Today I will be starting my run at a 900-pound equipped bench. If you train raw, don't leave this page. Below the training program in the notes is just one little change you'll have to make as a raw lifter. My training for raw and equipped benching is basically the same.

To reach my goal, I will be implementing a conjugate bench program. It will be a 12-week cycle culminating in a meet March 29. I have used conjugate training to bench 605  pounds raw at SHW, 600 pounds raw at 308, and 850 pounds equipped at 308. The program below is based on all I have learned from those training cycles.

Maximal Effort

The easiest day to start with is the ME Day. Even though I devised this program for myself, it will work for both raw and equipped lifters (for equipped one must be more experienced and really know his/her shirt). For raw lifters just exchange the week 2 shirted press for a floor press (another ME exercise that has provided great benefits, but beats up my nagging shoulder too much at this time to be used). Make sure with all lifts you are getting three presses within the 90 percent or higher range for that day.

Something quickly noticeable is the presence of two dynamic days a week for lower body (remember, I am a bench only guy–feel free to use your own lower body program). The logic for this is my lower body is weak. For a myriad of reasons, I have not trained it hard in a long time. In addition, I am just coming off a hamstring strain. So, if I started right off the bat using ME work I would most likely hurt myself.

Dynamic Effort

Contrary to some popular belief lately, pushing sub-maximal weights with maximal force can make a lifter stronger. Ask Fred Hatfield and Josh Bryant. It will be very important I make certain to move all those DE sets with as much force as possible. I’m leaving an AMRAP option in there if I feel the need for additional work afterwards.

For my Upper DE Day I will press with the Swiss Angle Grip Press Bar using a normal over grip. The reason for this is because it is much less stressful on my nagging shoulder issue. For me, just that little tweak in hand position lessens the stretch on the biceps tendon and helps to save my shoulder. Regarding the percentage, it will be based on how I feel and am performing that day. When I hit my first 600-pound raw bench, I had worked with weight as low as 205 pounds and as heavy as 365 pounds with doubled mini bands. I got stronger with my dynamic work as the training cycle went along. Hmm, that makes sense.

I have been a slave to percentages with dynamic work in the past. I really find it to be counterproductive. That would be akin to picking your max effort number. How could you possibly know what your max will be on any given day? There are just too many variables to consider. Sure, you may have a number you are hoping for and you may even hit it. What happens if you smoke it? Do you stop? F*&k no! You go for another. So, my DE work will go by feel. If it feels fast, I will bump it up. If I don’t have it that day, the weight will be lighter. It’s that easy.

The last note on the DE Upper Day: I am leaving the option for RE open. I have found more and more that I like some rep work here and there. For me, rep work is almost like a deload for DE. I cannot implore enough that if you want conjugate training to work, you must treat your DE day as equally important, if not more important, than your ME day. Just because it is lighter does not mean it requires less effort. If you are not pushing your DE day, conjugate training will not work for you. So, if I am too beat up to give DE everything I have, I’m going to pick a weight I feel I can get between 10 and 20 reps and I am going to work a set of two of AMRAP.

Assistance Work

Last, but certainly not least, is assistance. Assistance work is where the magic happens. When finishing ME or DE work, you need to get to assistance with the same intensity. It is important that you make progress with this work. I am keeping the same exercises for the first month so I can make sure to improve upon them weekly. Each week I will either increase weight, reps, or speed up rest intervals. Progress here has to be made if progress is expected on the major lifts.

Clearly, triceps are the priority for a big bench. Increased triceps work is the reason I have been able to work my way down in bodyweight yet maintain a 600-pound raw bench. Second most important is lat work. Because I have noticed the correlation between increased triceps and lat work and my bench press, I wanted to increase the volume of that work. However, I know I only have so much in me for each session.

This is why I have added extra upper body assistance to one of my lower body days. Wednesday made the most sense because it was not up against another upper body day. I do not think this will lead to overtraining. Regardless, I do mostly believe there is a lot less overtraining than we all think–just under-eating, recovering, and sleeping. Remember people, the little things add up. Make sure you are doing them.

Well, there it is: my training program and the thought processes that went into it. Feel free to use it and get stronger. If you have any questions or comments please fire away.