A big powerful chest conveys the message that you take your training very seriously. But not everyone has the dedication or knowledge to be able to maximize their chest development which is why we’ve put together some bench press programs that we think will help you take your training progress to the next level.
Now, this information may not be for the more advanced individuals but sometimes switching up your routine can do wonders for progress.
So, follow along and we’ll summarize a few of the top programs out there for increasing your bench press…
How Do I Know Which Program Is Best For Me?
One important thing you should know if you didn’t already, is that every aspect of fitness is relative to the individual based on several different factors (e.g. age, level of training experience, health, and goals).
People new to training will likely respond to any training program while more advanced lifters will probably respond to more intensive bench press programs. Although, it’s best to start where you currently are in your training which is why there are programs that are designed for all types of experience levels.
Linear and Non-Linear/Undulating Methods For Strength Progress
Now let’s talk about linear and non-linear/undulating periodization which are the two training methods used to progress by utilizing training periodization which basically consists of designated blocks of time that focus on a specific skill.
We’re going to discuss the difference but both methods are completely necessary for your training progress.
Linear periodization or traditional periodization is pretty much progressive overload in its simplest form through increasing with the sets, reps, or resistance load weekly.
This type of periodization typically begins with high volume, lower intensity workouts before progressing to lower volume, higher intensity training in phases referred to as mesocycles. So, there’s constant progressive overload being implemented with the occasional deload week.
And the training is separated into hypertrophy, strength, power, and transition phases.
But linear periodization as you could probably imagine is very beneficial for beginners and it’s a proven way to build a solid foundation before adopting more complex routines.
However, for the intermediate and more advanced lifter, there comes a point in your training where you will no longer be able to just increase the weight week after week.
And although you can modify sets and reps, you’ll eventually need to change it up to continue making progress.
Non-linear/undulating periodization involves fluctuations in both volume and intensity overtime on a weekly basis. And as a result, you progress due to the frequency of mixing up the stimulus in an effort to create an optimal environment for the muscle to perform when it needs to.
But that’s why this method of periodization is much better suited for the more intermediate to advanced individuals.
And usually, the volume to intensity ratio varies either week to week or daily. So, for example, you may do 60% for week 1, 70% on week 2, 65% on week 3, and then 75% on week 4.
Then for daily undulating periodization, fluctuations occur within a single week. For example, bench press weight can be 70% one day and 80% the next. Whereas with linear training, you’d do the same weight within the week.
But like the linear model, non-linear training involves mixing up the sets and reps based on weight lifted but to a different extent. This is great because it also prevents monotony which many times makes it easier to stick with and look forward to training.
6 Popular Bench Press Programs
Now let’s look at 6 popular and effective programs and one thing to note is that a few of the following programs also include other big lifts, while others are bench only. But it’s your decision as to how you’d like to modify a routine to best suit your preference.
Also, all programs consist of linear and non-linear training because both are, in fact, necessary for experiencing the best results possible.
1. Texas Method
This intermediate program from Mark Rippetoe and Glenn Pendlay consists of lifting three days per week high volume (stimulus overload) on Monday, active recovery on Wednesday, and high-intensity (strength gains) on Friday.
It involves linear and undulating periodization which focuses on sets of 5 which also consists of hitting a PR every week.
Here’s an example we pulled from a previous article…
Monday – Volume Day
- Squat 5×5 at 90% of 5 rep max
- Bench Press or OHP 5×5 at 90% of 5 rep max
- Deadlift 1×5 at 90% of 5 rep max
Wednesday – Light/Recovery Day
- Squat 2×5 at 80% of Mondays weight
- OHP (if you benched on Monday) 3×5 at a slightly lighter load than previous 5×5. Bench Press (if you OHP on Monday) 3×5 at 90% of previous 5×5 weight.
- Chin-Ups 3x bodyweight
- Back Extensions or glute-ham raises 5×10
Friday – Intensity Day
- Squats warm-up, then work up in singles or doubles to one single, new 5RM
- Bench Press (if you bench pressed Monday) or overhead press (if OHP on Monday), warm-up, then work up in singles or doubles to one single, new 5RM
- Power Cleans 5 x 3 reps
Note: Ready for a tough challenge that will yield big benefits? Try The Texas Method.
2. Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1
There are many variations of 5/3/1 which is ideal for intermediate lifters and it consists of a focus on the big lifts (Military Press, Deadlift, Bench Press, and the Squat) in a once per week fashion.
But the goal is slow, consistent progress and rep PR’s will be a focus each workout with many cycles of 4 weeks.
Here’s an example of the 5/3/1 protocol…
Week 1: 3×5 (3 sets of 5 reps)
Week 2: 3×3 (3 sets of 3 reps)
Week 3: 3×5, 3, 1 (One set of 5 reps, one set of 3 reps, and one set of 1 rep)
Week 4: Deload (3 sets of 5 reps)
Then the next cycle will involve training with heavier weights so you’ll add more resistance on top of your one-rep max (5 pounds to upper body exercises and 10 pounds to lower body exercises).
3. Greg Nuckols 28 Programs (3x Per Week)
28 programs by Greg Nuckols consist of linear and undulating periodization and it includes an outline for squat, bench, and deadlift only but it’s intended to use all exercises together in one program. But there’s a beginner, intermediate, and advanced version of each exercise while each lift and proficiency level has 1x, 2x, and 3x weekly variations.
So, 3 lifts x 3 skill levels x 3 frequencies = 27 programs, although the deadlift has four variations to bring the total to 28 programs which include beginner, low volume, medium volume, and high volume.
Cycles are 4 weeks with lifters testing one-rep max following each one.
4. Matt Disbrow’s Deathbench
It’s a program which sounds grueling and it’s definitely no cakewalk but Matt Disbrow’s Deathbench program is a crowd favorite.
Deathbench is a 10-week program (2 workouts per week) for intermediate and advanced lifters with mostly a focus on undulating periodization. Also, there’s an original and taper version for competition.
Now, the program was originally intended for those benching at least 315 pounds but turns out it’s effective for those who may not be quite as strong. Although, it’s best utilized for people near a 300+ pound bench press.
But you can rest assured, you’ll see your numbers increase with this top-notch bench press program.
5. Conjugate System
Created by Louie Simmons (Westside Barbell), the Conjugate Method involves frequent max effort lifts on a weekly basis and even sometimes every few weeks.
Now, rather than sticking with the exercise, this system uses different exercise variations to progress. But most days other than the max effort lifts will consist of more speed and explosive movements still using the big, compound lifts with some additional assistance work thrown in as well.
It’s a program more suited for the person who has a little training experience although there are programs for all experience levels which focus mostly on undulating periodization.
Sheiko’s bench press only program involves 3x weekly training but it also includes squats and accessory exercises.
Linear Vs. Non-Linear
The majority of studies have compared the effects on linear and non-linear training only where strength is concerned. However, one study published by the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research set out to compare the effects that each type of training periodization has on hypertrophy in addition to one-rep max strength. (1)
Thirty untrained men were assigned to either a linear, non-linear, or control group (control group did not engage in resistance training). Muscle thickness in the right biceps and triceps, as well as one-rep max strength, were measured for the bench press, lat pulldown, triceps extension, and biceps curl before and after 12 weeks of training.
Well, both linear and non-linear groups experienced significant increases in one-rep max except for the bench press in the linear group. And the non-linear group saw a much higher one-rep max in the bench press and bicep curl when compared to the linear group.
But the non-linear group showed significantly more muscle thickness when compared to the control group. So, it was concluded that both methods are effective, however, a non-linear periodization program followed for 12 weeks may lead to better one-rep max and muscle thickness.
But… it was also noted that more research is needed to come to a better overall conclusion when comparing both methods based on the fact that there are always different variables to consider when considering any training methods.
However, most studies comparing the two seem to favor the non-linear method over the linear style of progression. But you can’t have a program with only non-linear progression as there has to be some form of linear progression for consistent adaptation.
There are many great programs out there but we thought you may be interested in a few we’ve picked out to the popularity and effectiveness of each one.
Some are ideal for beginners, others for intermediate and advanced, while a few include all three. But we highly advise listening to your own body and determining where you may need to make adjustments when necessary.
Not everyone will respond by progressing smoothly through a routine but it’s nothing to be concerned with either if you’re training intelligently.