This is a bench press specialization program for intermediate lifters who want to bring up a lagging bench press as quickly as possible. I do not recommend running this if your current max is below 185 pounds.
Bench Press Sets
For the bench press, start with a weight that is 65% of your one rep max. If you are unsure of your current max, use the bench press calculator to help you guestimate.
Start with a weight that is 65% of your one rep max.
During week one, you will perform 10 sets of 3 reps with your starting weight. Rest between sets will be 90 to 120 seconds; no longer or shorter. When you start dropping sets (missing triples), keep all rest periods at 120 seconds, or longer if need be.
Each subsequent week you add another 5 pounds to the bar, trying to complete the full 10 sets x 3 reps. When you are unable to hit 3 reps with a given set(s), you drop those sets the following week. (Still adding another 5 pounds to the bar)
You continue this pattern of adding a weekly 5 pounds, and dropping sets until you can perform only one set of 3 reps. At this point, you re-calculate your one rep max using he bench press calculator, and start all over again using 65% of your one rep max.
It is not necessary to train sets to failure. With that said, training to failure might happen occasionally. Stop each set when you feel like your form is slipping, or you feel like you might fail on the next rep.
10 Sets x 3 Reps Example
For this example, we will use a lifter with a 200 pound bench press max. 65% of this max yields a starting weight of 130 pounds, which we shall round up to 135 pounds for this example.
- Week One - 135 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3
Our lifter is able to hit 10 sets for 3 reps during week one, so he does not drop any sets.
- Week Two - 140 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3
- Week Three - 145 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/2/1
- Week Four - 150 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/2
Week two was another successful effort, as out lifter was able to complete all 10 sets. On the other hand, week three was a struggle. Our lifter failed to complete 3 reps on the last 2 sets, so those sets were dropped during week four. During week four our lifter was unable to complete 3 reps on his 8th set, so that will be dropped on week five.
- Week Five - 155 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
- Week Six - 160 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
- Week Seven - 165 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
- Week Eight - 170 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/1
- Week Nine - 175 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3
- Week Ten - 180 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/2
- Week Eleven - 185 pounds x 3/3/3/3/1
- Week Twelve - 190 pounds x 3/3/3/3
- Week Thirteen - 195 pounds x 3/3/3/2
- Week Fourteen - 200 pounds x 3/3/3
- Week Fifteen - 205 pounds x 3/3/1
- Week Sixteen - 210 pounds x 3/2
- Week Seventeen - 215 pounds x 3
Our lifter ended with a 215 x 3 triple, which is an approximate bench press max of 235 pounds. This is a 35 pound increase in 4 months.
10x3 Sets Summary
So, in conclusion. For the 10 x 3 sets you:
- Add 5 pounds every week.
- Drop a set when you fail to reach 3 reps.
- Stop the cycle when you down to one triple, or fewer reps.
- Monday - Bench Press day with 10x3 sets.
- Wednesday - Misc. strength training work.
- Friday - Bench Press moderate day.
|10x3 Bench Press Day|
|Bench Press - 10 sets x 3 reps work||Varies||Varies|
|Bench Press Shrug||3||5|
|Seated Arnold Press||3||8-12|
|EZ Bar Skullcrusher||3||8-12|
|Deadlift - Ramped||3||5|
|Pull Up or Rack Chins||3||AMAP|
|Seated Calf Raise||3||12-20|
|Bench Press Moderate Day|
|Military Press Variation - Standing or Seated||3||6-12|
|Close Grip Bench Press||5||3|
|Dumbbell Bench Press||3||8-12|
Bench Press Shrug - Do not perform this exercise without spotters. Load the bar with 110% of your one rep bench press max. Unrack the bar and hold at arm's length. Now, instead of lowering the bar, and then pressing the weight, you're going to be doing shrugs. Shrug your shoulders upwards, and then back down, keeping your arms locked. Make sure you are utilizing your lats to drive your shoulders and the bar upwards.
It may take several weeks to get used to performing this exercise properly. Start with a moderate weight and work your way up as you feel comfortable.
Close Grip Bench Press - Start with 70% of your one rep bench press max. On the fifth set, instead of doing only 3 reps, try to get as many as possible, stopping shy of failure. If you are able to perform 5 or more reps, add weight to this lift the following week.
Deadlifts - You will perform 3 total sets, with your last set being the heaviest. When starting your last set should be something you can easily hit 5 reps with. On that last set, perform as many reps as possible, stopping a set when your form deteriorates or you feel like you may fail on the next rep. If you are able to perform more than 5 reps on the final set, add weight the next time you deadlift.
- Set 1 - 60% of your final set weight x 5 reps.
- Set 2 - 80% of your final set weight x 5 reps.
- Set 3 - Final set - perform for max safe reps.
Pull Ups - AMAP stands for as many reps as possible. If you are unable to perform pull ups, use rack chins or lat pull downs.
Power Shrugs - These are explosive shrugs. Do not baby or mind muscle the weight up.
Assistance Exercises - Perform 3 sets using the same weight. When you are able to reach the high end of the rep range (or more) with your first set, add weight the next time you perform this exercise.
Diet and Supplementation Suggestions
This bench press program should NOT be performed while cutting/trying to lose fat. To maximize gains, you should also maximize your time at the dinner table. This is an aggressive problem that should be accompanied by plenty of food and rest. My minimum suggestions are:
- Calories - 3500 per day, or more if you are underweight.
- Protein - 200 grams per day.
- Fats - At least 25-30% of your daily calorie intake.
If you have a hard time eating this many calories, a little bit of the following foods will go a long way:
- Whole milk
- Olive oil
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Almonds and nuts
- Peanut butter
To maximize recovery and performance, the following supplement choices may be beneficial:
Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ
I can't eat 3500 calories per day. Will I still get the same results?
Maybe, maybe not. My best strength gains have always come during times of aggressive eating. This program is designed to help you increase your bench press. For optimal results, eat more food.
Can I run this program two, three or more times in a row?
Sure, I don't see why not. If you are getting the results you want, and your body feels good, then keep using this program. It might not hurt to take a complete week off from bench pressing after every cycle.
Can I mess around with strength day, changing exercises?
Yes. Monday and Wednesday are your bread and butter days. I do recommend training legs, as leg drive is an important part of benching.
Any other tips?
Improve your form. Most intermediate lifters can squeeze out another 5-10% just by working on their bench press form.
Can I do cardio when running this program?
Certainly. Just make sure you feel 100% when you hit the gym to lift.
Can I add in more arm work?
No, don't add in any more arm work. Trust the program.
Can I add in abs work?
Yes, on any day AFTER your lifting sessions are done.
What results can I expect?
The bench press can be a very stubborn mover for many lifters. The more you bench press, the less you can expect out of a program like this in the short term. A 20-30 pound increase in 4 months would be a solid bump. I would hope that you add at least 15 pounds to your bench press each time you run this program.
For those of you that have a very hard time adding weight on bench, a 10 pound gain might be good progress. On the other hand, some of you may be able to use this program and run your bench press from 185 to over 300 in a year's time.
Please take time to let me know your results, and if I can help in any way.