My Favorite Bench Press Workout
For years I have used a very simplistic bench press routine when I want to go after raw strength gains and it just works like clock work 27 years. This just goes to show you that old school techniques are still working today and will continue to work. You apply resistances to your muscles, they respond, tear a bit, repair and get stronger. You rinse and repeat. It’s really that simple.
This is also why I really like doing the bodybeast program when I head back into the gym in the fall after a long summer of cycling. I don’t do any heavy weight lifting during the summer because I’m on the bike all the time and I don’t want to pack on any more upper body muscle at that point.
Bodybeast maybe an older program but the core concepts are still the same and they still freaking work. You can see why I like it here if you want to read more about the strength training routine.
My Favorite Bench Routine
Ok, I really got off track so let’s get back to the what bench press works that anyone can do who want to start seeing gains in 2-3 weeks time. The routine was originally made famous by the Nebraska Cornhusker football strength coach back in the 80’s. They took a very simplistic approach of doing 5 sets of 5 reps.
This is seems like a magic number once you get into the routine. It hits the lower end of working on power and the middle range of working on strength while not going into too many reps where you work on muscular endurance. This type of workouts is excellent for anyone needing to do pushing exercises in their sport. I would highly recommend this for any high school athlete who wants to strengthen their chest, tricep and shoulder muscles.
How To Do The Bench Routine
You will need to start out warming up your chest, triceps and shoulders. One easy way to do this is to start with 3 sets of 15 push ups. If you are using a regular adjustable olympic flat bench, I would start with something really light which might be the Olympic bar (45lbs) or something like 135 which would be the olympic bar and 1 45 pound dumbbell on each side of the bar.
If you are using a pair of dumbbells, I would start out with something like 25 pound dumbbells to get warmed-up.
Focus on your technique during warm up by lowering the bar slow, keep your feet solid on the floor with a sturdy base, shoulders rolled back, core tight, lowering the bar straight down touching the chest and coming up slow for a 2-3 second push.
We want to really stretch the muscles and get your muscle memory goal of what great technique is when we start packing on the weight later on in the routine.
Actual 5 sets x 5
You will have to get a feel for where to start for the first time doing this based on what you have done lately or previously. If you have no idea, don’t worry. Start light and figure it out as you go. The next time you do this, you can zero in better on what weight to start with based on where you finish the 5th set.
Just so we have something to go off of, let’s say you can bench 200 pounds max.
Let’s start out with 135 warm up of 10 reps.
For the 1st set I would probably go about 50 pounds lighter than my max and start with 150.
From there we will increment each set by 5 lbs if you can make the jump 2.5 if the last set was hard or keep the same weight if the previous set was super hard. Note what I said here. We want to keep adding resistance each set. Even if you stay the same and it’s still hard as heck to complete or you need a partner to assist you on the last few reps that still counts.
Here is what an example full workout would look like on paper.
- Set 1: 5 reps of 150lbs.
- Set 2: 5 reps of 160lbs.
- Set 3: 5 reps of 170lbs.
- Set 4: 5 reps of 180lbs
- Set 5: 5 reps of 190lbs
If you get to your 2nd or 3rd set and you can only do 2-3 reps out of the 5 you started way to heavy and need to go lighter.
Here is what another set might look like:
- Set 1: 5 reps of 150lbs.
- Set 2: 5 reps of 155lbs.
- Set 3: 5 reps of 160lbs.
- Set 4: 5 reps of 165lbs
- Set 5: 5 reps of 170lbs
There might be times that on your 4th and 5th set that you stay at the same weight as you did on your 3rd set. My point here is to be honest with yourself. Don’t cheat and go light. Put the weight on there that you can just barely get.
Bench Workout Workout Frequency
Another reason why I love this workout so much is that you only have to do it 3 days a week. You don’t want to do this workout every day. 3 days a week is a perfect range to give your muscles enough time to recover and repair in between workout days. I found that doing this on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday rotation works the best. Allow the weekend for a 2 day recovery period.
Pro Tip: Now when you start the next week, you will more than likely start with what you ended with on Friday.
It’s a judgement call as to how you feel if you want to start with the same weight you did on set 1 on Friday or not. There are times I just know I’m going to crush that and I automatically add an extra 5 or 10 pounds to the starting weight. If I do that, I adjust along the way to what my other sets will be. I love to add 10lbs each time but more than likely I’ll be adding 5lbs each set.
From personal experience I’ve seen it work like this.
On Monday’s, I’ll come in fresh and strong. I tend to see gains from my previous weeks workout on this day. In which case, I adjust my second set right away if my starting weight was too easy. Like I said above I usually repeats Friday’s set 1 weight to start out the workout unless I’m just feeling strong, in which case I add more starting weight.
On Wednesday’s, I usually repeat the weight ranges I did on Monday. I tend to struggle to get all 5 reps on the 4th and 5th set. This is a good thing by the way. You are really overloading your muscles when you nail it like this.
On Friday’s, I see a mixture of results. Sometimes I see gains right away and I have to add an extra 5 or 10 pounds to the set. There are other times that I struggle to hit all 5 sets clean because I really added more weight on Wednesday’s workout and I’m still recovering from it. Again this is all good. You are continuing you challenge your muscles to react, repair and grow stronger.
Best Bench Press Workout Summary
I’m pretty damn stoked to get this down on paper finally. I have shared this to so many people over the years verbally or showed them. Every time, I repeat every time this works! You will have to play with it to figure your starting weights. You will have to give this 3-4 weeks to really figure out your body, how it responds and what type of weight increments that work for your body type.
Please, please be faithful. Put your time in the gym and just do this like you have to eat breakfast every morning. I promise you won’t be disappointed. Make sure you absolutely keep track of your sets, reps and weight you did each day and each week. By week three you can look back at what you started and just smile. You will start to see your bench press increases and then you just get even more stoked!
Hit me up with any questions you might have and I’ll gladly answer what I can. There is a bench press program that is a really great program to follow if you really want to focus on bench a lot of weight or hit a new personal goal. You can check it out here to ready more about increasing your bench press.