Calm down. I am not going to show you a mystic way to boost your bench press and become one of the online celebrities lifting trucks in popular online videos. I used this title to grab people’s attention in order to present the reasons why I believe most bench press routines promising big numbers fast are nothing but delusional thinking and permabulking antics that ultimately fail to produce stable injury free long term results.
Below are the main factors responsible for the big raw bench press numbers we see today.
The bench press is definitely a pretentious slut for the most part. It’s like one of those women who are with you only for the money, and the minute your income is hurt, she will leave without even a note. Out of the popular lifts the bench press is the one affected the most by weight reduction. That’s why many overoptimistic natural warriors, trying to break powerlifting records, hate losing weight because their bench press strength immediately crashes down. On the other hand, when you gain weight while still training hard, your bench press keeps on climbing. Thus, one of the fastest way to increase your bench press is to eat a supermarket, get fat as hell and train as hard as your body can handle.
Believe it or not, this is what many people choose to do. Back in the day, there was an article posted on startingstrength.com in which a powerlifter was revealing one of his secrets to rapid strength increase. The method was simple – eating one whole cake a day by yourself. There is even an old saying in the powerlifting sector known as “Eat your way through the sticking point.” Translated this wisdom looks like this: “Get fat, lift more.” Many attribute this strength principle to Hugh Cassidy who got his weight close to 300 lbs / 136 kg but later on had to cut down to 190 lbs / 86 kg to look normal again.
When you add 50 lbs / 22 kg or more to your frame in a few weeks, your lifts will go up, even if the added weight is basically fat and water. Of course, that strength has a high price – you get to experience the wonderful joy of looking like you need a large bra thanks to your newly formed man boobs. It goes without saying that the extra food costs more money and poses a greater stress on your system. If you decide to stick with the cake advice, your internals will feel like exploited workers who do all the work only to receive a cold bath in the street at the end of the day.
It also goes without saying that the organ responsible for that apocalypse known as the ego will be quite happy. Unfortunately, the happiness will not continue for long because there are always more pounds to be added, and a true barbell junky always asks for more. Another bonus of this method is that you will be shopping in the XXXXL world where you can meet fellow permabulkers.
Bench press to bodyweight ratio
A painful topic that people avoid is bench press to bodyweight ratio. Permabulkers hate this term with a passion and usually cry when the topic is brought up, but it has to be discussed. Sorry.
If you are a skinny guy chasing arbitrary gym bench press standards, you are risking to become mentally ill quite fast. It’s much healthier to just focus on getting your bench to a decent ratio which is 1.5 BW and above. If your weight is 150 lbs / 68 kg, that equals a 225 lbs / 102 kg bench press or more. Of course, a two-plate bench press may not look impressive to the another brahs in the gym, but if you calculate how much they are benching, you will see that it’s rarely over 1.5 BW. Those guys are just heavier and can lift a little more total weight. Their relative strength is usually the same or weaker.
Another important part of your bench press career is form. If you have poor technique with many holes in it, chances are you will be bleeding some strength. With that said, don’t get too excited. I am not one of those guys who will make you believe that you can add 50 lbs to your bench press by just squeezing the bar like your are hanging off a helicopter flying over the ocean. Technique is very important for optimal strength output and health preservation, but after you have acquired a decent level of proficiency, all the tweaks in the world will not compensate for the lack of strength.
The bench press is not a complicated lift, but since it’s one of the few lifts that can chop your head off, it deserves some extra respect. If you want to boost your bench, you should study proper form extensively. Still, you have to be careful! There are many permabulkers with inflated egos who will make you believe learning how to bench with proper form is harder than driving a spaceship, if those things even exist.
After you have developed solid technique, we arrive at programming – a favorite topic of the bench press lovers.
I don’t believe there is a better routine to increase any lift than the good old training cycles with a built-in deload. The principle of cycling is incredibly simple: you build up, deload and then build up to a slightly higher number than before. You can read much more on the topic in this article.
With the risk of making many people mad, I will say that I don’t like high frequency special tactics. I am not saying they don’t work, because they probably do for the right people. However, I have found for myself that 1-2 workouts a week build around cycling work(s) very well while reducing the risk of potential overuse injuries tremendously. Of course, I am not stopping anyone from trying the typical high frequency programs used by Russian and European lifters. I just think that at the end of day, basic periodization will outperform those programs because less volume and less frequency are more sustainable in the long run for the average person. In addition, I believe most people don’t have the joints to bench so frequently.
It’s also very important to note that Smolov like programs are spike routines. You do them for a few months, get a boost and afterwards you have to return to your old car.
The bench press progresses slowly because it’s an upper body lift.
I have to tell you a sad fact that can really hurt the addict in you – at one point you will have to be
contented with increasing your bench press by 8-10% over the course of a 8-12 weeks training cycle. I know there are a lot of brahs on the Internet who are supposedly adding plate after plate week after week, but those are usually liars and fake natties whose world is nothing but a fantasy. The can’t remember who they are anymore.
World record holders are on steroids.
Finally, we arrive at the drug issue again. As you can expect, most people with stunning bench press records are hardcore steroid abusers who never stop pinning. If you are a natural guy, you should always keep that in mind when somebody is trying to school you on how to become a bench press beast.
Some steroid abusers know nothing about programming and are strong solely thanks to the drugs in their systems. Many of them don’t even follow a set routine. They just go to the gym after another one night stand and do what they feel like. Since those individuals have a lot of muscle mass and powerful elixirs are swimming in their bodies, they can often bench nice numbers – 3,4 and in some weird cases even over 5 plates per side. That looks pretty impressive to the average person in the gym, but don’t think even for a second that it would be possible without the drugs.
I don’t think it’s optimal for a natural guy to go to the gym without a progression of some kind. The importance of programming becomes apparent even at higher level. Who has the heaviest bench press in the world? Fat powerlifters who use special programming while abusing every drug under the Sun. Thus, proper programming makes a difference, albeit it will not make naturals as strong as unnaturals.