Training after a layoff

How many lifters are going to show up the first day gyms reopen and try to bench their previous max only to complain about how much strength they’ve lost? Not only is this going to be discouraging, it’s clearly not the way to approach this situation and could get them hurt.

Here’s a step by step bench program (although the percentages can be applied to any lift) to help get started again:

Let’s say your previous max was 200. You haven’t benched in a while, so you’ve lost some strength. We’ll begin by basing your new projected max off of 90% of 200, which is 180.

Before we start, I have to recommend always doing some form of cardio warm up prior to strength training. I can’t emphasize this enough. Yes, it’s boring, but as I’ve said before, 5 to 10 minutes on the treadmill could potentially save you from months of rehab from an injury. It’s worth it.

You’ll also want to make gradual, low rep increases for your warm up sets which are enough to warm the specific area you’ll be training without fatiguing it. Here’s what I recommend for a standard bench warm up prior to the working sets:

Bar x 5

95x5

115x3

135x2

(obviously warm up to a weight that is less than your working sets)

I’ve modified my programming through the years including:

  • Removing the higher rep (in this case 4-6), high percentage sets which I’ve now limited to no more than 3 reps
  • Reducing the percentages for the higher rep day significantly (by about 10%)
  • Although I feel that 2 working sets to failure are sufficient to make solid strength gains, most of my athletes/clients seem to prefer 3, so I’ve modified it to meet their needs

If anyone tells you that they know everything about training (or anything really), just walk away. I’ve been powerlifting and coaching for well over 20 years now and am always learning and modifying both what I do and what I have my athletes do.

Although most of my training is based off of applying a gradually increasing ROM (box squats, board presses, block or rack pulls), this routine will be based off of a full ROM since not everyone will have access to these.

Week 1:

Day 1 (Max Day)-

75% - 135 x 3

77.5% - 140 x 3

80%- 145 x 3

Day 2 (Rep Day)-

62.5% - 115 x 8

65% - 120 x 7

67.5% - 125 x 6

Week 2:

Day 1-

77.5% - 140 x 3

80% - 145 x 3

82.5% - 150 x 3

Day 2-

65% - 120 x 7

67.5%- 125 x 6

70%- 130 x 5

Week 3:

Day 1-

80% - 145 x 3

82.5% - 150 x 3

85%- 155 x 3

Day 2-

67.5%- 125 x 6

70%- 130 x 5

72.5%- 135 x 4

Week 4:

Day 1-

82.5% - 150 x 3

85%- 155 x 3

87.5%- 160 x 3

Day 2-

70%- 130 x 5

72.5%- 135 x 4

75%- 140 x 3

After the initial month this program can be repeated with a 200 (or any) projected max with continued increases from there. This is a relatively simple and easy program, but it’s a solid routine to get started again and is a good way to prevent from getting injured and/or discouraged.

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