Strength Goals: How to Bench Press Your Bodyweight

“What do you bench?” 

One of the most asked questions of all time. 

Shy away no longer, as in this article we are going to tell you how you can bench your bodyweight (and more).

Bench Press Goal Setting

bench press bodyweight

The bench press has long been the most discussed measure of strength amongst gym enthusiasts. The simple act of lying on a bench and pressing a heavy bar towards the ceiling is often considered the ultimate act of manliness/womanliness. 

Bench pressing your body weight is an excellent measure of strength development, and you could be considered as well on your way to becoming an intermediate lifter, according to ExRx.Net.

In my opinion, SMART goals are so important when it comes to training.

Many people tend to walk into their home gym, not knowing what they are going to do, and end up jumping on the stationary bike for twenty minutes, throwing a few dumbbells around, going through a few token stretches, and calling it a day.

I’m not saying this isn’t good. Taking time out of the day to exercise at-all puts them in a pretty unique group compared to most of the population.

What I am saying is although this style of training will maintain a level of fitness that achieves certain health benefits, it will not promote progression or gains when compared to a structured, periodized program based on SMART goals. 

Let’s take a look at How to Bench Press Your Bodyweight using SMART goals.

What are SMART Goals? 

  • S – Specific “I want to bench press 94kg for one rep.”
  • M – Measurable “I currently bench press 75kg for one rep; I need to increase by 19kg.”
  • A – Achievable “Considering recommended strength standards and the fact I have been strength training for the past year, it is entirely achievable for me to bench press my body weight.” 
  • R – Realistic “I can dedicate myself to a routine to achieve my goal, without interruption.”
  • T – Time-Bound “I want to achieve this goal within six months. I will need to increase my bench press by an average of 3.17kg per month.” 

SMART Goals are categorized in three ways:

Long Term – Achieve a 94kg Bench Press within six months, increasing my current one rep max by 19kg. I have chosen six months, but I believe I may be able to achieve this goal sooner.

Medium Term – Achieve an 84.5kg Bench Press within three months, increasing my current one rep max by 9.5kg.

Short Term – During the next month, I will dedicate my training schedule to a program based on achieving my medium and long-term goals by performing dedicated bench press training twice a week. I will adhere to the program and make any necessary changes to my schedule and lifestyle. I will also research and study the techniques recommended to me. 

Now that we have set our SMART Goals, we need to look at another fundamental training principle. Specificity. 


Bench Press Training Specificity

“Specificity is an important principle in strength training. The exercise must be specific to the type of strength required and is therefore related to the particular demands of the event.” – Brian MacKenzie, Training Principles 

It’s quite simple to apply the principle of specificity to our goal of bench pressing our bodyweight. 

We are looking to develop an increased level of strength for one rep of the bench press exercise. We should therefore train in a way that is specific to developing this strength increase.

Running 60 miles a week and doing 200 crunches a day for six months is not specific to what we want to achieve and will not enable us to reach our goal. 

We need to follow a program that will develop the necessary strength within the required time frame while minimizing injury risk.

Rep Ranges, Sets, and Rest Periods

Rep ranges refer to the number of repetitions you perform of a particular exercise within a training program. The number of reps you perform (at a prescribed load) determines the effect that exercise set will have on your muscles.

The number of sets you do and the amount of rest you take between sets play a significant role in the effectiveness of that exercise relative to your goal. 

The spectrum of Reps, Sets and Rest Period is as follows:

  • 1-3 Reps, 3-5 Sets, 3:00-5:00 Rest = Power
  • 4-7 Reps, 3-6 Sets, 2:00-3:00 Rest = Strength
  • 8-12 Reps, 3-6 Sets, 1:00 -1:30 Rest = Muscle Growth (hypertrophy)
  • 13-20 Reps, 3-4 Sets, 0:30- 1:00 Rest = Endurance

Because our goal involves strength development, we would be looking to perform the 4-7 Reps, 3-6 Sets with 2:00-3:00 rest protocol. 

Pro-Tip: Best Rep Range

Although the strength rep range is the most specific for our goal, we need to consider the level you are currently in terms of your strength training.

Suppose you have been training regularly, lifting weights in the Muscle Growth or Strength rep ranges. In that case, you should be ready to step straight into this How To Bench Press Your Bodyweight program. 

However, suppose you are new to lifting or returning from an extended break. In that case, it is worth spending 4-6 weeks performing an overall strength training program.

Beginning with the Endurance range and progressing to the Muscle Size and Strength rep ranges, making sure your body is prepared for the program’s intensity. Your muscles and connective tissues will be less likely to suffer injuries.   


Bench Press Training Program

bench press your bodyweight

The program consists of two training sessions a week and can be included as part of your regular training week. If you already have a “chest day,” substitute it for one of the sessions. 

It is also advisable not to train shoulders the day after or the day before one of these sessions. Remember, we get stronger by allowing the muscle to recover after overload, not overwhelming them every day.

The program is structured in three-week blocks with a de-load week after each block. 

“The de-load week is to dissipate accumulated fatigue to enable to get most out of the adaptations.” – Wesley Kuijpers, Utilizing the velocity-based training method among personal training clients 

During the de-load week, I suggest you either go for an entire cross training week and swim, cycle or walk during the time you would have been training the How to Bench Press Your Bodyweight sessions. 

Or perform the session with 25-50% of the load you were using. 

You will re-test your one rep max at the end of each three-week block and calculate the weights used for the program’s next block from that figure. 

Remember to start each workout with a full warm-up, including heart rate raising exercise, joint rotations, and dynamic movements. You should also perform a cool down at the end of the session, including chest and shoulder static stretches.

Finally, rest 2-3 minutes between sets.

Block One

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Chest Dips – 3 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Dumbbell Flyes – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Skullcrusher Triceps – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)
  • Lateral Raises – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)
  • Barbell Bent Over Row – 4 sets x 5 reps (80-85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Push-Ups – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up

Block Two

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Chest Dips – 3 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Dumbbell Flyes – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Skullcrusher Triceps – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Lateral Raises – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Barbell Bent Over Row – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Push-Ups – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up

Block Three

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Chest Dips – 3 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Dumbbell Flyes – 4 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Lateral Raises – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Barbell Bent Over Row – 5 sets x 5 reps (85% 1RM)
  • Weight Vest Push-Ups – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up

Block Four

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Incline Dumbbell Chest Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Weighted Belt Chest Dips – 3 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Decline Dumbbell Flyes – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Front & Lateral Raises – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Pendlay Rows – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Banded Push-Ups – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up

Block Five

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Incline Barbell Chest Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Chains Belt Chest Dips – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Decline Dumbbell Flyes – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Front & Lateral Raises – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Pendlay Rows – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Banded Push-Ups – 4 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up

Block Six

Session 1

  • Bench Press – 5 sets x 7 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Incline Barbell Chest Press – 5 sets x 7 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Chains Belt Chest Dips – 5 sets x 7 slow lower / fast up
  • Decline Dumbbell Flyes – 5 sets x 6 reps (85-90% 1RM)

Session 2

  • Close Grip Bench Press – 5 sets x 7 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Front & Lateral Raises – 5 sets x 7 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Pendlay Rows – 5 sets x 7 reps (85-90% 1RM)
  • Banded Push-Ups – 4 sets x To Failure slow lower / fast up

Don’t forget to re-test your one rep max at the end of each three-week block. Re-testing is essential as the increasing one rep max weight forms an integral part of the program’s progression.

Pro-Tip: Training to Failure

Experienced lifters consider that training to failure is an integral part of strength development. It is, but most people often confuse what failure means.

You will see plenty of people in the gym reach the point where they physically cannot press the bar from their chest and celebrate the fact that they trained to failure. I would consider that they were at failure two or three reps earlier than this. 

I like to coach that failure has occurred when your technique is about to become compromised due to fatigue, not when you physically cannot move the weight. 

During the Bench Press Your Bodyweight sessions, you will ideally be feeling close to failure on the final rep of each set (particularly during the later sets).

In other words, your sixth rep of a six-rep set should feel like a seventh rep wouldn’t be possible with perfect technique and tempo. 

Although this program is six months in length, you may achieve your goal in a much shorter time. Or perhaps you do not complete it within the six months, in which case I would repeat blocks four, five, and six until you can Bench Press Your Bodyweight. 

Key Takeaways

Perseverance and adherence to the program will enable you to develop the necessary strength to improve this classic exercise, build the muscles that fill out your tee-shirts and who knows, maybe increase your bragging rights amongst your training buddies.  

Set SMART goals and follow our training program above and you’ll be well on your way to being able to bench press your bodyweight.


References

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