The bench press is possibly the most popular exercise in gyms everywhere. Monday, otherwise known as national chest and biceps day for many, almost always starts with the bench press. Asking what somebody can bench is the most common question in strength training. While there are certainly better exercises than the bench, it is good to know how to increase this lift rapidly. Here are two possible methods.
High Frequency Benching
It has been said that to bench more, bench more.There are many programmes based on high frequency, with Sheiko being a prime example. This advice is often overlooked. Doing the same exercise several times a week leads to increased neural efficiency and greater strength gains. This is what strength coach Pavel Tsatsouline refers to as “greasing the groove”. Regular repetition of the bench improves technique quickly as well. This programme involves benching four times a week.
- Monday: 7 sets of 4 @ 80% of max.
- Wednesday: 5 sets of 2 @ 87.5%
- Thursday: Work up to a max then 3 sets of 2 @ 90%
- Saturday: 5 sets of 2 @ 80% (light session)
This cycle can be brutal on the shoulders so incorporating a complete warm up and shoulder pre-hab circuit is essential. Doing this for four to five weeks should be enough to produce solid gains in the bench press. It is important not to add in additional work for the upper body pushing muscles. Doing a session based around chins, pulls and squats one a week should be enough to for the rest of the body.
Westside Bench Specialisation
Westside Barbell in Columbus, Ohio is known for having some of the biggest benchers in the world. The method here is different from high-frequency benching and although it will lead to rapid strength increases, it also constitutes a long-term approach to strength training. The Westside method involves training the bench press twice a week, using three different methods. These methods are
- Maximum Effort (ME) . Lifting a weight that is as heavy as possible
- Dynamic Effort (DE). Lifting a weight that is well below maximum as fast as possible
- Repetition Effort (RE). Doing multiple sets of higher reps to build muscle.
This is how it all fits together.
- Monday. DE bench. Do eight sets of three repetitions at 60% of maximum. Rest periods should be kept short between the sets and the bar should be moved as fast as possible. This is followed by RE work for the shoulders, triceps and lats (for example, five sets of 10 to 12)
- Thursday. ME bench. Using a movement that is similar to the bench, the lifter works up to a maximum. This exercise should be changed every two to three weeks. Some examples of possible movements are board presses, close grip bench press, floor presses and bench presses using bands and chains. As on Monday, this is followed by hypertrophy work using the RE method.
Usually, two other days are dedicated to training the squat on the basic Westside template.
These two methods are sure to increase the bench press rapidly and can be added to any routine from time to time for a change.
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