Get your bench press moving in the right direction with this 2 phase program. Lifters spend 8 weeks building muscle, and 8 weeks peaking towards a new one rep max.
Workout Summary

Workout Description

This is a 16 week bench press-building training system for late beginner to intermediate lifters. It is comprised of 2 distinctly different, but important blocks:

  • Block 1 - 8 weeks of hypertrophy training. The goal during this time is to get your reps in, build more muscle and work on exercise form. You will also be pushing for progression of weight using sets of 5 reps and greater.
  • Block 2 - The 8 week block is a peaking cycle. You will gradually be transitioning your bench press to lower reps and heavier weight. Volume of assistance work will decrease over time. You will test your bench press max during the last week of this cycle.

It should be noted that this block system is not just for increasing your strength. It is a powerbuilding program, meant to maximize your size and strength.

Make sure to eat properly while using this program. It is not meant to be run while trying to cut fat. I recommend a surplus of 300-500 calories per day above maintenance levels, depending on current muscularity. You also should be eating at least 180 grams of protein per day.

If you are skinny or have yet to put on any appreciable amount of muscle mass, aim for 500 calories above maintenance per day. If you are an intermediate lifter with decent size and strength, or if you tend to put on fat rather easily, eat using a more conservative 300 calories per day above maintenance.


Block 1 - 8 weeks of muscle building/rep work

I recommend a 4 day upper/lower split during this block. During these 8 weeks you should be pushing each set for as many reps as possible. Stop a set when you feel like you might fail on the next rep, or if your form starts to deteriorate. Train for safe progress, not idiotic punishment.

Reps listed for each set are guidelines. Add weight when possible. Rep ranges themselves are not magic, but progression is.

Here is a sample schedule:

  • Monday - Lower Body Workout A
  • Tuesday - Upper Body Workout A
  • Thursday - Lower Body Workout B
  • Friday - Upper Body Workout B
Lower Body
Workout A
Exercise Sets Reps
Paused Squats 4 8-10
Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 8-10
Hack Squats 4 8-10
Leg Curls 3 10-15
Leg Press Calf Raise 3 15-20
Ab Wheel Roll Out 3 10-15
Lower Body
Workout B
Exercise Sets Reps
Deadlift 4 5
Leg Press 4 15-20
Front Squat 4 8-10
Reverse Hack Squat 3 8-10
Seated Calf Raise 3 10-15
Plank 3 60 secs
Upper Body
Workout A
Exercise Sets Reps
Incline Dumbbell Bench Press 5 8-10
Barbell Rows 5 8-10
Seated Overhead Press 5 8-10
Skullcrushers 3 10-12
EZ Bar Curls 3 10-12
Upper Body
Workout B
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press 5 8-10
Pull Ups 5 AMAP
Seated Arnold Press 5 8-10
Cable Tricep Extensions 3 10-12
Dumbbell Curls 3 10-12

Incline Bench Press

Block 2 - 8 week strength peaking cycle

You will continue to use the same style of 4 day upper/lower split during this training period. Your second benching workout of the week will be heavier weight and lower reps, while your first benching session of the week will focus on close grip benches.

Switch to the following training schedule. It will allow for an extra day of rest before your heavy session.

  • Monday - Lower Body Workout A
  • Tuesday - Upper Body Workout A
  • Thursday - Lower Body Workout B
  • Saturday - Upper Body Workout B (Heavy bench day)

Assistance work on bench press days will be pulled back slowly according to this chart:

  • Weeks 1-4 of Block 2 - 4 sets per assistance exercise.
  • Weeks 5-6 of Block 2 - 3 sets per assistance exercise.
  • Week 7 of Block 2 - 2 sets per assistance exercise.
  • Week 8 of Block 2 - No assistance work. Test your new bench press max.

Here is the heavy peaking cycle you will be using during Block 2. It is based upon your current one rep max.

  • Week 1 - 75.0% x 5 sets x 5 reps
  • Week 2 - 80.0% x 5 sets x 4 reps
  • Week 3 - 85.0% x 5 sets x 3 reps
  • Week 4 - 90.0% x 4 singles, 85.0% x 4 sets x 3 reps
  • Week 5 - 92.5% x 3 singles, 87.5% x 3 sets x 3 reps
  • Week 6 - 95.0% x 2 singles, 90.0% x 2 sets x 3 reps
  • Week 7 - 97.5% x 2 singles, 92.5% x 2 sets x 2 reps
  • Week 8 - Max check, see below for instructions on how to test your new max.
How to test for a new one rep bench press max

Here is the warm up and testing protocol I recommend:

  • Bar x 10-15 reps
  • 40% x 5-8 reps
  • 55% x 3-5 reps
  • 65% x 2-3 reps
  • 75% x 1 rep
  • 85% x 1 rep
  • 95% x 1 rep

...and now for your max attempts guidelines. Only proceed to the next attempt if the previous was successful. Please note that you can adjust these numbers as needed. You simply want to slowly creep up to test a new max. 

  • 102.5% x 1 rep
  • 105.0% x 1 rep
  • 107.5% x 1 rep
  • 110.0% x 1 rep

Use the same training schedule and lower body workouts listed above. Your upper body workouts, or bench days, are as follows.

Remember that the number of sets you are doing for everything other than bench press will be reduced as the weeks pass. During week 8 you will be performing no assistance work. This means your workout A below will become a rest day, and workout B will only involve one rep max test.

Upper Body
Workout A
Exercise Sets Reps
Close Grip Bench Press 4 8-10
Barbell Rows 4 8-10
Seated Overhead Press 4 8-10
Skullcrushers 4 10-12
EZ Bar Curls 4 10-12
Upper Body
Workout B
Exercise Sets Reps
Bench Press *See above
Pull Ups 4 AMAP
Seated Arnold Press 4 8-10
Cable Tricep Extensions 4 10-12
Dumbbell Curls 4 10-12
Posted on: Mon, 07/19/2021 - 14:38

How much of an increase on the benchpress would be realistic?

Posted on: Sat, 05/17/2014 - 21:15

This program is legit. I've followed a very similar program and achieved unbelievable results. Can't wait to try this approach on my next heavy cycle

Posted on: Tue, 03/25/2014 - 19:17

would you suggest running this progression for not only bench but for squats simultaneously?

Posted on: Mon, 03/24/2014 - 20:12

I'm 16 years old and my 1 rep max is 315, I'm training for a bench press competition that's in about 6 months and i want to have a lift of at least 365 by then, can this program help me surpass my goal? This'll be my first competition and it would be nice if i win. Thanks

Posted on: Fri, 02/28/2014 - 10:03

Mr. Shaw, I have been lifting consistently for 3-4 years now and I have been following many of your routines. They are excellent!! I feel as if I may have or am reaching a plateau, so my question is should I turn to a workout like this, as opposed to the typical 5 day/ single muscle-group workout? I feel as if this might not be enough exercises, as I am accustomed to 3-4 exercises per workout with high intensity. I am 5'9 and weigh roughly 172 lbs; ectomorph to the fullest. Would this be a direction I can try... or would I perhaps benefit from a different "twice a week muscle routine."

Posted on: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 15:24

This is legit. Doing the math in the peaking cycle, I can finally hit my goal of 225 flat bench! I've been working out consistently for a little over a year but the bench has always been a weakness of mine.

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Posted on: Thu, 02/27/2014 - 09:44

Good luck Charles.

Posted on: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 14:53

I'm up for a challenge

Posted on: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 12:34

I want to build my body help me

eff zee
Posted on: Thu, 02/13/2014 - 07:26

amazing and great workout.Iam from india and im new to the gym.Iam thinking of taking suppliments ,can u guide me. What are the main ingredients i should go for??thank you

Posted on: Fri, 02/14/2014 - 16:19

You should take at least a multivitamin, fish oil, and a protein supplement (preferably whey or a protein complex with whey in it). Creatine can also be helpful as the intensity of the workouts increase.

Posted on: Wed, 02/12/2014 - 22:57

Estoy buscando una rutina de cuerpo completo pero todavia no encuentro una ya que varios ejercicios en todos tus articulos se ven excelentes si se puede mezclarlos como por ejemplo: cojer solo los ejercicios de pecho de un programa y los de brazo de otro programa?

Posted on: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 19:12

Good article !! Great advice as always.

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Posted on: Tue, 02/11/2014 - 19:15

Thanks amigo.