Men's Life Today: Expert Q+A
I want to reach my one-rep max on the bench press. How do I get there?
Bragging rights come to those who can boast an impressive one-rep max bench press. But you need to prepare for that heavy effort -- almost as if you were training for a race. I recommend an eight- to 10-week buildup. One workout a week should be your heavy-chest day, where you do five sets at a weight you can handle for three to six reps. Low-rep heavy sets will build the muscle and tendon strength you’ll need. The other key workout should focus on the assistor muscles in the bench press -- shoulder, triceps. Do this once weekly too.
After four to five weeks, you can gauge where you are by taking the top weight you've progressed to benching for three repetitions and adding 5 percent to that weight for a single rep lift. Example: Say when you started the program, the best you could do for a set of three repetitions was 195 pounds. After five weeks, that weight has increased to 210 pounds for three reps. For the halfway mark, you'd increase that weight by approximately 5 percent (roughly 10 pounds), for a lift of 220 pounds for one rep.
If you make that lift and think you can go higher still, add 5 to 10 pounds more and attempt another single. This will establish where you are at the halfway point. The next week, you'd go back to training with sets of five and three reps, until the eight or 10 weeks are up and you’re ready for your “final” one-rep attempt.
Doing single reps is a performance lift, not to be overused or abused. It's one of the most common mistakes I see in the gym: guys maxing out at every single workout.