Working your way toward a heavier bench press can be a long and frustrating process. You might have progress for a period of time and then stall out. Perhaps you have workout ADD and can't stick to a plan for your bench press workouts.
A workout routine will help to keep you on track and consistent. Setting a goal when you go into the gym will help you avoid distraction and give you something to strive toward every workout. The best bench press routines help you stay focused during your workouts and give you a goal to strive toward.
The 5x5 is one of the most basic styles of workout programs, known as a "linear program." In a linear program you progress in a straight line. For the 5x5 you will be increasing the weight that you use by either 2.5 or five pounds every week. This constant progress makes it linear.
For the first week of the 5x5, pick a weight that you can do five sets of five repetitions with proper form. By the fifth rep of the fifth set, you should be struggling, but you should still complete every repetition. If you fail to complete a repetition during one of the five sets, lower the weight by 5 or 10 pounds for the next set.
The next week of your 5x5 workout will follow the same structure, except that you should increase the weight you use by a total of 2.5 or 5 pounds. If you are struggling in your workout, only increase by 2.5 pounds the next week. If you think you did well, increase by 5 pounds.
The reason that you don't increase the weight by more than 5 pounds — even if it is way too easy — is the idea of continued progress. You want to make minuscule jumps each week because that will keep you progressing in a straight line, rather than jumping up 20 pounds one week and dropping 10 pounds the next.
If the slow and steady 5x5 program is not your pace, you can try the 5/3/1 program created by Jim Wendler. In the 5/3/1 workout, you organize your workouts into four-week cycles. You also need to know the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one repetition in the bench press, also known as your "one-rep max." According to Wendler, the training max must be correct, and, if in doubt, err on the side of 'too light'."
To determine your one rep max, start by finding a training partner who can spot you. After your regular warm-up, add weight to the bar in 5- or 10-pound increments and perform one repetition at each weight. Keep adding weight until you feel like you can't complete one more repetition. Use the last weight that you successfully lift as your one-rep max.
The first week you perform three sets of five repetitions after a thorough warm-up. The first set is five repetitions with 65 percent of your one-rep max. The second set is five repetitions with 75 percent of your one-rep max. The third set is as many repetitions as possible with eighty-five percent of your one-rep max. Try to get more than five repetitions for this set.
The second week will be three sets of three repetitions with 70, 80 and 90 percent of your one-rep max, respectively. For the final set, perform as many repetitions as possible, trying to get more than three.
The third week is one set of five repetitions, one set of three repetitions and as many repetitions as possible for the final set, trying to get at least one rep. The weights should be 75, 85 and 95 percent of your one-rep max, respectively.
The fourth week is a recovery week. You will perform three sets of five repetitions with 40, 50 and 60 percent of your one rep max, respectively.
Next, adjust your one rep max number by multiplying the weight you used for your final set on week three by the amount of repetitions you completed with that weight. Multiply that number by 0.0333 and add that to the amount of weight you used for the same set. That is your new estimated one-rep max, and you can use that to start a new four week cycle with slightly higher weights.
German Volume Training
German Volume Training is as intimidating as it sounds. For the bench press, your workout will consist of 10 sets of 10 repetitions at 60 percent of your one-repetition max.
After a warm-up, begin your sets and keep going until you complete all 10. If you fail at any point during a set or if you think you will fail the next set, drop the weight by 5 to 10 pounds and perform the next set.
The benefit of this style of training is the incredibly high amount of sets and repetitions you get in a workout. You will end up completing 100 repetition for the bench press in one workout. This approach is referred to as "high-volume" and, as a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows, can be effective in increasing size and strength of muscles.
This program is extremely tiring because of the high volume and should not be performed more than once per week. Your muscles, tendons, and ligaments will need a chance to heal after this workout. If you don't take time to rest, you can increase your risk for overuse injuries.