The following is a quick post about one of my favorite ways to train chest, I call it the bench press pyramid workout. You can use this method to train other muscle groups as well, but I’ve found that it is extremely effective in terms of increasing strength and max bench potential.
The Bench Press Pyramid Workout is fairly simple. It includes a couple warm up sets followed by several sets where the weight is increased and the expected number of reps decreases. I’ll go over the basic way to do this bench press pyramid and then I’ll show you how you can add some advanced techniques to it to take it to the next level.
Set 1: Your first set is an easy warm up set with very little weight. The intent is to actively stretch the muscles and get your blood moving. A lot of guys choose to use the bar or do push ups for this first set. Whatever you choose make sure that you limit the reps of this set to about 15. You also shouldn’t go anywhere near failure. Take a 30 second break before set 2.
Set 2: A slight increase in weight for this set. Your goal here is an easy set of 12 reps. Again same goal as the first set. Increase blood flow and actively stretch the muscles. At the 12 rep you still should not be approaching failure. Take a 45 second break before set 3.
Set 3: Increase the weight so that your third set makes it challenging to complete 10 reps. You should be able to complete all 10 reps on your own. At this point you should be about 1-2 reps away from failure while using strict, controlled form on every rep. Take a 60 second break before set 4.
Set 4: Time to push it! Increase the weight so that it’s challenging to complete 8 full reps with strict form. At this point you shouldn’t be able to complete any more than 8 reps without assistance. Take a 2 min break before set 5.
Set 5: Increase the weight again so that 6 reps is challenging. Take a 2 min break before set 6.
Set 6: Another increase in weight as you aim for 4 reps. Take a 2 min break before set 7.
Set 7: The goal for this set is to complete 1-2 reps with the most weight possible. As always your form should be strict, the speed of movement should be slow and controlled and you should have a good spotter present.
At this point you can do a few different things. If you’re feeling strong then you could continue to add weight and perform negative or eccentric reps. This is where you would focus on lowering the weight slowly, taking anywhere from 2-6 seconds to reach your chest. At which point your spotter would lift the weight back to the starting position.
Another option is to finish off your chest by doing some drop sets. To do this drop your weight back down to the weight used during your 4th set. Complete as many reps as possible with strict form at this weight. Take a 30-60 second break and reduce the weight to what was used in your 3rd set and again rep to failure. Take another short break and lower the weight again to what was used in the 2nd set, rep to failure and call it a day!
If you’re really hard core you can do the bench press pyramid workout, do 2 or 3 sets of negatives after your 7th set and then finish with 2 to 4 drop sets. I have to warn you though, I don’t recommend doing any of this if you’re just starting out. If you don’t have a couple months of intense training under your belt then this workout will TEAR YOU UP!
Anyways, that’s how I would do a bench press pyramid workout. Give it a shot if you’re tough enough!