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The Bigger, Badder Bench Press Program

If you want to bench more, you'll need to know how to program your training. Here's your introduction.

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Bigger Bench Press Workout
Bigger Bench Press Workout

I’m going to start off my inaugural Muscle and Fitness Online training article with an answer – of sorts – to the one question everyone will always ask you when you’re a guy who goes to the gym:

How much do you bench?

The advice I’m about to offer will help you answer this question in a way you can be prouder of each month as you make progress. The idea here is to continue making small gains over a large period of time, because that’s how getting bigger and stronger works – you peck away at personal records a pound at a time until the calendar works its magic and you’ve put in enough work to start putting up big weights.

If I told you that I could get you five pounds per month on your max bench press, you’d tell me to take a hike, right? Look at how this really works, though. If you bench, say, 255 right now, and I gave you a piece of paper and asked you to sign off on a 315 pound bench for a month from now, would you take it?

You’re darned right you would, because I highly doubt you’ve gone from 195 to your current 255 over the past year. This won’t happen overnight, because that’s not how things work in the weight room. You have to plot out your training in an intelligent manner, take a look at what’s working and what’s not, and understand the big picture.

The Program

There’s more than one way to plot out rep and set schemes in order to get stronger, but the best thing about lifting weights is that you don’t have to simply stick with one of these and hope for the best. You can examine your weak points, figure out what kind of work you need, and go from there. You don’t have to always lift heavy, or always lift to failure. It’s best to mix and match different programming techniques in order to get the results you want.

With that said, you need four things, programming-wise, for a big bench press:

1) The ability to strain

You need to feel what it’s like to be under a heavy load and to have to strain and grind it to a lockout position at the top. The way to do this is to lift heavy weights – at a high percentage of your max – for singles, doubles and triples.

2) The ability to explode the weight quickly off your chest

You need speed. You need some kind of impetus off your chest so your triceps have some momentum going into the lockout (top) position. This can be developed through a variety of means, including accommodating resistances (bands and chains) and plyometric pushups. You’ll do this by doing pushups with your hands inside of two platforms. Explode off the floor and get your hands onto the boxes in one motion. Start off with low boxes and work your way up in height.

3) Size

Simply put, you need to get bigger, because speed and technique will only take you so far. You’ll need to do a certain amount of high-repetition work in order to develop the muscular cross-section that has to be recruited in order to lift heavy loads.

4) The proper accessory work

Heading into the gym, making a beeline for the dumbbell rack, and doing curls in the mirror until you can’t lift your arms anymore won’t give you a big bench press. You need to work the muscles that support your chest during the lift – your triceps, your lats, your delts and your traps. Your triceps lock out the bar at the top, and the other muscles mentioned provide the base from which you press. The bigger and stronger they are, the more you’ll be able to bench.

Putting it all Together

Work your bench program in four week increments – three weeks of solid work, and one deload week during which you won’t be lifting heavy weights. In powerlifting parlance, a deload week is a week of rest and recovery where you cut your workload and allow your muscles, joints and central nervous system to recover.

You’ll be performing two bench workouts per week in a combination of methods – either lifting heavy max weights, doing some sort of speed work or performing high rep sets to build muscle. For your deload week, you’ll be taking it easy and doing two days of high rep or speed work with lighter weights. Here’s your first four weeks.

60 Days to Fit: Follow this program from fitness expert James Grage and you’ll be in great shape in just two short months.

Routine

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Week 1

Monday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
1
Reps
5*
Rest
--
Work up to a 5-rep max.
Exercise 2 of 45

Bodyweight Dip

Equipment
Dip Station
Sets
--
Reps
50
Rest
--
Exercise 3 of 45

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 45

Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 5 of 45

Dumbbell Shrug

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--

Week 1

Thursday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 6 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
3
Reps
AMRAP*
Rest
--
Use a weight you think you can complete 12-15 reps with, then do 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
Exercise 7 of 45

Banded Pushdown

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
100
Rest
--
Exercise 8 of 45

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 10 of 45

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 11 of 45

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.

Week 2

Monday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 12 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
1
Reps
3
Rest
--
Work up to a 3-rep max.
Exercise 13 of 45

Bodyweight Dip

Equipment
Dip Station
Sets
--
Reps
55
Rest
--
Exercise 14 of 45

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 15 of 45

Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 16 of 45

Dumbbell Shrug

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12
Rest
--

Week 2

Thursday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 19 of 45

Banded Pushdown

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
100
Rest
--
Exercise 20 of 45

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
12
Rest
--
Exercise 21 of 45

Seated Rear Lateral Raise

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 5A-5C.
Exercise 22 of 45

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 5A-5C.
Exercise 23 of 45

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 5A-5C.

Week 3

Monday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 24 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
1
Reps
1
Rest
--
Work up to a 1-rep max.
Exercise 25 of 45

Bodyweight Dip

Equipment
Dip Station
Sets
--
Reps
60
Rest
--
Exercise 26 of 45

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 27 of 45

Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 28 of 45

Dumbbell Shrug

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--

Week 3

Thursday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 29 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
3
Reps
AMRAP*
Rest
--
*Use a weight you think you can complete 12-15 reps with, then do 3 sets of as many reps as possible.
Exercise 30 of 45

Banded Pushdown

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
100
Rest
--
Exercise 31 of 45

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 32 of 45

Seated Rear Lateral Raise

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 33 of 45

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 34 of 45

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.

Week 4

Monday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 36 of 45

Bodyweight Dip

Equipment
Dip Station
Sets
5
Reps
5
Rest
--
Exercise 37 of 45

Triceps Pressdown

Equipment
Adjustable Cable Machine, V-Handle Attachment
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 38 of 45

Dumbbell Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--
Exercise 39 of 45

Dumbbell Shrug

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
10
Rest
--

Week 4

Thursday

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 40 of 45

Barbell Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell, Bench
Sets
3
Reps
*
Rest
--
*Reps = 60% of the number of reps you did last Thursday, divided into three even sets.
Exercise 41 of 45

Banded Pushdown

Equipment
Sets
--
Reps
100
Rest
--
Exercise 42 of 45

Dumbbell Bentover Row

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
15
Rest
--
Exercise 43 of 45

Seated Rear Lateral Raise

Equipment
Bench, Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 44 of 45

Dumbbell Lateral Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
Exercise 45 of 45

Dumbbell Front Raise

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Do not rest between exercises 4A-4C.
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