Kelso's Bench Press Training

In the middle of a bench press stall? Powerlifting coach and author Paul Kelso has some suggestions of how to boost your bench total.

Workout Summary

Increase Strength
Single Muscle Group
Intermediate
2
Barbell, Dumbbells
Male & Female

Workout Description

This routine is adapted from the book Powerlifting Basics, Texas Style by Paul Kelso. For more information on Paul Kelso and his training philosophies, please visit the the provided link.

You will be training the bench press twice per week. Split your training days so that you maximize rest between workouts.

Bench Shrugs - Bench shrugs are performed by raising and lowering the weight on the bar without the use of the arms. To push up, simultaneously spread your lats apart, roll your shoulders forward and contract your chest muscles.

Pausing - On every bench press motion, for the first rep or two slowly lower the weight and pause with it on your chest for 3 seconds. Then explode the weight up, accelerating as you push.

Workout 1
Workout 1
Exercise Sets Reps
Dumbbell Bench Press * 3 6-8
Close Grip Bench Press ** 2 8
Bench Shrug *** 2 10 to 6
Notes

* Dumbbell Bench Press - Perform 2 lighter warm-up sets prior to your 3 heavy working sets.

** Close Grip Bench Press - Thumbs should be about at your outer chest.

*** Bench Shrug - Start with your 10RM weight, and slowly build up in weight over the course of a couple months while reducing your total reps to 6.

Workout 2
Workout 2
Exercise Sets Reps
Wide Grip Bench Press * 3-4 8-10
High Seated Incline Bench Press OR Dips 3-4 8-10
Notes

* Wide Grip Bench Press - Perform this lift with a half finger to an additional finger's width. Start with 90% of your normal bench weight. After several weeks add an additional finger's width to this lift.

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49 Comments+ Post Comment

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Posted Fri, 05/28/2010 - 12:26
brian
What is the amount of reps to percentage ------- when bench pressing at 80% , is 6 rpm *3 sets enough? I you were working on a 300 bench program.
Steven's picture
Posted Sat, 05/29/2010 - 11:39
Steven
Use as much weight as you can within the given parameters and rep ranges. This might take a week or two to zero in. This really isn't a percentage-based system.
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Posted Sat, 05/29/2010 - 11:36
Abaddon
This is EXACTLY THE SAME as a chest routine I formulated in 2001, and it's a winner!
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Posted Mon, 05/31/2010 - 19:43
eric
can somebody tell me what rm's mean
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 06/01/2010 - 07:35
Steven
10RM = 10 rep maximum.
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Posted Fri, 06/11/2010 - 10:05
Chiranjeev
I have got lot of fat on my chest as i have tried many exercises and cardio but no use . my friend told me to do fly and lots of push ups but doesnt work for me. can u pls suggest me something to get my chest in shape
Steven's picture
Posted Fri, 06/11/2010 - 11:59
Steven
Hi Chiranjeev, You will need a cutting diet to achieve your goal of reducing chest fat.
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Posted Fri, 06/11/2010 - 20:17
Chiranjeev
What kind of diet i need ??
Steven's picture
Posted Sat, 06/12/2010 - 21:00
Steven
That depends on your goals. What are your goals?
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Posted Sun, 06/13/2010 - 17:56
andre
HEY man my name is andre im from jacksonville florida and i have the same problem i hate taken my shirt my bench is 505 my childhood and current friend is dexter jackson i ask and discussed our problem and he suggested u keep doin what u do and diet down email me back
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Posted Mon, 08/09/2010 - 22:55
dominickkapus
how did you get your bench so high dude?
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Posted Wed, 12/08/2010 - 13:45
bobo
YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO A LOT OF CABLE FLIES. I WAS A HARD GAINER IN THE CHEST AREA BUT AFTER CABLE FLIES, I FOUND THE SECRET FOR ME. GOOD LUCK
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Posted Tue, 12/14/2010 - 10:56
Seamus Mchale
Spot reduction is a myth and different people will find they will burn fat off different parts of the body,so there is'nt really a specific exercise to target fat on the chest(pecoralis major+ minor)area.All chest exercises will build muscle and the more muscle on the body the faster the metabolism races and with that there will be a lower body fat percentage.I suggest doing a whole body workout 3-4 x week.Try too work each muscle group 2x week to see a difference and try to stick too a rep range of 8-12 with heavy weights as possible.Stick to whole body moves such as deadlifts,stiff leg dead lifts,bench press,pull uips,bent over row,clean and press,squat curl and press,press ups,basically anything that works across more than one joint at a time is a winner for muscle building and fat burning.Try to be as good with the diet as you can.low gi carbs,lean proteins(google a daily protein needs calculator)4-6 MEALS A DAY.Hope this is helpfull as i had the same problem as you.good luck
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Posted Sun, 06/13/2010 - 18:13
andre
Dex suggested a lo carb diet with a fat burning supplement
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Posted Mon, 06/14/2010 - 04:45
Paul
I had the same issue i was a chubby kid lots of cardio got my weight and fat down but my chest wasnt quite there but i was advised to do dumbell flys low weights and lots of fast reps to work as a fat burn its suprisingly affective now its the least of my problems
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Posted Mon, 07/19/2010 - 15:47
Dave Plemmons
Hey I am a diabetic and 66 years old. So I can't eat many carbs. So will I still b able to increase my bench press any way?? And will the whey protein and creatin hurt to take since I am a diabetic.???? Thanks Dave
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 07/20/2010 - 14:16
Steven
Hi Dave, I would talk to your doctor about creatine and higher protein consumption. I have many friends who eat in a Paleo style - fewer carbs - and they are very strong.
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Posted Sun, 09/12/2010 - 03:27
Andrew
Is workout number 1 and 2 preformes on the aame day or is it split Into 2 days? I am looking for a bench workout to really increase my max I am 6'3 195 18 years old and my sqaut and deadlift max is extremely good for my age and weight but I only bench about 245? I have the chest size and the tricep size but my bench is not there I think it may be my shoulders I had a shoulder injury about 3 yeArs ago and I am recovering strength wise still doew n e 1 know how this workout will work and should I mix in a back bi. Shoulder tri and leg deadlift workout in with it too so like 5 dAys week let me know please
Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 09/13/2010 - 10:07
Steven
Hi Andrew, The workouts will be split with 3-4 days rest between them, as in on a Monday and Thursday, etc. Bench can be a sticking point for many strong lifters. As far as routines, it's pretty common for strength trainees to train triceps, back and maybe biceps with chest. I would stick with a max 4 days per week.
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Posted Tue, 09/14/2010 - 10:36
Brian
I haven't a clue what a bench shrug is, can some one tell me?
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 09/14/2010 - 12:24
Steven
Hi Brian, You lie on a bench, unrack the weight as if you were preparing to bench press, and instead shrug the shoulders up.
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Posted Fri, 02/25/2011 - 09:03
dave
I workout with a buddy 3 to 4 days a week. We add about 5 lbs to our weight everytime we go to the gym. Is this good or what? our bench has almost tripled in a years time. we do shrugs holding a dumbell in each hand and pull your shoulders up, is that effective? we also do pull ups, row, dips, curls, and cable crosses for upper body.
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Posted Wed, 12/08/2010 - 13:47
bobo
LIE ON BENCH WITH WEIGHT BAR EXTENDED. SHRUG SHOULDERS OFF THE BENCH
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Posted Tue, 09/14/2010 - 13:57
Kevin
What do those bench shrugs work ? Mainly shoulders & lats ? Maybe abit of traps too ?
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Posted Tue, 09/14/2010 - 23:45
Paul
In the workouts do you still bench press regularly and how long do we keep this routine
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 09/16/2010 - 14:42
Steven
Hi Paul, You don't perform any additional bench work other then what's listed.
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Posted Sat, 10/02/2010 - 01:57
Chris
Exactly how long am i supposed to do this workout?
Steven's picture
Posted Tue, 10/05/2010 - 13:41
Steven
Hi Chris, I would suggest trying it for 8 to 12 weeks. Also, check out the book for more info: http://www.trapbartraining.com/powerlifting_basics.html
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Posted Sat, 10/09/2010 - 11:17
littleman624
Do you have any suggestions for a bench with a rack that's too narrow to allow for close-grip bench press?
Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 10/11/2010 - 13:05
Steven
Hi Littleman, I would do floor close grip bench presses, or reverse grip bench presses.
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Posted Sun, 11/07/2010 - 17:22
Paul Kelso
This is an interesting thread, at least to me. I am the author of this course, about the Club Hardhead and the Bench Press from Powerlifting Basics:Texas-Style (1996). Addabon says he came up with it too, in 2001? I wrote it originally in an article in Powerlifting USA magazine in 1988 or '89. There isn't much new in weight training, but there is a lot of repackaging.
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Posted Sat, 11/27/2010 - 21:34
trey
hey my name is trey, im 17 years old and have crohns disease so i cant really do the same diet as other people can. right now im having a little bit of a flare up right now and i keep dropping weight. currently im at 150 and benching 240 and squatting 285. do you think working out can have any affect on why i keep losing weight? i was 165 for the beginning of football but now im always to tired and out of energy to want to work out hard anymore.
Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 12/06/2010 - 13:25
Steven
Hi Trey, The biggest factor that causes weight loss is not eating enough daily calories. You need to make sure you maximize your health by eating properly along with your training. If you don't, you will lose size and strength. I don't know what you can eat, but I will recommend an article that can provide you with a solid eating structure: https://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/how-to-create-a-bodybuilding-diet.html
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Posted Thu, 05/12/2011 - 15:51
brian
sucks to hear that dude. i got my large intestine removed in 07 due to ulcerative colitis. if in nor-cal go to UCSF. they are the best. life good now (have to shit every 3-4 hrs) but got bowel control. UCSF patched me up right. work out regularly, no diet restrictions, 200lbs 6'0".
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Posted Wed, 02/29/2012 - 21:54
wes
hey Trey. My name is Wes and I had colitis, which is basicly crohns. I say had, because the doctor removed my large intestines had to live with a shit bag for 11 months, but all beter now. Your losing weight because of your flare up. you should "if you don't already" drink Aloe Vera juice. It will help! you can buy it at walmart 5 to 10$ gal it will help in so many ways google it. Good luck with football big football fan. Wes
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Posted Wed, 12/08/2010 - 04:51
Paul Kelso
Hello - this is Paul Kelso, now retired in the Philippines. The routine appears as second chapter in my POWERLIFTING BASICS; TEXAS-STYLE. It originally appeared as one of a series of articles in Powerlifting USA mag in about 1988-89. I'll be interested in results you guys get.
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Posted Fri, 01/21/2011 - 06:24
sterling
Fellas, i have had a slim frame most of my life. I came over seas and started with true mass and i went from 135 to 215 over 3yrs. My problem is i have always been strong even at 135 i was benching 315. Now that i am 215 i still look slim!! I cant seem to put on the thickness. The weight keeps spreading out!! My arms are strong but they stay looking slim along wit the rest of my body. Any suggestions or is it just my genetic make up.
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Posted Fri, 01/28/2011 - 21:19
Chris Garcia
Can anybody recommend some must have supplements? Thanks
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 02/17/2011 - 14:07
Steven
Here is an article that can help: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/articles/prioritize-your-supplement-purchases.html
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Posted Sat, 01/29/2011 - 18:47
sean
what exactly is creatine and what does it look like
Steven's picture
Posted Thu, 02/17/2011 - 14:11
Steven
Hi Sean, This article can help: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/supplements/creatine.html
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Posted Fri, 05/20/2011 - 11:15
joseph
Started working out in Aug 2010.Been making leaps and bounds.My demon is my chest,not in getting defined,but strength.When I'm doing any kind of bench work, my right side just give out.Start out find, then dead no pain at all, just no strength. It keeps me from improving on my over all max.Should I try to isolate my work-out to build it up.
Steven's picture
Posted Mon, 05/23/2011 - 13:42
Steven
Hi Joseph, Isolation lifts are generally not the best way to strengthen your chest. My suggestion would be to: 1) Work on your form. Study some "bench press" instruction videos on Youtube. Mark Rippetoe has some solid videos. 2) Work on bring your tricep strength up. I would suggest using closegrip bench presses, or dumbbell bench presses to help you with this.
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Posted Sat, 01/14/2012 - 09:21
Josh
I have bad Shoulders and I need to start workin out my chest before I start looking like Popeye but I'm afraid of re-injuring my shoulders don't want surgery again any suggestions on what kind of lift exercises I should be doing???
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Posted Sun, 03/18/2012 - 21:58
jacob
what exactly is a bench shrug? Thanks for the help..This site is been great
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Posted Tue, 04/24/2012 - 00:22
Chris
Just found this and began today. Have been looking for a way to see better gains in my bench press. Current bench is ~305. How much protein should I be eating? Currently eating a Bar after my workouts five days a week.
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Posted Sun, 08/12/2012 - 07:57
Will
Hi Steve im a 25 year old male about 260lbsI want to build my strength up and would like to what weight should I start with in this exercise.
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Posted Mon, 09/24/2012 - 11:54
Darren
Hi I like to start a cycle with 70% of your max with the reps intending to use and work up 5-10% a week.
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Posted Tue, 02/26/2013 - 11:15
jacob mehr
this work out i say helps i have been using it for the last couple years and bench 320 and im only 15