A common question I get is, “which bench program works best?” Actually its phrased more like, “Hey man, wondering if you could help. Ive tried Westside, Cube, Cube Boss, Cube Strongman, Ive done Eric Lillebridge and Dan Green’s routines, Ive tried the slingshot, and I spent 4 days watching Chad Wesley Smith from his closet. In 3 months my bench has only gone up 5 pounds!” My answer is always the same, find a damn program and stick with it! Last year I went back to a Westside style program. While at Westside I watched huge raw benches. I saw Tony Bologne bench 5 plates on 1 side and 6 on the other. I saw George Halbert do things on a bench that made my face hurt. I, myself, benched 545 raw while there and over the last year built up a pretty good contest bench using this method. Here’s how I do things.
Speed day is designed to work on explosive power. Louie suggests 8-10 sets of 3, but I generally use 4-6 sets simply because its boring as hell. No bands are ever used on this day. I use 60-70 percent of my raw max because I have found it to be the most optimal for me. I also do a lot of light bodybuilding style movements. I usually hit some light Brandon Lilly style, 1 inch from touching close grips, dumbbell presses, band flies, bar pushups, shoulder work, tricep extensions and press downs or dips. People often make fun of my bodybuilding stuff so I make fun of their injuries and fat man boobs. Ill spend an extra 45 minutes in the gym to add some muscle and make all my muscles equally strong. This is a new era, ladies and gentleman, a revolution, a renaissance in powerlifting. Look like you lift weights!
Max day is designed around an ever changing or conjugate type style of training. This is usually done to a single of at least 90 percent. However, I often do reps instead of a single. I might do a max set of 3, or a paused set of 5 or a double off a board. I like to switch up bars and sometimes add chain or band. Don’t get caught up in how much band tension you are using, worry about beating old records. After doing a max, I usually then drop down to a couple sets of reps to make up for the fact that my whole workout was 1 plate for 3, 2 plates for 2, then 3,4,5 plates for singles. I keep my reps around 75-90 percent and pick a number of reps I feel I can do. I usually finish up with some light closegrips or even machine presses to get a good pump and raise my self esteem temporarily. Ill finish up with some high rep pressdowns.
I always tell people science doesn’t account for balls. My routine isn’t going to make sense to everyone and if Russian strength coach, Yuriy Smoglovachienko, looked at it he would be like WTF this shit makes no sense! However, it works really well for me. My training partners joke that I come in and work up to 500 on something, then walk around and really nothing. This is probably very accurate, but I benched 445 for 5 two weeks ago and a PR contest bench last month. Remember, progress is all that matters. Learn from the best, take ideas, try new things, but do what works for you. Stay out of Chad Wesley Smith’s closet. You might learn something, but it won’t help your bench…
Greg Panora is a certified legend in the sport of Powerlifting. The former World Record Holder (and current American Record Holder) with a 2630 total (Multiply) in the 242 weight class, Panora now has his sights set on breaking the 242 raw total world record and is off to a strong start already having recorded a 500 raw bench and 750 raw deadlift. Greg coaches powerlifting at Crossfit Casco Bay in Portland, Maine.Facebook