Periodization For A Better Bench Press.

Surefire Way to Improve Your Bench Press...

Last month, I touched on the "Seven Sins of Benching". The seven things most people do in the gym that causes their bench to either go down (which again, SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!) or causes it to be stuck. This month we're going to discuss periodization or what its commonly called "cycling".

This has been the one thing I've stuck to since I got back into competing again. My bench kept going up every two to three months and it was great. Cycling is the organization of workable sets and reps with a certain percentage to achieve a goal or a higher poundage. You start with the lowest weight possible by some percentage(either 50% or 60%) and doing high volume and then at the end your doing the highest weight possible by percentage(95% or more) and doing it with low volume. There are four phases in any powerlifting cycle.

First, there is a hypertrophy phase where the muscle being worked are getting a endurance round, preparing the lifter for what's to come. Your goal here is muscular endurance. You can call is conditioning if you want, but that's what it does any how. This is where its high volume and low intensity and this is good to change it up. Most lifters do the opposite on this, low volume and high intensity. It varies on how this phase lasts, it can go from two weeks up to four weeks on any cycle. A typical set range will be 2 sets up to 5 sets possible and the reps are greater than 12.

The next phase is the strength phase. You can call this a cross between hypertrophy and power phases. You were meant to build a good base with the hypertrophy phase, now its time to mold it!! Your goal here is to increase muscular strength. This is where the muscle packs on, trust me. Strength coaches use this type of stuff and that's way its common for an average football player to bench around from 350 up to a possible 500+. This phase usually lasts about two to three weeks. The average sets would be the same as above, but most cycle has them lower than four sets. The reps would also be lower as well, around four to six reps. At this phase, you should be comfortable with the weight. The percentage are around 60% up to about 80%.

The third phase is the power phase. This is designed to increase the muscular power of an lifter. This is where your bench begins to go up and beyond. The intensity here is low volume and high intensity. The rest between sets are longer to because of lactic acid build up and of course your doing more weight. As your probably guessed, the set range will be lower than three sets and the reps range will also be lower than four reps. With your weights being around 85% up to 100% of your maximum, lower reps are required. This phase is usually short with about two to three weeks.

The final phase is included in some cycles, its called the peak phase. This is where you go beyond your 100% of your max and find your new number on the bench. I do this part of the phase during a competition. A perfect time and place do it. Of course, you can do it elsewhere but my recommendation would be to take a week off from working out and eat like a pig(don't over do it!!) and come back to peak or max out that day. It should have been more than two months since you've maxed out, here's how your warm-ups will commence(for a lifter shooting for a 405 maximum):

  • 1x12-135
  • 1x8- 225
  • 1x6- 250
  • 1x4- 315
  • 1x3- 350
  • 1x2- 375
  • 1x1- 405

I'm hoping to do 405 sometime this summer, which is why I chose 405, but with that, you get the basic idea. Don't forget the average rest has increased now to five to seven minutes. You have to take longer rest here because of the lactic acid build up. I would say that on a day I max would be just that and call it a day. Nothing else, you've derserved it!!

What now?? You probably want more on your bench right? Sure, just restart the cycle with the same percentages over again, only this time your 1RM(one-rep-maximum) will be changed. Here's a good example of a cycle you can use below:

Chart 1: Sample Hypertrophy Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 5 10 62% 3 Minutes
2 4 10 64% 3 Minutes
3 3 10 66% 3 Minutes
4 3 8 68% 3 Minutes
5 3 8 70% 3 Minutes

Chart 2: Sample Strength Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 5 6 75% 3 Minutes
2 5 6 77% 3 Minutes
3 4 5 79% 3 Minutes
4 4 5 82% 3 Minutes
5 3 4 85% 3 Minutes

Chart 3: Sample Power Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 3 4 87% 3 Minutes
2 3 3 89% 3 Minutes
3 3 3 91% 4 Minutes
4 3 3 93% 5 Minutes

Chart 4: Sample Peaking Meso Cycle
Week Sets Reps Intensity Rest
1 3 3 95% 5 Minutes
2 2 2 97% 7 Minutes
3 2 1 99% 7 Minutes

There is one more installation, and it's the workout plan just for the bench press. There is still so much more to increasing the bench press and I'm going to let you in on it next month. If you have any more questions about this months installation or want more info on my strength system, email me at Well, get started already!!!!!

Until then, Stay big
Curtis D.