Bench Press: After speaking with a friend yesterday, and also observing all the trends in fitness, I have really began to wonder why people change what works. It seems in fitness people are always interested in the shiny object, rather than just sticking with what works. There is always a latest fad and it seems to through people off track, and they all go off following it; be it cross fit, be it rep styles or be it pumping blood into muscles. This is not to say that any of these techniques are bad or do not work, but rather I see people complicating what does not need to be so when progress itself is just about consistency.
However, I have found tried and true that forced progress has always worked for me, and when I go off in all directions, I seem to have no progress or progress that just does not make me very happy at all. It makes sense when you think about why a muscle grows on the very basic level. Muscles grow because they are challenged to lift a new weight and must grow in order to be able to support it in the future.
In order for such a method to work, it is important to track statistics, especially since such growth will be pushed slowly and incrementally. I have always worked with a style called “Linear Progression,” which is a really complicated way to say something that is in fact very, very simple.
If I want a bigger bench press, I will first decide my rep range. Let’s say for sake of simplicity here, its going to be at least 4 but no more than 6. Now, this range is not ideal for building volume but it is ideal for building strength, but I digress. We decide a starting weight, let’s say 275. My first day I will do two sets, 275 x 6 and 280 x 4 or 5, depending upon how I am feeling that day. The following week, my sets will be 280 x 6 and 285 x 4 or 5. The next week, my sets will be 285 x 6 and 290 x 4 or 5. Now, I am going to go through the entire progression, but it is important that the increments are so small, so muscle and strength growth can be forced a bit easily here.
I follow this program for 8 weeks, some weeks may be better than others, but it will be consistent. So let’s say I keep that 5 pounds a week going, which this is how I’ve always gotten back to my strongest, thats a total of 40 pounds. If we add that 40 pounds to our starting weight of 275, then you’re benching 315! I have done this numerous times over the years as I have lost and gained weight and strength, according to my goals. When you get to your goal, you can decide what you will do with your new found strength.
Linear progression is very simple, and it works, but it is not magic! It will not work forever, but it will work. With short breaks in between, you can always go back to it to get closer to your goals. This is how I single repped 455 pounds at 185 pounds of bodyweight.