Sunday, December 11, 2011

Developing your raw bench - Part 3

Ok so the final installment in this series is nothing more than some routines I have used over the years to increase my bench.

One really good one I have used I wrote about before.  It's some simple programming that works really well, and should look familiar to most dudes and chics that drop in here.  I have written about it before, but in case you missed it i looks like this.

Training Max = 93% of Real Max

This is pretty simple.  If you can bench 315 as a MAX (I mean you actually did 315 and you consider that to be your actual MAX, not something imagined in your head, then you plug in 290 (rounded down) as the max. 290 is 93% of 315, if no one did the math here.

Week 1 - 80% x 1, 70%xmax reps
Week 2 - 85% x 1, 75%xmax reps
Week 3 - 90% x 1, 80%xmax reps
Week 4 - 93% x 1, 85%xmax reps
Week 5 - 95% x 1, 85%xmax reps
Week 6 - 98% x 1, 90%xmax reps
Week 7 - 100% x 3

So in week 7 you'd do 290x3.  Got it?

I will be running this over the 4 weeks (starting in week 4) in order to try to hit a 405 incline which has been a goal for a while.  So laid out in a spreadsheet this is how it looks........

MAX 405 Training Max 375
x1 xmax reps
week 1 295 265 goal 15+
week 2 315 280 goal 15
week 3 335 300 goal 12
week 4 350 315 goal 10
week 5 355 315 goal 10-12
week 6 365 335 goal 8
week 7 335 x 1, 375x1 405x1

I rounded the numbers up or down depending on how I saw fit.  You will also notice, that I set goals for the back off sets.  These are not arbitrary goal numbers.  If I can hit these goals week in and week out, or get very close, then 405 should be very doable.  In week 7, if I were benching I'd hit the triple with the 375 as normally planned, and I would know I would be good for 405.  In fact, 365x3 generally means 405 is doable, but you always want to have some in the tank for it.  

For me right now this always plays in with the next 6 weeks of back training I will be doing to launch into my meet work.  Incline is the only pressing I will be doing.  And 405 is something I have wanted to hit on incline for a while.  

The "all my shit hurts" routine -

This was my staple for a while, and was the thing that got my bench back up over 400 consistently.  My pec minor and elbows would not allow me to bench heavy each week, so I eventually settled on the fact that I could bench heavy every other week, and incline heavy in between and I had fewer elbow and pec issues.

Week 1 - 
Bench (heavy) - 5,4,3,2,1,1,1 (no back offs)
Incline (light) - 225 or 250 for max reps x 2 sets

Week 2 - 
Incline (heavy) - up to a top triple, 1x8-10 back off
Overhead Press - medium weight - 2 sets all out

This worked beautifully.  I stayed light on the inclines for reps after the heavy benching, and I avoided the back off sets on the bench.  This kept me from overworking things on that plane and my elbows and pec minor thanked me for it.  If you are an old gray pubes lifter like me, and feel beat up a lot from years of the heavy iron, this kind of thing can be a godsend.  Just keep the incline and other pressing light on the bench days.  

The "I need to press on another day!" routine -

This one I used for the USPF nationals and I felt good about it.  I don't/can't bench twice a week, and personally, I don't think you need to.  I know too many 500+ benchers that bench once a week to think I need to be benching multiple times a week.  

But I did do some pressing on an alternate day.  And this is what I did.  

Day 1 - 
Bench - cycle work
Curls and Triceps

Day 2 - 
Press Behind the Neck - 1-2 x 8-10
Db Bench - 2x15-20
Rear or Side Laterals light - 2-3x15-20

This also worked well for me.  I basically did the 100's on db bench each week, shooting for 20+ reps each set.  I never changed the weight there, and kept it light.  

I never used bands or chains or boards, or whatever.  Chains might be ok for a raw guy.  Bands?  I see no point.  Boards?  Useless IMO, and I've already explained why.  

This article is not long because these things have become the bread and butter of my training and have been for a LONG time.  I've tried the whole benching 3X a week shit, and all that ever did was irritate my joints and tendons.  Not for me.  

The main thing also is, to start LIGHT!  Too many guys start too heavy in the programming for their bench and they stall very fast.  Make sure you get a running start on the weights you are hitting.


  1. thank you paul carter this is great, regarding the first routine if you hit 100%x3 can u start over with a new cycle or should we deload and follow up the 9th week with 3 attempts? or can we start the seven week cycle with a new max based off of week 7s triple?

    - joe

  2. Paul can't thank you enough for the time and work you spend on these blogs.

    Do you recommend the 7 week 93% routine for leaning down? I know you don't recommend Big15 and Strong15 while cutting, and LRB while dropping bf.

    Have you tried that program for squat/deadlift as well? Or would the squat routine you posted about 15 months ago in the raw squat series be your recommendation.

  3. I don't think you're ever going to increase the bench while leaning down.

    I wouldn't program my squat or dead this way, no.

  4. Hey Paul,

    I recently hit 325 on bench. However, when I put my lower back off sets into Wendler's calculator, it tells me I should be able to do 350.

    I kind of believe it, because when I've missed heavier weights, it wasn't for want of pressing strength. It just feels really wobbly and I have a hard time keeping the right groove. Given that information, which of those 3 routines would you recommend?

  5. I would recommend trying to figure out why you feel wobbly first. Sounds like a setup issue.

  6. Another great post. With regards to the "all my shit hurts" routine, for the week 1/light incline, what is roughly the percentage used for the 2 sets of max reps? Using 400 lbs. as a max on the bench, 225/250 is about 56/62% respectively. Is that what you were using to determine the weight used on the incline or was there another method? Or just simply done by feel?

  7. I just thought 225 for reps seemed about right. Sometimes it was 250 for reps too.

  8. Generally speaking, how many reps were you hitting on the incline with 225 or 250?

    Also, what were your favorite tricep exercises when using the "all my shit hurts" routine? Any specific set/rep ranges used with them?

    Thanks for the advice.

  9. With 225 my PR is 21. With 250 I'd hit between 14 and 18 reps I believe.

  10. As far as triceps, just do what doesn't hurt. That means using a rope and cable stuff. Try to stay away from barbells and ez curls where your wrists are locked in.

  11. Paul, what routine is better for someone that had a 240 lbs max bench and wants to improve it to 300 lbs in 2012?

  12. Why don't you think about improving to 245 first?

    All of these are focused on simple progression and just getting stronger. figure out which one sounds more than what you need.

  13. A general comment on this whole series...Thanks for always stressing the difference between raw and geared lifting. That was something I didn't realize when I was a young lifter. Most of the powerlifting info out there was Westside style geared stuff, so the assumption was that it was best for everyone.

  14. Honestly that's such a weird thing to me. That most of the articles you see written by name guys, are based on geared benching. When the truth is, only a real small percentage of guys that lift, compete in multi-ply lifting. I guess they talk about it because it's what they know, but I personally think they would be doing everyone a favor and making sure they differentiate in the two.

  15. I think already know the answer. But my PR bench is 235x3 which I did last thursday before that I had a PR of 225x4 2 months before... which one do you suggest I should run the program at the top or big15? i just am tired of having a weak kitten bench press. Help.

  16. I think either one will work fine Pat.

  17. sup paul,
    when your elbow flares up, how do you handle it? are there any steps you take? i'm starting to feel some odd aches and pains myself.

    ps a cannibal could eat 4 square meals from each tarp of yours

  18. I pay attention to what it is I have been doing pressing wise, and if there is anything I need to take out.

    After that lots of various curls, light with lots of volume and reps.

  19. Hey Paul, been reading round and so intrigued by your write ups and just thoughts in general. Quick Q; With squatting, i see you always state work that lift more and more. I got caught up with the westside stuff until recently that as raw lifters we train differently. But just wanted to know with squats do you prefer training heavy singles for progress or doubles? Thanks mate

  20. My squat is an embarrassing 390 @ 202 now but deadlift is sitting high 550s, bench 330. i want to dedicate most of the year from June onwards to squats. Im thinking of hitting 405 first at foremost but want to get there by doing singles, doubles. Any advice on how to structure this? Thanks again Paul

    1. Most people have a lift that is below the others. This isn't uncommon.

      What I would start with is to check your technique and go from there. If your technique is spot on, then take a look at your programming.

  21. Hey Paul- I am intrigued by your "all my shit hurts" routine.

    Two questions: when doing the "bench (heavy) 5/4/3/2/1/1/1" sets, what should the starting weight be for the 5 reps in relation to your one rep max? Also, how should the weights differ for the sets of 4, 3, 2, 1, 1, and 1, respectively?

    Thank you.

    1. Roughly 50% for the first set of 5.

      The weights differ in that they get heavier each set. I know that sounds like a smart ass answer but it's around 10% jumps from the set of 5.

    2. Wow- much less than I thought.

      So, if the max is 250, it would look like this:

      125 X 5
      150 X 4
      175 X 3
      200 X 2
      225 X 1,1,1?

    3. No.

      did you order my programs? It's all laid out in there.

    4. Ah, ok.. will do that now.

      Thank you!

  22. Paul- I bought your program 3 weeks ago and have been using it for bench press only right now (to try and overcome a plateau)

    I'm a little uncertain by what you mean by "testing week". I just completed the first three weeks of my program and used your spreadsheet.

    Do I go to Week 4 now, or is there a testing week in between Weeks 3 & 4, and if so, what does the testing week consist of?

    Thank you.

    1. The testing week is in the third week where you do as many as possible on the back off set.

  23. Hello Paul, great series!

    I’m setting my max Bench Press at 280, that’s what I did at my last meet. 93% of that is 260. So the Week 1 80% is about 210. I can rep 210 paused for 8 reps. A single at 80% seems to be very light. What is the reasoning behind this?

    Joe J

    1. Paul,

      Never mind, I purchased Strength, Life, Legacy. Now I know.

      Joe J