Beef Up Your Bench Press 10x3 Workout Program

Bring up your bench press with this intense 10 set x 3 rep bench press specialization workout plan from top powerlifter Steve Shaw

Workout Summary

Increase Strength
Split
Intermediate
3
Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
Male

Workout Description

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:

  1. Add 5 pounds every week.
  2. Drop a set when you fail to reach 3 reps.
  3. Stop the cycle when you down to one triple, or fewer reps.

Training Split

  • Monday - Bench Press day with 10x3 sets.
  • Wednesday - Misc. strength training work.
  • Friday - Bench Press moderate day.
Monday
10x3 Bench Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press - 10 sets x 3 reps work Varies Varies
Bench Press Shrug 3 5
Barbell Row 3 5-10
Seated Arnold Press 3 8-12
EZ Bar Skullcrusher 3 8-12
Dumbbell Curl 3 10
Wednesday
Strength Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift - Ramped 3 5
Squat 3 6-12
Pull Up or Rack Chins 3 AMAP
Seated Calf Raise 3 12-20
Leg Curl 3 10-15
Power Shrug 3 5-10
Friday
Bench Press Moderate Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press Variation - Standing or Seated 3 6-12
Close Grip Bench Press 5 3
Dumbbell Row 3 8-12
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
Face Pull 3 10
Hammer Curl 3 10

Training Notes

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
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Almonds and nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Bananas

Supplements

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.

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150 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Wed, 08/01/2012 - 20:04
Nick L
I am going to try this routine, I will post my starting and finish weight along the way to see my gains.
Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 08/01/2012 - 20:18
Steven
Good luck Nick.
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Posted Wed, 08/01/2012 - 23:19
Trevor
The only thing that concerns me is the lack of back work, mainly lats. Do you have suggestions for that?
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Posted Wed, 08/01/2012 - 23:20
Trevor
What about back? That's the concerning issue for me. Seems to be a lack of lat work. What do you suggest? I work heavy back, but my bench is weak.
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 00:09
Steven
This workout contains pull ups and bench shrugs for direct lat work, plus plenty of additional black training. There are 21 total sets during a given week that target the back, from traps, rhomboids, lats and lower back. This will be plenty of assistance work.
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Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 08:17
Rowan
Hi Steve, Can't get past 200kg on deadlift, 3 reps on 180, 3 on 190, and on 200, can't even get bar up! Would you suggest same sort of training for bench press above for deadlift, ie 10 sets of 3 rep system?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 10:04
Steven
Hi Rowan, How long have you been stuck here? I wouldn't recommend a 10x3 for deadlifting, as I don't like pushing reps close to failure on the lift, but perhaps a more streamlined approach like a 6x3 where you stop a set when your form slips might work.
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Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 09:02
zach
well when school starts ill do this in my weight class instead of the workouts posted.this looks like ill deffinitly get more gains getting ready for state powerlifting my coach is gona be pissed but this looks better than what that have me doing so i dont really care.i also like how the example posted actualy is my max on bench lol
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Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 19:57
Patrick
How do you feel about adding another strength day to hit the legs once more?
Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 08/03/2012 - 09:29
Steven
That would be fine. This could easily be tweaked into a 4 day upper/lower style approach.
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Posted Thu, 08/02/2012 - 22:38
andrew
Hey Steve, Will the 10x3 approach work as well for squats or is there a better way to increase squat strength?
Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 08/03/2012 - 09:32
Steven
I think it would work well for squats.
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Posted Fri, 08/03/2012 - 14:02
Adam
Looking forward to starting this one, my chest has always been lacking especially my incline. First question (I hope im not going to be one of them dudes who asks a question which is clearly stated, I have read through and checked)can i perform the bench press with a slight incline ? secondly can I incorporate a different variation of squats (over head, front) on all training days?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:51
Steven
You can do slight inclines. Regarding squats, I would just stick with the barbell squat or front squat.
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Posted Fri, 08/03/2012 - 17:11
Elishua Fleming
Hey Steve, im a first year college football player . I play LB and DE and I was wonder would this workout be good for me because I'm trying to get my max up. I cant get pass 315 on the bench.I wanted to know if workout could be continue once after the seventeen weeks. Also, any tips on bring your squat numbers up. I can get up 445lb and hoping that I can put up more weight but its been a struggle.
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:52
Steven
This workout would be a good choice. Just stay on the aggressive side of your food intake. Regarding squat, how much progress have you made on them during the last 6 months?
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Posted Sun, 08/05/2012 - 06:48
Ben Casciano
Hey Steve, I am currently on a 5 day split doin about 5 exercises and for each exercise I'm doin 5 sets. I want to try this program but am afraid I will lose my development from the lack of direct muscle group training. What are your thoughts?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:55
Steven
This program has direct training for all major muscle groups. You don't have to hit a muscle with 25 sets to make progress. I have rarely used more than 10-12 sets on any given day over the years. Train hard and smart.
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Posted Sun, 08/05/2012 - 15:22
Jonathan
Is it possible to have a similar workout that targets back, shoulder, arms, legs.. so that one can alternate between or to work more on the body part that lacks?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:56
Steven
You can run a specialization workout like this for any bodypart. I just would only do one bodypart at a time.
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Posted Tue, 08/07/2012 - 19:59
Cam
How long of a rest between sets?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 11:56
Steven
Rest is detailed above.
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Posted Wed, 08/08/2012 - 20:19
Oto Livingston
Great programme.. Will definately give it a go.. Might add an extra leg day and also one lateral raise movement for rear delts..
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Posted Wed, 08/08/2012 - 20:21
Oto Livingston
Also since i'm doing this mainly for bodybuilding.. bench will be done on an incline
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Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 04:25
Zach
Steve, I was wondering if you could link me to a video where I can see an example of bench press shrugs, it would mean a lot to me. I've been doing your 5 day powerbuilding split for the past 3 months and have loved the results I'm getting. Thanks for everything!
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:02
Steven
It's a pretty obscure exercise. Sorry, can't find a quality video yet.
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Posted Sat, 08/11/2012 - 04:49
Zach
Is there any other exercise I could replace them with then? Thanks
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Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 12:38
William
I have been lifting for a few years now and I am looking for something to mix up my bench routine. Currently I am back on a 5x5 training program to break up the monotony of my last 10 Months of mass building and to increase Squat. About October it ends and I am looking for a new routine. Would this also yield good results for someone who has been lifting a while?
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Posted Thu, 08/09/2012 - 16:55
Elishua Fleming
@Steve .... i had maxed out at 465lb on squats in may but school was let out and i didn't start back going to the gym until July because i had no where to workout. so i lost a little bit of the bulk that i had gotten in the spring but im slowly getting it back but not as fast how i was in spring. i think its alot about what eat but i dont really have enough information on what i should eat to help me bulk up and also keep my bulk as the season progress.
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Posted Fri, 08/10/2012 - 07:16
Derrick
Can I use this to help me get my bench in the 400's, it says for intermediate, but for someone who was lifting for a while can this and how increase my bench?
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Posted Tue, 08/14/2012 - 18:03
Patrick
I am into the program on the 3 rd week now and everythings going well, how would you approach warm up sets as the weights get heavier in the later weeks?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:40
Steven
I typically recommend a warmup like this, based on what your 1RM is: Bar x 10-15 reps 35% x 10 reps 45% x 5 reps 55% x 3 reps 65% x 1 rep 75% x 1 rep (if needed).
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Posted Tue, 08/14/2012 - 18:25
Bobby Bacon
do we add 15 pounds every week or just 5 pounds.
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:42
Steven
From the workout: "Add 5 pounds every week."
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Posted Thu, 08/16/2012 - 16:11
Mike
Steve, I currently go to the gym everyday. My routine is as follows: Day 1 - chest Day 2 - back/shoulders Day 3 - arms Day 4 - legs (I keep repeating this, taking a day off every 10 days or so) I've been seeing great gains in everything, but my chest and bench press so this program intrests me. I just feel like I'm going to be sacraficing gains in arm and back strength. I also feel like only going to the gym 3 or 4 days is a step backwards. I like being in the gym and don't want to take that many days off. Is there any way to cut back on rest days or add 1-2 sets of arms and back per week? Thanks, Mike
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:45
Steven
Use whatever additional training days you'd like. The above is merely an example.
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Posted Sat, 08/18/2012 - 03:55
Jordyn
I really like this bench press workout but i think ima just mix in this with another workout plan and for sure more arm work out i want my bench to go up yes but i wanna get bigger this i feel focus's more on ur bench than what i overall want but nice guide
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Posted Tue, 08/21/2012 - 14:25
Sam
Can give an example of what a good 4 day split would be for this workout?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:46
Steven
Monday - Bench Press day with 10x3 sets. Wednesday - Whatever you want. Friday - Bench Press moderate day. Saturday - Whatever you want.
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Posted Thu, 09/13/2012 - 11:17
Sam
ok thanks
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Posted Sat, 08/25/2012 - 17:47
William
On bench moderate day, what percentage of bench max, reps and sets do you suggest that I do
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:48
Steven
As much as you can for the given rep range.
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Posted Mon, 08/27/2012 - 09:44
Jesse
What is a face pull?
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:50
Steven
Apply a rope attachment to a cable, and pull the ends towards your face, elbows out.
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Posted Tue, 08/28/2012 - 21:08
Mike
I'm only confused about the deadlift routine as it seems the explanation is not correct if you read it.
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/06/2012 - 14:51
Steven
It's correct.
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Posted Sat, 09/08/2012 - 23:23
Brad
Hey Steve, So I've been doing this for 6 weeks now. Is it unusual that I have not yet had to drop any sets yet? Should I be taking shorter rest intervals? I'm just not sure if I'm getting everything out of the lift like I should be.
Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 14:39
Steven
Not unusual, no. That can be a good sign. might mean you're gain strength week to week.
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Posted Mon, 09/17/2012 - 17:19
Patrick
I just finished the 7th week and have not yet dropped a set. But the last set on this past workout was very hard, I almost did not get it. I would bet that going into next weeks workout I will not complete all 10 sets of 3.
Steven's picture
Posted Wed, 09/26/2012 - 16:07
Steven
Sounds like you're going to see some good strength gains when all is said and done.

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