If the popular question “how much do you bench?” makes you want to run and hide in a hole because you’ve been desperately trying to add some impressive weight to your bench press to little or no avail, this is the article for you. And don’t worry, you’re not alone in this struggle.
In fact, unless you have freakishly good genetics, it’s totally normal that you need some help with bringing your bench press numbers up. In this article we’ll present you with a full workout program that can help you overcome your plateaus and sticking points and maximize your bench pressing strength!
This nature of this program is cyclical, meaning that after you reach the end of the first cycle, you should take one de-load week and then start up again. You can repeat the program as many times as you’d like or until it produces the wanted results, which it will undoubtedly do.
With that in mind, you can choose to follow the sample 4-day split workout we’ve described at the end of the article, according to the instructions listed below, or you can simply take the 5×3 bench press part of it and incorporate it into your existing program. If you opt for the latter, make sure to include an adequate amount of assistance work, which is an important part of building superior bench press strength.
The 5×3 bench press program is made up of the following 3 phases:
Week 1-2: high volume work
- During the first two weeks, you will perform 5 sets of 8 reps of the bench press, gradually increasing the weight during the second week. More specifically, in the first week you will need to work with a weight that’s 60% of your 1RM for 5 sets of as many reps as possible (but no more than 8) per set.
- For the second week, go for 65% of your 1RM with the same rep pattern. This program doesn’t entail training to failure, so you don’t have to force yourself to execute exactly 8 reps on each set. End each set at the moment when you know that you would fail at the next rep.
Week 3-4: transition to heavier weights
- During week 3, perform 5 sets of as many reps as possible (but no more than 5) per set of the bench press with a weight that’s 70% of your 1RM.
- The next week progress to 75% of your 1RM, maintaining the same rep pattern. Again, there’s no need to train to failure. Aim to keep your form tight and strict.
Auto-regulation phase: week 5 to completion
- Week 5 marks the beginning of auto-regulation.
- During week 5, you will work with 80% of your 1RM for 5 sets of 3 reps each.
- And every next week, you will add 5 extra pounds to the bar. Whenever you can’t pull off 3 reps on a set, drop it. Continue with this pattern as long as you can perform at least one set of 3 reps. Stop only when you are no longer able to perform three reps for one single set – at this point, take a de-load week and return to the beginning of the program, i.e. start it all over again with 60% of the last weight you used before the de-load week.
After you fail to perform 4 reps for one single set, you can either take one week of rest, completely away from benching and then test your max one week later, or you can take a de-load week during which you’ll work with 60% of your max for only 3 sets of 5 reps per set.
A sample 5×3 bench press workout
As we mentioned previously, you can add the 5×3 bench press program to almost any desired split or combination of exercises. To give you an idea of your options, check out the sample workout below.
Monday: heavy bench press day
- Bench press: 5 sets x reps according to the plan above
- Dumbbell bench press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Barbell rows: 3 sets x 6-10 reps
- Chin-ups: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Seated dumbbell press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Skull-crushers: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Dumbbell curls: 3 sets x 10 reps
Tuesday: lower body work
- Squats: 5 sets x 5 reps
- Stiff leg deadlift: 3 sets x 8-10 reps
- Goblet squats: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Leg curls: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Seated calf raise: 3 sets x 15 reps
- Ab wheel roll-outs: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Cable crunches: 3 sets x 15-20 reps
Thursday: moderate bench press day
- Close-grip bench press: 5 sets x 5 reps
- Incline bench press: 3 sets x 8 reps
- Dumbbell rows: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Pull-ups: 3 sets x as many reps as possible
- Military press: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Two-arm seated dumbbell extension: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Barbell curls: 3 sets x 10 reps
Friday: lower body work
- Deadlifts: 5 sets x 3 reps
- Squats: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Leg press: 3 sets x 15-20 reps
- Leg curls: 3 sets x 10 reps
- Standing calf raise: 3 sets x 15 reps
- Plank: 3 sets x 60-second holds
- Weighted decline sit-ups: 3 sets x 15-20 reps
As you’ve already noticed, this program is not for the weak-willed. It demands great focus and discipline, but it guarantees outstanding gains, given that you follow the given instructions precisely. Also, don’t forget to up your calorie intake while training in this style in order to provide your muscles with some extra fuel and prime your body’s ability for recovery. If you hit a wall, inspect your diet and sleeping pattern. Make sure to eat well and sleep for 8 hours every night. In addition, drop your extensive bouts of cardio to the minimum, as too much cardio can interfere with your strength and mass gains. Good luck!