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The Six-Week Bench Blastoff

Break your plateau and set a new personal record.

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Judging a man by his bench press is the worst cliché in fitness—and it’s not going away. No matter how many creative, new, and so-called “functional” exercises come out, nothing seems to supplant the bench as the lift guys want to be the best at. In six weeks, we can help you hit higher benchmarks (forgive the pun) and put up more weight than you’ve ever been able to before, so that the next time someone asks you how much you bench, you won’t have to lie—unless to spare their feelings.

HOW IT WORKS

For most guys, the bench press stalls somewhere between 225 and 315 pounds—two or three plates on each side of the bar. Doing the typical pyramid sets of 12, 10, 8, and 6 reps, as many do, isn’t going to unstick it. You need to practice lifting heavy for one rep only—this is how you prepare your body for the stress of a max lift. And while your goal may be to just get your bench press going again, our program works the whole body. The more muscle you work, the bigger you’ll get overall; and a bigger, stronger body—from head to toe—will lead to a more beastly bench press.

DIRECTIONS

Complete Day I and II on back-to-back days, rest a day, then do III and IV in the same fashion.

Exercises marked “A” and “B” are supersets: Complete one set for A, then immediately do a set for B before resting.

See the table below for instructions on how to progress your bench press each week depending on your goal—225 pounds or 315 pounds. If your max lies somewhere in between, below, or beyond these numbers, follow the table but use approximate percentages of your goal max to guide you. For the sets of 1, start at around 90% of the max you want to hit and gradually increase it by 1–3% weekly in accordance with the table. For the back-off sets of 5, 4, and 3 reps, start with 80% of your goal max and progress it similarly. You’ll have to estimate the best loads based on how you’re feeling, but try to follow the model here as closely as you can.

Steve Pulcinella is a former professional strongman and the owner of Iron Sport Gym in Glenolden, PA.

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BENCH PROGRESSION

Use the table to bench 225 or 315 pounds

TO HIT 225 POUNDS:

Week 1

5x1 w/200

3x5 w/180

Week 2

6x1 w/205

3x5 w/190

Week 3

7x1 w/210

3x4 w/195

Week 4

8x1 w/215

3x3 w/200

Week 5

3x2 w/215

Week 6

Work up to 225x1

TO HIT 315 POUNDS:

Week 1

5x1 w/285

3x5 w/255

Week 2

6x1 w/290

3x5 w/260

Week 3

7x1 w/295

3x4 w/270

Week 4

8x1 w/300

3x3 w/285

Week 5

3x2 w/305

Week 6

Work up to 315x1

Note: “5x1,” for example, means 5 sets of 1 rep. Perform all the sets of single reps and then do the back-off sets of 3–5 reps. All weights are in pounds. Rest as needed after each set.

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