Part 3 of this series encompasses the bench press. This lift is perhaps the toughest for me to understand because of the many differences in training amongst some of the best. Instead of just hammering away with what has worked for ME, I kept looking at what others were doing and tried to emulate. This, of course, created havoc. There was just no consistency. So, I crept back down to my old habits and already see improvements. In this article I will outline two variations of routines: one raw and one equipped. As far as equipped goes, it applies for both single and multi-ply.

Understanding the bench press takes time. There are so many variables that can effect the lift. But the true grit of the movement is virtually unchangeable: triceps and chest. Yes the lats and leg drive play a role, but without chest mobility and tricep strength, it’s not going anywhere. So, I have literally made the focus to be on those two capacities.

My last raw training cycle leading up to a raw competition was almost unintentional. I was training as best I could without the volume I like, because of a shoulder problem I've been dealing with from negligence. I highly recommend NOT skipping on the small movements. So, here is what I would have done if I had ZERO shoulder issues.

This is the breakdown of percentages and scheme:

As you can see, I do like to designate three total bench sessions a week. Usually the first day of the week is shirted work and/or board work raw. The second day is a raw to chest routine, the volume is usually much higher on this second day, but typically utilizing lower percentages mostly before reaching the max percent. The third day is nothing but a speed day followed by very little accessory work. This session can take at most 30 minutes to perform and can easily be done after a squat or deadlift movement on that day.

The exact breakdown I like to use is:

  • Day 1 squats
  • Day 2 bench
  • Day 3 deadlift
  • Day 4 bench

A weekly format can be:

  • Sunday – squats
  • Monday – bench
  • Tuesday - rest
  • Wednesday – deadlifts
  • Thursday – raw bench
  • Friday - rest
  • Saturday – speed bench

Each day for the bench can be formatted as follows:

Day 1

  • First movement – primary – shirted bench or board press (2 or 3 board preferred)
  • Second movement – secondary – high board press or reverse bands or floor press
  • Third movement – primary accessory – triceps
  • Fourth movement – secondary accessory – chest
  • Fifth movement – prehab – rotator cuff

Day 2

  • First movement – raw bench
  • Second movement – indirect accessory – delts
  • Third movement – primary – triceps
  • Fourth movement  - secondary – chest
  • Fifth movement – prehab – ac joint/rotator

Day 3

  • First movement – speed bench
  • Second movement – prehab – rear delt

A micro look at the format:


For raw lifters, you really have to encompass the entire movement as a whole to cover all aspects of the strength curve. These include: bottom end, middle range and lockout.

A good format that I followed and worked very well was:

Day 1

  1. Week 1 - Floor press or 2/3 board press
  2. Week 2 - Close Grip
  3. Week 3 - Wide Grip bench

Day 2

Competition bench – Utilize a pause at the chest and lockout. Be very strict here.

Day 3

Speed bench - Vary the grips – ala Westside protocols

With this scheme, on day one feel free to add accommodating resistance. This can be challenging for some due to the immeasurable number in percents. Referring to part 1, percentages are just a guide, so use the RPE source to dictate intensity when using accommodating resistance.


For a shirted lifter, things vary slightly. The things that matter when benching with a shirt are technique, transition and lockout. The transition is of critical importance because touching is never just enough. You really have to be able to use the shirt's loading capacity to build momentum to carry you through the entire lift. Technique has to be practiced, if you want to maximize the shirt's ability, you have to be a technician. You're handling SUPRA maximal loads in the shirt so lockout strength has to be up to par to maximize weights being pushed.

I like to utilize boards when shirt benching. This is for two reasons.

  1. Save the shoulders
  2. Enhance technique and load used

Now, where things get slightly different is how I implement percentages and boards. For example, on day one for the first week, it reads 75 - 80 percent. At those percentages you would do 4 sets of 4 reps. I like to distribute those same percentages to all the boards I plan to use that day. Usually, I like three different size boards each day, whether it’s 3,2,1 boards or 2.5, 1.5 and .5 boards. My boards are dependent on the percentages, the higher the percents, the lower the boards. So back to day 1, 75-80% at 4x4. I would format the days work as follows:

  • 3-board – 80% of 3 board max for 4 reps
  • 2-board – 80% of 2 board max for 4 reps
  • 1-board – 80% of 1 board max for 4 reps

The final set is dependent on how I feel and felt with the boards. If I felt strong and healthy, then I'd stay with the 1-board work for transition practice. If I felt beat up, I'd head back up to the 3-board.

The importance when using percentages on boards is to keep the percent parallel with the board for intensity. So, if you are using a 3-board, use your best 3-board max and not the 1-board or chest max. Challenging the central nervous system (CNS) is a constant necessity, so the intensities have to be uniformed.

I also like to wave the board heights weekly. This means I do not like to start or end working weights with the same board as the week before. An easy three week wave would look like this:

Week 1

  • 3-board
  • 2-board
  • 1-board

Week 2

  • 1-board
  • 3-board
  • 2-board

Week 3

  • 2-board
  • 1-board
  • 3-board

Again, if using accommodating resistance is of need, then by all means add it. Just allocate the RPE system for judging intensities.


The bench is a beast to train because so much has to be involved to enhance gains. One thing I've noticed over time is that you can never do enough training to build it. I stopped worrying about “overtraining” the bench. I actually noticed the more I pushed, the better I'd feel. When I felt as if it’s going down, I'd take a few days off and then return with new found strength. Overreaching in the bench really did return gains. I encourage you to push hard on this lift and listen to your body. If it’s feeling heavy one day, lay off and take another day as down work. After this, you will return with added power.

“In order to press a lot, you must press a lot.” – Boris Sheiko