- Main GoalIncrease Strength
- Workout TypeSplit
- Training LevelIntermediate
- Program Duration17 weeks
- Days Per Week3
- Time Per Workout60-75 minutes
- Equipment RequiredBarbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
- Target Gender Male
- Workout PDF Download Workout
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.
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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 the 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:
- Fish oil
- Intra-workout BCAA product like Hydramino
- Whey protein, such as IsoFuel
10x3 Bench Press Program 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.
I fully appreciated having the benefit of others’ raw ##, so mine are below.
1x2 at 210 (=220 max?)
1x1 actual max at 225
10x3 progression -
10x3 w/ strict 1:30 rest from 145 up to 185
10x3 at 190 w/ 1:35
10x3 at 195 w/ 1:40
9x3 at 200 w/ 1:45
6x3 at 205 w/ 2:00
3x3 at 210 w/ 2:00
1x3 and 1x2 at 215 w/ 2:00 (=235 max?)
1 week later actual max at 235
1 week later failed at 240
Feel free to stop reading here…
I spent a few weeks dreading that I would I fail to hit #10, and when it didn’t happen right away, I started dreading that the drop would be catastrophic when it came, and for me it sort of was!
A few thoughts:
Stick to the plan; Give it a real chance.
Also, I was strict on the time. For example, it took me 5 sec to restart the watch and 10 sec to reset the watch to 0 and start the next lift, so I allowed myself 75 more seconds to keep to a 90 sec rest.
I kept a primitive log with just the ## lifted each day and I made a check mark on the paper only after I restarted the watch after each rep, and I did not vary from that routine so that I would be certain how many reps I had done.
Steve said some gains can come just from better form, and so I treated each week as if I thought it would be hard, starting with the very first week, and I at least gained a feel for my best path with the bar. I noticed it by accident when I did 9x3 at 200 because on #7 it hit me hard, but out of habit and subconsciously, I brought the weight down on a better path on #8, which is how I realized my form had been bad on #7, and then I did a 9th set of 3, too. I was so surprised, I forgot to try a 10th set.
I was aggressive on my 2d bench day each week early on, but I might have been aggressive for too long on the 2d day and didn’t ease up a little until I got to 9x3 at 200.
Also, I purposefully did not eat enough to gain weight. I’m 61, 5’10”, and 180#, and didn’t want to get heavier. I also didn’t rest enough on the off days because I have been doing a lot earth, stone, and tree work, so I was sore a lot.
I’m glad I tried the plan.
Hello from Ukraine. Yesterday just checked new maximum in bench press during training session.
Starting point (BW ~76kg): 100kg x 1 (dirty one)
After 16 weeks (BW ~82kg): 110kg x 1 (also dirty one), 100kg x 5.
How it was with bench press? (every week +2.5kg)
Week#1: 65kg - 10 sets
Week#2: 67.5kg - 10 sets
Week#12: 92.5kg - 10 sets (difficult)
Week#13: 95kg - 8 sets
Week#14: 97.5kg - 6 sets
Week#15: 100kg - 2 sets
Week#16: 102.5kg - 1 set
Week#17: (rest should be bigger, but I don't like to have easy load) checking new max: 110kg
I am who likes to train 6 sessions per week, so I started with own additions on first 4-5 weeks (Mon/Wed/Fri - this program, Tue/Thu/Sat - 50-60% easy own additions). Then main program started to be too difficult (after 2nd exercise there no desire to work on 3-6th ones), so I divided main program to 6 days, something like this:
- Bench Press 10x3
- Bench Press Shrugs (progress: 110kg x5 -> 125kg x5)
- One own easy exercise
- Barbell row (progress: 50kg x5 -> 80kg x5)
- Seated Arnold press (no progress: 20kg x8 -> 20kg x8)
- EZ bar skullcrusher (progress: 28kg x8 -> 43kg x8)
- DB biceps curls (progress: 10kg x10 -> 16kg x10)
- Deadlift (not my exercise, so progress: 100kg x6 -> 110kg x5)
- Pullups (12 max -> 15 max)
- DB Shrugs (progress: 30kg x 10 -> 56kg x 5)
- Backsquats (not my exercise, so progress: 90kg x 8 -> 95kg x 6)
- Seated calves
- Leg Curls
- Standing Over Head Press (55x6 -> 60x6) / Seated OHP in Smith
- Close-grip Bench Press (started 70kg, finished at 92.5kg)
- DB Row (20kg x8 -> 36kg x8)
- Incline DB Press (26kg x8 -> 38kg x8)
- Face pulls (40kg x10 -> 90kg x10)
- DB Hammer curl (10kg x10 -> 16kg x10)
Feedback is positive, I like chest/triceps/shoulders gaining strength.
- 90-120s between bench press sets is really important, so I always agreed to share a barbell with others gym's members in a way I rest exact time, after 6th week I specially started to rest 90s to finally meet failed sets
- my legs load was small, that was OK for me as I don't like to train legs, but next time I guess I will increase legs exercises
- ofc warm-up is important, I spend ~20 minutes for general warm-up and do 3-5 warming sets for compound lifts and 1-2 for isolated ones
I really appreciate you sharing all of this, Oleksandr. Congrats on your 10 kg progress, and hopefully others can benefit from your experience. Thanks for being a part of the M&S community!
Im just throwing this out there, but not intending it for any forum.
In week 4. All is well. Sticking religiously with the plan (the parts I understand) to see where it goes. 225 starting max, and keeping strict time for 10x3 at 145, 150, 155, and 160 so far in whatever temps winter brings in the old, unheated barn here in New Hampshire. I'm 61 and 180#, and in the off-season from tennis and golf. I'm kind of a former 4 cylinder that now resembles more of a beat up 8 cylinder with maybe only 2 cylinders still functioning. Thx for the guidance.
As weeks go by on the 10x3 bench routine and the starting weight gets heavier, should I do a couple warm up lifts before starting each day? Thank you. Andy
I always advocate for extra warmups, Andy. Two or even three would be good once the poundage goes up. How is the program working so far?
Thank you for that reply. I'm only 2 weeks in, so the 10x3 is pretty easy, still, but I'm making hay while the sun shines working on everything else. Thx!
If using 10×3 for squats when should i start using knee wraps?
I personally recommend sleeves over wraps, but either way, once the weight starts to feel challenging, add them. It may be set 4 for you or 6 for others. Go by feel.
Old man Doug Update. Week 9, 275x3x10. Skipped 270 because I didn't want to hunt down the 2.5 pound plates. Nevertheless I completed the ten sets with the final rep of the tenth set being a little slow but solid. I predict I'll begin dropping a set at 285-290.
Hey guys the old man is back (last post 03/20/2021 - 22:38) 60 yr old 365 bench after following this program. Took a break to heal after EGO lifting (curling 130) blew out my left elbow. I have returned to this program because it worked so well for me and because I didn't get to see what the final result would be, I'm hoping for a 405 bench.
I'm currently going on week five with 255 for first five sets and adding an additional five pounds for the last five sets. I have made this slight modification because I see myself as reconditioning. When I can't add the additional five pounds after the first five sets I'll return to the regular program of 3 x 10 dropping sets as necessary.
I have see a few replies to Steve's Work Out that seem uninformed or lacking in experience; such as, Bad for the joints, Worthless program etc. Lateral epicondylitis and from my understanding most other join injuries come from repetitive overuse of the joints. This program provides for the same 30 to 35 total repetitions suggested by many articles for muscle development without over use of the joints by providing the 90 second cool down between sets.
As for the program being worthless There seems to be a misunderstanding that the program ends at the bench. There are three days a week of split exercises and if a person does not receive some kind of benefit from following the program then I afraid that person is doing more time thinking about doing something than actually performing. Keeping in mind that Steve list this program as an "intermediate" program.
I believe one of the main goals of this program is to work on correct form and execution while conditioning and strengthening. While benching I use the Body Builder's technique where The bar is controlled down to the chest and then returned to the fully pressed position while I maintain a slightly arched back. I don't use the Power Lifter's Bench where the back has an over exaggerated arch. In my opinion that lift is little more than doing dips and if used would already put my bench well above my 405 goal. In short, If I'm not sure, U-tube provides many how to videos that support the videos supplied by M&S. I left the gym a few hours ago where I was watching a guy doing what "he thought" was bench pressing. He would un-rack the weight bounce it off his chest three times and then fight like hell to rerack it... He would not benefit from this program, unless of course he actually read and understood, what it was asking him to do. Along with that there has to be an honest and un-delusional evaluation of self.
Anyone interested I'll keep you posted as to my progress.
Doug, welcome back, and yes, please keep us posted. Thanks for reading M&S!
if I started assuming based on previously lifting that
my one rep max is 330, and have been doing the program, can reverse calculations assumed to hold true.
let's say I am now hitting 250x3 for the ten sets with no drop sets. does that correlate to being 65% of my one rep max?
It can for most, but it depends on the person. Not everyone will be able to match that calculation perfectly.
17 weeks in a row will likely be too long. You will either be starting way too light, or you won’t be able to go up every week for that long, even if you drop sets. Doing triples every week will be hard on the joints too.
The 10 sets of 3 were too easy for me and seemed to be less productive. Beginning at 140, I am doing 10 sets of 5 down to when necessary, dropping sets when I cannot achieve the 3. It feels like a better result and my strength seems to be improving. I am on week 3 of the routine and raising weight 10 lbs per week and still hitting the 10 sets of 5, so all seems well.
Any suggestions on warm up’s ? Especially as the 10 sets of 3s starts to become much heavier sets of 3 and 2 sets of 3s.
Hello, Dan, and thanks for the question. I personally like doing pushups and stretches for around 5 minutes. Then, I will work with the bar to make sure my form is on point and check to see if anything feels off. You could also do 1 set of 25 pushdowns for the triceps and elbows with very light weight.
I am twelve just got into lifting my one rep max is only 80 does this program still work
It works for me! I started the program in January of 2020 after a total lower lumbar fusion in November of 2019. I chose it because of the beginning focus being on control, technique with the lower rep count allowing me to concentrate on that control/technique to re-strengthen after the surgery without injury. Some of the exercises like the dead lift I had problems with and will most likely for life; However, I still made what I see as major gains performing alternate exercises in place of those in the program I could not perform. My starting max bench press was a week and wobbly 225 pounds with my beginning body weight of 260 pounds at age 58. My max bench press as of February 2021 is 365 pounds with a body weight of 240 at age 59. Now I am shifting my workout routine to maintaining and weight lost prior another surgical coming up in July of 2021 and then back to this program in January of 2022 at age 60. The biggest suggestions I would make to anyone is # 1: eat a consistent well balanced diet, be consistent with what ever workout you chose, pay attention to your body. I found that as my body began to recondition itself I was able bump up the weight maybe 10 pounds one week and still be able to complete all ten sets. There were also a few additional bench concepts I threw in on occasion like chains or the bench block to target week areas; however, I have to give 98% credit to this program, 59 and doing 365 I ain't complaining.
this is not smart, do not do. Better progress could be found without working out.
The math here only works for 200lb max bench. A 300lb max bencher needs to up the weight 7.5lbs every week to get the results, otherwise increasing 5lbs a week will have him doing 275 x3 on week 17 which is going backwards. Main thing is increase your weight every week by enough so that by week 17 you are working with 25-30 lbs over your starting max bench.
I've got stuck in close grip benchpress
I failed at last sets, I can do only 3/ 2 reps for 2 each weeks (twice trial, I could lift less than the past week!)
Do I need deloading the weight?
I've ran a variation of this program and it will definetly beef up numbers. Example
The next week start with 230.
On my 11th week of this routine, absolutely love it btw, just a question, 2 weeks ago I started dropping sets, first time was down to 8 sets, last week was down to 6, today I dropped down to 3 sets @ 237 lbs, while I definitely see an increase in my bench, my question is I don't think I'll make the 17weeks, maybe I started to heavy, anyways I plan on just restarting the routine, hopefully I'm doing it right, but I should add I'm only benching on Mondays, thanks again...
Hey can you do this in the beggining of your workout and then do all your other excersizes after would it still be as effective or do you have have to do that just itself and thats the workout? Thanks hope you get to me soon!
I am 10 weeks into this program and I have not dropped any sets yet. Did I start too light or is this common among the field?
Hey I'm on week 7 . Some weeks I add 10 lbs and not drop any sets yet so what week did you get when you drop sets ?
Can I throw this 10x3 plan into the program I am already running. Right now I have 5x5 bench in there but I have stalled for the past two months.
Thank you for the great advice.
What is a good beginner program? My bench press is about 180lb.
at 180 pounds it is recommended that u focus more on reps before strength. id do a 10x10 at 95 pounds and so on. just do the amount of weight u can do 10x10 of. and after 8 weeks then I do this powerlifting program
Does this still build muscle?
The workouts itself (and all workouts) break down your muscles.
They're rebuilt through proper nutrition, quality sleep, and proper recovery.
This program can certainly help kick start your muscle building process though.
Hope this helps!
I'm really interested by this program and I was wondering if I could do this with squats and dead lifts as well? Get back to me soon!
Sure, I don't see why not.
Hope this helps!
Can I do 10x3 twice a week, with plenty of rest time in between, instead of just once a week?
I think its different for everyone I get very little challenge doing even 70% of my 1rm is say start no lower than 75% in my opinion if your goal is strength me personally I have now problem training 80-85% all the time
Hi! I have a question for you. In the article you said that, we need to keep the rest between sets 2 minutes or more. Can i increase the rest about 5-6 minutes if needed? Of course it would be necessary when i will use a weight over 75% of 1 rm.
No its 2 mins no more! max! This is important I work with 85% give or take this way. You should be able to do at least 80% w 2 min rest now once u get down to a single triple obviously that's it
After trying this workout a few times I think 70% of your 1rm is going to generate significantly better results for the intermediate + lifters. My 1rm is 340 to the pound. I could do 20 x 3 of 220 (65% of 340) and not feel like I got in a workout. Now 10 x 3 of 240 sounds like a decent workout especially if I finished it with an 11th set of amrap of 225 ... Which would probably be 12 at that point . But doing 10 x 3 of 220 and only adding 5 lbs a week sounds like by the time I drop a set it will be because I got weaker from not getting in a real workout. This either needs to be 10 x 4 of 65% or 10 x 3 of 70%
I’m in agreement with you. 185 at 65% to start off with seemed really easy at 10x3 plus the 90-120 second rest is a really long time. Then again I’m used to a bodybuilding split with minimal resting periods. Not giving up yet though, goal is 405lbs!
Did the program
My starting stats:
BW 94 kg BF: 12%
1RM: 105 kg
After 6 weeks I did a max attempt and was able to do 1 * 110 kg
I ended the program with 3 * 112,5 kg
My BW at the end was 99 kg, BF unknown but I geuss arround 14%
Hi. Just wanted to let you know I love this program. As an intermediate lifter trying to find to programs to get stronger, could this same program work for my squats as well ? Thanks again.
I m a boxer I want to increase my bench
Can i benefit from this routine while doing a lot of sparring And cardio
my only question is on the bench 10x3 is that just for flat bench or do you have to do incline and decline to?
Great dynamic program. Ran in 2 months before fatigue plateau. If you de-load this could be run longer. I tweaked the accessory lifts a little to suit my preference but the core worked great. Now I've got the confidence to work a traditional powerlifting periodization program like 5/3/1, Candito's 6 week, etc.
Hey, Steve im doing this program over again and i was wondering if changing the shoulder press to the misc strength day and putting heavy squats on friday would be good. Im trying to get a better squat max since i havent squatted in a while. Thanks.
Just finished the program today. Before I started my last successful bench press was 275 with various attempts at 280 and 285 but failing at them. I started the program off with a 270 bench to stay on the safe side. At the end of about 4 months, on my last set of the program I did 275 x 4 instead of going for the 3 reps. I used the bench press calculator on this side and that rounds up to about 310. So a 40 pound increase in bench over 4 months. I didn't gain that much weight either maybe 2lbs at the most. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Steve.
Why drop the number of sets the following week and not just do as many sets of three as you can? Last week, I completed 8 sets of 300 but yesterday completed 10 sets of 305. I plan to do 10 set of 310 next week.