Strength Building Workouts

5×3 Bench Press Program: Increase Your Strength With This Workout

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This is an auto-regulating workout routine designed specifically to help you bring your bench press numbers up.

  • Training Level: Intermediate
  • Goal: Increase Strength
  • Split: 4 Day Upper/Lower
  • Duration: Repeatable

You can continue to run this program over and over again as many times as you’d like. After you reach the end of each cycle, take a deload week before starting up again.

If you do not want to follow the 4 day split as listed, you can remove the 5×3 bench press work and insert it into just about any other program. Just make sure that you maintain a reasonable amount of assistance work, as this is a vital part of improving your bench press strength.

How the Bench Press Program Works

This bench press program is broken up into 3 segments:

  • Weeks 1-2 –  Rep Work. You will try to perform 5 sets x 8 reps on the bench press, increasing intensity (weight) during the second week.
  • Weeks 3-4 – Transition period. You will move to a 5×5 with heavier weights.
  • Weeks 5 to completion – You will begin the 5×3 portion of this program, and begin “auto-regulation.”

Here are the weights for weeks one and two:

  • Week 1 – 60% of your one rep max. 5 sets of as many reps as possible, but no greater than 8 reps per set.
  • Week 2 – 65% of your one rep max. 5 sets of as many reps as possible, but no greater than 8 reps per set.

Don’t worry if you are unable to get 8 reps per set. Stop each set when you feel you “might” fail on the next rep. There is no need to train to failure.

Weeks 3 and 4 will be:

  • Week 3 – 70% of your one rep max. 5 sets of as many reps as possible, but no greater than 5 reps per set.
  • Week 4 – 75% of your one rep max. 5 sets of as many reps as possible, but no greater than 5 reps per set.

Again, do not train to failure. Perform as many reps as possible, stopping when your form breaks down, or when you feel like you might fail on the next rep.

Starting with week 5, auto-regulation begins. You begin with 80% of your one rep max for 5 sets of 3 reps each.

  • Week 5 – 80% of your one rep max. 5 sets of 3 reps.

bench press

Completing the Cycle With Auto-Regulation

Starting with week 6, you will be adding 5 pounds to the bar each week. When you are unable to hit 3 reps on a set you drop it.

Continue this pattern of adding weight and dropping sets until you are no longer able to perform a triple for one set. When this occurs take a deload week, and start the program over using 60% of this weight during week one.

Here is an example cycle for a lifter who currently has an estimated 250 pound bench press. Numbers are rounded down to the nearest 5 pounds.

  • Week 1 – 150 pounds x 5 sets x 8 reps (60% of 1RM)
  • Week 2 – 160 pounds x 5 sets x 8 reps (65% of 1RM)
  • Week 3 – 175 pounds x 5 sets x 5 reps (70% of 1RM)
  • Week 4 – 185 pounds x 5 sets x 5 reps (75% of 1RM)
  • Week 5 – 200 pounds x 5 sets x 3 reps (80% of 1RM)
  • Week 6 – 205 pounds x 5 sets x 3 reps (80% of 1RM + 5 pounds)

Continue adding 5 pounds each week. Again, when you are unable to hit 3 reps for a set, drop it. So if you can only perform 2 reps on your last set during week 6, you will be down to 4 working sets for week 7.

If you miss 3 reps on two sets during any given workout, both of those sets are dropped.

When you are down to one set, keep adding weight week in and week out as long as you are hitting 3 reps.

Deloading or Testing Your One Rep Bench Press Max?

After you fail to hit 3 reps for a single set, you may choose to try for a new PR the following week. Take a week completely away from benching, rest, and then test your max exactly one week later. Follow this with a deload week.

A bench deload should be 60% of your max for only 3 sets of 5 reps per set.

The 5×3 Bench Press Program

As mentioned, you can run the bench press 5×3 program with nearly any split or combination of assistance exercises. The following program is merely one option.

  • Monday – Heavy Bench Press + Upper
  • Tuesday – Lower, Squat Focus
  • Thursday – Moderate Bench + Upper
  • Friday – Lower, Deadlift Focus
Heavy Bench Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
 Bench Press  5  * As Noted
 Dumbbell Bench Press  3  10
 Barbell Rows  3  6-10
 Chin Ups  3  AMAP
 Seated Dumbbell Press  3  10
 Skullcrushers  3  10
 Dumbbell Curls  3  10
Lower, Squat Focus
Exercise Sets Reps
 Squats  5  5
 Stiff Leg Deadlift  3  8-10
 Goblet Squats  3  10
 Leg Curls  3  10
 Seated Calf Raise  3  15
 Ab Wheel Rollouts  3  10
 Cable Crunches  3  15-20
Moderate Bench Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
 Close Grip Bench Press  5  5
 Incline Bench Press  3  8
 Dumbbell Rows  3  10
 Pull Ups  3  AMAP
 Military Press  3  10
 Two Arm Seated Dumbbell Extension  3  10
 Barbell Curls  3  10
Lower, Deadlift Focus
Exercise Sets Reps
 Deadlifts  5  3
 Squats  3  10
 Leg Press  3  15-20
 Leg Curls  3  10
 Standing Calf Raise  3  15
 Plank  3  60 Seconds
 Weighted Decline Sit Ups  3  15-20

Workout Notes

This is not an easy program, nor is it light on volume. It’s best to attempt a program like this while eating in a calorie surplus.

For improved results, use an aggressive eating plan while running this. The extra food usually goes a long way with helping your bench press numbers move up.

You can run this program back to back as many times as you’d like. Remember, no program is magic. If you’re not seeing the results you want, eat more, sleep more, drop your cardio a bit…and then eat some more.

If you run this program, please let us know how it went in the comments section below. Also, if you have any questions, feel free to leave them below as well.

Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw is the founder of Muscle and Brawn, and a powerlifter with 30+ years of experience. Steve's recorded a 600lb squat, 672lb deadlift and a 382lb bench press.
Steve Shaw

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  • saeed mazloom Apr 28,2016 at 11:13 am

    Just did my first day of this workout after taking a week off from training. Felt very good but I added a few things at the end like tricep dips as well as a bit more bicep. Looking forward to lower body tomorrow!

  • Adam Jul 6,2015 at 1:07 am

    I may start this program, but I have a few questions that I need clarified. If I miss a rep on my second to last set, would I still continue and try my last set, or just drop it? As for deloading, I usually find myself doing a deload the week before I test my max, and after, so I don’t have a week of doing nothing for the bench but accessories before maxing. Should I continue doing this during the program?

  • George Dempsey May 12,2015 at 5:33 pm

    And one more very important thing that never gets mentioned in these internet genius workout plans. Without proper technique and good mechanics of the lift itself you’re pissing into the wind!!

    • Anabolix198 May 30,2015 at 9:42 am

      That is a given… no one needs to say “keeps your eyes open when driving.”

  • George Dempsey May 12,2015 at 4:31 pm

    Want to learn how to get strong?! Go on you tube and watch and study Lou Simmons westside barbell training methods! The rest is all bullshit!!!

    • Mike Andrews Aug 6,2015 at 7:42 pm

      West side is more appropriate for geared lifters. That has been proven tone and time again.

  • Mike May 10,2015 at 11:33 pm

    Hi started this program over a year ago, and already have gone up 120 pounds on my bench press. I Started off doing 350 pounds on the bench for a 1rm. Now Im doing roughly 470 bench press!

    • Devon Jun 3,2015 at 4:13 am

      steroids. hahahaha just kidding 🙂

  • Anabolix198 Apr 1,2015 at 9:45 am

    This seems like a great plan. Very similar to what I have been doing (legs, back and chest, twice per week). However, I have a question regarding the bench press regime. Are the beginning weeks of this bench press routine meant to be “very easy”, relatively speaking? My 60% 1RM is 198, which happens to be my exact body weight. I know I can cleanly rep out 30+ reps using 200 lbs, because my training partner and I occasionally hit body weight equivalence to failure.

    I understand that gaining strength (training CNS) is best achieved by NOT going to failure, but do you think that limiting myself to just 8 reps, when I can achieve an average of 32 or so reps, will hinder my progress in anyway? Do you think I should start at week 4 or 5? Speaking of week 4 or 5, my 80% is calculated at 269, which I can cleanly rep 8-9 on an average day, but the protocol for this routine is to only do 3 reps. Of course, I understand that after week 9 or so it will eventually get me to struggle since I would be adding weight to the bar proportionally faster than my strength gains.

    Should I possibly alter anything or start at a later week? Any advice will be helpful. I am sort of a beginner/intermediate at weight lifting and very ambitious.

  • DeYoung Dec 12,2014 at 5:47 pm

    Question.. im gonna try this. But what weight do i use on my thursday close grip presses and decline?

  • jeff smith Oct 24,2014 at 11:28 pm

    I’m 47 years old and have started back lifting about 2 years ago from probably about a 15 year layoff. I started back doing total body routines on Mon. And Thurs. because of my schedule and they have worked good for me giving me enough breaks between workouts and was wanting to try this program, how would you recommend me converting this to my schedule.Thanks for your help

  • Johnny boy Oct 12,2014 at 5:56 pm

    i do something similar to this. 4-3-2-2 bench 71% 74% 77% 79 percent pause reps, i alternate though 5×5 sometimes, 4×6 etc. with weighted dips 4×10 sometimes i go up an additional plate, for 8 reps, db flyes at 75 lbs now i go up each week by 10 lbs that for 4×10. tuesday squats 5×8 low as shit though now im at 325 lbs every two week i go up 10lbs, one legged squats 4×10 75lbs each hand go up as needed, hang clean into a squat 5×5 225lbs i go up with gains. abs wednesday 5×20 superrset setted exercises usually every ab workout i can think of at the time. thursdays 4×8 70% pause again bench, incline press 4×8, chess press 4×10. friday legs.. 5×6 front squats at 75% one legged squats 4×10 again, lunges 4×20. it varies weekly this this week’s. i am 217 lbs 17 years old, pr 415 bench, 510 squat, 305 clean and jerk. i dont mess with deadlifts though…

    • kory Nov 15,2014 at 1:48 am

      I call total b.s. and challenge you to record yourself doing each one of those sets that you called out. I don’t believe you could do half that weight and half those sets with the lower weight.

  • BVail Jul 22,2014 at 12:01 pm

    Currently on week 5 my numbers were a little off my max right before this program was 225 on bench. Currently I am on week 5 doing roughly 92% of my one rep max. 80% was too light. I could have done 5X8 with it. Already feeling stronger and seeing strength gains. ???? going to continue this and keep pushing love the results

  • Goose Jul 21,2014 at 5:42 am

    How long should you rest per set

  • Chris Jun 24,2014 at 10:08 am

    Stupid question but can I apply this to dead lifts and squats? 5×8, 5×5, 5×3?

    • Anabolix198 Apr 1,2015 at 11:18 am

      Since the author is not the greatest at responding, except when he came to tell someone that they are asking a “stupid ass question”, I will go ahead and answer this question.

      In simple language: YES! You can apply this routine to any major compound lift if you are seeking to gain strength. Gaining strength is more about training the CNS and less about metabolic training. That is why you will see relatively smaller people being able to move A LOT of weight. When training under 8 reps per set, you are training your CNS to fire better, essentially.

      However, I do not recommend doing heavy sets of squats and dead-lifts on the SAME day, as the CNS will be fried and you could potentially do more harm than good. Make sure you do two or three effective assistant exercises along with your leg days to make sure you maintain mobility and to provide some direct isolation to pump more blood into the muscles before ending the workout.

  • pete Jun 15,2014 at 11:57 am

    how much tren would help this out???

  • Ibrahim May 5,2014 at 1:33 am

    What is the recommended rest period between sets?

    • Odis Jun 17,2014 at 8:14 pm

      What is the recommended rest period between sets?

    • Anabolix198 Apr 1,2015 at 11:22 am

      This depends on your goals. If your goal is to gain strength on the Bench Press, rest 2-3 minutes between each set, ESPECIALLY during weeks 4 and after. For the sets that allow for 10 reps, such as bicep curls, triceps extensions, leg press, leg curls, calf raises, etc. resting for 60-90 seconds will be sufficient since this is more hypertrophy training.

      Hope this helps!

  • JJJ88 Apr 6,2014 at 5:53 pm

    For those of you that have done this workout, what do you normally do on Wednesday? Rest day? Or free lift?

    • Anabolix198 Apr 1,2015 at 11:24 am

      Definitely rest! If you want a free lift, do it on Saturday or Sunday. Lifting on Wednesday would mean that you are lifting 5 days in a row, which leaves very little room for gains.

  • Collin Mar 21,2014 at 8:30 pm

    I am a high school football player and my coach has been using this routine for us on front squats, squats, bench, straight arm bar curls, and power cleans and I have become so much stronger and it’s only been 2 months my bench max has gone up 35 pounds I’m now benching 305. This really works.

    • fletch Jan 25,2015 at 6:53 pm

      sorry collin, do you think you could right up the program your coach uses

  • Bobby Feb 4,2014 at 11:52 am

    Is it just me or does 60% of your 1rm seem like way to little weight for 8 reps? When I shoot for 8 reps I usually load the bar with 70–80 percent of my 1rm. Looks like a great workout but I might add more weight than they suggest

    • Aaajn Oct 10,2014 at 4:10 am

      The first few sets are easy. But 5 sets of 8 is no joke. Also, rather than trying to take a shortcut, follow the plan as written. You’ll be able to ride it out a lot longer. This shit works.

  • rod sargent Feb 3,2014 at 5:45 pm

    Hey I started working this routine I love it I feel jacked after workouts can I run this routine for squats 5%3

  • Yan Feb 2,2014 at 5:33 pm

    Hey guys! I’d like to ask you how many times a week is good to perform the bench press program? Can I do the Week 1 routine more than once in that same week?
    Thanks for considering my asking. 🙂

  • Christian Gonzales Jan 17,2014 at 6:33 pm

    I followed this program for 11 weeks. My starting max was 280 on bench, and it was very solid. My max at the end of this program was 385, the most I’ve ever pressed in my life (my previous pr was 320)! I know 105 lbs. Is a big gain, but I swear I’m not joking or pulling anyones chain. Im completely natural. The only things I take are my protein shake after workout and my pre-workout before. Thanks a lot for this program! (I did tweak a few things on the way I did some things during the program)

  • Diezy Dec 20,2013 at 11:35 pm

    I just finished my first cycle using this program and my 1rm starting out was 91kg. By week 5/6 I was pushing my 1rm up 3x solidly. When I wasn’t able to complete one full set (95kg) I tryied for a new 1rm and maxed at 102kg. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but I currently don’t use ANY kind of supplements and I definitely could have eaten much more (most days only 3 meals+snacks) to increase my power, but given the circumstances I like my results and will continue to use the program.

    Good stuff IMO. I’ll eat more and get on some whey protein then get back to you guys after cycle 2 with results lol 😉

    • Mick Madden Dec 21,2013 at 12:41 am

      Great to hear it.

    • Shin Jun 27,2014 at 5:20 am

      what was your weight and how was your weight gain like during those few weeks?

      • Diezy Jun 28,2014 at 4:03 pm

        At the time I started I was about 160lbs/72kg and after first completion I was around 165lbs/74kg. But like I said, I wasn’t taking any supplements at the time or eating as much as I should have been to make bigger gains.

  • Jasper Nov 14,2013 at 9:08 pm

    this workout makes no sense to me, It will take 10 weeks just to be lifting what you could currently lift 3 reps before you start the program.

    The only way I see a long time running program to have any value is if you could consistently add 5 pounds to the bar like the program states starting in week 6 and continue being able to add 5 pounds every week all the way up to like week 20 just to break even on the strength I would have gained because Im currently adding 6lbs to BP every month.

    Basically I wouldnt see any gains with this program VS what Im currently doing unless I lasted passed week 20! How long do these programs last?? I would do it if I could make it to week 24 just to gain 15lbs on my BP over current gains im making..not sure the strain on my joints would be worth such a marginal gain. This program is only good for those stuck in plateaus IMO.

    • Mick Madden Nov 15,2013 at 12:22 am

      You are speaking out of ignorance. A program is a tool. Don’t come on here slamming something that works just because you are already making progress. If you don’t need it, great. Just don’t run your e-jockey mouth condemning something you haven’t tried. You look like an idiot.

      • Jasper Nov 15,2013 at 5:45 am

        @Mick Madden

        If you read my post you would see I was speaking for myself. I also asked questions about the program. You are the one who came here and just took shots at me for no reason. Pretty Immature.

        How about next time try clarifying with someone before you start being an internet tough guy. I dont think I condemned this program at all. Like I said its probably best suited for guys who have hit plateaus IMO and when my gains start to temper off in however long and say Im stuck with my BP 1rm at 300-330lbs or whatever Im sure I will give this program a try.

        maybe trying being more constructive with your time. peace

    • Jasper Nov 15,2013 at 5:51 am


      If you know the program so well and read my post maybe you could have suggested that since Im still making gains readily I would try this program in a modified way by instead of increasing the weight week to week by 5% during the early weeks I could do it by 10% .

      I wouldnt just attempt that alteration on my own because Ive never done a 5×5 or 5×3 program and dont know if they would have a negative impact on end gains. Moral of the story. Help people out..dont be another internet toughguy…I think theres enough of them

    • Tony Correa Dec 11,2013 at 10:01 pm

      Based on your math adding 5lbs per week from week 6 to your arbitrary week 20 is an additional 75 lbs over 80% of 1rm. My 1rm is 405, 80% is 326. So at week 20 I’m benching 400 3reps, solid. That’s an estimated 442 max. Sounds like a hell of an increase if you ask me.

      • Jasper Dec 14,2013 at 5:49 am

        @Tony Correa

        Im not/wasnt trashing the program. I was just looking for clarification because the program just doesnt seem to work out for me personally at this time. I think its definitely helpful if you’re pressing serious weight already and possibly plateaued. Im still adding 6lbs a month sometimes more to my working bench so the program just wouldnt be helpful to me at this time is all.

        congrats on 405 man. Im sure once my gains level off Ill give this program a go.

  • Niel Oct 21,2013 at 4:20 am

    okay listen. I am 16 years old and i have been training for about a year now. i feel like i have done LOTS of progress in especially my arms and shoulders, but it doesnt seem like my chest wanna get any stronger. i normally do 5×8 sets with 70 kg. got some problems with the last set, so im quite sure im at the right amount of weight. But since i started training my chest, it just wont get any stronger.
    i have been cutting alot since i was slightly overweight, so i dont eat more that 1400 kcal a day. I now weight 76 kg with a bodyfat percentage of 10%
    Hope you can help me 🙂 Niel

    • Steve Jan 29,2014 at 2:20 pm

      Eat and do this program. The 5×3 at the end should help you build strength. And eating during this program won’t necessarily make you fat again, you’ll need the calories though to build more strength.

  • LouDawg Oct 20,2013 at 5:18 pm

    Going to give this a go, need to improve my bench and this system makes sense…I’m going to apply this to my squats and deadlift as well to increase numbers..I’ll keep you guys posted, thanks

  • T.R. Sep 1,2013 at 6:14 pm

    Can you tell me how many trainees you have supervised using this program and what kind of results your trainees have had? What was average bench strength increase after 1 cycle? What age range were the lifters that trained this program? Have you also run this program yourself and what were your results?

    • Mick Madden Sep 1,2013 at 7:21 pm

      I would wager that 98% of people that run this, or any other program, fail miserably. I’m afraid you won’t find the answers in statistics or numbers. They can’t measure what truly creates success. I would suggest you try the program and let me know hoe it went a year from now.

  • no2extremerushreview Aug 21,2013 at 2:30 am

    A must try workout. Thanks for sharing.

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