Friday, December 23, 2016

Bench Press Wave Forms

Ignore the fact that Captain America has 500kg plates and has
one on each side. That, or somehow the outer plate tells you how much
is on the bar total? Do not fuck with me comic book nerds.

Much like Deadlift Wave Forms this training plan progresses through "waves" (3-week sections) of training that put an emphasis on variations through each tier. These variations of the main lift are rotated through the tiers in a fashion that starts and ends with specificity. Both in practice of the standard movement itself, but also in specifically targeting the designated weakness. Whether that be off the chest or at lockout; alternatively OHP/Shoulders. By no means are these movements preselected for you, feel free to adjust per your need. Don't like barbell incline bench but do fine with dumbbell incline? That is a reasonable change. These training structures are meant to be personalized by you, so ensure that not just movement selections but also specific intensities are adjusted to your ability. (If you're barely grinding through the first two weeks, chances are you started too heavy. Take the next week deloaded a bit. On the flip side if you're killing AMRAP's for double the reps then scale up intensity a tad.)

Training Tables

I figured this post would be a little different than the recent few. Years ago I made an info-graphic summary of the GZCL method that people could save to their phones and take with them everywhere. Personally I think a lot of progress can be made for the general trainee by just following a standard set of guiding principles. No need for a specific training plan when armed with knowledge like that in the case of casual gym goers, not interested in competing, just wanting to get stronger. I'm choosing to do the same here. The bench press stands alone as the core lift of lifting itself. "How much do you bench?" is the question we're asked as lifters for this reason. These tables are helpful models for how to structure your personal training plan whether you compete or not. 

Because everyone wants a killer bench. 

Weak off the Chest?

Here you can see the flow of variations across each day one and two pretty clearly. Starting and ending with specificity, great for running yourself into a testing event. Whether in the gym or on the platform. Being weak off the chest is the most common issue in lifters seeking an improvement in their bench. This is a multi-faceted issue that is often dismissed as an easily fixed problem. "Get Stronger!" Says the lifter who's already been through 5, 10, 20 years of training. Yes, get stronger.

But do so with intent and get there faster.

When weak off the chest eccentric control, landing position, and maintaining tension when the bar is on the chest should be a huge priority. By focusing on the variations of legs up bench and long pause the first two targets can be engaged effectively. The last one, maintaining tension with the bar on your chest, is simply a lifter habit you'll need to develop each time you do a rep. (So keep that on the forefront of your mind, use coaching cues. I like "rip and row.")

T2b Wide grip Bench is included as the "under current" which is simply the T2 you're looking to spend more time working on in the hopes that one day it may become a T1. (One day a big incline bench will seem cool to you if it doesn't already.) If you're weak off the chest both legs up bench and wide grip bench help train the pecs more so than standard bench. These do a great job of developing the main movers responsible for the lift (pecs), but perhaps more importantly they get you skilled and strong enough to move out to a wider grip, which reduces your range of motion, decreasing the amount of work you've gotta do to complete the lift.

Which totally isn't cheating so long as your index fingers are still covering the rings.

Plus, have you even seen the Japanese bench? I'm jealous so I say not fair, rule book says it's legit. (Despite what your uncle Bill says, length of ROM doesn't determine what's a bench press and what's not. And that punk ass stopped lifting decades ago anyways.)

Weak at Lockout? Weak Shoulders?

Here the same model is used but tailored to the specific needs of the lifter. First those “weak at lockout” and then an option for those wanting overhead work; also helpful for those needing to build their own pair of cannonballs. Alternatively using some OHP or incline as T2 or T3 options in lockout or off the chest focused lifters is a great means to not ignore a likely need for direct shoulder work. Plus, people like OHP so I’m obligated to let them know explicitly that yes, you can use it. The Day 2 T2 work could be an ideal place to drop in the bastard child that is incline bench in such a case.

All three provided models share the same structure and progression flow. Starting out with the specific movement in the first block’s Day One T1 (in this case normal raw bench) and then progressing variations through 9-weeks until the Day One T1 becomes the specific skill developed on Day Two as its T1. Like I said before, you'll never be getting too far away from specificity and when you do, in the traditional sense of powerlifting, it is done in order to target your specific weaknesses.  

Nothing could be more specific.

Arnold did Bench Press Wave Forms, twice. 

Intensity and Volume Progressions

There are only specific Rep x Set progressions suggested for the T1's. Intensity ranges can be adjusted per your individual ability with that movement. Leave yourself room to grow- don't grind out the gate. T2 progressions are more general and so long as you're familiar with the original method (and A&A for deeper knowledge) then you'll be good to go building your own progression structure within the guidelines. 

 By the way, save these tables as pictures to your phone so if you ever come
across a random bench press in the forest- you've got a plan.

As you can see the Day 1 T1 progression is a straight sets approach, building volumes (capacity) with each variation. The AMRAP's help you push the tier's effort and give you a means to gauge that effort across multiple variations. Especially those you might have limited experience with. I highly suggest you opt to train up unfamiliar movements as the "under current" first, before pushing them into the T1. Refine the skill there- then put some heavy weight on it. 

Day 1 is more volume driven, Day 2 more intensity driven. Your first bench press wave forms training day has two T2's and the T1 starts light (at 80%) for a minimum of 18 reps; very likely into the low 20's with a good AMRAP. This day should be two to three days before Day 2's training session where the intensity climbs higher. This set up can be reversed to where you hit the heavier stuff fresher on Day 1. I chose to intentionally make the heavier work on my fatigued days to: 1. Force me to be more cautious. 2. Hit heavy weights when tired means when fresh they'll be heavier!

Intensity on Day 2 T1's use the familiar 3/2/1+ approach across each three week wave. The first two waves repeat the same percentages and volumes because they're variations of the main lift. In this case perhaps legs up and long pause bench. Should be you be weak at lockout then the 2nd wave (Weeks 4-6) will be programmed higher to account for Sling Shot use. However, if you have a specific training max for the sling shot then normal T1 intensities (85-100%) will be fine. Some people choose to program in the 90-110% range of their raw bench training max when using the Sling Shot.

 Doing BPWF might get you to bench as much as this girl.

Very straight forward here. On the first training day choose movements that target your specific areas that are lagging. So if your lock out is weak, hammer those triceps. Weak on the chest work the pecs. So dumbbell bench, spoon press, and flyes for example. The second training day is where you train what you're good at, what you love, in the T3. This way you're closing the gaps of your ability and reinforcing those areas which are already doing well.

Adding a Third Day

Here's a question I figured many of you might ask. How to add a 3rd day? I know, some people just love to bench- and that's fine. That's actually me like 80% of the time...

So here's your potential 3rd day options:

(Example using Weak at Lockout)

Option 1 rotates in the standard bench press during the 2nd wave and brings up incline bench from the Day 3 T2b undercurrent. By doing so you'll never get away from having competition specificity in your training plan. Although "just a T2" the Day 3 work builds ability by focusing on volume (practice) and of course helps by keeping frequency way high. 3x a week for bench is pretty high anyways. Option 2 uses the undercurrent model and takes two varieties and develops them across the whole 9-Weeks. This is a great option for those wanting to refine their skill with multiple movements thus adding too a broader pool of lifts to draw from when developing their training plan. The stronger you are in more lifts, the greater the chances you're just damn strong. At least in my humble opinion.

Plus its more fun that way.

The 3rd day addition shouldn't include a T1, at least at first. Progress your skills and capacity gradually to where this 3rd training session's 3rd wave might touch into the low T1 intensity of 85-90%. If added, your 3rd Day's work should be focused on volume and lift practice. No need to go too heavy here on Day 3 when your Day 2 was already in the 90% range from the get go. When choosing either Options 1 or 2 for a day three addition make sure to progress the T2a through the mid T2 into the T1 (75% to 85-90%) and then the T2b can go from 65% to 80%, or low to mid range intensity in the second tier. 

Third tier work on a theoretical Day-3 bench session should not be too taxing. I would prefer to see body weight work like push ups, dips, rings or TRX work. Also, don't forget to do things like abs, back work, etc. (biceps) Here on your third bench session of the week you can likely afford to drop some triceps, pecs, and shoulder work for something else that's need...

This guy allegedly tried going "just a little heavy" on Day 3.
Big mistake.


The Wave Forms model is highly successful because it gives you the opportunity to refine lifts through various ability levels via the three tiers; in particular the T2b undercurrent. Bench Press Wave Forms works because the progression flow of various lifts that are complimentary to one another, working together towards improving the identified weakness in your movement. Training the lockout specifically through direct overloading and triceps dominate work, strength off the chest with more paused work and pec dominate movements, and shoulders too via overhead press and other delt focused exercises.  
Wave Forms is very simple. And so long as you honestly assess your abilities (or lack there of) and personalize the plan to suit your needs you will be successful. The suggested intensities and movements should be tailored by you to make this your program. If you can't do sets of six reps at 80%, then don't, lower it as needed, build your capacity first. Don't be eager to break yourself off. Similarly don't be afraid to go off the template and do movements that aren't listed, but you know work for you. Floor presses and close grip bench are great substitutes for Sling Shot Bench and you can opt to do Log Press vs standard OHP, so on and so forth.

So longs as you're progressing complimentary variety through each wave, you're doing Wave Forms, which means you're getting stronger.

You in 9-Weeks guaranteed (definitely not guaranteed...)