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

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.

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Steve Shaw

Steve Shaw | Writer

Steve Shaw is the original founder of Muscle and Brawn, an experienced powerlifter with over 31 years experience pumping iron. During competition he’s recorded a 602.5lb squat, 672.5lb deadlift and a 382.5lb bench press.

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2 years ago

Is it once a week for the actual program?

Timothy John Estrada
Timothy John Estrada
2 months ago

Just starting this program (11 Dec 23). Will run about 5-6 months. Its on my bucket list to do an over 50 classic physique competition. Wish me luck.

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