Diet and Nutrition

How to build a monstrous bench press

If you are a bodybuilder, competitive lifter, athlete, or just someone who likes to train, you will have answered the question “what do you bench?” on more than one occasion. Let’s face it – no one really cares what you can Clean or Squat so if you don’t have a big bench press then maybe it’s time to put down the latest issue of Flex or Muscle and Fitness and pay attention.

Unfortunately, with the advancements of the bench press shirts most articles you find discuss advanced methods that are written by the pros and although they are filled with a lot of useful information, the beginner lifter is forgotten about.

In my efforts to help educate those that might not yet be ready to handle such an advanced bench press program let’s take a look back at when I was struggling to build my bench.

When I was a freshman in college my goal was to bench three plates by the end of the year, but I reached a plateau and I had been stuck at 265lbs for six months. But during my first WABDL competition in 2003 I was fortunate enough to bump into Ryan Kennelly at the airport and talk with him about my bench press training. Within a month of following his guidelines I had added 50lbs to my bench press and had achieved my goal of benching 315lbs. So what did I learn?

Your setup is crucial to bench monstrous poundage’s

Most people pay little attention to their setup when they bench press. They simply flop down on the bench and don’t think about where to place their feet or the position of their lower and upper back. Just by correcting your setup you can instantly add 25 –50lb!

The first thing you need to do is setup with your feet in a wide position with the foot tucked behind the knee. This allows you to drive harder against the floor as well as creating a solid base to help with those heavier weights.

Next, you want to arch your lower back as much as possible. At first this may be uncomfortable and many of you will struggle, so you will need to work on this. My suggestion is to place PVC pipe under your lower back. As your arch increases, add a towel to the PVC pipe to increase the height. The bigger your arch, the shorter the distance the bar has to travel, and the more weight you are going to lift!

The last area that you need to focus on is getting your upper back in the right position. If you want to bench big then you need to make sure that you are setup right. Place your upper trapezius on the bench and squeeze your shoulder blades together as much as you can.

Once you put all of this together expect to see some huge improvements in your bench press numbers instantly.

Bench twice per week

If you are serious about increasing your bench press then it’s time to your frequency to twice per week. The key is to vary the intensity on each day – do not try to max on both days. One day needs to be focused on maximum strength and the other day should be focus on dynamic strength much like the Westside methods.

Now if you know my current training style or have read So You Wannabe a Powerlifter then you may have noticed that I now follow a hybrid of the Metal Militia template and the Westside template. But remember – this article is for the beginner whose primary focus is on increasing their raw bench press.

Train for speed

Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration. So the faster you move can the bar the more you will be able to lift. Not too long ago I heard a story about a coach that trained his son in the Olympic lifts from a very young age. However, this coach never allowed his son to train with anything other than a dowel rod. On his sixteenth birthday he allowed his son to max out on and if memory serves me correct this young man managed to clean 140kgs! The point of this story is that you do not always have to train with heavy weights in order to increase your power output. Simply exerting maximum effort on the bar regardless of weight is going to increase your strength.

Keep it simple

A lot of lifters get caught up with chains and bands and think these training tools are essential to build up their bench press. For the first three years of training I did not have access to either of these. I did manage to scrounge up enough money to by myself a set of boards, which allowed me to overload my bench press at various stages of the lift.

What you will want to do is train with the 1, 2, and 3 board on you maximum effort day and use the 4,5, and 6 board on your speed day alternating between boards each week.

For example, your training days would look like the following:

Week 1, Day 1

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
1-Board Press – work up to a max weight
Supplementary Exercise – High volume triceps work
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 1, Day 2

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
Speed bench – -50% of your max for 9 sets of 3
4-board press – work up to a max weight
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 2, Day 1

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
2-Board Press – work up to a max weight
Supplementary Exercise – High volume triceps work
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 2, Day 2

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
Speed bench – -50% of your max for 9 sets of 3
4-board press – work up to a max weight
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 3, Day 1

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
3-Board Press – work up to a max weight
Supplementary Exercise – High volume triceps work
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 3, Day 2

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
Speed bench – -55% of your max for 9 sets of 3
6-board press – work up to a max weight
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 4, Day 1 – Deload

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
Supplementary Exercise – High volume triceps work
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Week 4, Day 2

Dynamic/Mobility Warm-Up
Bench Press – work up to a new 1 rep max
Accessory Movements – triceps, deltoids, lats
Pre-habilitation Work – upper back, rotator cuff, and extra pushdowns

Note: Using your new max lifts repeat this cycle.

Training your legs and back are just as important

If you really want to increase your bench then you have to train your whole body – not just the bench press. Look at any of the top bench pressers and you will see they all incorporate training for their back and they all squat. For example Gene Rychlak Jr. has squatted 1005lbs in competition, Shawn Lattimer has done a raw 725 squat, and Jani Murtomaki regularly trains with over 700lbs on his back in the gym.

I like to incorporate a lot of heavy row movements for my back along with pull-ups, face pulls, and band pull aparts. If you look at the template I laid out above you will see that I include back work into the bench workouts. I also do a lot of back work on the days that I train the squat. I prefer doing it this way instead of having a day solely devoted to training the muscles of the back.

Conclusion

The number one thing to remember is that it takes time to build a monstrous bench press. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on how to build a solid foundation and will put you on the right track to becoming a bench press freak.

Written by AJ Roberts

Discuss, comment or ask a question

If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – How to build a monstrous bench press discussion thread.