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On Third Cycle of 5/3/1, Bench Hasn't Improved


Comparing my numbers from the first cycle of 5/3/1 to this cycle, my bench has not gotten any better. I consistently fail to even meet the numbers I set before starting 5/3/1 and during the first cycle. However, my squat, dead lift, and overhead press are all improving.
What would you guys recommend? Should I switch up the program for bench but continue 5/3/1 for the other lifts?


what helped bring my bench from 200-250 was

-hitting the heaviest single I could do fast, then doing the max reps set. I felt like this made the max rep weight feel light. Also doing every warmup rep at 135 and up as a "speed rep" helped
-tons of weighted dips after military pressing
-starting light with the estimated and increasing only 5 lbs every cycle
-learning to get tight along with always assuming that my form is horrible and needs improvement
-tons of back work / getting more muscular/fatter overall

I think to get to 300 I will be doing the same things


Why not lower the percentages a bit? Work with a weight you know you can do, and work around that. Work on weaknesses. You cant put up PR's on each lift each month, it will never work this way. Just be patient and work on your form. Play around with the accesory work as well, see what works for you. But at the end of the day remember big back and strong triceps= big bench!


Maybe a form issue? Have you watched so you think you can bench vids? Those helped my bench a lot.


If you're stalling during the first three cycles of the program you didn't start light enough. Wendler emphasizes going "too light" when you're starting the program.Stick to the program, do it right and you should see improvement.


Most of the time, the problem with stalling on 5/3/1 is just that you should have started lighter, and I would suggest you re-set. And that COULD be the problem... but if everything else is improving than you probably did it right. Personally, I made a lot of gainst when I first started 5/3/1 bench - then all of a sudden I got stuck. I tried re-setting the weight, adding more light volume, doing speed/max effort work, and nothing worked. Then, finally, I realized it was a form issue.

One day I was just fooling around with different setup, ways of setting an arch and getting tight, and one of them just CLICKED. I have benched like that from that moment on, and although my bench still sucks it is at least improving, slowly but surely. I am willing to bet that form is your problem. You probably know that you are supposed to be tight, pull your shoulder blades together, use leg drive etc, but it probably just hasn't quite "clicked" yet. My advice is to 1) watch every single bench video you can.

So you think you can bench is an awesome start, but just watch random strong people on youtube. Check out the wide variety of setups and see which ones look like they might work for you. 2) post a video of yourself benching on here and hopefully some more knowledgeable guys will be able to tell you what to work on. 3) Go into the gym and just feel out your form.

The important cues are tight back (shoulder blades pulled together), squeeze the bar as TIGH as you can, and drivee your legs into the ground. You know when you see guys benching and their ass comes off the bench? You want to press your hips up like you are trying to lift your ass off the bench, but set your feet far enough back so that you physically cannot get your ass off the bench. Keep those points in mind, and just play around with your setup (grip width, foot placement, arch, etc) and try and figure out what works best for you.

Bench has always frustrated me, because I have always had to figure out form issues for myself. Other people "explaining" it to me never really helped. I know my advice is vague, but I think if you just study good benchers and feel it out, eventually you will figure out what has been wrong with your form, and figure out the best technique for you.


Thanks for the advice guys. I am very careful with my form and I watch a lot of videos, but I've only been lifting for about six months so I'm sure there's a lot that I could fix technique wise. I might have one of my friends take a video the next time I bench and put it up here for critique, and I will adjust my max weight so the sets will be lighter.


Also, how much tricep work would you recommend? I usually do 3 sets of dips on bench day and OHP day, plus three more sets of skullcrushers or CGBP.


If you're benching raw, and your overhead press is improving, I bet triceps aren't the problem. Dips are an awesome movement cause they work your triceps and your chest, and skullcrushers for extra size can be good because bigger is normally better when it comes to bench. But personally, I would suggest you focus more on chest size/strength, and doing movement that replicate benching if your goal is to improve your bench. I love paused bench for both of those things. Dumbell bench, or something like a jm press or cable flies I don't like so much... but I would choose those over skullcrushers if my goal was to get my bench up.

Unless, I suppose, you ALWAYS are failing reps right at lockout. But even then, I think doing heavy pin presses would probably be a better movement to get your triceps stronger WHERE you need them and in the way you need them to be strong.


Thanks again. Focusing on bench type movements for chest makes sense. My sticking point is always the middle range of the bench; I get it a couple of inches off my chest and then I get stuck, but if someone helps me through the middle I have no problem with lockout.


A middle sticking point is always the norm for beginners but trust me as the weight increases your sticking point will closer to lock out which is all triceps. When your in the down position your whole body is "loaded" meaning your spine, back, shoulders and chest are primed, so the bar will naturally rebound 2-3 inches off your chest. Once you learn to use your back and lats correctly when you bench, your "middle" will no longer be a sticking point. Start incorporating speed work once a week at 50% of your 1rep max. This will not only make you more explosive but help you find your natural rhythm when benching and push you beyond a mid sticking point.


Cool I will do this tomorrow after OHP. What kind of set/rep scheme would you recommend?


10 set of 3 at 50%. Remember your bar speed needs to be as fast and explosive as possible.


I've stalled a couple of times with BP using 5/3/1. Not uncommon apparently. I'm halfway through a cycle of TJM to see if that makes a difference. I have found that once you get through a sticking point progress picks up quickly for a while. Things that were helping me, however (with 5/3/1 benching on Monday - obviously) were paused pressing on Wed (medium weight) and DE benching on Fri.


But NOT bounced off your chest. Ever.

I also advise working "bench like motions" that get your weak point focused on, in this case chest. In particular I recommend benches starting on safety pins that are right at your weak point off the chest. Do each rep in the set from a dead start, no touch and go. Practice getting your shoulder blades pinched and lats squeezed when you try to press the bar off the pins.

I also recommend doing more lat work, and do it strict (no body english) with a 3 count squeeze of you lats while trying to touch your chest to the ceiling when squeezing. Often times a) beginners cant feel how to squeeze their lats at all, which is a huge problem when trying to figure out how to use them in the bench, and b) beginners lats are super weak.


Thanks. I always pause on every rep, even when I'm going heavy.
I'll give benching from the pins a shot.
As for lats, I try to engage them when I bench but I don't think I do a good job once I start pressing (I can feel them working on the way down and when I pause, though). I can definitely squeeze my lats when I'm doing pulldowns and rows (this is probably because I used to be a swimmer, so I have a good feel for using them). Would you recommend doing back work every day? I bench on Wednesday and deadlift on Friday, so I'm concerned that doing back stuff on bench day might interfere with my deadlifts. An alternative would be to do some stuff after squatting on Monday or OHP on Saturday.


I agree with what Aragorn suggested as well, if you can do pin presses without coming out of position they will do wonders for your bench as well.