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The Bench Press Workout Routine to Build All-around Strength

This three-day program built around classic power lifts will toughen up your entire body.

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Man Exercising - Dumbbell Bench Press
Fat Tony / Getty
Man Exercising - Dumbbell Bench Press
Fat Tony / Getty

No matter how long you can hold a yoga plank or how many packs you have on the front of your midsection, guys in the gym judge you on how much you can bench. Always have, always will. “Well,” you say, “I don’t train for them.” But you’re not exactly happy about maxing out at 185 either, are you?

Point is: It’s time to add some plates to the bar. We’ve got the program to help you do it, and the simplicity of it may surprise you. You’ll see big gains quickly—in eight weeks, we bet you’ll have added 35 pounds to your max. That’s more than some powerlifters can add in a year.

How it works

We don’t want you to get severe shoulder pain a few years down the road. So bench with your elbows tucked near your sides and your back arched. This takes a lot of pressure off your shoulders and gets your triceps more involved, making for safer and stronger bench pressing. You’re going to be training heavier than you’re probably used to. Sets of three reps on your main exercise of the day is ideal for quick strength gains (although you may have to go a little lighter if you haven’t trained in this range before—see below). The program works the whole body, which is crucial for maintaining balance and sparking overall growth.

Directions

Perform each workout (1, 2, and 3) once a week for eight weeks. Rest at least a day between each session. Each workout will take about 35 minutes.

Perform each exercise as straight sets, completing all the prescribed sets for one exercise before moving on to the next. If you have never trained with three reps per set before on your main lifts (this is a weight that’s so heavy it limits you to only three reps), spend two weeks training with five reps per set to start getting acclimated. Try to increase the poundages you use on the first exercise of each workout every week except during Week 4. That week, use light weights and perform 12 reps on every exercise—do not take these sets to failure. Repeat this cycle for the entire eight-week program.

Routine

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The bench press workout routine

Workout 1

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 1 of 3

Bench Press

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
3
Rest
--
Exercise 2 of 3

Close-Grip Bench Press

Equipment
Bench
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 3 of 3

Lying Triceps Extension

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 4 of 3

Dumbbell Floor Press

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--

The bench press workout routine

Workout 2

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 5 of 3

Squat

Equipment
Squat Rack
Sets
4
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 6 of 3

Dumbbell Lunge

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8 (each side)
Rest
--
Exercise 7 of 3

Romanian Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--

The bench press workout routine

Workout 3

Exercise
Equipment
Sets
Reps
Rest
Exercise 8 of 3

Deadlift

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
5
Reps
3
Rest
--
Exercise 9 of 3

Bentover Row

Equipment
Barbell
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 10 of 3

Pullup

Equipment
Pullup Bar
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
Exercise 11 of 3

Hammer Curl

Equipment
Dumbbells
Sets
3
Reps
8
Rest
--
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