Bench pressing four days a week is stupid, right? That could only lead to overtraining, along with pecs and shoulders so sore they file for a restraining order.
But what if that's just what you needed to do to bring your bench press up? It sounds like programming heresy, or the type of training a novice lifter at Douchebag Fitness would follow at the expense of seemingly more important work for, say, the posterior chain.
However, to remedy a stalled bench press, benching more frequently may be just what the doctor ordered.
High Frequency High Payoff
Prioritizing frequency over concentrated volume has grown in popularity over the past few years because it works, and works well. The logic at play is that exposing the body to a stimulus more often will result in faster adaptation, leading to you getting bigger and stronger.
Not convinced? Think about it. Which do you think is more likely to make you stronger: 52 sessions on the bench a year, or 104 sessions?
Strength is, after all, a skill, and practice makes perfect. High frequency training is especially beneficial for raw lifters who need to hone and perfect their technique on the actual lift.
And more often than not, better technique will be the difference between a big PR and another frustrating failed attempt.
Training more frequently also has other benefits, the biggest being that it increases neurological efficiency – a fancy way of saying it teaches your body to use its muscles more effectively.
The more you practice lifting, the more your body learns to recruit a higher percentage of muscle fibers. More muscle fibers firing means you can lift heavier, and lifting heavier provides the mechanical means to get bigger as well as stronger.
The Russian Monster
Most bench press specialization programs will have you benching twice a week. It's a fine approach and has been proven effective by countless lifters. But like all effective approaches, it doesn't work for everyone, and it doesn't work forever. And when you run out of more standard options, it's time to call the Russians.
In powerlifting it always seems to come back to something Russian. Say what you want about Russia's Cold War economics or politics, but they nailed it when it came to strength training.
You may have heard of the Smolov squat program. This 13-week nightmare drills your squat with such frequency, intensity, and volume that it's been the bane of many an aspiring lifter. Those that managed to survive it, however, often reported outstanding results.
Can the Smolov program be adapted for the bench press?
A lesser known, but still incredibly effective, variant of the Smolov squat program is affectionately known as the Smolov Jr. cycle. It's not nearly as brutal as the original squat program, but still enormously challenging.
The payoff, however, is well worth the effort – it's not uncommon for a lifter to put over 20 pounds onto their bench press in just 4 weeks.
You'll be benching 4 – yes, four – times a week. The first two workouts have a rest day in between them and the last two are back-to-back lifting days.
There are a few things you must be aware of:
This is an intense bench specialization cycle. Your other lifts must take a back seat. That means putting your squat and deadlift on maintenance. Lest you start feeling the icy chill of squatter's anxiety, relax, neither your squat nor your deadlift will erode if you put them on the backburner for a month.
The same applies for upper body assistance work. Beyond some basic upper back training, it isn't a good idea to try to add much in.
The bench days are already frequent, high volume, and intense. You'll get everything you need from them. Trying to add in extra work, no matter how well intentioned, is only going to put you at a greater risk for injury and interfere with your precious recovery time, especially towards the end of the cycle.
Finally, this is an advanced cycle. Don't even think about it unless you've got at least 2-3 years of legitimate training experience under your weight belt.
Now go back and reread this section before you move on. Yeah, it's that important.
|Sets x Reps||6 x 6||7 x 5||8 x 4||10 x 3|
|Week 1||70% 1RM||75% 1RM||80% 1RM||85% 1RM|
|Week 2||70% +5kg||75% +5kg||80% +5kg||85% +5kg|
|Week 3||70% + 10kg||75% +10kg||80% +10kg||85% +10kg|
|Week 4||REST||Test Max|
The program is very straightforward. Everything is based off your one-rep max. To that end, make sure you're using a real – and recent – one-rep max.