3

Last week I learned that my states RAW bench press record in my weight class is only 15-25 pounds heavier than my current 1RM, so I am going to break it. The record is sitting at 286.60 lbs, and yesterday I put up 235 x 6. I weigh 159 with roughly 12% body fat, and I need to stay under 165 if I am going to break the record. I have looked over the rules to break the record, and my regular bench adheres to all the rules. I am confident that I can break the record given a bit of time, as the record really isn't impressive compared to the national record.

This question largely revolves around what I can optimize in the gym. Best splits, rep ranges, complimentary exercises, etc. I have never bothered optimizing my bench press, or any exercise until recently. I have always stayed in the 4-8 rep range for everything. I simply increased the weight when I could do 8 reps.

My weekly training is currently push - pull - legs - push - rest day - pull - legs.

Push Day

  • Bench: I warm up with two sets of 135, and one set of 205. I'll move up to 3 sets where I can do 4-8 of, so 235, 235, 225. A total of 3 warmup sets and 2-3 working sets depending on how I am feeling.
  • Handstand Pushups: I will usually do 3-4 sets, doing as many reps as I can until I fail or lose balance.
  • Handstands superset with Wall Shoulder Taps: 3 sets
  • Hex Press or Weighted Dips: 3 sets

According to this article there is nearly a linear correlation with strength gains and number of times a week someone benches, and it even suggests that 10-15 sets per week is ideal while keeping the set count changing using daily undulating periodization. In summary it suggests that I do three days of bench a week with different set ranges each day in a cycle, and to add accessory movements to help weak points.

Is there anything in that article that conflicts with studies you know of, or how powerlifters typically train?

What would the best splits be? I prefer being in the gym at least 6 days a week, it helps me stay consistent. I have several goals that involve pulling muscles for the end of the year, so I hesitate combining my push and pull days in fear that I will be neglecting my other goals. Is there any efficacy for strength gains with multiple workouts a day focusing different muscle groups? Ex: Pull workout in the morning and a push workout in the evening, if I were to do an Upper Lower split. Both using half the time as a regular workout, but higher intensity due to being fresh at the start of both.

2

I think that's a great challenge. Oddly enough, you could probably weigh in clothed with your pockets full and snag that 198 record, but that aside.

First thing you'll want to do is find a meet. Records have to be set at a meet, with judges, and the whole nine-yards. You'll have to go through the same trial as everyone who's set records before: waking up way too early, warm ups, and three attempts.

Once you find a meet, the second step is to program your workouts with increasing specificity. This is commonly called a peaking phase in powerlifting. Where a period of 4-8 rep sets may be a building phase, a peaking phase is prepping for the meet. At a meet you only get 1 rep, so why practice anything else? You'll be ramping down rep ranges and increasing the weight. As you approach the meet you'll be doing things like 5 sets of 1. Importantly, the exact week(s) before the meet, you'll probably do absolutely nothing except rest. 235 lb for 6 reps is awesome, but 285 lb in your hands is going to feel daunting. Your first time near that weight can't be at the meet. During this phase you'll likely want to be at the point where you can comfortably lift your opener. I asked a question on this previously and you'll find some more information there.

The final thing you'll want to do is make sure your bench press does conform to the meet requirements. That's excellent that you've looked over the rules. Make sure you grip width is allowable, is it heels up or heels down, and head on the bench or not. Do you arch, and can you arch? You'll want to practice benching with cues. It is helpful to have a friend familiar with powerlifting for this. Make sure your pauses are to the federation requirements. A few YouTube searches on USPA meets will help. If you can, try to volunteer as a spotter at a local meet. You'll get to see many reps go through the cue motions, get familiar with a meet, and meets always need volunteers as well.

I think 15 sets a week is pretty close to how I train. Bench press is my weak point though, so my coach has something for me on every training day. Between competition bench, close grip, 3 second pause, board press, and dumbbell press I counted 23 sets in a week all in the 4-6 rep range.

TL;DR: the best thing you can do to optimize your bench press is to program specificity in your workouts and move toward completing maximal effort lifts over volume sets.

3
  • Thanks for all the information, it is very nice to learn from someone who actually powerlifts. That link was super helpful as well. When you say I will do nothing but rest in the week(s) before the lift, do you mean it is best to just take it easy in the gym, or straight up not working out for a week, to rest up? Final question, what are some typical weekly splits used in powerlifting? I know typically people do the big 3 lifts, but I am only interested in competing in bench. So I would assume a Push Pull or a Upper Lower split would be ideal? Perhaps something else? Mar 17 at 17:16
  • 1
    Different coaches will do different things. Some say to literally just rest for a whole week before. Some have taper weeks. It definitely depends on your intensity. For me, for example, my gym day 5 days out last time was 1x1, 2x1 squat and 1x1, 2x2 bench. 4 days out was 3x1 deadlift, etc. Extremely low volume but all at opener weight. Two days leading up were just rest days.
    – C. Lange
    Mar 17 at 17:38
  • 1
    For splits, I pretty much have 3 days: Squat+Bench, Bench+Deadlift, rest, and repeat. Sometimes I throw in a pump day instead of a rest day because, you know, you wanna look big too. I might do a full SBD day closer to a meet but usually not in a regular block because they're rather taxing. I'm not as sure with bench only, but I would still be aiming at 2-3 bench press days a week with assistance exercises. Either of the splits you have could definitely work. LiftVault is a good source for programs I've found. Even just check out a few and look how other coaches have programmed for bench press
    – C. Lange
    Mar 17 at 17:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.