Muscle Media's Benchpress Routine

Following is the benchpress routine which appeared from Muscle Media. The goal of this program is to ad up to 50 pounds to your benchpress within a seven week period. This information was taken from DL's web page and Muscle Media's web page You can take a look at these pages for more detailed information regarding this program.

I am taking it for granted you already know how to benchpress properly and have a spotter or powercage available for heavy lifts.

There are some forms which you need to either print (preferably) or view in order to do this routine. There is a progression table which lists the poundages you'll be using for each workout, and a workout sheet which details how many sets and reps you'll be doing for each workout. Links to view and/or print these forms are later in this document.

Step 1: Determining Your One-Rep Max (1RM)

Before you begin the routine you need to figure out what your one rep maximum (1RM) is. This is the amount of weight you can benchpress using good form for just one repetition.

To determine your 1RM properly, you should refrain from training chest, shoulders, or triceps 48 hours prior to testing. You should also perform the test before you start your normal workout. No use trying to determine how strong you are in a particular lift if you've just finished an incredibly grueling workout, regardless of what body part is involved. You should also warm up properly and make sure you've got a conscientious spotter handy in case your 1RM is less than the weight you've piled on the bar.

Here's how to determine your 1RM:

  1. Warm up with a light weight for four to five reps. (Doing too many warm-up reps might generate too much lactic acid and screw up your 1 1RM.) Repeat twice.
  2. Rest two minutes after your final warm-up set.
  3. Increase the weight to one you can handle for eight reps.
  4. Rest three minutes.
  5. Increase the weight to one you can handle for three to four reps.
  6. Rest three minutes.
  7. Add weight, and attempt to lift the weight once.
  8. If you failed, rest three minutes, reduce the weight, and try again. If you succeeded in lifting the weight, rest three minutes, add some weight, and try again. Repeat steps six and seven until you fail at lifting the weight.

Step 2: Plugging your 1RM into the Progression Table

Now that you've figured out your 1RM, you need to get some numbers from the progression table. This table lists the poundages you'll be using for each of your workouts. I have provided the tables in the following formats:

(If you can't use any of these file types, drop me a quick email and tell me what you can use, and I'll try to reformat the data for you and email it to you.

Once I point out a few things, you'll see that it's really very easy. For the time being, pay attention only to the column on the far left marked "1RM." Find the number in that far left column that corresponds to the 1RM you've already determined by completing Step 1. Let's assume your 1RM was 280 lbs. Find the number 280 in that 1RM column, and look at the first three numbers to the immediate right of your 1RM. In this case, the numbers are 220, 235, and 245. These are the workout poundages you'll use for your first benchpress workout, and if you look at the top of that same column, you'll see that those three poundages are grouped in column number 1. That "1" corresponds to your first workout. Right underneath that column head are the letters A, B. and C. (We'll get into these later; suffice it to say, they're just there to make it easier to find the appropriate columns.) See 'em? Now look under that A, B, and C; you'll see the numbers 6, 5, and 4. These numbers correspond to the number of reps you'll be doing in Benchpress Workout #1.

To summarize, your 1RM of 280 Ibs indicates that in Bench-Press Workout #1, you'll be using 220 lbs, 235 lbs, and 245 lbs in your work sets.

Under each workout, there are three columns: A, B. and C. These columns correspond to the columns of the form so that it's very simple to transfer the information into the right place (A to the A box, B to the B box, etc.).

Step 3: Recording Your Numbers on the Workout Sheet

You will need to use a workout sheet to write your poundages on. This sheet lists the number of sets and reps you'll be doing for each workout. The worksheet can be displayed and printed from this file, and looks like this:

# 1 Date_________ 1 @ _______ X 6 2 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 4
# 2 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X Negative
# 3 Date_________ 1 @ _______ X 6 2 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 4
# 4 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X Negative
# 5 Date_________ 1 @ _______ X 6 2 @ _______ X 5 1 @ _______ X ___ Failure
# 6 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X Negative
# 7 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 3 1 @ _______ X ___ Failure
# 8 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 1 1 @ _______ X Negative
# 9 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X ___ Failure
# 10 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X 1
# 11 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 3 1 @ _______ X ___ Failure
# 12 Date_________ 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X 1
# 13 Date_________ 1 @ _______ X 5 2 @ _______ X 3 2 @ _______ X 2
# 14 Date_________ 1 @ _______ X 3 1 @ _______ X 2 1 @ _______ X 1

Click here for the workout sheet

Remember the number of reps and poundages we just read off the Progression Table? Write them down, along with the date, in the boxes that correspond to Workout #1. In the case of our example, you'd write 220 Ibs in the rectangular box marked "A" on the Workout Sheet. And, accordingly, you'd write 235 lbs under "B" and 245 lbs under "C" as shown in the illustration below:

# 1 Date 3/15/97 1 @ 220 X 6 2 @ 235 X 5 2 @ 245 X 4

Some of you more anal types will want to fill in all the boxes on the Workout Sheet right away... Don't. I'll explain why later.

Although there are three rectangular boxes marked A, B, and C, that doesn't mean you'll be doing only three sets. Take a look at Box A next to Workout #1: it says you'll be doing one set of six reps. Fine and dandy. However, look at Box B: it says two sets of five reps. Accordingly, Box C says two sets of four reps. All total, you'll be doing five sets of bench during Workout #1. The exact number of reps and sets varies slightly from workout to workout, but your Workout Sheet will let you know how many you need to do for each training session.

When you're ready for your second workout, find your 1RM on the right of the Progression Table again. This time, trace along the columns until you get to Workout #2. You'll note that the weights are heavier this time. Don't worry, I expect you to get stronger fast but not this fast. The poundages are significantly heavier because you'll be doing fewer reps. If you look at the top of the page, in column number 2 you'll see that you'll be doing sets of three reps, two reps, and a set marked "Neg." Go ahead and write those poundages in the boxes marked A, B, and C. In the case of our example 1RM, these poundages will be 240 Ibs, 260 Ibs, and 285 Ibs.

If you're paying attention, you'll have noticed that the weight used for the third set, the set marked "Neg" is more than your 1RM max. This weight is going to be used for a negative set. Actually, negative sets are used throughout the program. The use of negatives can really speed up strength development if not overused. Typically, people are capable of handling up to 20% more weight on the negative (eccentric) portion of a lift as opposed to the positive portion (concentric).

You'll do your negative set after your first four "normal" work sets of bench press. Then, you'll need to find a spotter who'll help you do your negative set. After you find one, load the bar with the weight specified in the Progression Table. Grip the bar as you normally would for a set, and then have your partner help you unrack the weight. Unlock your elbows, and slowly lower the weight, resisting it all the way. Then, press the weight up with help from your spotter, and rack the weight.

Step 4: The Failure Test

This program wouldn't be all that sophisticated (nor effective) if there weren't some way to gauge your progress and make adjustments accordingly. That's why there's a "Failure Test" included in Workouts #5, 7, 9, and 11. Remember when I told you not to fill out the numbers on the Workout Sheet ahead of time? Well, that's because of the Failure Test.

Flip to the Progression Table once more. Take a look at the top row, the one where it lists the number of the workout with the letters A, B, and C underneath. Note that there's an F under the letter C of Workouts #5, 7, 9, and 11. That F stands for failure, and during the third set of the workouts listed, you'll need to do a Failure Test to determine your progress up to that point. If you "pass" the test (do 5 or more reps), you'll need to move up one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. If you "fail" the test (1 rep or less), you'll need to move back one five-pound increment. If you just get an average "grade" (2 to 4 reps) you stay on course because you're right on track.

Let me give you an example using our 280-lb 1RM scenario again. Let's say it's Workout #5, and you're about to do your failure set. The Progression Table says you're supposed to load 255 Ibs on the bar. Now, do as many reps as you can, with good form, of course. If you did only one rep (or couldn't lift it at all), you'll need to drop one five-pound increment on the Progression Table. In other words, on your next chest workout, you'll simply use 275 Ibs as your 1RM instead of 280 on Workout #6.

If you do between 2 and 4 reps with 255 Ibs, you'll continue using the increments and poundages listed for a 280-lb 1RM.

And, finally, if you do 5 or more reps with 255 Ibs, you're moving too fast, and you'll need to start using the increments and poundages listed for a 285-lb 1RM when you get to Workout #6.

You'll be required to do these tests several times during the remainder of the program. This important feature allows you to progress at your own pace!

Here's a point-by-point rehash of what was just explained regarding the Failure Test:

A Few More Words on the Nuts and Bolts of the Program

If two workouts are done each week, this program takes 50 days. When you think about it, this is a very short time. We're talking about 7 weeks or 14 chest workouts between you and new, previously unrealized power!

For those of you who haven't done this program before, it may seem a bit overwhelming. After all, many of you, if you've ever done a chest program before, probably borrowed it from some pro bodybuilder's routine outlined in some other magazine. In other words, the workout probably instructed you to do 20 sets of bench press using 400 Ibs or some other totally absurd recommendation. This is a workout that's about as personalized as you'll ever get, and it's not one based on science fiction. Instead, it's based on science fact. Spend a little time studying the program, put it to use, and I guarantee you'll get great results--more strength and size!

Now, let's look at the steps one more time:

  1. Determine your one-rep max (1RM).
  2. Find your 1RM in the far left-hand column of the Progression Table
  3. Trace your finger across the table to the right from your 1RM to the column under the appropriate workout number
  4. Fill in the weights listed in the Workout Sheet, matching the workout number and repetition subheads
  5. Find the weights for the next workout and fill them in one workout at a time.
  6. Use the Failure Test as indicated by the Progression Table and the Workout Sheet to chart your progress and determine new 1RM's as needed

I Finished the Program... What Now?

Okay, 50 days are up. If you've followed the program as detailed, you've probably added about 50 Ibs (maybe more, maybe a bit less) to your bench press. As I mentioned earlier, your gut response might be to say, "Hey, let's do it again!." This is a strength and mass building program, not your honeymoon night. Many bench pressers who completed the earlier version of this program decided to do the program again, immediately after finishing it for the first time. I guess their reasoning was that if they could add 40 Ibs in 6 weeks, they could add 80 in 12 weeks or 120 in 18! Hell, let's do it all year long and add 346 Ibs to our bench presses! Sorry, it doesn't work that way.

Take at least three weeks between the end of this program and starting it over again. Doing the workout back to back with a second 50-day program wouldn't be very effective and could very well cause you to lose strength.

After you complete the 7-week program, I recommend not training with more than 80% of your 1RM for 3 weeks. The best recommendation I can make, and what I always do, is move into a growth phase of training. Now that you've reached a new level of strength, it's time to solidify your new strength by building the foundation to support it. A growth phase of moderate intensity (eight to ten rep range) for about six week is perfect. With your new strength, you should be able to handle more weight at eight reps than ever before. And after a good growth spurt, you'll be ready to try this program again soon enough. For example, after I recently completed this program, I took three week and just did moderate to light dumbbell-pressing workouts. But, I'll soon be ready to start the program again and boost my strength even more!

A Variation to the Program

This information is taken from FatBack's Page. The program that follows is a higher rep translation of what's been presented above. It uses the same math and progession rate, but with lower percentages of your one rep max to give your joints a break after the heavy work of Shawn Phillip's program and to promote size gains. In theory, your max should go up using this program and you should be able to start the next cycle of Shawn's program at a higher max than where you finished the previous round.

The main differences with this variation are:

Here's the table listing the multipliers to be used with each set.

# 1 Date_________ 1 @ .622 X 15 2 @ .675 X 12 2 @ .729 X 10
# 2 Date_________ 2 @ .707 X 10 2 @ .770 X 8 1 @ .770 X RO
# 3 Date_________ 1 @ .622 X 15 2 @ .689 X 12 2 @ .744 X 10
# 4 Date_________ 2 @ .722 X 10 2 @ .786 X 8 1 @ .786 X RO
# 5 Date_________ 1 @ .642 X 15 2 @ .689 X 12 1 @ .786 X F
# 6 Date_________ 2 @ .744 X 10 2 @ .802 X 8 1 @ .802 X RO
# 7 Date_________ 2 @ .689 X 12 2 @ .759 X 10 1 @ .804 X F
# 8 Date_________ 2 @ .759 X 10 2 @ .831 X 6 1 @ .831 X RO
# 9 Date_________ 2 @ .709 X 12 2 @ .773 X 10 1 @ .818 X F
# 10 Date_________ 2 @ .773 X 10 2 @ .850 X 8 1 @ .880 X 6
# 11 Date_________ 2 @ .725 X 12 2 @ .789 X 10 1 @ .852 X F
# 12 Date_________ 2 @ .773 X 10 2 @ .850 X 8 1 @ .896 X 6
# 13 Date_________ 1 @ .741 X 12 2 @ .821 X 10 2 @ .882 X 8
# 14 Date_________ 1 @ .789 X 10 1 @ .866 X 8 1 @ .912 X 6

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