Bring up your bench press with this intense 10 set x 3 rep bench press specialization workout plan from top powerlifter Steve Shaw
Workout Summary
  • Main Goal
    Increase Strength
  • Workout Type
    Split
  • Training Level
    Intermediate
  • Program Duration17 weeks
  • Days Per Week
    3
  • Time Per Workout60-75 minutes
  • Equipment Required
    Barbell, Bodyweight, Dumbbells, Machines
  • Target Gender Male
  • Workout PDF Download Workout

Workout Description

This is a bench press specialization program for intermediate lifters who want to bring up a lagging bench press as quickly as possible. I do not recommend running this if your current max is below 185 pounds.

Recommended: Need help building muscle? Take our Free Muscle Building Course

Bench Press Sets

For the bench press, start with a weight that is 65% of your one rep max. If you are unsure of your current max, use the bench press calculator to help you guestimate.

Start with a weight that is 65% of your one rep max.

During week one, you will perform 10 sets of 3 reps with your starting weight. Rest between sets will be 90 to 120 seconds; no longer or shorter. When you start dropping sets (missing triples), keep all rest periods at 120 seconds, or longer if need be.

Each subsequent week you add another 5 pounds to the bar, trying to complete the full 10 sets x 3 reps. When you are unable to hit 3 reps with a given set(s), you drop those sets the following week. (Still adding another 5 pounds to the bar)

You continue this pattern of adding a weekly 5 pounds, and dropping sets until you can perform only one set of 3 reps. At this point, you re-calculate your one rep max using the bench press calculator, and start all over again using 65% of your one rep max.

It is not necessary to train sets to failure. With that said, training to failure might happen occasionally. Stop each set when you feel like your form is slipping, or you feel like you might fail on the next rep.

10 Sets x 3 Reps Example

For this example, we will use a lifter with a 200 pound bench press max. 65% of this max yields a starting weight of 130 pounds, which we shall round up to 135 pounds for this example.

  • Week One - 135 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3

Our lifter is able to hit 10 sets for 3 reps during week one, so he does not drop any sets.

  • Week Two - 140 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3
  • Week Three - 145 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/3/2/1
  • Week Four - 150 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3/2

​Week two was another successful effort, as out lifter was able to complete all 10 sets. On the other hand, week three was a struggle. Our lifter failed to complete 3 reps on the last 2 sets, so those sets were dropped during week four. During week four our lifter was unable to complete 3 reps on his 8th set, so that will be dropped on week five.

  • Week Five - 155 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
  • Week Six - 160 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
  • Week Seven - 165 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/3
  • Week Eight - 170 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/1
  • Week Nine - 175 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3
  • Week Ten - 180 pounds x 3/3/3/3/3/3/2
  • Week Eleven - 185 pounds x 3/3/3/3/1
  • Week Twelve - 190 pounds x 3/3/3/3
  • Week Thirteen - 195 pounds x 3/3/3/2
  • Week Fourteen - 200 pounds x 3/3/3
  • Week Fifteen - 205 pounds x 3/3/1
  • Week Sixteen - 210 pounds x 3/2
  • Week Seventeen - 215 pounds x 3

Our lifter ended with a 215 x 3 triple, which is an approximate bench press max of 235 pounds. This is a 35 pound increase in 4 months.

10x3 Sets Summary

So, in conclusion. For the 10 x 3 sets you:

  1. Add 5 pounds every week.
  2. Drop a set when you fail to reach 3 reps.
  3. Stop the cycle when you down to one triple, or fewer reps.

Training Split

  • Monday - Bench Press day with 10x3 sets.
  • Wednesday - Misc. strength training work.
  • Friday - Bench Press moderate day.
Monday
10x3 Bench Press Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press - 10 sets x 3 reps work Varies Varies
Bench Press Shrug 3 5
Barbell Row 3 5-10
Seated Arnold Press 3 8-12
EZ Bar Skullcrusher 3 8-12
Dumbbell Curl 3 10
Wednesday
Strength Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift - Ramped 3 5
Squat 3 6-12
Pull Up or Rack Chins 3 AMAP
Seated Calf Raise 3 12-20
Leg Curl 3 10-15
Power Shrug 3 5-10
Friday
Bench Press Moderate Day
Exercise Sets Reps
Military Press Variation - Standing or Seated 3 6-12
Close Grip Bench Press 5 3
Dumbbell Row 3 8-12
Dumbbell Bench Press 3 8-12
Face Pull 3 10
Hammer Curl 3 10
Training Notes

Bench Press Shrug - Do not perform this exercise without spotters. Load the bar with 110% of your one rep bench press max. Unrack the bar and hold at arm's length. Now, instead of lowering the bar, and then pressing the weight, you're going to be doing shrugs. Shrug your shoulders upwards, and then back down, keeping your arms locked. Make sure you are utilizing your lats to drive your shoulders and the bar upwards.

It may take several weeks to get used to performing this exercise properly. Start with a moderate weight and work your way up as you feel comfortable.

Close Grip Bench Press - Start with 70% of your one rep bench press max. On the fifth set, instead of doing only 3 reps, try to get as many as possible, stopping shy of failure. If you are able to perform 5 or more reps, add weight to this lift the following week.

Deadlifts - You will perform 3 total sets, with your last set being the heaviest. When starting your last set should be something you can easily hit 5 reps with. On that last set, perform as many reps as possible, stopping a set when your form deteriorates or you feel like you may fail on the next rep. If you are able to perform more than 5 reps on the final set, add weight the next time you deadlift.

  • Set 1 - 60% of your final set weight x 5 reps.
  • Set 2 - 80% of your final set weight x 5 reps.
  • Set 3 - Final set - perform for max safe reps.

​Pull Ups - AMAP stands for as many reps as possible. If you are unable to perform pull ups, use rack chins or lat pull downs.

Power Shrugs - These are explosive shrugs. Do not baby or mind muscle the weight up.

Assistance Exercises - Perform 3 sets using the same weight. When you are able to reach the high end of the rep range (or more) with your first set, add weight the next time you perform this exercise.

Diet and Supplementation Suggestions

This bench press program should NOT be performed while cutting/trying to lose fat. To maximize gains, you should also maximize your time at the dinner table. This is an aggressive problem that should be accompanied by plenty of food and rest. My minimum suggestions are:

  • Calories - 3500 per day, or more if you are underweight.
  • Protein - 200 grams per day. 
  • Fats - At least 25-30% of your daily calorie intake.

If you have a hard time eating this many calories, a little bit of the following foods will go a long way:

  • Whole milk
  • Butter
  • Olive oil
  • Cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Almonds and nuts
  • Peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Bananas

Supplements

To maximize recovery and performance, the following supplement choices may be beneficial:

10x3 Bench Press Program FAQ

I can't eat 3500 calories per day. Will I still get the same results?

Maybe, maybe not. My best strength gains have always come during times of aggressive eating. This program is designed to help you increase your bench press. For optimal results, eat more food.

Can I run this program two, three or more times in a row?

Sure, I don't see why not. If you are getting the results you want, and your body feels good, then keep using this program. It might not hurt to take a complete week off from bench pressing after every cycle.

Can I mess around with strength day, changing exercises?

Yes. Monday and Wednesday are your bread and butter days. I do recommend training legs, as leg drive is an important part of benching.

Any other tips?

Improve your form. Most intermediate lifters can squeeze out another 5-10% just by working on their bench press form.

Can I do cardio when running this program?

Certainly. Just make sure you feel 100% when you hit the gym to lift.

Can I add in more arm work?

No, don't add in any more arm work. Trust the program.

Can I add in abs work?

Yes, on any day AFTER your lifting sessions are done.

What results can I expect?

The bench press can be a very stubborn mover for many lifters. The more you bench press, the less you can expect out of a program like this in the short term. A 20-30 pound increase in 4 months would be a solid bump. I would hope that you add at least 15 pounds to your bench press each time you run this program.

For those of you that have a very hard time adding weight on bench, a 10 pound gain might be good progress. On the other hand, some of you may be able to use this program and run your bench press from 185 to over 300 in a year's time.

Please take time to let me know your results, and if I can help in any way.

186 Comments
Doug
Posted on: Sun, 07/31/2022 - 16:42

Hey guys the old man is back (last post 03/20/2021 - 22:38) 60 yr old 365 bench after following this program. Took a break to heal after EGO lifting (curling 130) blew out my left elbow. I have returned to this program because it worked so well for me and because I didn't get to see what the final result would be, I'm hoping for a 405 bench.
I'm currently going on week five with 255 for first five sets and adding an additional five pounds for the last five sets. I have made this slight modification because I see myself as reconditioning. When I can't add the additional five pounds after the first five sets I'll return to the regular program of 3 x 10 dropping sets as necessary.
I have see a few replies to Steve's Work Out that seem uninformed or lacking in experience; such as, Bad for the joints, Worthless program etc. Lateral epicondylitis and from my understanding most other join injuries come from repetitive overuse of the joints. This program provides for the same 30 to 35 total repetitions suggested by many articles for muscle development without over use of the joints by providing the 90 second cool down between sets.
As for the program being worthless There seems to be a misunderstanding that the program ends at the bench. There are three days a week of split exercises and if a person does not receive some kind of benefit from following the program then I afraid that person is doing more time thinking about doing something than actually performing. Keeping in mind that Steve list this program as an "intermediate" program.
I believe one of the main goals of this program is to work on correct form and execution while conditioning and strengthening. While benching I use the Body Builder's technique where The bar is controlled down to the chest and then returned to the fully pressed position while I maintain a slightly arched back. I don't use the Power Lifter's Bench where the back has an over exaggerated arch. In my opinion that lift is little more than doing dips and if used would already put my bench well above my 405 goal. In short, If I'm not sure, U-tube provides many how to videos that support the videos supplied by M&S. I left the gym a few hours ago where I was watching a guy doing what "he thought" was bench pressing. He would un-rack the weight bounce it off his chest three times and then fight like hell to rerack it... He would not benefit from this program, unless of course he actually read and understood, what it was asking him to do. Along with that there has to be an honest and un-delusional evaluation of self.
Anyone interested I'll keep you posted as to my progress.

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Roger
Posted on: Fri, 08/05/2022 - 21:10

Doug, welcome back, and yes, please keep us posted. Thanks for reading M&S!

MMM
Posted on: Thu, 07/21/2022 - 14:17

if I started assuming based on previously lifting that
my one rep max is 330, and have been doing the program, can reverse calculations assumed to hold true.
let's say I am now hitting 250x3 for the ten sets with no drop sets. does that correlate to being 65% of my one rep max?

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Roger
Posted on: Thu, 07/28/2022 - 21:10

It can for most, but it depends on the person. Not everyone will be able to match that calculation perfectly.

Steve
Posted on: Wed, 06/29/2022 - 14:17

17 weeks in a row will likely be too long. You will either be starting way too light, or you won’t be able to go up every week for that long, even if you drop sets. Doing triples every week will be hard on the joints too.

Mike D
Posted on: Fri, 05/06/2022 - 22:07

The 10 sets of 3 were too easy for me and seemed to be less productive. Beginning at 140, I am doing 10 sets of 5 down to when necessary, dropping sets when I cannot achieve the 3. It feels like a better result and my strength seems to be improving. I am on week 3 of the routine and raising weight 10 lbs per week and still hitting the 10 sets of 5, so all seems well.

Dan
Posted on: Sat, 04/09/2022 - 12:46

Any suggestions on warm up’s ? Especially as the 10 sets of 3s starts to become much heavier sets of 3 and 2 sets of 3s.
Thanks!

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Roger
Posted on: Mon, 04/25/2022 - 20:30

Hello, Dan, and thanks for the question. I personally like doing pushups and stretches for around 5 minutes. Then, I will work with the bar to make sure my form is on point and check to see if anything feels off. You could also do 1 set of 25 pushdowns for the triceps and elbows with very light weight.

Cameron
Posted on: Sun, 05/23/2021 - 17:42

I am twelve just got into lifting my one rep max is only 80 does this program still work

Doug
Posted on: Fri, 03/26/2021 - 22:38

It works for me! I started the program in January of 2020 after a total lower lumbar fusion in November of 2019. I chose it because of the beginning focus being on control, technique with the lower rep count allowing me to concentrate on that control/technique to re-strengthen after the surgery without injury. Some of the exercises like the dead lift I had problems with and will most likely for life; However, I still made what I see as major gains performing alternate exercises in place of those in the program I could not perform. My starting max bench press was a week and wobbly 225 pounds with my beginning body weight of 260 pounds at age 58. My max bench press as of February 2021 is 365 pounds with a body weight of 240 at age 59. Now I am shifting my workout routine to maintaining and weight lost prior another surgical coming up in July of 2021 and then back to this program in January of 2022 at age 60. The biggest suggestions I would make to anyone is # 1: eat a consistent well balanced diet, be consistent with what ever workout you chose, pay attention to your body. I found that as my body began to recondition itself I was able bump up the weight maybe 10 pounds one week and still be able to complete all ten sets. There were also a few additional bench concepts I threw in on occasion like chains or the bench block to target week areas; however, I have to give 98% credit to this program, 59 and doing 365 I ain't complaining.

Johnnathon Scholles
Posted on: Wed, 12/16/2020 - 10:44

this is not smart, do not do. Better progress could be found without working out.

Greg
Posted on: Tue, 07/07/2020 - 15:58

The math here only works for 200lb max bench. A 300lb max bencher needs to up the weight 7.5lbs every week to get the results, otherwise increasing 5lbs a week will have him doing 275 x3 on week 17 which is going backwards. Main thing is increase your weight every week by enough so that by week 17 you are working with 25-30 lbs over your starting max bench.

JunHee
Posted on: Mon, 02/03/2020 - 08:07

I've got stuck in close grip benchpress

I failed at last sets, I can do only 3/ 2 reps for 2 each weeks (twice trial, I could lift less than the past week!)

Do I need deloading the weight?

Lex Anderson
Posted on: Mon, 05/27/2019 - 00:43

I've ran a variation of this program and it will definetly beef up numbers. Example

225×3
230x3
235x3
240x3
245×3
250x3
255x3
260x3
265x3
270x3

225x10

The next week start with 230.

Jeromi
Posted on: Mon, 10/29/2018 - 20:14

On my 11th week of this routine, absolutely love it btw, just a question, 2 weeks ago I started dropping sets, first time was down to 8 sets, last week was down to 6, today I dropped down to 3 sets @ 237 lbs, while I definitely see an increase in my bench, my question is I don't think I'll make the 17weeks, maybe I started to heavy, anyways I plan on just restarting the routine, hopefully I'm doing it right, but I should add I'm only benching on Mondays, thanks again...

Michael
Posted on: Tue, 01/23/2018 - 21:11

Hey can you do this in the beggining of your workout and then do all your other excersizes after would it still be as effective or do you have have to do that just itself and thats the workout? Thanks hope you get to me soon!

Andrew
Posted on: Sat, 12/23/2017 - 17:58

I am 10 weeks into this program and I have not dropped any sets yet. Did I start too light or is this common among the field?

Jason cameron
Posted on: Sun, 10/07/2018 - 20:12

Hey I'm on week 7 . Some weeks I add 10 lbs and not drop any sets yet so what week did you get when you drop sets ?

Mitchell
Posted on: Wed, 12/06/2017 - 08:16

Can I throw this 10x3 plan into the program I am already running. Right now I have 5x5 bench in there but I have stalled for the past two months.

Thank you for the great advice.

William
Posted on: Tue, 10/10/2017 - 05:46

What is a good beginner program? My bench press is about 180lb.

Michael
Posted on: Thu, 01/25/2018 - 13:09

5x5

Joel Wicken
Posted on: Thu, 10/10/2019 - 05:55

at 180 pounds it is recommended that u focus more on reps before strength. id do a 10x10 at 95 pounds and so on. just do the amount of weight u can do 10x10 of. and after 8 weeks then I do this powerlifting program

Jack
Posted on: Wed, 08/30/2017 - 19:58

Does this still build muscle?

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Thu, 08/31/2017 - 08:51

Hi Jack,

The workouts itself (and all workouts) break down your muscles.

They're rebuilt through proper nutrition, quality sleep, and proper recovery.

This program can certainly help kick start your muscle building process though.

Hope this helps!

Alessandro
Posted on: Sat, 05/27/2017 - 01:26

Hey,

I'm really interested by this program and I was wondering if I could do this with squats and dead lifts as well? Get back to me soon!

Thank you

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JoshEngland
Posted on: Tue, 05/30/2017 - 09:33

Hi Alessandro,

Sure, I don't see why not.

Hope this helps!

Pedro
Posted on: Mon, 04/03/2017 - 14:27

Can I do 10x3 twice a week, with plenty of rest time in between, instead of just once a week?

Mike boyd
Posted on: Thu, 03/30/2017 - 11:22

I think its different for everyone I get very little challenge doing even 70% of my 1rm is say start no lower than 75% in my opinion if your goal is strength me personally I have now problem training 80-85% all the time

Joke44
Posted on: Tue, 12/06/2016 - 06:04

Hi! I have a question for you. In the article you said that, we need to keep the rest between sets 2 minutes or more. Can i increase the rest about 5-6 minutes if needed? Of course it would be necessary when i will use a weight over 75% of 1 rm.

Mike boyd
Posted on: Fri, 04/14/2017 - 15:50

No its 2 mins no more! max! This is important I work with 85% give or take this way. You should be able to do at least 80% w 2 min rest now once u get down to a single triple obviously that's it

Bill
Posted on: Sat, 01/30/2016 - 20:32

After trying this workout a few times I think 70% of your 1rm is going to generate significantly better results for the intermediate + lifters. My 1rm is 340 to the pound. I could do 20 x 3 of 220 (65% of 340) and not feel like I got in a workout. Now 10 x 3 of 240 sounds like a decent workout especially if I finished it with an 11th set of amrap of 225 ... Which would probably be 12 at that point . But doing 10 x 3 of 220 and only adding 5 lbs a week sounds like by the time I drop a set it will be because I got weaker from not getting in a real workout. This either needs to be 10 x 4 of 65% or 10 x 3 of 70%

Andrew
Posted on: Sat, 10/14/2017 - 11:42

Hey Bill
I’m in agreement with you. 185 at 65% to start off with seemed really easy at 10x3 plus the 90-120 second rest is a really long time. Then again I’m used to a bodybuilding split with minimal resting periods. Not giving up yet though, goal is 405lbs!

J
Posted on: Tue, 04/14/2015 - 06:45

Did the program
My starting stats:
BW 94 kg BF: 12%
1RM: 105 kg

After 6 weeks I did a max attempt and was able to do 1 * 110 kg
I ended the program with 3 * 112,5 kg
My BW at the end was 99 kg, BF unknown but I geuss arround 14%

Jason Clark
Posted on: Wed, 02/25/2015 - 08:41

Hi. Just wanted to let you know I love this program. As an intermediate lifter trying to find to programs to get stronger, could this same program work for my squats as well ? Thanks again.
Jason

Raminderpal Cha...
Posted on: Tue, 01/27/2015 - 22:17

I m a boxer I want to increase my bench
Can i benefit from this routine while doing a lot of sparring And cardio

Greg
Posted on: Tue, 01/27/2015 - 21:46

my only question is on the bench 10x3 is that just for flat bench or do you have to do incline and decline to?

Ryan
Posted on: Mon, 11/24/2014 - 01:39

Great dynamic program. Ran in 2 months before fatigue plateau. If you de-load this could be run longer. I tweaked the accessory lifts a little to suit my preference but the core worked great. Now I've got the confidence to work a traditional powerlifting periodization program like 5/3/1, Candito's 6 week, etc.

Jack Travels
Posted on: Sat, 10/18/2014 - 14:34

Hey, Steve im doing this program over again and i was wondering if changing the shoulder press to the misc strength day and putting heavy squats on friday would be good. Im trying to get a better squat max since i havent squatted in a while. Thanks.

Jack Travels
Posted on: Tue, 09/23/2014 - 20:22

Just finished the program today. Before I started my last successful bench press was 275 with various attempts at 280 and 285 but failing at them. I started the program off with a 270 bench to stay on the safe side. At the end of about 4 months, on my last set of the program I did 275 x 4 instead of going for the 3 reps. I used the bench press calculator on this side and that rounds up to about 310. So a 40 pound increase in bench over 4 months. I didn't gain that much weight either maybe 2lbs at the most. Thank you for sharing your knowledge, Steve.

Scott
Posted on: Tue, 08/19/2014 - 08:55

Why drop the number of sets the following week and not just do as many sets of three as you can? Last week, I completed 8 sets of 300 but yesterday completed 10 sets of 305. I plan to do 10 set of 310 next week.

Matt Steinruck
Posted on: Mon, 08/04/2014 - 12:51

I am currently in my 7th week of this program, and I have been doing 3 second pauses at my sticky point for all my reps. I still have yet to drop any sets, and I wondering if this is a waste if time. I've always had great lockout strength. So I subbed out close grip with slingshot presses. Should I quit doing the three second pauses?

IansterSays
Posted on: Wed, 07/30/2014 - 00:18

Hmm I've done 4 weeks no problem and started out about 5 lbs higher than my 65% and I havnt dropped off yet like the example has. Would it be to much to maybe start doing Monday 10x3 bench ,Wednesday 3x3 Close Grip, Friday 10x3 bench , Monday 3x3 close , Wednesday 10x3 and so on. Or maybe 10x3 every Monday, Friday and close on Wednesday. I just finished smolov jr for benchpress where you benched 4x a week for 3 weeks and the body adapts fairly well to frequency. Not for an extended amount of time though however. Looks like a good workout Steve. Thanks for all you do for the fitness community.

Ant
Posted on: Tue, 07/29/2014 - 05:08

Can I do the 10x3, but also add flys, and incline on the same day?

James
Posted on: Thu, 06/12/2014 - 12:49

Just finished 5 months on this program and went from 235 starting to 275 that I just one-rep'd today. Lifetime best right there (and I was pretty sure I could have done 280). Thanks for the great workout. I will change it up for about 6 weeks, then hit it again so I can clear 300 by end of year.

Denny
Posted on: Mon, 05/26/2014 - 10:58

Steve
I've been powerlifting for a a few years, and I'm stuck at a 250-255 bench for a while now.
I have a bench only meet coming up in about 7 weeks , so about 6 weeks of training, What do you suggest to ramp up in a shorter period . Do I start heavier or take bigger increases , or both?

Joatamos
Posted on: Sun, 05/25/2014 - 06:30

Great looking program, although I found the starting point too light (my 65% is 117.5kg which I knew would be too easy for triples so just bashed out 10 sets of 3 at 140kg).
Bring on the gainz!! :)

old dave
Posted on: Wed, 05/21/2014 - 04:59

I've followed your articles for some time(not always following them as I do what I do) but this routine is really well put together and thought out, well done I'm going to use this

JR
Posted on: Tue, 05/06/2014 - 12:17

I am 56, weigh in around 188#'s and it have done 315#'s raw for a one rep max. I am attempting to drop weight to compete at 181. I have done the typical blast your bench and ladder routines that have worked well for me but with every few pounds I drop, I seem to be losing a rep. Will this stabilize my strength? I have a competition in July where I hope to blow away the Illinois masters record and come close to matching or beating the American record.

John m
Posted on: Fri, 04/11/2014 - 17:59

Hey Steve,
I've been doing the 10x3 sets for flat bench but also for incline and decline all on the same day for my whole workout... Is this too much or is it ok for me to do this?

Alan
Posted on: Tue, 03/11/2014 - 03:03

I loved this workout! My bench press max went from 240 to 285 in about four and a half months, thanks Steve!