Chest Exercises

Develop a Big-Time Bench

Want to turn every head in your gym? Give us 12 weeks.

The Big Bench Plan

Your first step involves finding your one-rep max (1RM). If you train by yourself and don’t feel safe doing this, you can use the following formula to calculate your estimated 1RM:
Weight used x reps x 0.0333 + Weight = estimated 1rm.
Once you’ve established this number, you can set your percentages for the next 12 weeks (percentage + sets and reps):
WEEK 1: 70% x 3x5
WEEK 2: 75% x 3x5
WEEK 3: Work up to 95% for one rep (not to failure)
WEEK 4: 65% x 3x5
WEEK 5: 80% x 3x5
WEEK 6: 85% x 3x5
WEEK 7: Work up to 95% for one rep (not to failure)
WEEK 8: 65% x 3x5
WEEK 9: 90% x 3x3
WEEK 10: 95% x 3x3
WEEK 11: try to beat your 1RM by 5 pounds
WEEK 12: 65% x 3x5


Your Start

To develop that initial shove off your chest, you’ll need to train your legs and train them hard. It may sound a little counterintuitive, but the lower body serves as the foundation for bench pressing power. At the bottom of a properly executed press, your body is like a coiled spring, with all that potential energy stored in your legs. Fail to train your lower body to uncoil explosively and you’re sacrificing significant poundage.

To begin building this base you’ll want to dedicate one training day entirely to developing your lower body. You’ll squat, deadlift, and get your entire posterior chain ready to both drive and support heavy bench pressing. These lifts will strengthen your legs, of course, but they’ll also recruit your core and lower and upper back.

Your Platform

Though you may be supporting the bar with your arms and chest while benching, it’s your back that will be supporting the rest of your body as you brace yourself on the bench. Once you get the bar moving with your leg drive, it’ll be your lats that give you the push that accelerates the bar toward the midpoint of your bench stroke.

The exercises in this program work your back from all angles, providing the kind of volume and intensity that will give you overall mass and width, as well as improving your bench. In addition to performing deadlifts—which, by the way, are a vastly underrated upper-back movement—to work your lower body, you’ll be doing a pair of exercises that engage the lats in the same plane as the bench press: T-bar rows and chestsupported rows. You’ll finish off your back with a healthy dose of another great upper-body builder, pull-ups.

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