Diet and Nutrition

Up Your Bench Press 30lbs in 30 days!

Your reaction upon reading the title of this guide was one of disbelief and curiosity, wasn’t it?  I understand.  There are a lot of people making a lot of promises out there and very few of them pan out.  Your personal gym experience also influences your reaction to the title.

You have not experienced such fantastic progress and follow all of the advice you have gathered from the net and in print.  Undoubtedly, you have heretofore come to the conclusion that such progress is only possible with anabolic steroids and inhuman heredity.  Please read the following VERY carefully:

I am here to tell you it can and has been done, drug-free, and that includes experienced trainees.  With the right combination of proper training, diet, rest, and supplementation you can do it!  If you’re game, read on…

The Four Factors

The four most important factors ranked in order of importance are:

  1. Proper training
  2. Proper diet
  3. Proper supplementation
  4. Proper rest

Rest

Wait a second!  You have read so many times how important sleep is, right?  How did it get ranked least important?

The idea that strength training progress is nigh impossible without 8 or more hours of sleep seems to be all pervasive in iron game culture.  Sleep is important, but a lot can be done with less than optimal amounts.  In my own training, I have made excellent progress while working with significantly less than 8 hours of sleep per night.  As both the great Paul Anderson and Doug Hepburn knew (modern superman Chad Aichs knows it too!), so long as you have sufficient nutrients to fuel recovery, you can get what is considered to be less than optimal amounts of sleep and still build prodigious size and strength.

Joey Smith – AtLarge Nutrition big bencher!

Mike Wolfe – getting his Z’s!

As long as you have sufficient nutrients to fuel recovery, you can get less than optimal sleep and still build Brobdingnagian size and power!

With that said; in order to make the most progress in the shortest period of time you need to optimize each of the 4 Factors.  You should shoot for 8 or more hours of sleep per night.  If this is not possible, naps can be a powerful tool to augment your nightly sleep.  Power naps of 20 minutes to 1 hour taken when possible will benefit your overall recovery.

Sleep is not the only form of rest that must be considered.  Intense physical exercise outside of the gym should also be greatly curtailed during this 30 day program if you are to optimize your results.  Skip your weekly pickup game of basketball and save the majority of your energy for the gym and recovery.

Remember, this program only lasts 30 days. Make it a priority during that time and be sure to make time for the rest you need to optimize your results.

Training

Your training routine is the single most important factor in how much weight you can bench.  You can do everything else perfectly, and may have, but if you don’t train properly you won’t realize the kind of results you are capable of.

The purpose of this guide is to increase your unequipped bench (without a special bench shirt) by 30 or more pounds in 30 days.  As such, the training routine must be one of specialization for the bench.  You know the saying, “Jack of all trades; master of none.”  The gist of those words is that specialization is king when you want to maximize results.  This is no more true anywhere than with the human body.  The very nature of human physiology mandates that we specialize our training for optimal results.  Strength is extremely specific.

This concept is embodied in the S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand) principle.  This principle states that the human body will respond with a very specific adaptation to any physical stressor placed on it.

Remember that specialization is king when you want to maximize results!

Mike Wolfe pushing some big weight and being the living embodiment of the S.A.I.D. principle!

Mike Wolfe the living embodiment of the S.A.I.D. principle!

My first exposure to the concept of training specificity was from the writings of Ellington Darden, PhD.  Dr. Darden is one of the driving forces behind the H.I.T. (High Intensity Training) bodybuilding phenomena (he coined the term).  He is also a prolific author of the genre.

One of many things that differentiate Dr. Darden from the rest of the bodybuilding pack is his considerable expertise in the area of motor learning.  Motor learning is the concept of skill acquisition relative to physical movement and how those skills may or may not transfer to other movements.

It was on his old website, the name of which escapes me, that I first read about a series of studies which examined athletic endeavors and how skill in one specific event translated (or not) to another.  The studies found that there was little skill correlation between very similar athletic movements.

For instance, the fastest runner in a straight line was usually not the fastest when running in a circle.  Another example was hitting with a tennis racket vs. a badminton racket.  The best at hitting the tennis ball was not the best at hitting the badminton bird.  Why?  Specificity of motor movements!  Just because two movements are similar does not mean that the motor skill required to perform one translates well to the other.

You can read more about his thoughts on the topic in his latest book The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results which is available through his new website www.DrDarden.com (a cool website to visit).

A young Dr Darden on the left

Specifity and the Bench

If the desired training adaptation is a big bench press you have to perform the movement with high frequency in order to build your motor skill.  As per the concept of training specificity, demonstrable strength is highly reliant on the optimization of your nervous system relative to a specific movement.

A Different Perspective

Another titan of the iron game, Louie Simmons, preaches something which might seem to fly in the face of the S.A.I.D. principle and the idea that frequent practice of a given exercise is required to optimize results.  Louie espouses the virtues of the conjugate method.  This method dictates that the lifter frequently alternate exercises by body part on their maximum effort (M.E.) days (M.E. days are practiced once per week and see the lifter typically work up to a 1 rep maximum lift).  Louie normally has his Westside lifters alternate their primary M.E. day exercise every 1-3 weeks.

Louie knows that training with heavy loads for 1-3 repetitions taken to, or near the limit of one’s momentary ability (otherwise known as failure) is what produces the greatest increases in 1-rep maximum (1RM) demonstrable strength.

Heavy loads taken near to, or to failure frequently can also quickly lead to neural stagnation and overtraining.  The variety (in neural stimulus) provided for by the conjugate method allows the lifter to effectively avoid this pitfall.  It works, and Louie has a stable of the strongest men and women in the world to prove it.

Louie Simmons (center) and some of his Westside Barbell crew

Clarification

Before you get totally confused, let’s make it all fit together.  You must practice a specific movement frequently to optimize your motor skill at performing the movement and thus your demonstrable strength.  You must also train to, or near to, your limit with very low repetitions and high loads if you are going to maximize your 1RM in any given movement.  Finally, if the frequency of low rep, high intensity sets for a given exercise is excessive, overtraining will quickly occur (with conjugate variation being the cure).

Training Points:

  • Specificity
  • Frequent training to build skill
  • Conjugate variety

So, how do you optimize your results over a 30 day period?  How do you perform the bench press frequently with heavy loads and not overtrain?  The solution lies in using high frequency with a “conjugate style” variation of load.

The conjugate method works because even small variations in a movement incur a very different stress on the nervous system thus taxing it in a different manner.  This precludes neural stagnation (and thus overtraining).  For our 30 day purpose, the variation in neural stress provided by the conjugate method is desirable, but we still need the “practice” afforded by frequent benching.

The solution lies in variation of the loads used.  Load is another factor which affects or stresses the nervous system and is something that can be varied easily.  Varying the loads used each training day for the bench press will prevent overtraining during the program and allow for frequent benching in order to optimize neural acclimation to the movement.

For the 30 days of this program you will be benching three times per week.  Each session will use a percentage of your beginning 1RM (with the loads being graduated from week 2 on).  The balance of your training will be performed in a more traditional fashion.

The Program

Each of the sets listed is a “working” set.  These are post warm-up sets which should be preceded by 2-3 progressive warm-up sets (unless the specified body part is already warmed-up, the choice is then yours).  The bench press working sets should follow the rep formula exactly as outlined.  The balance of working sets should be stopped 1-2 reps short of failure unless otherwise noted.

Training Point – Precede each working set with 2-3 progressive warm-up sets.

Key:

  • 3 x 65% x 3 reps = 3 working sets with 65% of your starting 1RM for 3 reps per set
  • 1×10 = 1 working set of 10 reps

Monday

  • Bench Press -  3 x 65% x 3 reps
  • Skull Crushers -  2 x 10
  • Triceps Pushdowns – 1 x 10
  • Squat – 2 x 5
  • Lat Pulldown (curl grip) – 2 x 10
  • Calf Raise – 2 x 10, to failure
  • Machine Ab-Crunch – 2  x 10, to failure

Wednesday

  • Bench Press – 2 x 75% x 3 reps
  • Triceps Pushdown – 1 x 10
  • Deadlift -  2 x 3
  • Ab-Crunch – 2 x 10, to failure

Friday

  • Bench Press – 2 x 85% x 2 reps
  • Dumbbell Bench Press – 1 x 30  (or more reps, to failure)
  • Skull Crushers – 2 x 8
  • Triceps Pushdowns – 1 x 10
  • Leg Press – 2 x 6
  • Lat Pulldown (curl grip) – 2 x 10
  • Calf Raise – 2 x 10, to failure
  • Ab-Crunch – 2 x 10, to failure

Training points – For everything other than the bench work, try to progress by performing 1 more rep, or the same number of reps with a small increase in the resistance each session.  Again, stop 1-2 reps short of failure unless otherwise noted.

Follow this schedule exactly for week 1.  Then, for weeks 2 and on, you should increase the loads used for benching by 5 lbs per set (per day) if you’re starting 1RM is 150 lbs or less.  If your starting 1RM is 155 – 295 lbs, use 10 lbs per set.  For 300 – 395 lbs increase the loads by 10 lbs per set for the Monday and Wednesday sessions, and 15 lbs for the Friday sessions.

Finally, if you’re starting 1RM is 400 lbs or more, use a 15 lbs increase for the Monday and Wednesday workouts, and 20 lbs for Fridays.

Training points:

  • 1RM < 150 lbs = increase loads by 5 lbs per set
  • 1RM  155 – 295 lbs =  increase loads by 10 lbs per set
  • 1RM  300 – 395 lbs  =  increase loads by 10 lbs on Mon & Wed, and by  15 lbs on Fri
  • 1RM > 400 lbs =  increase loads by 15 lbs on Mon & Wed, and by 20 lbs on Fri

Mike Wolfe getting ready to hit his triceps

Samples of Bench Progression

Beginning Bench Press = 200 lbs

Week 1

  • Monday – 200  x  65% = 130 lbs
  • Wednesday – 200  x  75% = 150lbs
  • Friday – 200  x  85% = 170 lbs

Week 2

  • Monday – 130  + 10  = 140 lbs
  • Wednesday – 150  + 10  = 160 lbs
  • Friday – 170 + 10  = 180 lbs

Week 3

  • Monday – 140 + 10 = 150 lbs
  • Wednesday – 160  + 10 = 170lbs
  • Friday – 180  +  10 = 190 lbs

Week 4

  • Monday – 150  + 10 = 160 lbs
  • Wednesday – 170 + 10 = 180 lbs
  • Friday – 190 + 10 = 200 lbs

Beginning Bench Press = 330 lbs

Week 1

  • Monday – 330 x 65% = 215 lbs (round to the nearest 5 lbs)
  • Wednesday – 330 x 75% = 250lbs
  • Friday – 330 x 85% = 280 lbs

Week 2

  • Monday – 215 + 10  = 225 lbs
  • Wednesday – 250 + 10  = 260 lbs
  • Friday – 280 + 15  = 295 lbs

Week 3

  • Monday – 225 + 10 = 235 lbs
  • Wednesday – 260 + 10 = 270 lbs
  • Friday – 295 + 15 = 310 lbs

Week 4

  • Monday – 235  + 10 = 245 lbs
  • Wednesday – 270 + 10 = 280 lbs
  • Friday – 310 + 15 = 325 lbs

A Cautionary Tale

Nearly everyone that tries the program, and you will most likely be no exception, feel that they are not performing enough work, especially in the beginning.  You will want to do additional work for your pecs, shoulders, and everything else.  The compulsion will be strong.  It must be resisted!  Remember, you are most likely trying this program because you are unhappy with your current bench press progress or 1RM.  This program was not put together haphazardly and has been proven in practice.  As the loads are increased weekly the intensity of effort will climb and you will “see the light” as your bench and other lifts begin to soar.

Training point – Follow the program exactly as prescribed!

Westside Barbell Powerlifter – Travis Bell

Supplementation

I rank supplementation 3rd in importance among the 4 Most Important Factors to strength training success. Proper training and diet are more important, but that fact does not minimize the benefits that the right supplements can provide.  If you want to optimize your results, and that is what this program is all about, you need to augment your regimen with the right supplements.

If you are active on the net and read bodybuilding or powerlifting publications you are literally bombarded with ads and advice that recommend a myriad of supplements.  The reason only 4 products are mentioned on the following pages is because short of true anabolic tissue building drugs (even those that are sold as “supplements” due to loopholes in the law) they are part of a very select list of supplements that actually provide an ergogenic benefit.

AtLarge Nutrition’s Maximum Mass Stack groups 4 proven muscle building and recovery products together at a discounted price to help you to optimize your results.

The “everything but the kitchen sink” approach to supplementation is truly a waste of your hard earned money.  Don’t be fooled by flashy advertising and made–up pseudo-scientific terminology.  Stick with real science that you can actually reference at places like Pubmed.

On the following pages I describe the right supplements to help you in your quest to optimize your training results.  They are proven to help you safely achieve your goals.  I firmly believe AtLarge Nutrition products to be the best products of their kind on the market.  You can, of course, with the exception of ETS (Extreme Training Support) which is unique to AtLarge Nutrition’s lineup, substitute similar products.

Supplementation points:

The “everything but the kitchen sink” approach is a waste of your hard earned money!  Choose quality supplements that are proven effective.

MAXIMUS – WEIGHT GAINER

Perhaps the most unique weight gainer supplement available.  It has a highly effective protein blend of whey, casein, milk protein isolates, glutamine, and egg albumin providing over 60g of protein per serving!  In addition, it provides over 70g of energy-fueling, recovery-stimulating carbohydrates.

What truly sets MAXIMUS™ apart from its competition is its inclusion of Microlactin® at a proven dose of 2g per serving. Microlactin® improves general recovery, reduces delayed onset muscular soreness (DOMS), and can help to reduce minor joint pain.  Finally, the addition of inulin helps to promote the superior nutrient absorption required by the growing strength trainee.

Maximus - the most unique weight gainer supplement available

ETS – IMPROVE RECOVERY

AtLarge Nutrition’s unique recovery promoting product.  ETS™’ proprietary blend of Microlactin®, zinc, magnesium, and vitamins C and E allows you to train harder, more often.  Optimal recovery is of prime importance in any strength training program.  No other supplement on the market will do more for recovery than ETS™.

In addition, ETS™ can help with minor joint pain and tendonitis.  Finally, it provides a direct strength enhancing effect.

ETS - unique recovery promoting product

RESULTS - INCREASE MUSCLE MASS AND STRENGTH

RESULTS™ consists of 4 individual ingredients: dextrose, Creapure™ creatine monohydrate, ß-Alanine, and HMB.

Each ingredient is included at a scientifically proven effective dose. RESULTS™ will help you to lose body fat, significantly increase lean muscle mass and strength, enhance your muscular endurance, and promote blistering intensity in the gym!

Results - significantly increase lean muscle mass and strength

CREATINE 500 – CREATINE MONOHYDRATE

AtLarge Nutrition’s Creatine 500™ is Creapure™ creatine monohydrate.

It is one of the purest monohydrate products available.  Creatine monohydrate is the most scientifically studied and proven (proven to be both effective and safe) strength and lean muscle tissue building non-hormonal supplement in the world.  Its inclusion is a must if you want to be as big and strong as possible.

Creatine 500 - High Quality Creatine Monohydrate

OPTICEN - MEAL REPLACEMENT/POST WORKOUT SHAKE

Using Opticen™ immediately after an intense session in the gym (post workout – PWO) will help to maximize your results.  A 60g serving (the recommended PWO serving size) provides roughly 35g of its proprietary protein matrix (whey concentrate, casein, milk protein isolate, whey isolates, glutamine peptides, and egg albumin), 17g of carbohydrates, 1g of fat, and a myriad of vitamins and minerals.

These nutrients combined with its liquid state (which provides accelerated absorption) will quickly place your body into PWO anabolic overdrive!

Opticen - Meal Replacement and Post Workout Shake

Supplement Wrap

Including these products in your regimen will make a significant improvement in the results you achieve.  MAXIMUS™ is particularly important because it makes the high calorie intake required by the program much easier to consume.  Just 2 MAXIMUS™ shakes made with milk will add upwards of 2,400 quality calories to your daily intake.

Diet

If you truly want to get the most out of this program, and are someone who normally has trouble putting on muscular body weight, you need to consume a minimum of 25 calories per pound of body weight.  If you are a naturally heavy-set individual, or are over 40 years of age, such high caloric intake is not recommended and you should focus on a healthy diet and the other factors in this guide.

Diet is truly one of the most important factors to your strength training success, but possibly not in the manner you expect.  Most people who have a cursory knowledge of strength training are convinced that the stereotypical bodybuilding diet is what one must follow in order to see progress in the gym.  They are certain that boiled chicken breasts, tuna, and plain rice must be the staples of their dietary regimen.  For those seeking to gain a maximum amount of size and strength in a minimum amount of time nothing could be further from the truth!

Donnie Thompson - one of the world’s strongest men!

Donnie Thompson, one of the world’s strongest men, knows that training for strength requires eating for strength!

If you want to increase your bench press 30 lbs in 30 days you need high calorie foods to fuel your training and provide the calories needed to not only recover, but to supercompensate from said training.   Solid foods should be the core of your diet, but consuming the requisite number of calories can get tiresome and prove to be nearly impossible for some.  Liquid meals are easier to consume and more readily digested.  A full serving of MAXIMUS™ mixed in 4 cups of whole milk provides 1,200+ quality, growth-promoting calories.  As mentioned in the supplementation section, 2 of these shakes per day can make all the difference in terms of allowing you to hit your daily caloric intake goal while on the program.

Here is a brief list of strength training super foods:

  • Whole milk
  • All meats
  • Cheeses
  • Nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Pasta w/sauce
  • Eggs
  • Oils and butter

For those who struggle to gain quality weight and are forever proclaiming that they eat a “ton” of food and could not possibly eat more, I say, “Balderdash!”

The reason certain trainees feel that way is because they have not conditioned their stomachs for maximum mass.  Just like you need to train your body to make it huge, you need to train your stomach by expanding it sufficiently such that you are able to consume the necessary calories to fuel growth.  The only way to stretch your stomach is to consciously over-eat.  You obviously do not want to gluttonize to the point that you feel ill, but you must get close in order to spur the desired stomach expansion adaptation in relatively short order.

Total caloric intake is more important than the macronutrient breakdown of the foods you consume over this 30 day period.  You will find that when consuming the calorie dense foods required by this program, your macro breakdown is roughly equally distributed between protein, carbohydrates and fats.  You may have read or heard in the past that protein ingestion should constitute 40% or more of total caloric intake for strength trainees.  Don’t confuse the resistance trained individual’s increased need for quality protein with protein as a percentage of total caloric intake.  When you are consuming a high calorie diet like the one recommended here, you will consume a lot of protein (300+ grams daily), but  by virtue of the fact that your overall caloric intake is so high, protein will only end up constituting about 33% of the total.

Important – Remember to consume at least 25 calories per pound of body weight!

The bottom line is that you need to eat a lot of relatively unrefined, calorie-dense, high-protein foods in order to get as big and strong as possible in 30 days.

You need not worry about excess body fat accumulation with a program such as this due to its brevity and the fact that it is a “shock” to your system.  The massive caloric intake combined with heavy resistance training called for in this program will result in the addition of a large amount of lean muscle mass and a modest deposition of body fat during the 30 day period.

Tip – Use this program sparingly (once or twice per year) and you can continuously reap its benefits.

Getting the Job Done

There is an old story about a former Mr. America bodybuilder training his protégé that very vividly illustrates the level of commitment required to be the biggest and strongest you can be.  As the story goes, the master and his apprentice were at the beach one day.  Both were wading in the water when suddenly the former Mr. America grabbed his pupil by the head and pushed him beneath the waves.  The pupil was literally forced to struggle for his life.  When he finally made it up for air, the master simply said to his liege that only when he wants to be a great bodybuilder as much as he wanted to breathe moments before would he finally achieve his goals.

Stupid?  Yes, but highly effective in making the point that the mind, the will, are the keys to extraordinary results.  The vast majority of trainees simply do not possess the single-minded determination required to achieve the results they claim to desire.  How do you engender such dogged determination in yourself?  For me, it simply boiled down to my competitive nature and making a decision and then having the will to follow through with it irrespective of other influences.  When I decided that I wanted to become as physically big and strong as I could (without tissue-building drugs), that goal became the sole focus of my life virtually to the exclusion of everything else.

In Closing

Ok, you now have all of the tools you need.  The rest is up to you.

Give this program the kind of laser focus described above for just 30 days and you will be absolutely AMAZED at what you will achieve!!!

Written by Chris Mason

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 – Up Your Bench Press in 30 days discussion thread.