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BendtheBar 02-18-2012 11:02 AM

How do you build a strong bench press?
This question is aimed at helping beginners to build bench press strength over the first couple years of training.

Possible topics that could be covered:

--Do you advocate a specific bench press or workout program?
--How frequently should the bench press be trained?
--How should progression be approached?
--Are assistance exercises needed, and if so which ones and how many?
--Is speed work needed, and if so, when?

What is the fastest way for a beginner to build his bench over the first 2 years of lifting?

MikeM 02-19-2012 12:18 AM

This is interesting to me as I have somewhat inadvertently gotten to be a relatively good bench presser relatively quickly and I have no idea why.

I benched a little bit haphazardly in college, but I think that is of no consequence. I started seriously lifting at 45 in 2009, and promptly got an impingement issue which kept me from benching at all for almost a year, although I did do some DB benching. Mostly I decided to OHP instead and got really into that for about 18 months.

Since joining this site in Feb 2011, when I started benching again with about a 185 max, I have pushed that up to 250 in just under a year. I used a Bill Starr 5x 5 for most of last year, then recently a 5x1 max out followed by a 5x5 backoff. But all I did was bench. No floor presses or paused work or speed work or anything. Just bench pressing. Well, with increasingly better form all along too.

I'm thinking just hammer the basics with good form is the best way to improve for a beginner. All those variations should come in only when weaknesses are obvious, or when stalled and in need of a change.

My .02, looking forward to what others think.

gaspers04 02-19-2012 12:20 AM

Ill chime in on this on when I have a little more time.

Off Road 02-21-2012 10:41 AM

Beginners need practice to get good at the bench press. This means that a routine that uses sets accross with a moderate rep range will be benefitial to them. I would also say that they should be practicing the lift 2 or 3 times a week to start with. Start with an easy weight, keep a good eye on perfect (safe) form, and add weight slowly; 2.5 to 5 lbs every session. As the weight gets heavy, relative to their strength levels, good form should be maintained throughout. Sets should be terminated when form breaks.

MikeC 02-21-2012 12:23 PM

I was going to say something similar to Off Road. I believe they need 2 bench press variation days per week with moderate sets and rep work to practice form and build stability.

J_Byrd 02-21-2012 01:52 PM

2 Attachment(s)
This is a small write up on how I would approach a new lifter who's goal was to develop their benchpress.


Developing a benchpress program for a beginner lifter can be a daunting task. Many things must be considered to develop an overall plan. Specifically two areas of focus should be noted. The first area is technique. A beginner must learn the specifics of how the movement works, the goals of the movement, and adjustments to make. The second area of focus would be that of training structure. What type of movements should I use, and when should I look to move on to more advanced techniques.

The first thing every lifter should focus on is technique. You can not get stronger if you are always hurt! There are many different styles of set up used, but the key points always remain the same. The first step is to develop a good arch. If you had someone get on a knee and look at you on the bench, they should be able to see light between the small of your back and the benchpress. This does not mean that your butt is off the bench! Your butt should be firmly planted on the bench, along with your feet on the floor. The next step is to make sure you are squeezing your shoulder blades together on the bench. The shoulder blades should be pulled together and down to help created an arch in the upper back. This will allow the lats to work better in lowering the bar to the chest. A third area of technique focus is the grip on the bar. Depending on the focus of the lifter, the bar grip will vary. For your average lifter, a mid range grip is suggested. Somewhere between pinkies on the power rings, and thumbs length out from the inside of the grip would be accurate. Finally one of the most debated areas of technique of the benchpress is the bar travel. The bar should touch in the area just below the chest, and just above the upper abdominal. The elbows should be tucked at the bottom until you begin to press. The bar should travel upwards and slightly back towards the face. During that time the elbows should start to become flared and help continue through to lockout.

When it comes to a lifting template you will get as many opinions as people you ask. I am a firm believer that progression is the key to strength gains. For a beginner I would suggest 4-6 reps in a difficult working range (80% or higher of projected max) for the max effort movement of the day. Broken up into segments the rep range will drop to keep increasing power. This is a delicate process as control and strength must go hand in hand. Each week weights should increase if the previous weeks sets were easy. All accessory work should be in the range of 8+. I suggest using a 3 day a week training split to help a beginner lifter move their bench. Day one will be to focus on the benchpress its self. Day two will have a focus on over the head pressing, and day three will consist of dumbbell benching.

Week fifteen take a week rest period, and begin to mentally prepare for week sixteen which will be attempting your first max in the benchpress.

Off Road 02-21-2012 02:58 PM

J Byrd, that looks really good. It has a nice mixture of simplicity and variety.

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