In today’s post, I want to elaborate more on how I managed to bring my bench press numbers up. This is in response to one of the questions I get the most, which is ‘How do I bring up my bench press?’.
A mere 4 weeks ago at the Thai Powerlifting Open, I hit a PR of 172.5kg on the bench press. Whilst this was satisfactory, it definitely was not enough for me. Bench used to be one of my weaker lifts, so it is crazy to actually think about how ‘disappointed’ I am at benching this kind of weight.
The truth is, I knew I was capable of hitting more. In fact, just this week, I managed to hit a PR of 175kg at a relatively low RPE. At this level of competition, you have to be tactical about how to bring up your lifts.
The main thing that really helped me increase my bench was to improve my technique. However, once you have your technique down, putting in the correct amount of work is absolutely vital. Programming for the bench press is thus tricky, especially as you get into the absolute high intensities.
Thus far, here’s how I planned my bench press training for this block.
First off, I established what I needed to do for this training black. The plan was not hypertrophy in any of the pressing muscle, as I have already built a decent muscular foundation for myself. I needed to get my body used to bigger weight. In this regard, I ditched the traditional 5 and 8 rep schemes, and only focused on doubles and triples.
There is a saying “To bench more weight, you have to bench more weight.” While this sounds really obvious and might seem redundant to mention, you have to expose your body to the heavier intensities. Unlike squat and deadlift, the bench press doesn’t drain you as much, and when planned appropriately, general recovery turnaround time can be pretty low.
This is the really interesting part about the bench press at this level of powerlifting; if you don’t go heavy, you won’t be able to progress well. Let’s say you want to bench 120kg. Staying at only 80% of this max won’t help you get to 120kg. You will just become really good at benching 96kg.
I set my working intensity range higher for this cycle, from 87% to 92%. My top singles were all based on RPE. I did 3 top singles a week, with the heaviest on day and the lightest on day 3. As mentioned in previous weeks, my bench press frequency is 5x a week.
The range of motion for my bench press is really short, and I really need a certain amount of repetitions for my body to actually accumulate enough stress from it. the 5x a week frequency allows me to spread it out nicely and not jeopardise the quality of each repetition when I get tired.
In terms of actual programming, alternating heavy days with lighter days will help to mitigate big fatigue bombs from happening. If you go too crazy two to three days in a row, and over tax yourself, you risk injury and a drop in performance too quickly.
A sample set up may look like this:
Day 1 – Top single @RPE8, 3 sets x 2 reps @92%
Day 2 – 5 sets x 3 reps @75% – 80%
Day 3 – Top single @RPE8, 5 sets x 2reps @89%
Day 4 – 5 sets x 3 reps @75% – 80%
Day 5 – Top single @RPE8, 4 sets x 3reps @87%
You can try this out if you identify with the following:
1. Have a decent muscular base (big chest, developed triceps, developed upper back)
2. Have good technique
3. Have plateaued in the bench after about 2 to 3 years of fairly consistent bench progression
Let me know it goes! If you know anyone that might benefit from trying this out, do share this with them!
Next week I will be talking about my current bench technique and the changes I made that have helped me get even more out of my bench press!