Bench 9 19 D

We hope you’re enjoying our eight-part seminar on increasing your bench press max. As you’ve read, it’s not just about adding plates to the bar each week and hoping to eek out one or two more reps. A few other tricks of the trade – both gym-tested and research-based – can help you shatter your PR on the bench in short order.




This week, we address a fundamental issue that plagues most physique-minded gym-goers. With a focus on building bigger, better looking pecs, most guys fall back on the usual approach of trying to break down as much muscle tissue as possible through high-volume sets that take muscles beyond failure. This method – and variations of it – are most responsible for seeing the physiques you find throughout this website.

High Volume Sets

Volume is good, even for building strength. But for rapid strength gains, you need to think in terms of total volume of sets, rather than reps. This strength-gain tactic will help you lift more weight on your high-volume sets, which will help more for developing size and improving your chest aesthetic.

Bench 9 19 C

Focus On The First Rep

If you’re a powerlifter or a lifter or athlete in pursuit of strength gains, you should strongly consider performing more sets with fewer reps during your workout. A key to getting stronger is maximizing each set and each individual rep.

A “max” is the most you can lift one time. Let’s say you are going to do a total of 24 reps on the bench in one workout. A typical approach would be to do three sets of eight reps. When you perform high rep sets, it becomes increasingly harder to produce maximum force as the set wears on. You also get a total of only three first reps (one each set). 

>> PRESS POINT: If you’re serious about moving your max, buck the establishment and do eight sets of three reps. Now you get a total of eight first reps. It is easier to produce maximal force for only three reps than it is for eight. The duration of lifting a submaximal weight with maximal force is much closer doing it with three reps than with eight, when it relates to a 1RM. More sets and fewer reps is sport-specific if your sport is developing a big bench press.

As an aside, one study shows that on a five-rep set, after the third rep, the time to complete the fourth and fifth rep was twice as long.

Josh Bryant, MFS, CSCS, PES, is the owner of and co-author (with Adam benShea) of the Amazon No. 1 seller Jailhouse Strong. He is a strength coach at Metroflex Gym in Arlington, Texas, and holds 12 world records in powerlifting. You can connect with him on Twitter and Facebook or visit his website at


Strength Stack

Supplement                Dose

Whey protein              20 grams 30-60 minutes pre-workout; 40-60 grams immediately post-workout

Caffeine                       200-400 mg 1-2 hours before workouts

Creatine                      3-5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 3-5 grams with breakfast

Beta-alanine              1-1.5 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 1-1.5 grams with breakfast

Ribose                         5-10 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes; on rest days take 5-10 grams with breakfast

Taurine                        1-3 grams with pre- and postworkout shakes

Tribulus terrestris    250-750 mg with breakfast and one hour before workouts; do not take it on rest days

Fish oil                         4-6 grams in 2-3 divided doses with meals