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Articles > Weight training > Increasing Your Bench Press
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Getting Strong! Getting Huge!
I've learned many lessons over the years, but I believe two are paramount. One, you must allow science, and not the many self-proclaimed experts out there, to guide your training efforts. Two, if you want to develop muscle size, you have to focus on gaining strength. You almost don't even need to worry about size, just about getting stronger. It's quite elementary really. Exercise physiology demonstrated many years ago that fast-twitch muscle fibers have a greater propensity toward growth, and the way to train them is with heavy weight.

That's what this program is about - strength. In my estimation, this 12-week program can increase your bench press anywhere from 20—40 pounds. How much size that translates into is hard to say. But since you can't move significantly more weight without adding beef, just go to work and see what happens.

I designed this program based on principles of periodization, a training system that has been proven over and over again as the most effective training modality. You'll start off with low volume (sets/reps) and intensity (amount of weight lifted), then increase the volume dramatically and the intensity slightly. As the intensity continues to grow, you'll start decreasing the volume. You'll even work in an "unload" week (week 7) designed to allow for additional recuperation before you start taking it to the limit. Also, this routine calls for a lot of work. It's actually more of a bodybuilding strength routine. That's why I'm having you bench only once a week. More than that could burn you out.

The program may be based on key scientific principles, but it isn't written in stone! What this means is that if each and every one of you follow this program, I guarantee you'll make improvements. Once you complete it, try it again after a few weeks of recuperation, tailoring it more toward your own personal needs. You'll still maintain the scientific integrity of the program, but maybe you'll need to work your way up slower, or include more unload weeks, or make a 10% jump at some point. Don't be afraid to experiment. Simply trust in the fact that a strong muscle is a big muscle.

Putting the Program to Work
Before you get started with the routine, give some serious thought to what your one-rep max (1RM) is. Some of you will have a pretty good idea; others may not. For those of you who don't really know, click here Max Rep Chart.

Once you've determined your 1RM, add 20-40 pounds to the bench press and most other major exercises such as the incline bench, military press and behind-neck press. Add 15-25 pounds to all other exercises. Then multiply your new max by the percentage indicated for the training week and plug the numbers into the space provided in the routine. Once you start training, you'll note that it's real easy in the beginning; you won't actually go all out until the final training phase. Since you need to think about maximizing strength and size, you simply can't train to failure in each workout and each set. You need to progressively add intensity to prevent burnout. The workout has five different phases that emphasize different training aspects.

PHASE 1
Get in the Groove: Weeks 1-3
These first three weeks will get you started. Whenever you start a new routine, spend a few weeks on light and easy training just to get you into the groove. Even if you've been training consistently, start the program with week one and work through the cycle as indicated.

PHASE 2
Build a Strength-Endurance Base: Weeks 4-6
Though you aren't pushing to the limit, the intensity is moderate. You'll increase the training volume quite dramatically over phase 1, as well as your intensity, but not to the same extent. The basic goal is to establish a foundation of strength endurance.

PHASE 3
Unload: Week 7
You've completed a lot of work in the past several weeks. Now give yourself a little break. This unload week decreases the intensity and volume about equally and you're literally supposed to only go through the motions. This can also be described as active rest. Believe it or not, this phase is probably the most important in terms of reaching your goal.

PHASE 4
Crank it Up: Weeks 8-9
When you start cranking up the intensity your work will become more demanding in terms of the amount of weight you lift. The volume of your work at this point is still in the moderate range, though it's on the way down.

PHASE 5
Max Out: Weeks 10-12
Now you're really going to work. The amount of weight you push is the key at this point, not volume. If you find yourself going to failure, that's fine; now is the time. Week 12 essentially constitutes a max-out week. Do the exercises provided or substitute your favorite ones.

Week
Day
Bodypart
Exercise
Sets
Reps
Intensity
Your Weight
Phase 1: Get in the Groove
1 1 Chest Bench Press 3 6 55%  
      FIye 3 6 55%  
    Shoulders Military Press 3 6 55%  
      Lateral Raise 3 6 55%  
    Triceps Pressdown 3 6 55%  
      Overhead Extension 3 6 55%  
2 1 Chest Bench Press 4 8 55%  
      Incline Press 3 8 55%  
      FIye 3 8 55%  
    Shoulders Behind-Neck Press 3 8 55%  
      Front Raise 3 8 55%  
      Lateral Raise 4 8 55%  
    Triceps Pressdown 3 8 55%  
      Overhead Extension 3 8 55%  

    One-Arm Lying 3 8 55%  
      Triceps Extension 3 8 55%  
3 1 Chest/Triceps Bench Press 5 8 60%  
      Close-Grip Bench Press 4 8 60%  
      Incline Press 4 8 60%  
      Dip 4 8 60%  
      Flye 4 8 60%  
      Overhead Extension 4 8 60%  
  3 Shoulders Military Press 3 8 60%  

 

    Behind-Neck Press 3 8 60%  
      Front Raise 3 8 60%  
      Lateral Raise 3 8 60%  
               
Phase 2: Build a Strength-Endurance Base
4 1 Chest/Shoulders Bench Press 5 6-7 65%  
      Incline Press 5 6-7 65%  
      Dumbbell Press 5 6-7 65%  
      Military Press 5 6-7 65%  
      Front Raise 5 6-7 65%  


    Lateral Raise 5 6-7 65%  
  2 Triceps Close-Grip Bench Press 5 6-7 65%  
      Dip 5 6-7 65%  
      Pressdown 5 6-7 65%  
5 1 Chest/Shoulders/Triceps Bench Press 5 6 70%  
      Military Press 5 6 70%  
      Close-Grip Bench Press 5 6 70%  
      Dumbbell Press 5 6 70%  
      Front Raise 5 6 70%  
      Dip 5 6 70%  
      Behind-Neck Press 5 6 70%  
      Pressdown 5 6 70%  
      Flye 5 6 70%  
      One-Arm Lying Triceps Extension 5 6 70%  
      Lateral Raise 5 6 70%  
6 1 Chest Bench Press 5 5-6 75%  
      Dumbbell Press 5 5-6 75%  
  3 Shoulders Front Raise 5 5-6 75%  
      Lateral Raise 5 5-6 75%  
  5   Pressdown 5 5-6 75%  
      Overhead Extension 5 5-6 75%  
               
Phase 3: Unload
7 1 Chest Bench Press 4 4 60%  
      Incline Press 3 4 60%  
  3 Shoulders Behind-Neck Press 3 4 60%  
      Lateral Raise 4 4 60%  
  5 Triceps One-Arm Lying Triceps Extension 4 4 60%  
      Overhead Extension 4 4 60%  
               
Phase 4: Crank It Up
8 1 Chest Bench Press 5 5 80%  
      Incline Press 4 5 80%  
    Shoulders Military Press 5 5 80%  
      Front Raise 4 5 80%  
  2 Triceps Pressdown 5 5 80%  
      Overhead Extension 5 5 80%  
9 1 Chest/Triceps Bench Press 4 4 85%  
      Close-Grip Bench Press 4 4 85%  
      Dumbbell Press 4 4 85%  
      Dip 4 44 85%  
  4 Shoulders Behind-Neck Press 3 4 85%  
      Lateral Raise 3 4 85%  
               
Phase 5: Max Out
10 1 Chest Bench Press 4 3 90%  
      Dumbbell Press 3 3 90%  
    Shoulders Military Press 3 3 90%  
    Triceps Pressdown 4 3 90%  
      Overhead Extension 4 3 90%  
11 1 Chest/Triceps Bench Press 3 2 95%  
      Close-Grip Bench Press 3 2 95%  
      Dumbbell Press 2 2 95%  
      Pressdown 3 2 95%  
12 1 Chest Bench Press 1-2 1 100%  
      Dumbbell Press 1-2 1 100%  
  3 Shoulders Military Press 1-2 1 100%  
      Behind-Neck Press 1-2 1 100%  
  5 Triceps Close-Grip Bench Press 1-2 1 100%  
      Pressdown 1-2 1 100%  
               
               


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