These programs are all primarily aimed at increasing your bench press strength. But, since muscle mass is a key factor for long-term strength gains, they will also grow your bench press musculature.
Which Bench Press Program Should You Choose?
How do you know if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced?
While there are many ways to classify training level, I’ve always liked the clarity of these definitions from Practical Programming:
- Beginner: Gets significantly stronger from workout to workout.
- Intermediate: Gets significantly stronger from week to week, or bi-weekly.
- Advanced: Gets significantly stronger from month to month, or longer.
By “significantly stronger”, I mean that you can add 2.5 kg (or 5 lb) and do the same number of reps, or use the same weight but do more reps, if you’ve trained hard for the specified length of time.
Beginner Bench Press Programs
- Beginner Bench Press Program. 2x/week. A super simple yet effective beginner bench press program that will give you quick gains and a great start to your bench press career.
Intermediate Bench Press Programs
- Intermediate Bench Press Program. 2–3x/week. A bench press program for the intermediate lifter who has left the beginner phase behind, but is not yet ready for advanced bench press training.
- Bench Press Boogie. 2–3x/week. One of our most popular training programs, having helped thousands of lifters get stronger in the bench press. This is a six-week long bench press program intended to increase your bench press 1RM and build your upper body muscles. The two and three-day versions are suitable for the intermediate lifter.
- Powerlifting DUP. 3x/week. A daily undulating periodization (DUP) program aimed at strength for the intermediate powerlifter. Choose between the one-lift variant or the one with all three powerlifts.
- Lifting Fast and Slow. 2x/week. In this training program, you will be switching between contrasts: one session will have you lifting heavy and slow, the other will have you lifting light and fast. The goal? Getting stronger, of course!
Advanced Bench Press Programs
- Advanced Bench Press Program. 3 x/week. A bench press program for the advanced lifter, who needs to do a lot of training in order to progress. Nine weeks long, and ends in a short peaking phase and a max attempt.
- Bench Press Boogie. 4–5x/week. One of our most popular training programs, having helped thousands of lifters get stronger in the bench press. This is a six-week long bench press program intended to increase your bench press 1RM and build your upper body muscles. The four and five-day versions are suitable for the advanced lifter who is already accustomed to a very high bench press training volume.
- Powerlifting ABC. 3–4x/week. An 11-week long powerlifting program, divided into four weeks of preparatory training, four weeks of specialization, and three weeks of peaking – which culminates in a competition (or max attempts).
Try Premium For Free
Want to give our bench press programs a go?
They’re available exclusively in our workout app StrengthLog.
While some of our programs require a premium subscription, StrengthLog itself is entirely free. You can download it and use it as a workout tracker and general strength training app – and all basic functionality is free forever.
It even has a bunch of free programs and workouts. However, our more advanced programs are for premium users only.
Want to give premium a shot? We offer all new users a free 14-day trial of premium, which you can activate in the app.
If you want to download StrengthLog for free and give it a spin, use the buttons below.
Frequently Asked Questions
For the rest of this article, I’ll attempt to answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about our bench press programs.
How Do I Know What My 1RM Is?
Many of our programs are 1RM based. Meaning, that we specify how much weight you should lift in terms of percentage of 1RM.
“4 sets x 2 reps x 80% of 1RM”
Of course, the app calculates this for you, but you still have to enter your 1RM at the beginning of the program.
Your 1RM is the heaviest weight you can currently lift for a single repetition. It does not necessarily have to be the same thing as your PR (personal record).
You hit a bench press PR of 100 kg (220 lb) last year. At that point, 100 kg was both your PR and your 1RM. Then you eased up on bench press training for several months and dropped a bit of strength. At this point, your PR is still 100 kg, but your 1RM might be 90 kg.
If you’re unsure of your current one-rep max, you can use our 1RM calculator to get an estimate. Take the results with a grain of salt, though, and use your best judgment.
Then, you enter your 1RM in the app upon following a program and starting the first workout.
Do the prescribed weights seem a little too light or too heavy? Adjust your entered 1RM up or down by a small amount, until the weights feel about right.
Note that a common theme in most of our strength-focused training programs is that you seldom push yourself to failure. Most of the time, you will terminate your sets far from failure, which might seem odd if you’ve never trained like that before.
The reason is simple:
Stopping further from failure generally allows for a higher total training volume and also for better technique practice. If you were to go balls to the wall in every bench press set, you would have a hard time training enough to make progress, especially at the intermediate or advanced level.
So: enter your best guess at your current 1RM, and then make small adjustments in your first or second workout until the weight feels right.
How to Make the Most out of These Bench Press Programs
Here are some tips and things you can do to improve your chances of successfully increasing your bench press 1RM from one of our programs.
1. Enter a Proper 1RM
Enter a 1RM that is neither too heavy nor too light.
You want to be able to perform all reps with a solid technique, and don’t fail any workouts.
When in doubt, err on the lighter side. It is far better to complete every single workout of a training program that was 2.5 kg (5 lb) too light, than bomb out in week two because the weight was too heavy.
You can bump up the weight by a few percentages for your next cycle of the program, and light cycles are excellent for engraining proper technique and improving your training capacity.
2. Practice Solid Bench Press Form
If you’re going to do a lot of bench press training over the following weeks or months, make sure you do it properly.
Don’t practice a thousand reps with poor form. Rather, take the opportunity to engrain a strong, stable, and effective technique.
Check out our guide on how to bench press with proper form, and use a weight that is light enough so that 95% of all reps you do look like you want them to look.
3. Prioritize the Bench Press
These are bench press specialization programs. And as such, you should prioritize the bench press when you’re on one of them.
If you are pushing the bench press hard, then maybe your squat and deadlift need to be put on the back burner for a while. Even if you can handle the training physically, it might be mentally draining to try to improve in several lifts simultaneously once you’re at a high level.
Make room for the bench press in both your training and in your other priorities, and you will see the greatest gains.
4. Eat for Muscle Growth
Muscle mass correlates strongly with strength and is one of the most important drivers of additional strength gains.
But muscle don’t appear out of thin air. You need to supply your body with the building blocks and nutrients it needs in order to grow optimally.
You’ll build the most muscle and strength when you’re in a caloric surplus, i.e. eating above your maintenance level.
If you don’t want to do that, you can still build some muscle and strength if you’re eating at or around your maintenance level of calories.
What you’ll want to avoid is eating less than your caloric requirement. That makes building muscle and gaining strength a whole lot harder, and our bench press programs are not intended to be trained in a caloric deficit.
5. Get Enough Sleep
Similar to eating enough, you’ll get a lot less of everything if you don’t sleep enough.
Most adults require between 7–9 hours per night, and hard training won’t decrease that.
Sleep less than required, and you should expect subpar results.
What Weight Should I Use in the Assistance Exercises?
Many of the programs include assistance exercises to improve your bench press.
Contrary to the bench press, the assistance exercises don’t have percentages of 1RM specifying which weight you should use; we only specify the number of sets and reps.
What you should do is to find a weight that lets you complete all sets and reps with good form. Then, when the next workout with that same assistance lift rolls around, you try to improve on what you did last time by increasing the weight or doing one more rep.
What About Training for the Rest of My Body?
Some of the bench press programs offer training for the rest of your upper body, but none offer training for your lower body muscles.
Add lower body training if you want to; just make sure to not disrupt the bench press program if that is your priority.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive, full-body powerlifting program, check out Powerlifting Polka or Powerlifting ABC. Or, for the newer lifter, our upper/lower split or Zero to Hero. All are available in the app!
I Followed Your Program but Didn’t Improve. What’s Wrong?
Sorry to hear it, buddy!
The first order of business is to check out the list under How to Make the Most out of These Programs and be honest with yourself.
Most times when people don’t improve, it’s because they:
- Entered a far too heavy 1RM, which made every workout a struggle.
- Trained with sloppy and inconsistent technique, which robbed them of actually practicing the lift.
- Trying to improve a hundred different things at once, forgetting they were doing a bench press specialization program.
- Eating and sleeping like crap.
Set yourself up for success by following the simple guidelines mentioned earlier.
But what if you did follow these guidelines? What if you did everything by the book and still didn’t improve?
Then, likely the training stimulus was ill-suited to what you needed.
- Either it was too much training for your current level and you would benefit from following a program with slightly lower training volume.
- Or it was too little training for your current level, and you need to pick things up a notch.
I Followed Your Program and Made Great Gains! What Now?
We’re glad to hear it!
If you made nice progress, and believe that you could benefit from another round of the same program, then bump up your 1RM slightly and go at it again.
You don’t necessarily have to enter your actual new 1RM. For instance, if you increased your 1RM by 10 kg, it might be enough to only enter a 5 kg higher 1RM. That will give you heavier training weights throughout the whole program, and will probably be enough to trigger more growth.
Remember that training is not about training as hard as possible, but training only as hard as is necessary. Keeping some of those kilos in the bag might set you up for longer-term progress and lower the risk of injury.
If you made nice progress, but don’t think you’d benefit from another round of the same program (or don’t want to do the same thing again), then look for another program. Ideally, one that is a step up in training volume if you feel like you can handle it.
Or, conversely, if you feel like you need a break from hard training, run a cycle of an easier program before you push the pedal to the metal again.
To download StrengthLog and give out bench press programs a spin, use the buttons below.
Want to use our free 30-day-trial of premium?
Sign up for our newsletter to claim it!