T Nation

Prioritizing Bench Press Over Military Press


Hey guys,

I’ve been re-reading the 5/3/1 books (except Forever, which I do not have a copy of…
yet) while also exploring a variety of different strength building programming resources, especially those focused on powerlifting. A theme that keeps popping up in these other resources is working with high volume on upper body days, especially with specificity being lent to the bench press over the overhead/military press (which makes sense since this is powerlifting I’m talking about).

I’m tinkering around with some ideas for a 5/3/1 program to address this, but I was wondering how other 5/3/1 athletes may have programmed bench press (and other horizontal press variations) as the priority upper body lift. I’m especially interested in hearing from powerlifters.



Several ways.
I set my days up squat,BP,DL, OHP. So the order follows a meet order.
You can run different combinations of programs depending on the lift. For example 5x531for BP for the leader, and use 5 progression for the OHP. Use a horizontal press as your supplemental on OHP it day. Do some dips or push-ups between squat and DL sets.
The possibility are endless.
For me personally my BP is using driven by weight gain, shoulder strength and upper back. So having an OHP day helps me. My strength level doesn’t need board presses, etc…
Good luck


I like the OHP but here are the first two things that come to mind

  • 3 day a week full body split, Mon/bench Wed/OHP Fri/Bench and probably squat on bench days so you get that two days a week too. His new book might have something like this, I do 4-5 days so I ignore these 3 day ones when I read the book.

  • regular 4 day split, bench first on the two upper body days. Pick two different (or you could use the same) 5/3/1 set/rep schemes and do one the first day and the other the 2nd. Could also do OHP on at least one of the days but as an accessory lift but not using 5/3/1 set/reps. I would look into what other powerlifting programs might do for this and find something in 5/3/1 that is similar. For example if its common to have a heavy and light day you could do BBB for the light day on bench and heavy might just be working up to higher %s.


Thanks - great ideas there!



If the 5/3/1 programming principles allowed for a fifth main lifting day (which reading as far as the Beyond book indicates it still doesn’t) I would definitely include a 3rd upper day, which would be the only day that have OHP as the main 5/3/1 movement with the Bench as the first assistance lift. The other two upper days would be repeat Bench 5/3/1/ days with additional volume included. Such a scheme could follow this order:
Day 1: Lower (Squat 5/3/1, DL other scheme)
Day 2: Upper (Bench 5/3/1, general upper body)
Day 3: OFF
Day 4: Upper (Bench 5/3/1, general upper body)
Day 5: Lower (DL 5/3/1, Squat other scheme)
Day 6: Upper (OHP 5/3/1, Bench other scheme like 1xAMRAP for example)
Day 7: OFF
(The above schedule is basically the first 2 weeks of Candito’s Intermediate Strength Program, which is really good).

Staying with a 4 day lifting split, I’ve come up with the following:

Squat 3x3+, Jokers (Triples)
Deadlift BBB 5x3@90%

Bench 3x3+, Jokers (Triples), BBB 5x10@50%

OHP 3x3+, BBB 5x10 (50%)
Bench BBB 5x3@90%

Deadlift 3x3+, Jokers (Triples)
Squat BBB 5x3@90%

Squat 3x5, FSL 3x8@65%
Deadlift BBB 5x5@80%

Bench 3x5, FSL 4x8@65%

Press 3x5, FSL 3x8@65%
Bench BBB5x5@90%

Deadlift 3x5, FSL 3x8@65%
Squat BBB 5x5@80%

Squat 5/3/1+, Jokers (singles)
Deadlift BBB 5x3@90%

Bench 5/3/1+, Jokers (singles), BBB 5x10@50%

OHP 5/3/1+, BBB 5x10@50%
Bench BBB5x3@90%

Deadlift 5/3/1+, Jokers (singles)
Squat BBB 5x3@90%



  • the above uses the 3/5/1 set up

  • the above uses the 7 week protocol in which the TM increases one week 4 and the cycle ends on week 7 with a deload (not sure what this will look like). This means that weeks 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6 are essentially the same weeks with a TM increase implemented for the latter half of course

  • I was heavily influenced by Izzy’s PowerliftingToWin 5/3/1 variation AND Alan Thrall’s recent video concerning volume, which the above responds to significantly (especially concerning upper body lifts, and, yes, specifically the bench press)

  • Increasing Bench volume and frequency was my major goal in my tinkering. I love the OHP, but as a powerlifter it is secondary to the Bench (IMO). Thus, I foresaw OHP day becoming more or less a volume/hypertrophy (dare I say “bodybuilding day”) more so than a day for improving strength on the OHP. Again, OHP is secondary to the Bench and used to improve it

  • I can’t stress this point enough: I have not read Forever. This is ultimately a Beyond-era program set up in that it makes use of concepts up to and including that book. Save the Forever jargon and concepts (unless you are willing to explain it fully)

  • I can’t stress this other point enough: I am not put-off by complicated rep/percentage schemes. If you are a fan of the simplicity of current 5/3/1 templates, rock on! But keep in mind that others, like myself, aren’t put off by week to week variations and enjoy the change of pace and variety that they bring

  • I am still tinkering with the accessory/assistance work for each day. I am sure, though, that there won’t be any sort of week to week changes to these (i.e., Squat day will always have the same accessory work regardless of the week).

Looking forward to reading any and all comments,


Could you not simply do your bench supplemental work again instead of OHP supplemental ?

So for instance if you do 5x5 FSL on bench day, do it again on the OHP day, after the main 531 work.

OR, you could keep your OHP as an assistance exercice with dumbbells for instance, and add another bench day (e.g. close grip like @MarkKo is doing).

I agree with @clee78 when he says bench strength is driven by shoulder strength… for that reason I would presonnaly keep OHP as a main movement.


OHP is definitely beneficial to Bench development - agree completely. Admittedly, I’ve only kept it as the main movement for the 3rd lifting day because it is part of 5/3/1 foundations. I’d be content to have to Bench 5/3/1 days with the OHP as a secondary/assistive movement. For now, I’m sticking with Jim’s basic schedule.

Honestly, I’ve struggled with when/where to program bench supplementals (meaning variations like incline, DB, close-grip, floor press etc). I almost included incline bench after flat bench on day 2 using sst parameters, but ended up leaving it out so I can keep the volume on flat bench high. I truly believe having the main lift present at higher volumes is more beneficial than a variation for me because I’m still early intermediate. For that reason, I’ve kept flat bench on OHP day.

Liking this discussion though. Honestly thought this “experiment” I’m doing would not have been received so well.




This is how its setup in the new book, you do 1 main lift for very low volume and the main lift again (or an alternate lift) for volume. To get anywhere in the bench you need to do bench for both which means no variation like incline. After that your done with barbell lifts for the day and could still do dumbell incline if you wanted. If OHP is less of a priority you could do something to better help your flat bench instead on that day, but some people say OHP helps bench. From what I have seen others say it depends, so you could go far giving both equal treatment or you could be the type of person who really does need 2 days where bench is the primary movement and OHP is an afterthought.


Another thought for volume driven work, particularly if you like a little more flat bench volume, I have not done this.
On BP day use FSL or SSL as supplementary lift and use CG or some other BP varieties for your 25-100 of push.
Use incline on your OHP day as the supplemental lift and some other BP varieties or tricep based movement for the accessory push.
Some easy to recovery movement for accessory push on squat and DL day.
From personal experience, OHP does actually help my BP , and upper back strength from pulling movement is good to balance the bench.
Band work and particularly band pull aparts really help. You still need to get under a bar to squat


SSL = Second Set Last? That must be a Forever concept bc I don’t recall seeing it in Beyond. Also, where did the 25-100 of push come from? Can you elaborate?

So I’m seeing a pattern forming here: keep OHP as a builder to Bench and incorporate some variations to the Bench for added volume. That’s all well and good bc I’d like to follow Bench with Incline Bench somehome (may be using SST protocols?).

Going back to my notes above, Alan Thrall (I know he’s not liked around here lately lol) combined all upper body pressing movements for counting total weeking volume and averaged out the lifting intensity. It’s this second point Im trying to iron out a bit before revising the template above: what Wendler concepts lend them selves to higher percentages with higher reps per set for increased overall volume.

Thanks again everyone!



If you are young and you can recover then:

Main: Press 531
supplemental: incline BP SST
Assistance: Push/pull/Single leg or Core 50-100 (25-50)

Main: Squat 531
Supplemental: FSL 5x5 or Widowmaker
Assistance: push/pull/single leg or Core 50-100 (25-50)

Main: Bench 531
supplemental: FSL 5x5 or SSL 5x5
Push/pull/Single leg or Core

Main: DL 531
supplemental: FSL 5x5 or widowmaker
Assistance: push/pull/Single leg or Core 50-100 (25-50)

These days Jim likes to do 5’ pro with the main lift followed by FSL 5x5 as supplemental.

Then you do Assistance

Wich every day is
push: NOT Barbell lift, but like DIP, push up, triceps, DB press
pull: pull up, chins, rows with DB, band pull apart, face pull
Singel leg or Core: lunges, split squat, step up, all kinds of AB work especially hanging leg raise and AB wheel.
I prefer PR sets on the main lift eg OG style.
for lower body pr sets drives it very well. 5x5 on lower body is hard.
I haven’t figured out my bench, I think I did to much pushing, so backing up a bit these days and doing FSL rest pause style one set.

That’s what I like.

You could try do do incline bench or CG bench as a main lift instead fo the OHP.
Markko has a log here and he does it. But then again he is advanced in the way he knows what works for him.


That’s interesting though I’m thinking there would not be enough frequency for the squat and deadlift. I’m “desperately” (not really - I enjoy program tinkering like this lol) to keep lifting frequency to twice per week. This goes back to what I said in my initial post about being influenced by the powerliftingtowin variation of 5/3/1.

Will have to look into Markko’s log.



Sorry for potentially breaking any rules about bumping what is now a bit of a dated thread (figured this would be preferable to starting a whole new post).

I haven’t abandoned this project and after reading about the frequency projects in Beyond I’ve decided that it might be cool to create a 2nd Bench day. This would add even more frequency and volume. Using the percentages for deload 3 in Beyond would probably be best (imo). Any of the Deload options would probably work too based on one’s approach for this day.

Bench Deload 3: 3x3 65%/75%/85%; SSL 4x8
Chest-Supported Row 3x12
DB Shoulder Press 3x12
Close-grip Lat Pulldowns 3x12
SS: Hammer Curls + Tricep Pushdowns

2nd Bench Day would be programmed in something like this:

Sunday: Squat 5/3/1; DL BBB
Monday: Bench 5/3/1; Incline Bench SST
Tuesday: Rest/Cardio
Wednesday: Bench 2 DELOAD
Thursday: Deadlift 5/3/1; Squat BBB
Friday: OHP 5/3/1; Bench BBB
Saturday: Rest

This would allow for an OHP day with Bench BBB thrown as the supplemental lift.

I’ll put together a complete template and post at some point soon (sorry guys, been busy studying and training).