Before compiling a bench program, there are some specific points which need to be considered first due to the fact that there is a difference between bodybuilding and strength training. Those interested in maximizing strength need to employ slightly different bench training tactics than those who want to be bodybuilders.
Difference in Goals
The physical end results of the bodybuilder and the strength trainer vary somewhat and must be taken into consideration with an effective benching program designed accordingly.
Bodybuilding involves increasing muscle mass while keeping all muscles and muscle groups symmetrical. In order to increase muscle size, the bodybuilder must add muscle fiber which is done through hypertrophy. Therefore, the goal of bodybuilding isn’t the ability to lift large amounts of weight, but to develop muscles through specific ways of lifting weights.
Those desiring to develop brute strength are concerned with being able to increase bench weight. Strength lifters will increase muscle mass simply because larger muscles are needed to press greater weights. However, the focus isn’t on sculpting muscle shape, but is, instead, on building muscle strength as well as quicker motor unit employment and neural response.
Difference in Approach
There is a difference in the number of repetitions and sets depending on whether you do bench press exercises for bodybuilding or for strength. Following are the recommendations from the National Strength and Conditioning Association for each style.
Perform bench presses for 8 to 12 repetitions and for 3 to 10 sets. The rest period between sets should be only 1 to 1 ½ minutes. NOTE: Use approximately 75% of your maximum bench press weight and increase when your completed sets become comfortable. If your set numbers are low, try doing additional sets before adding weight as this is more effective for hypertrophy training.
Strength Training –
Perform 4 to 6 repetitions for 3 to 5 sets. The rest period between sets should be from 2 to 3 minutes. NOTE: You will press your maximum weight and when you can press full sets of 8 reps, add approximately 10% more weight.
Control and Frequency
Regardless of which style you choose to pursue, bench pressing requires both lift control and sufficient recuperation time. Whether bodybuilding or training for strength, bench pressing needs to be executed properly in order to break down muscle fibers. Then, once the weight training session is over, the muscles need to be given an adequate recovery period to repair.
To correctly perform a bench press, control the upward lift motion as well as the lowering of the weight to your full range of motion in each direction. Pressing the weight to its farthest height will lengthen muscle fibers (eccentric contraction) and lowering the weight all the way to the chest shortens the fibers (concentric contraction). Both forms of muscle workout are necessary for building strong and well developed muscles.
Once you complete your bench press workout, provide yourself at least one full day of rest before working those muscles again. If you’re just beginning, you should give yourself 2 or 3 days in between bench press exercises.
Therefore, intermediate lifters should created a weight training program which includes a total body workout spread out over a 3 to 4 day period. An advanced lifter program can involve 4 to 6 days per week. Bench pressing should consist of 2 to 3 of those days.