Powerlifting

Championship Bench Training


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Team Juggernaut is home to many of the best strength athletes in the World and it is our goal to bring you the highest quality knowledge from these athletes. Nowhere else can you find this kind of access to World record holders actual training and advice. Enjoy this article from Brandon Lilly (T-US #1 Total, The Cube Method author), Eric Lilliebridge (T-US #1 Total, World Record Squat of 881 @ 275) and Dan Green (World Record Total of 2030 at 220) as they explain to you the actual training cycle that helped them build their PR bench…

My Best Bench Ever

By Brandon Lilly

For “Bench Week” I was asked to detail the best training cycle I have ever done to achieve gains. I did this just prior to my meet last fall where I benched 573 lbs. raw at the Supertraining Meet. I always set my training up backwards, meaning I count from the meet back. I know during certain weeks I should hit certain numbers or percentages and how they should feel, so I make adjustments along the way as needed but this is exactly the program that I followed, and I think if you follow the percentages somewhat you can have tremendous gains as well.

I based my numbers off of a 540 bench that I achieved with a pause at my meet in May…

WEEK 1 REPS

Regular bench:  (70%) 375 x 5 x 3 sets

Close Grip Off 2 Board: (60%) 325 x 15 x 3

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

Tricep Pushdowns

100 reps with light band

Abs

Roman Chairs 4 x 25

WEEK 2 SPEED

Regular Bench: (55%)  300 x 3 x 10 (30 secs rest between sets)

Pause Presses 2″ Off Chest

(70%) 375 x 8 x 3

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 20

Tricep Extensions

100 reps light band

Lateral Raises

100 reps with 10 lbs plate in each hand

Shrugs

315 x 15 x 4

Abs

Planks 4 x 30 secs

WEEK 3 MAX (I DON’T ALWAYS MAX OUT, BUT THIS IS MY HEAVIEST WEEK IN THE ROTATION)

Regular Bench: (87.5%) 470 x 5 x 2 sets

Incline DB Press

120 x 20 x 2 sets

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

Shrugs

315 x 10 x 3 with 2 second squeeze at top

Tricep Extensions

100 reps with light band

WEEK 4 REPS

Regular Bench: (75%) 400 x 3 x 3 sets

Close Grip Off Board

(75%) 400 x 8 x 5 sets

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 20

Dips

50 reps

Abs

GHR Crunches to Failure

WEEK 5 SPEED

Regular Bench: (60%)  315 x 2 x 8

Close Grip

(70%) 375 x 12 x 3

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

Front Raises

4 x 20

Shrugs

315 x 15 x 4

Abs

WEEK 6 MAX

Regular Bench:  (95%) 515 x 3, (97.5%) 530 x 2

Incline DB Hands Facing In

90 x 15 x 3

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

WEEK 7 REPS

Regular Bench: (80%) 425 x 3 x 3

Close Grip Off 3 Board

(75%) 400 x 15 x 3

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 20

Skull Crushers

3 x 20

Abs

WEEK 8 SPEED

Regular Bench: (70%) 365 x 3 x 5

Band Pull Aparts

100 reps

Shrugs

315 x 30 reps

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

(This week was super light on accessories knowing my next week was for a new PR attempt.)

WEEK 9 MAX

Regular Bench: (95%) 515 x 1,  (101%) 545 x 1 PR (Not a gym PR, but paused PR, 560 was my gym PR),  (105%) 575 x 1

*I only took 575 for 1 because 545 went PERFECTLY, and I had trained well and felt a new lifetime PR was in my sights.

High Rep Close Grip

275 x 20 x 2

(Shut down knowing next week is Rep PR attempt)

WEEK 10 REPS

Regular Bench: (101%) 545 x 2

Close Grip off 2 Boards

315 x 15 x 3

Tricep Push Downs

100 reps

Lat Pull Downs

4 x 15

That is it for me. The main points you need to realize for any program to work, technique has to be paramount. I don’t count sloppy reps, and I lock out every rep completely, no bodybuilder reps. Take ownership and pride in what you do in the gym, shortcuts in the gym lead to shortcomings on the platform. Do things the right way, and the hard way, and the results will speak for themselves.

Brandon Lilly is very well traveled, Elite powerlifter. He has trained at Guerrilla Squad Barbell, Westside Barbell, Lexen  Xtreme, and is now home at Berea Barbell. In his strength journey he has competed in bodybuilding, strongman, and powerlifting. Brandon is one of only 19 men to ever total over 2200 raw, having 2204 which ties him for 16th all time (826.5 squat, 573 bench, 804.5 Deadlift). He also amassed a 2612 total in Multi-Ply, and has best lifts of 1008 squat, 832 bench press, and 771 Deadlift. Brandon is the author of The Cube Method and is aiming to create a paradigm shift in the Powerlifting world.

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The Quest for 500

by Dan Green

Last year on December 1st I was slated to turn 30. And like any reasonable gentleman of leisure, I was interested in moving on from a youth of sub-500 benching and into the ranks of respectable men who bench 500. And I was interested in doing so with an exemplary bloat to match what was to be a festive birthday. Now I suppose that for many, 30 is viewed in a negative light—an opportunity to look back and wonder what you’ve done with yourself and why are you still living at home, but I have to say I was looking forward to it. But 30 excited me. With the wisdom and experience I’d gained during my 20s, it became clear exactly what I was going to have to do to stop dicking around and hit that 500 bench. So here then is the process by which I brought my bench from 485 in September to 510 by my birthday.

To Read the rest of this article, including a training cycle from Dan Green and Eric Lilliebridge, become a Juggernaut Member!!

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Over the years, I’d spent countless sessions training touch and go for maxes or for high reps, board presses, band presses, DBs at all angles. These all had their place and with skull crushers and tricep work added on top they gave me the size and foundation to really set myself up for some exciting gains on bench later. But I’d developed a great deal of strength in my triceps and not as much with my chest. It was after I focused on training the chest and cut out all the fancy speed and lockout work that my bench started going crazy!

I’d started following the workout that my training partner had been given by his coach, and it really was working consistently. All it was, was a series of heavy paused reps on the bench followed by “speed training” or as I like to describe it  “a lot of damn work”. In the beginning I then went on to some wide grip reps which were also paused. These really helped with technique and building the chest and delts into the lift.

Then, what really gave me the confidence to know I’d be able to progress my bench was how I’d succeeded continually in the layout of my programming. For the most part it’s anything BUT complicated—simple linear progression! Each week I’d just add 5 or sometimes 10 pounds to my top weight. I’d do as many reps as I could for the first set, making it a point not to fail on the bench. I’d then repeat the set and if I felt good repeat it again. So after I’d made a top bench of 485 paused I began again back down at 425. I was able to pause and press this weight for 5 reps and then repeat for two more sets of five. All I had to do was compare what I was hitting to what I’d done in the past and either beat the reps at a given weight, lift a heavier weight for the same rep count, or even just match the weight and reps but do it for more sets! If I just did any of these, I knew objectively I’d hit a PR and was steadily progressing on to a new 1RM!

And each week—to ensure the body was always ready for the following week’s minor improvements—I’d work harder and harder on the touch and go benching! But instead of a light weight and focusing on bar speed, I was using a heavy weight and focusing on bar speed. It was always lighter than the paused reps done for the top sets but not by much. I tried to focus on lowering the weight rapidly, touching the same spot at the base of the sternum and then driving up and flaring the elbows to engage the chest and delts.

After this initial workout where I’d hit 430 for 3 sets of 5 paused reps I moved on to 410 for speed reps to the tune of 6 sets of 4 reps. But then the workout stopped! While the paused reps allowed me to work on the technique I’d need for a meet and getting a strong chest and leg drive, the touch and go reps allowed me to really build the brute strength needed to grind through weights as they get heavy in the middle of the range of motion—the sticking point. The funny thing about this program is the fewer number of exercises I did, the better I felt. And the better the workouts felt, the more I wanted to do them. At this point my intuition was kicking in hard. I started benching more often—twice and even three times a week. Always trying to beat a rep max. I knew that that plus the volume was making me much stronger. By the end of the training I’d hit a best paused double of 490 and a touch and go triple of 465, which I’d done for three consecutive sets.

My bodyweight had been steadily rising, and as I approached that 30th birthday it happened: first I benched 500 and then two sessions later hit an easy 510! No longer would I be forced to sit and look on as others had all the 500 benching fun. No longer was I reluctant to enter my thirties, but instead saw the age simply as the beginning of my peak years!

So to summarize all that, I was able to approach my best bench ever by simply following a simple linear progression for several weeks, working hard to add as many heavy sets as I could for added volume, and even drastically increased the frequency to force my body to peak!

Dan Green is one of the top names in powerlifting today. The Raw Total World Record Holder with 2030 (belt and sleeves), Dan is the dominant force in the 220 weight class. Dan is the founder of Boss Barbell Club in Mountain View, CA where he trains team sport and strength athletes.

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PR Smashing Benching

By Eric Lilliebridge

My best bench cycle that I had was back when I was training for the big competition at Mark Bells meet on November 3rd 2012. My training for that competition went very well and my bench had made some really great gains that training cycle. All I did for the training cycle was on my heavy days do 3 sets of single pauses and increased the weight each heavy workout. I did a short 6 week training cycle for that competition so I only had 3 heavy bench workouts to do because I alternate heavy and light days every other week.  On my light days I just did close grips and de loaded.

The start of my training cycle I had did 3 single pauses in my workout which were my working sets. I did 405, 455, 500 all paused, working on 3 singles just like you do in a meet. So my first set is to mimic an opener, 2nd set would be like a 2nd attempt, and 3rd set would be like a 3rd attempt, always practicing good form, technique and speed on each set. So that ended my first heavy workout. 2 weeks later I upped the weight on each set a little more to try and progressively peak for the meet. For this workout I did 440, 480, 520 for my 3 working sets. Again, making the first set like an opener, the 2nd set like a 2nd attempt, and the 3rd set like a 3rd attempt trying to practice just like it’s a competition.  At that point 4 weeks of training had gone by and I only had one heavier training day to do which was 2 weeks after my previous one. For my last one I decided that I wanted to try a big PR because my previous heavy days had went very well and the last sets felt strong and faster than normal. My last heavy bench day I did 455, 500, 550 as my 3 working sets. The 550 was a grinder but I finished it strong but unfortunately strained my pec somehow during that lift but never felt it until I had got home after that workout. So that was the end of my heavy benching for a couple months. Had I not done a max lift in the gym before the meet, I’m sure I would have crushed that weight at the meet. Before that, my best raw bench with a pause was 525lbs in the gym and 529lbs in competition, so it was a big PR for me.

For my weak points which have always been the lock out portion of my bench, I just did board work at the end of the workout after my 3 heavy paused singles, doing 2 sets of board work. First set usually being to a 2 board and the last set to a 3 board. I did the same with board work, I progressively added weight to both board work sets on each heavy day so that I was over loading heavier each heavy workout to peak and get stronger every week up until the meet.  The first workout I did doubles on the board work and the last two heavy workouts I just practiced singles on the board work to really focus on controlling and handling the heavier weight.  This was my best bench cycle minus getting the injury at the end, but I had made a big gain on my paused bench by getting a 21 lb PR. I am currently doing the same bench training for my next competition coming up on April 21st, and hope to get at my meet what I got in training for my best bench cycle ever, last training cycle.

Eric Lilliebridge had a top #3 raw total ranking in world in the 275 weight class at just 19 years old. He had successfully totaled 2,065lbs raw in belt and knee wraps and deadlifted 800lbs raw in competition at only 19 years old. Now being the age of 22, he is currently ranked #2 in the world in the 275’s with a 2,204lbs raw total w/ wraps. His best competition lifts up to date are an 881lbs raw squat w/ wraps (World Record at 275s), 529lbs raw bench and an 821lbs raw deadlift. He is currently chasing after the all time world record total in the 275’s held by Jon Cole with a 2,259lbs raw total w/ wraps.

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