower split twice a week, in which I bench heavy on the upper days (along with other assistance movements) and squat & deadlift heavy on the lower days.

I have grown to love this format, and I feel that I have progressed fairly nicely using it. I am currently benching 305-310 lbs. for a max set of 5 reps at 195-200 lbs. bodyweight. My aim for the rest of this year is to get that 5-rm up to about 350 lbs, which will be difficult.

My main question relates to something that I hadn?t experienced before, and I was wondering if anyone else had. I have been benching heavy twice a week for a while now, and I recently decided to cut my frequency back to once a week. I have found that when I take these extra days off, it has a negative effect on my bench performance.

I seem to lose some of that extra explosion and acceleration from the bottom, and I find it more difficult to control the weight on the eccentric portion of the movement. It seems as if I lose some of the ?feel? and that I am kind of out of my ?groove?. Often times I come up a rep or two short of what I could normally do on less rest.

In the past when I used to bench heavy only once a week, I would always come back really strong from a 7-8 day rest in between sessions.

I am assuming that my CNS has adapted to being able to handle additional frequency and that 7-8 days of rest may simply just be too much at the moment. The extra days off result in a loss of coordination on the lift and in a feeling of being rusty.

Has anyone else experienced this in the past or have any comments on what I have described? I know that there are a lot of very strong, experienced lifters on these boards, and I would greatly appreciated any feedback

Thanks,
Stl Ram

You might consider only benching once a week, but still having a tricep/shoulder/back assistance work day. I do this when I’m feeling a bit burned out, but don’t want to back off entirely.

i’ve had somewhat similar results as you (op)… while i by know means consider myself an expert, i’ve found that by body just getsout of rhythm after too many days off, that being said,i think once you’re moving decent weight (it varies person to person but generally anything over 250-300lbs) that 2x/weekw heavy would probably eventually have negative effects…

personally i’d either cut the volume dramatically on both days, and maybe work up to 3reps of something you can do 5 times never going to failure (so, 3 of your current weight, slowly progressing) or have on day allotted to heavy bench… and one day do speed work on the bench, or even just light form work if you feel your form isn’t up to par,just something to keep your motor patterns fresh in your body… helps me out

[quote]btlifter wrote:
i’ve had somewhat similar results as you (op)… while i by know means consider myself an expert, i’ve found that by body just getsout of rhythm after too many days off, that being said,i think once you’re moving decent weight (it varies person to person but generally anything over 250-300lbs) that 2x/weekw heavy would probably eventually have negative effects…

[quote]

Just to play devils advocate here, what about the guys who train using a conjugate system?

300 would be roughly 60% for someone pressing 500… And it’s not like they’re just doing 300 and 500 each week, often they’ll go over 500 on boards and stuff. But I guess it’s not always full ROM so it could make a difference?

Here’s a slightly different approach to benching. Not everyone trains the same.

Bench and Nothing but the Bench
By Pavel Tsatsouline

http://www.elitefts.com/documents/nothing_but_the_bench.htm

Thanks to those who have responded so far, and I appreciate your thoughts on the matter.

As was mentioned above, I have had some concerns about benching heavy too frequently and the possibility of over-use injuries. That’s why I decided to cut back to once a week, but I just get frustrated by how my motor patterns go to shit when I take those extra days off.

I have used Westside for Skinny Bastards for a few weeks on a couple of occasions in the past, but I wasn’t a big fan of the really high rep bench work. As someone else mentioned in this thread, it might be time for me to implement a speed bench day on the second day of my training week.

I am sure that the speed work will enable me to stimulate my motor patterns and CNS and prime me for my next max bench effort.

[quote]Modi wrote:
Here’s a slightly different approach to benching. Not everyone trains the same.

Bench and Nothing but the Bench
By Pavel Tsatsouline

http://www.elitefts.com/documents/nothing_but_the_bench.htm[/quote]

Thanks for the post Modi. It is very interesting how the Eastern European athletes train compared to Western methodologies.

I have attempted this type of approach in the past, and I must say that I felt that the frequency was too much. After a while, even moderately heavy weights started to feel really heavy. But obviously it works incredibly well for some lifters.

[quote]Stl Ram wrote:
Modi wrote:
Here’s a slightly different approach to benching. Not everyone trains the same.

Bench and Nothing but the Bench
By Pavel Tsatsouline

http://www.elitefts.com/documents/nothing_but_the_bench.htm

Thanks for the post Modi. It is very interesting how the Eastern European athletes train compared to Western methodologies.

I have attempted this type of approach in the past, and I must say that I felt that the frequency was too much. After a while, even moderately heavy weights started to feel really heavy. But obviously it works incredibly well for some lifters.
[/quote]
Yeah, I don’t train like that at all, I just wanted to point out that there are many ways to train. I’m sure it took him a while to get to the point where he could tolerate the frequency and volume that he does.

I train one ME day and one DE day for upper body with 72 hours in between days. Starting next month I’m going to rotate my DE days with RE days every 3-4 weeks until I get closer to my next meet, then I will focus more on the ME/DE work.

You just have to figure out what works best for you.

This is highly dependant on your workout. You may have had a higher volume heavy workout in the past then switched to slightly lower volume to do 2 days a week, then trying to switch that to once a week you will definitely fall off.

People can compare their own past but its hard to say what is happening to you without knowing what you have done and are doing now.

That being said your body can handle 2 heavy workouts a week long as your eating enough. 1 workout every 7 days is great for maintenance but not good long term for upper body stength. You shouldn’t lose any overall strength but your max may go down a little.

You will also need more of a warm up. After that long of a rest your “CNS” forgets how to contract Maximum Effort, and you can set of remind it before you workout.

I have had great results with Monday/Tuesday - Thursday/Friday working up to the last two sets at 90%… However, although I work every major muscle group (back/chest/lower body) and use compound lifts every day, I never do the same lift twice per week. That little variation has been enough for me to recover and make gains, but still no affect my recovery too much.

[quote]Airtruth wrote:
This is highly dependant on your workout. You may have had a higher volume heavy workout in the past then switched to slightly lower volume to do 2 days a week, then trying to switch that to once a week you will definitely fall off.

People can compare their own past but its hard to say what is happening to you without knowing what you have done and are doing now.

That being said your body can handle 2 heavy workouts a week long as your eating enough. 1 workout every 7 days is great for maintenance but not good long term for upper body stength. You shouldn’t lose any overall strength but your max may go down a little.

You will also need more of a warm up. After that long of a rest your “CNS” forgets how to contract Maximum Effort, and you can set of remind it before you workout.[/quote]

Yeah, I have thought about a lot of what you said here. Up until about 10 months ago or so, I did all of my main lifts heavy once a week. I then switched to an upper/lower split to get as strong as possible as fast as possible that looked like this:

Monday/Thursday: Upper Body
Bench Press- 5x5 (pyramiding from a warm-up set to a top set of 5).
Bent Barbell Row- 5x5 (same progression).
Standing Military Press-3x5 (same progession).
Wghted Pull-ups-3x5 (same progression).
Standing DB Curls-3x5 (same progression)
Skull Crushers-3x5 (same progression).

Tuesday/Friday: Lower Body
Power Squat- 5x5 (same progression as above).
Conventional Deadlift- 5x5 (same progession).
Standing Calve Raise- 3x5 (same progression).
Weighted Ab Exercise- 3x5 (same progression).

Basically on this routine, if I got 5 reps on the top set for a given exercise, I would add 5 lbs. the next session. Whenever I could not get 5 reps, I would use the same weight until I could.

As you mentioned and I thought as well, I have just gotten used to lifting heavy twice a week. It would take a few months for me to adapt to the lower frequency if I decide to do so.

From my experience, when you train the Eastern bloc way you do a lot of volume but rarely go above 85%, with average intensities being below 75%. When you do the BP once a week approach which is very BB influenced, you do a monster workout and lots of assistance. Great for adding mass, not always so great for maxing meet BP. Conjugate/WSB/WS4SB stuff wher eyou BP twice has a few tricks.

If you do a ME day raw or even more so in the shirt, the next workout you will feel flat and be noticeably weeker. This is a good day to do a DE day because the lighter weights negate this effect. i personally like a Monday to be alternating ME/DE days, with Thursday being a Repetive Effort (3rd kind of Training and now a bigger deal at WSB than before and a big fav of WS4SB)day.

After your ME day expect a weaker RE day, buit after speed day it will feel great. You can also go ME/DE one week then RE/RE the next.

Key Points:

  1. You can BP 2-3 times a week or more if you keep it below 85% and limit assistance.
  2. ME work takes more than a few days to recovery from.
    3.BB type workouts are good for BBers.

jack

[quote]jackreape wrote:
From my experience, when you train the Eastern bloc way you do a lot of volume but rarely go above 85%, with average intensities being below 75%. When you do the BP once a week approach which is very BB influenced, you do a monster workout and lots of assistance. Great for adding mass, not always so great for maxing meet BP. Conjugate/WSB/WS4SB stuff wher eyou BP twice has a few tricks.

If you do a ME day raw or even more so in the shirt, the next workout you will feel flat and be noticeably weeker. This is a good day to do a DE day because the lighter weights negate this effect. i personally like a Monday to be alternating ME/DE days, with Thursday being a Repetive Effort (3rd kind of Training and now a bigger deal at WSB than before and a big fav of WS4SB)day.

After your ME day expect a weaker RE day, buit after speed day it will feel great. You can also go ME/DE one week then RE/RE the next.

Key Points:

  1. You can BP 2-3 times a week or more if you keep it below 85% and limit assistance.
  2. ME work takes more than a few days to recovery from.
    3.BB type workouts are good for BBers.

jack[/quote]

Thanks for posting Jack, I really respect your opinion and insights.

I will keep the guidelines that you laid out in mind.

You could always try benching every 4 days, or every 5. this would mean training different days of the week, but then a 7 day week doesn’t have anything to do with how your body works!

[quote]Old Dax wrote:
You could always try benching every 4 days, or every 5. this would mean training different days of the week, but then a 7 day week doesn’t have anything to do with how your body works![/quote]

It’s funny that you should mention this, because lately, I have had my best bench days after about 4-5 days rest. It does suck, though, that you end up training on all different days of the week.