"Make light weights heavy."
It may sound counterintuitive—after all, isn't the goal to make heavy weights light?—but powerlifting legend Marty Gallagher told me in an interview years ago that it's his overriding philosophy in building bulletproof lifters who are every bit as strong as they look. And he's definitely not alone.
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson gave his ravenous audience a glimpse at his current chest training this week on Instagram, and it lined up perfectly with that philosophy. Sure, a 275-pound bench is nothing to sneeze at, but we're quite confident that Hercules' max is far higher. How do we know that? Because he didn't just bench 275, he trolled it into abject submission.
Here's the protocol Johnson outlined in the post: "275lbs. 5 half reps. 10 full reps with 2 sec pause at the bottom."
You may be confused by the poundage, since it looks like only a 45 and a 25 on each side of a 43-pound Rogue MG-3 Multi-Grip Bar. That doesn't add up to 275, right? But since he has two seriously beefy chains on each side—45 pounds apiece as far as we can tell—the weight only tells part of the story.
As the bar moves up, links of chain come off the ground and the total load gets heavier every inch of the way. This turns what is known as the "resistance curve" of the bench press on its head. Normally, this pushing movement is hardest at the bottom of the range of motion and easiest at the top. But with the chains added, the lockout at the top becomes the most difficult portion. You may be able to bench 275 relatively easily and still not be able to sniff a single set of what the Rock is cooking here.
That's why it's hard. Here's why it's brilliant: Hammering the lower ROM with the half reps makes sure his chest isn't underserved, as does the 2-second pause. His tris are still working hard, of course, but the full-ROM reps make sure they get absolutely destroyed. This is bench press 2.0 stuff.
Sure, there's a lot going on in this set, and you may be looking at it thinking, "Yeah, but I don't have 90 pounds of chains," but the real takeaway is this: Don't just try to lift heavier. Do more with weights you can manage! Bodybuilding.com contributor Lee Boyce outlines several ways to better "own" your 85-90 percent weights in his fantastic article "Stop Maxing Out! Lift This Way Instead."