How to Bench 500… Easy

Everyone strives for a goal, one of which may be a 500 bench. The problem is how do you achieve it? For me it was a mystery until I discovered a method of training known as the conjugate method. This is done along with the dynamic method with submaximal weights on a second day, 72 hours later. Today we have 29 people who have done at least 500, four who have done over 600, and the youngest person ever to bench 700. Here's how.

On Sunday we use the dynamic method. The weight is 55% of a contest max with a shirt. If for some reason you compete without a shirt, 60% is used. We do 8-10 sets of 3 reps. It's best to use three or more grips in a workout. Most of the sets are done with a grip inside the power rings on the bar, that is, with the little finger inside the ring. Using grips inside the rings will aid greatly in triceps and anterior delt development.

The reps must be very explosive. Lower the bar quickly, but under control. Lowering contributes to raising, or concentric, strength. Lowering a bar slowly will build muscle mass but not strength. Please, I beg you, stop reading bodybuilding magazines. They have contributed greatly to ruining strength training in the United States . After all, plyometrics is the energy gained by the body dropping and then responding to that dropping with reversal, or explosive, strength.

The bar should be pushed back up in a straight line, not back over the face. This requires strong triceps. This path is a shorter distance and requires no shoulder rotation, which is also much safer. The barbell will always seek the strongest muscle group; that's why most push the bar over the face. Their delts are stronger than their triceps. But it should be the reverse. One sees a lot of shoulder and pec injuries, but seldom do you see a triceps injury. Why? The triceps have never been pushed to their maximum, potential.

We do approximately 20 reps out of 200 above our training weight. We may add only 30-50 pounds to the bar, mainly to check that bar speed remains high. If your bar speed, or reversal strength slows, you have a problem. After all, this would still be a very submaximal weight if you bench press 500 and train with 275, or 55%. You could also do a few singles, but not with more than 90% and not very often. We found this interferes with the max effort day three days later.

After bench pressing, go first to triceps work. Basically 60 total reps are done with dumbbells, broken down into 5 sets of 10 reps or possibly 7 sets of 8 reps. The palms should be facing inward, toward the body, when dumbbells are used for extensions. When a barbell is used, 40 reps should be done, bringing the bar to the forehead, chin or throat.

Paul Dicks presses with a regular bar, or a Safety Squat Bar can be done.

We do a lot of J.M. presses, named after J. M. Blakely: with a close grip, lower the bar to 4-5 inches off the chest above the nipples, hold for a split second, and press back up. This is a very effective exercise.

After triceps, do front raises with a bar, plate, or dumbbells. Heavy weights used. Also do side delts with dumbbells or a cable, rear delts, 4 or 5 sets of lats, a few hammer curls. Do delt and lat work by feel, but continuously do more and heavier weight. This workout is done on Sunday and should last no longer than 1 hour and 10 minutes.

On Wednesday, the workout is called the maximum effort method day. When using a barbell, do singles. Naturally, work up slowly, but always try a new max.

On Wednesday, the workout is called the maximum effort method day. When using a barbell, do singles. Naturally, work up slowly, but always try a new max.

We do many exercises on this day that resemble the bench press but are not regular bench presses. This is known as conjugate training. After doing an exercise with weights over 90% for 5 or 6 weeks, your strength will regress. We train at 100%+ all year long by changing a barbell exercise every 2 or 3 weeks.

The major barbell exercises that we perform are as follows.

Floor Presses: Lower the bar until the triceps are completely on the floor and relaxed before pressing the bar up. By relaxing the arms you break up the eccentric/concentric chain. This will build explosive strength as well as the bottom part of the bench press.

Board Press: Board presses will build the middle part of the bench press. Lay two or three 2 x 6’s on your chest, bring the bar down to the boards, and press back up. This is much different from a rack press because the weight is transferred into the chest, shoulders, and arms. When using three boards, use a close grip, with the index finger just touching the smooth part of the bar. With two boards, place your little fingers on the power rings.

Rack Lock-Outs: We use six pin positions, all at the top. The bar will move 4-5 inches on the top pin and 10-12 inches on the lowest pin. Always use a close grip. Never lower the weight. Instead, press the bar off pins concentrically.