Lift Vault Forum

Specialized Bench Press Programs

Hey everyone! I’ve been trying to get my bench press up. So far I weigh 161 lb and my bench went up from 265x3 to 280X5 reps. I’ve never tested my max. I ran program from Pavel Tsatsouline that gave me awesome results and now I want to try something else. Just wondering what Bench program has worked best for you.

Here’s the program that I ran for Bench Press.

Pick a weight you can bench approximately 10 times. Do a couple of lighter low rep sets to groove your technique, then do 5 reps with that weight. Rest for 3-5min (once you are benching in mid to high 200s, definitely take all 5min) and do 3 reps. Rest for the same amount of time and put up 2 reps. This will be very easy. It is supposed to.
Now take 20% off the bar, bring your hands in until your thumbs touch the smooth section of the bar, and start banging out sets of 5 close grip benches with only 1min of rest in between. When you can no longer make five perfect reps, you are done for the day. There is no way of estimating how many sets you will be able to do. One trainee might be able to get 20, another only 3. You might start with 10 back-off sets and be down to 1 by the end of the cycle. Don’t worry about what this means and don’t compare this number to anyone else’s. The only thing that matters is the 1RM test at the end of the cycle.
Bench twice a week. If you find that you are not recovering fast enough, then press three times in two weeks: Monday and Friday in week one, Wednesday in week two.
In every workout, add 10 pounds to the first three sets. Not 5, not 2.5, and definitely not one of those mini-plates. If you must know the reason why, ping me on the forum, otherwise just remember that the Party is always right.
When it will take all you have got to press the weight five times, next workout still add another 10 pounds, but skip the first set. In other words, instead of 5, 3, 2, do only 3, 2 reps. Next time add another 10 and get rid of the set of 3 reps.
After you have stopped doing sets of 5, replace the close grip bench press with either the pause press or the board press (alternate between cycles and don’t be afraid to vary the thickness of the “board” once your sticking point shifts). Do only 3 sets of 3 reps and rest for 3-5min between these sets. In your first set use 80% of the bench press work sets (the same procedure you used for your close grips). Add or subtract the weight for the next two sets, as you deem necessary. The second and third sets should be hard but not impossible.
Let’s take a look at a sample cycle for a guy with a 200-pound 1RM and a 145- pound 10RM.
Start each workout the same way: 95x5, 115x3, 135x2. Then come your work sets:

  1. 145x5, 3, 2 (rest 3-5min). Close grip 115x5/ max sets (rest 1min).
  2. 155x5, 3, 2 (rest 3-5min). Close grip 125x5/max sets (rest 1min).
  3. 165x5, 3, 2 (rest 3-5min). Close grip 130x5/max sets (rest 1min).
  4. 175x5RM, 3, 2 (rest 3-5min). Close grip 140x5/max sets (rest 1min).
  5. 185x3, 2 (rest 3-5min). Board press 150x3, 165x3, 155x3 (rest 3-5min).
  6. 195x2 (rest 3-5min). Board press 155x3, 165x3, 170x3 (rest 3-5min).
  7. Test your max: 95x5, 115x3, 135x2, 165x1, 185x1, 205x1, 210x1. After 185 rest for 5min between attempts.
  8. Rest
    Start the next cycle with 10 more pounds: 155x5, 3, 1

Hey John-John,

That looks like an interesting bench program. I especially like the auto-regulation involved with the number of back off sets. I might give it a try when my gyms open back up.

Personally I’ve had great success with the 3x Int Med Bench program from the Greg Nuckols 28 programs collection. I’ve also had success with running the 2 bench days from nSuns + a 3rd bench day that is only the AMRAP day from Nuckols 3x Int Med for extra volume.

Thanks Kyle! I never really paid attention to Greg Nuckol’s 28 programs spreadsheet. It just looked so overwhelming! But that one you mentioned looks awesome! I love how there’s an AMRAP every Friday that helps you see what weight you should use for the next week. Its always fun to shoot for a new PR with AMRAPS.

After I’m done with the program I’m running right now, which is sort of a ladder Bench Press workout with your 5RM, I’ll definitely give Greg’s Nuckol’s Intermediate Med Bench Press a try!

Actually, I’ll post the program I’m running right now. Its again from Pavel Tsatsouline. The guy is a strength genius. Its from a book of his called Beyond Bodybuilding. Check out the results one of his trainees called Jason Brice got with this program! Its insane! This is straight from his book:

“Try the following program by Jason Brice of Johnson City, Tenn. Jason combined one of the powerlifting cycles from my book Power to the People! with ladders, a technique popular in the Russian military for improving pull-ups.

On June 30, 2001, Brice started out with one set of five reps with 225 lbs, or 67% of his 335-lb max bench (naturally you will have to plug in your own numbers). Jason did only one set of five reps per workout adding 5 lbs each time. What will surprise you is that he benched five days per week, Monday through Friday. The reasoning behind such an unorthodox schedule is outside the scope of this short article, but trust me, it works!

You cannot keep adding 5 lbs per workout forever, even if you started the cycle with a light weight - eventually you will reach your five-rep max. When Jason reached his, he switched from powerlifting style cycling to ladders. A ladder means doing one rep, resting briefly, doing two reps, etc., then starting all over when you cannot top the reps of the previous set. Brice did sets of 1-2-3-1-2 . . . with his five-rep max until his form started to get sloppy. He did this every other day for two weeks.

Then Jason backed off 10 lbs from his five-rep max established two weeks earlier and resumed a linear cycle: one set of five Monday through Friday, adding 5 lbs a day. When he had a tough time completing his five, Jason took two days off and tested his one-rep max, something he did every two months. Here is what he accomplished:

Bench Press, 1 rep max -

June 30th: 335

August 30th: 385

October 31: 420

Bench Press, 5 rep max -

June 30th: 285

August 30th: 325

October 31: 360

Oh, that is very interesting. I’ve heard a bit of Pavel Tsatsouline, but admittedly need to do more research on them.

Would you say Beyond Bodybuilding is a good book of theirs to start with?

Definitely! I think its his best book when it comes to learning how to get stronger. Thanks to Pavel and his insight, I was finally able to break a plateau I had on my bench press for years.

Actually, thanks to his book I started doing some research on Periodization and other types of strength training and that’s how I ended up finding this awesome website!

You’ve done such a great job compiling all of these awesome routines! Liftvault is a goldmine! I’ve downloaded a bunch of routines and I can’t wait to try them out. Especially the Bench Press routines. I’ve literally got enough routines in this site to keep me busy for years!

Thanks so much Kyle!

Awesome - I’ll check out that book then. Thanks for the rec!

So I just finished the 5RM ladder program. Took three days off and tested my 1RM today. I’ve never tested it before so I don’t have anything to compare it with sadly. But using a calculator it came out as a 315lb Max Bench. I know those aren’t 100% accurate, but its all I had. Anyway, my previous best was 285x4. This is how it went down today:
Warm up sets
Working sets

  1. 300x1 - Completed
  2. 320x1 - Completed
  3. 330x1 - Completed
  4. 340x1 - Failed

I rested about 7-10 min between attempts. I weighed myself after the workout and I’m at 161 lb. Super pumped up that I was able to hit 2x my bodyweight.

The one thing I really need to work on is the descent on my Bench. I feel like I’m going to die under the weight and I lower the bar sooooooo slowly. This burns a lot of energy that I could be using to push the bar of my chest. I’m just scared of lowering it too fast and cracking a rib or something.

Next Monday I’ll start the Greg Nuckols 3x Int Med Bench and see how it goes. I’ll be happy if I can add 10lb more to my max. I’ll post my results when I’m done.

That’s awesome - way to go, John-John! Where did you miss 340? Off the chest or closer to lock out?

It was right off the chest. It only came up about two inches, then it was downhill after that. :joy:

Good thing my wife was there to spot me. She does such an awesome job!

Definitely always good to have a spotter! Doing some back off spoto press sets after my main bench work definitely helped my strength off the chest (fwiw).

Good luck w/ Nuckols Int Med :slight_smile:

I’ve never added the Spoto press to my routine. Will definitely try it. Thanks Kyle!

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