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Big Bench Workout

June 10, 2015 | 0 Comments
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Let’s face it. Of all the barbell lifts available to strength and physique athletes the Bench Press is the most fun! There is nothing like loading up some HEAVY ASS weight with your gym squad and competing to see who is ‘The KING’ of the Bench.

But there comes a point for everyone when the Bench Press loses its appeal, typically for one reason… You get stuck! Continuing to BANG away at heavy pressing might work for a small minority, but for most of us it simply means ZERO progress and lack of motivation.

Grinding away with HEAVY sets is absolutely fundamental for building raw strength and a big bench, but just as important is developing EXPLOSIVE speed (Dynamic Effort) to help bust through plateaus, set new Personal Records (PRs) and take back the KING of Bench Press Title.

These powerlifting based workouts should be performed with at least 72 hours rest between… So if you perform Workout 1 (Max Effort Day) on Monday, then Workout 2 (Dynamic Effort/Speed Day) should be performed on Thursday. This will allow for adequate recovery between sessions, and strategically places the heavy lifting at the beginning of the week when you have had opportunity to rest on the weekend.

For this workout we highly recommend the following:

  1. A reliable and strong training partner
  2. A pair of TMJ Wrist Wraps to prevent dreaded wrist injuries

OK, let’s BREAK some bars!

Workout 1 of 2 (Max Effort Day)

For our Max Effort Days we are going to lay it all out on the table in the first exercise – the Bench Press, of course! Slowly work up to 90%-95% of your previous One Rep Max then try to hit a new PR. Even if it is only a PR increase of 0.5 – 1kg, the goal is to keep pushing past what you have done before. Following the Bench Press, we’re going to perform 3 – 4 accessory exercises that will help to build size and strength for the main muscle groups used in the Bench Press.

Exercise 1: Barbell Bench Press

As a powerlifter, the Bench Press is what is tested in competition so this will be the movement focus for the main lift. Accessory work will follow to help sure up any weaknesses but as the first exercise we want the biggest ‘BANG for our buck’ and the experience of practicing the specific movement under heavy loads.

You should already know your current 1RM so we want to go beyond this, even if it is only by 1-2kg. Take your time warming up to 90%- 95% of your current 1RM, focusing on good bar path and staying ‘tight’. Give yourself at least 4-5 minutes rest then attempt a new PR for the day. If you hit a new MAX (PR) take 90% of that weight and perform 3 back-off sets of 1 rep to get in some extra volume for the day and become comfortable moving some heavy weight.

For a complete video guide on how to perform the Barbell Bench Press click Here.

Set 1: Warm up set,  use 50% of current 1RM for 8 reps

Set 2: Warm up set, use 70% of current 1RM for 5 reps

Set 3-5: Work up to 80%, 85% & 95% of current 1RM for 1 rep

Set 6: Work up to a new MAX (PR) for 1 rep

Set 7-9: Back-off sets, take 90% of the new MAX and perform 1 rep.

Exercise 2: Dumbbell Incline Bench Press

Driving the bar off the chest often comes down to the ability of the Pectorals to produce force quickly and reverse the path of the bar. Using dumbbells allows the elbows to move below the chest allowing you to develop strength through a greater range of motion which can substantially improve the ‘drive’ out of the bottom of the Bench Press. Performing the movement on an incline provides some additional stimulation to the upper pecs and shoulders to help pack on some new muscle and increase strength. 

Check out our comprehensive video on the Dumbbell Incline Bench Press.

Set 1: Warm up using a light weight for 10-12 reps

Set 2: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 10-12 reps

Set 3: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 8-10 reps

Set 4: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 6-8 reps

Set 5: Working set, use the same weight as the first working set perform As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)

*Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Exercise 3: Close Grip Bench Press

It’s not unusual for the triceps to be the weakest link in the chain when it comes to the Barbell Bench Press. Weak triceps will significantly reduce the amount of weight on the bar and will make the top lockout portion of the lift very difficult. The Close Grip Bench Press variation is a great way to shift more emphasis to the Triceps and sure up those weaknesses. To perform the movement take a grip approximately 2 finger widths inside your typical grip, as the weight is lowered focus on keeping the lats tight and the elbows ‘tucked’ towards the sides of the body. If you really want to up the activation of the triceps we recommend pausing for a 1-2-3 count at the chest. This will not allow you to simply ‘bounce’ the weight out of the bottom position and will build immense tricep strength.

For a complete video guide on how to perform the Close Grip Bench Press click Here.

Set 1: Warm up using a light weight for 10-12 reps

Set 2: Warm up using a moderate weight for 8 reps

Set 3-6: Working sets, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 6-8 reps.

Exercise 4: Weighted Dips

Weighted Dips are a great accessory movement to finish off a HEAVY session. The mechanics of the dip carries over to the Bench Press far better than any cable or machine movement, not to mention the challenge of moving your own body plus additional weight. When loading up the weight for this movement make sure to keep within a safe range of motion, we recommend lowering until the upper arms are parallel with the ground then pushing yourself back to the top.

Set 1: Warm up set, using just bodyweight for 8-10 reps

Set 2: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 10 reps.

Set 3: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 8 reps.

Set 4: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 6 reps.

Set 5: Working set, using just bodyweight perform As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)

* Rest 2-3 Minutes between sets

Workout 2 of 2 (Dynamic Effort/Speed Day)

During the Dynamic Effort/ Speed Day the focus is on generating explosive power and acceleration throughout the entire movement of the Bench Press and its variations. To effectively utilize speed/power the main movement should be performed at 65%-75% of a 1-Rep Max, keep the reps in the lower range of 2-3 per set with short rest periods of 60-90 seconds to allow for enough recovery to move EVERY SINGLE rep as FAST as possible. Just because were looking to move the bar quickly doesn’t mean form goes to S$!T, keeping everything ‘tight’ and focus on perfecting your form.

Exercise 1: Speed Bench Press

The Speed Bench Press is exactly the same movement as a heavy Barbell Bench Press performed at a lower weight and with a focus on being as EXPLOSIVE as possible. Using 65%-75% of a true 1RM, perform multiple sets of 2-3 reps. Each rep should be performed as quickly as possible, however form still needs to be ON POINT to ensure the movement carries over when you pile on the POUNDS during your next PR attempt.

Set 1: Warm up using a light weight for 6-8 reps

Set 2: Warm up using a moderate weight (65%-75%) for 5 reps

Set 3-10: Use 65%-75% of your 1RM, perform 2-3 reps as explosively as possible*

*Rest 60-90 seconds between sets

Exercise 2: Paused Wide Grip Bench

Small tweaks in grip and tempo can be significantly challenging and help to create awareness of fully utilising dormant muscle groups. The Paused Wide Grip Bench is a favourite of ours for learning how to completely engage the chest when driving the Bench Press into lockout.

To perform the movement take a grip that is 2-3 finger widths beyond where you typically place your hands on the bar. We recommend using a spotter to help lower the weight as the extra strain on the outer pec caused by the wider grip will take some getting used to. The elbows will become more ‘flared’ during the movement which can increase the risk for injury, so we recommend using no heavier than 80% of a 1RM for 3-5 reps. Focus on lowering the weight slowly until it touches your chest and hold for a 1-2-3 count before exploding the weight to the lockout position. This movement will help so create smooth form and tightness at the bottom of the press and carries over very well to the traditional Bench Press.

Set 1: Set 1: Warm up using a light weight for 6-8 reps

Set 2-5: Use 70%-80% of 1RM, perform 3-5 reps with a controlled pause at the chest.

* Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Exercise 2: Standing Military/ Overhead Press

There is no doubt that pressing overhead with an upright torso is far more challenging than its horizontal counterpart the Bench Press. Adding in some ‘pure’ shoulder work is a great way to gain more muscle mass and strength in the upperbody and the increased mobility required when going overhead can really help alleviate ‘jacked-up’ shoulders. We recommend performing the movement either standing or sitting in a power rack, using grip slightly narrower than that used in the Barbell Bench Press. 

Learn how to safely perform the Standing Military / Overhead Press Here.

Set 1: Warm up set, using a light weight for 8-10 reps

Set 2: Warm up set, using a moderate weight for 6-8 reps

Set 3-5: Working sets, use a weight that causes failure around 6 reps.

Exercise 4: Dumbbell Row

Dumbbell Rows are not likely to be the first exercise one thinks of when looking to tweak their program for a BIGGER Bench. However having a THICK wide back is terribly important in the bench press providing a stable base to press off out of the bottom. During the Bench Press as the triceps are brought down with the elbows tucked, they can literally ‘spring’ against the lats offering increased leverage and helping with putting up BIG numbers! We recommend performing the movement leaning against a bench or dumbbell rack, make sure to keep the elbows tucked and get a strong contraction with each rep.

Set 1: Warm up set, using a light weight for 10-12 reps

Set 2: Warm up set, using a moderate weight for 8-10 reps

Set 3: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 10 reps.

Set 4: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 8 reps.

Set 5: Working set, use a heavy weight that causes failure at 6 reps.

*Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

Exercise 4: EZ-Bar Skull Crusher

Moving into the final accessory exercises for the day, the EZ-Bar Skull Crusher is a great way to build Tricep strength near the insertion of the elbow. Keep the weight moderate and perform the movement in a controlled fashion, this will help to keep the elbows healthy and reduce the risk of developing tendinitis. From week to week change the exercise slightly by switching from flat, incline and decline variations of this lift, this will keep the work feeling fresh and also target slightly different muscle groups in the process.

Set 1: Warm up using a light weight for 10-12 reps

Set 2: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 10-12 reps

Set 3: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 8-10 reps

Set 4: Working set, use a weight that causes failure at 6-8 reps

Set 5: Working set, use the same weight as the first working set perform As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP)

*Rest 2-3 minutes between sets

 

So there you have it, an extremely effective program for adding some extra POUNDS to your Bench Press. 

This two-prong approach of training with MAXIMAL loads and MAXIMUM power, will have you BUSTING a new PR in no time at all!

 

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