3 Week Bench Press Specialization Program

Every now and then, for one reason or another, training progress can stall, or you may encounter an injury that sidelines other training goals you had been chasing.  This can be incredibly frustrating, borderline depressing and down-right infuriating for someone who identifies with or holds high level strength and power as an important part of who they are or what they enjoy (even more so if they are an actively competitive lifter)!

One particular example of this that I will be addressing today, is focused toward strength sport athletes or enthusiasts who have a primary focus on improving the big 3 compound lifts (squat, bench press and deadlift).

I have worked with dozens of individuals who are either competitive lifters in various federations, or whom train very similar and with the same intensity and commitment as other lifters.  Many choose to not compete with anyone other than themselves and the record board at my facility, and of the hundreds of clients I have worked closely with in total, many are interested in only focusing on one or more lifts and making those lifts their “strength  indicators” or focus of their program.

Today we are going to focus on a “Bench Press Specialization” template that I have and am personally using, while unable to train my squat and deadlift due to a long history of back injuries, which culminated in the worst pain I have ever experienced in 2016.

It took me a long time to be OK with not training in a competitive manner, or having the ability to train the way I really wanted.  Instead of bitching about it, I have made a serious effort to select a goal I can focus on, which allows me to be excited to train, yet accommodates my recovery and current abilities.  Years of sports and accumulated mileage on joints adds up, and many of you reading this may be already nodding in agreeance.

Below is a sample 3-week program I personally followed that placed a large emphasis on building the bench press.  Aside from the occasional elbow ache and pain, the bench has never caused me problems, even when any other injuries were at their highest.

This program has a few key points to consider before you print it off and give it a try:

  • I have been training for 22 years and consider myself an advanced lifter with regards to technique, control, and tissue adaptation
  • This program is a high frequency program, having me perform different variations of the bench press and associated supplemental work in a given micro or meso training cycle (weekly and monthly in my case)
  • The total program is 5 days/week (if you want to cut the 3rd upper body day you can, and will still get solid results from this template as long as all other factors are accounted for and you are training for progressive overload)
  • I accepted that some general wear and tear may come about, and I accept the responsibility to perform necessary soft tissue work, eat enough and listen to my body from week to week
  • I auto-regulate and adjust any movement by subbing in a different bar or ROM anytime I need to if something feels off
  • I also understood that given the number of years I have been training, I did not expect to see significant improvements until months down the road, as supercompensation and recovery takes much longer to see take place as you get more advanced and require greater loads and total work volume.
  • I used my own personal accessory accessories each week to focus on adding muscle where my frame needed it, in order to continue making improvements.  A bigger muscle has more potential to be a stronger muscle, so I focused hard on improving my weak points
  • Finally, there is lots of lower body work still being performed in this program, however it is not a sole focus for me as far as producing or handling maximal squat and deadlift loads ( I simply couldn’t at this time).

If you are someone who needs to dial in your focus, you love to bench press or you need to work around a nagging back or lower body injury, this program will let you do that.

I cannot speak for anyone else here, but for me this did wonders and II added both mass and strength to my upper body and bench.  This is the first 3 weeks of the program, so feel free to print it off and give it a go.  You may need to cycle in a few different exercises or lower the volume.  Maybe you need to cut day 5.  It really depends on where you are at now.

* Disclaimer:   If you have been training less than 2 years consistently, I would not recommend you follow this program.  You would be better off with a more intermediate program that accommodates your current needs and abilities.

So, with all of this laid out, here is the first 3 weeks of my personal bench press specialization program:

 

Bench Specialization     Week 1-2 (Moderate-High Intensity)

Day 1

A.   Bench press                                            3RM (8 RPE)

B.   Slingshot or 2-board bench                5RM

C1.  DB floor press (palms facing in)       4 x 10 (take sets to muscular failure)

C2. Heavy row variation                             4 x 10 (take sets to muscular failure)

D.   Plate shoulder circles                           30-50 each way

 

Day 2

A.   Squat variation                                       5RM + 3 x 5 @ -10% (max reps on last set)

B.   Pull ups (mixed grips)                           5 x 4-6

C.   Walking lunges                                       3 x 10/leg

D1.  Hand over hand sled drag                   3 x 75′

D2.  Suitcase carry                                        3 x 75′

 

Day 3

A.    Speed bench (various grip widths)    6 x 3 @ 60% bar + mini bands, then WUT 3RM

B.    Strict military press (BB, KB, DB)     5RM + 3 x 5 @ -10% (max reps on last set)

C.     Chest supported pause rows              3 x 10+ (pause 3 sec @ top)

D1.   1/2 kneeling face pulls                        2 x 15

D2.   Y-handcuffs/blackburns                    2 x 15

 

Day 4

A1.  Deadlift variation                                 8 x 2 (start at approx. 65% and work up to daily top sets)

A2.  Jump squat/box jump                        8 x 3

B.    Ascending sled push                            10 steps/leg/set (add one plate/set and ladder up to top weight for the day)

C.    Glute ham raise/nordic ham curl      3-5 x 6-10

D.    Side plank w/ band row                      2 x 15/side

 

Day 5 (*Optional)

A.    Close grip bench press                         WUT 3RM + 1 x 3 @ -10% + 1 x Max reps @ -25%

B.    DB incline bench press                         2 x 10-20 (change angle each set, take sets to failure)

C1.  3-point DB rows                                     2-3 x 10/side

C2.  Chest supported band pull aparts      2-3 x 25

C3.  Band hammer curls                              2-3 x 10-20

 

 

Bench Specialization                            Week 3 (Low Intensity- Deload)

Day 1

A.   Bench press                                              3RM (8 RPE)

B.   Slingshot or 2-board bench                   90% last weeks 5RM x 3 x 5

C1.  Iso alternate DB floor press                  2 x Max reps (10+ reps/side, one DB stays @ the top)

C2.  Heavy row variation                               2 x 20+ heavy-light drop set

D.   Plate shoulder circles                             30-50 each way

 

Day 2

A.   Squat variation                                         90% top 5RM x 3 x 5

B.   Pull ups (mixed grips)                             5 x 4-6

C.    Walking lunges                                        2 x 10/leg

D1.  Hand over hand sled drag                     2 x 75′

D2.  Suitcase carry                                          2 x 75′

 

Day 3

A.    Speed bench w/ chains                          6 x 3 @ 50% bar + 20% chains (bar speed must stay high), + 3RM no chains

B.    Strict military press (BB,KB,DB)        90% top 5RM x 3 x 5

C.    Chest supported pause rows                 3 x 10+ (pause 3 sec @ top)

D1.   1/2 kneeling face pulls                          2 x 15

D2.   Y-handcuffs                                            2 x 15

 

Day 4

A1.  Deadlift variation (Conv/Sumo/TB)  6 x 2 (start at approx. 65% and work up to daily top sets)

A2.  Jump squat/box jump                          6 x 3

B.    Goblet squat                                            4 x 10

C.    Glute ham raise/nordic ham curl       2-4 x 6-10

D.    DB Farmers carry                                  1 x Max distance in 60 sec

 

Day 5 (*Optional)

A.    Close grip bench press                         90% 3RM x 3 x 5

B.    DB incline bench press                        3 x 10+ (change angle each set, take sets to failure)

C.    Weak point/accessory work               * Individual/based on needs

 

 

Well there you have it!  I personally followed (along with 6 of my training pals, this exact program).  Obviously we all had some differences we adjusted for, but this is 90% of the exact template we followed.

Remember to make adjustments when you have to and keep training as simple as you can while still making progress!

 

CS