Help to get bench moving please Help to get bench moving please

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Thread: Help to get bench moving please

  1. #1
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    Default Help to get bench moving please

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    Hello,

    I'm looking for help to get a trainee's bench press moving.

    Age 55/ Female/ Weight:165/ Height: 5'10/ Training consistently for close to 3 years.

    Recent Best Lifts

    Squat: 204 x 1/ DL: 266 x 1/ OP: 77 x 1/ Bench: 117 x 1 ( 117.5lbs has been failed 2x, with 5rm and 3rm attempts missed also)

    Current programming is 3 days per week. We switched to Nick's heavy singles across for Press. Bench Press has been an intensity day followed by backoff sets, and a volume day.

    M: Press 73 x 1 x 8
    (CGBP 85 x 6 x 3)

    W: Bench intensity, 5, 3, or 1/ 0.5lb jump per rep scheme
    Bench backoff sets, 86% of last 1rm, 4 sets of 4.

    F: Bench volume, 95% of last 3rm for 3x3
    Press volume, 5 sets of 4 @ 83% 1rm.

    Over the last 4 weeks i took a stab at getting the Bench moving with CGBP on Monday.

    M added CGBP 88lb x 6 x 2). It was a touch heavy so i'll try 85lbs this week 3 sets of 6. The reason for six's is that it's 2 less reps than the standard recommendation of 8, which is what is done with women's squats too, ( 5's to 3's) but i may have blundered there.

    There were 3 weeks of practicing CGBP and working up some tolerance, and last week we tried a Bench PR on monday, ( 105.5 x 5) but still no joy. 4 reps then fail.

    Trainee's preference is to remain at 3 days per week. We are jumping no more than 0.5 lbs on intensity day lifts. Rest 5-7 minutes.

    I'm juggling a couple options for a next step on the bench press, and would greatly appreciate any recommendations.

    I'm considering shifting to a PR every 2 weeks schedule, with another small increase in volume per week.

    Just doing more Bench on monday crossed my mind, but she's been benching for a long time, I figured it's time for some exercise selection.

    I'm also wondering if I should shift intensity rep schemes for a bit, to mix it up. 5, 3, 1 has been the go to for 1yr + and was thinking maybe Andy's 8's, 5's and 2's for a time?

    Any help is appreciated.

    Adam

  2. #2
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    I forgot to mention, She is tracking macros and complying with diet info from the Barbell Prescription Seminar. I don't have macros on hand, but can get them if required.

  3. #3
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    Adam,

    First of all congratulations on helping your client reach those numbers. They are very reasonable for a 55 year old woman.

    Now on to your questions. I would start by taking a look at your programming from a perspective of stress and adaptation (recovery is an unlikely problem for a lady benching those numbers). You say that she is currently jumping no more than 0.5 pounds per week on intensity day, and other days are computed as a percentage thereof. Considering that, due to diminishing returns over a training career (accommodation), the adaptation realized by a given weight jump decreases over time, a 0.5 pound jump per week will eventually be too little additional stress to get her a 0.5 pound adaptation the following week. In other words, she is probably not doing enough work to get another 0.5 pounds on the bar.

    You probably already realized this, since you added CGBP on Monday for additional stress. I think that is a good idea, although the exercise choice may or may not have good short term transfer to her bench. Personally, I prefer to start with variations in tempo or range of motion, like paused bench, since they are closer to the parent lift. Close grip bench is a great exercise, but it may also lead to form drift in the bench, depending on the trainee. Also, it emphasizes the triceps and anterior deltoids. If her issue is her chest, then CGBP may have no impact at all. The only way to know which variant has best carryover at the time is to try it for a few weeks and see.

    No matter what, she will need to increase her weekly training volume/tonnage. I think the current 3x3 "volume" day does not have enough volume. I would move that up to at least five triples or fives sets of four. Also, her bench intensity day may need more volume. If she is only doing one top triple and one top single (plus backoffs) on weeks two and three, I would move that up to two sets of three and 2-3 singles (not necessarily max).

    You don't mention the rest of her weekly training, but just in case I would mention she should probably be doing her intensity bench first, before any other lift, during that training session. You may also want to move intensity bench to Monday, in order to hit it fresh from a weekend rest. Essentially, if bench is the priority right now, then really make it the priority.

    Rotating rep schemes are useful because they allow for more fine grained PRs. It may be easier to add a little to an 8RM than to a 1RM. So essentially rotating reps allow you to make smaller incremental progress, while allowing for the accumulation of training volume over a three week cycle to bump up the 1RM. Due to accommodation (once again), the progress reaped from a particular rep/set/loading scheme decreases over time, so small changes can be beneficial to get people unstuck some times. No harm in trying 8/5/2 after a year of 5/3/1. Also, as mentioned above, the higher the reps (within reason) the easier it is to make a small PR. If you go to 8/5/2, I would recommend a heavy single around 3RM before the 8 and 5.

    Lastly, since your client has been training consistently for three years, it is entirely possible that she can't make weekly progress anymore. Before concluding this, I would try the above suggestions for a few weeks. If that doesn't work, I would move to a longer training cycle with volume accumulation early on, a short one or two session "deload" followed by a test day at the end of the cycle. I would do a single at about 3RM weight at the start of every volume session in order to keep her comfortable with heavy weight, and spend the rest of the session building volume with sets of 3-5 in the 5-6RM range. Start with fives on the volume and work down to threes over the course of the cycle. So, a bench cycle may look like 1+4x5 (sets x reps), 1+5x5, 1+6x4, 1+7x3, 1+3x3, test. This is a lot of work and needs to be done without missing sessions, so it is only for committed lifters.

    Hope this helps. Keep at it and you will get her unstuck.

    -- Diego

  4. #4
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    I was excited that I got such a comprehensive answer and didn't dig into the details. One more clarification, if I may.

    Wednesday has 1 intensity set of 1, 3 or 5 (reps change weekly), and then in the same workout 4 sets of 4 with 86% of her best ever 1rm ( so 101 x 4 x 4)

    Week 1 105 x 5 then 101 x 4 x 4
    Week 2 109 x 3 then 101 x 4 x 4
    Week 3 117 x 1 then 101 x 4 x 4
    Week 4 105.5 x 5 etc...

    My inclination based on your response is to change to 8,5,2, keep the 4 backoff sets, and then add volume to Friday. I'm thinking one more week to let CGBP work and if no joy then switch it out for Pause Bench.

    Do you think with her current Wednesday 4 back-off sets, I can keep 'em in, because it's hard for her to over train the bench, and she's already adapted to them?

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
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    Adam,

    Definitely keep the four backoffs on Wednesday. Hard to over train the bench at those intensities/volumes. The only concern might be repetitive stress injuries, like a nagging elbow or shoulder. Just keep an eye out for that and make sure her form is good.

    Looking at your weekly progression, it is even more clear she is not getting enough stress for progress. You only add 0.5 pounds every three weeks. That is less than 0.5% increase in stress per three week cycle. For people on weekly (or longer) cycles, I would try to aim for 2-5% increase in training stress per week. That may be more easily achieved by adding volume (at a reasonably high intensity) than adding weight to the bar (which in this case is not possible).

    Hope this helps.

    -- Diego

  6. #6
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    Concurring with the inadequacy of the volume, is her technique on point.

    1. Is she TIGHT on the bench
    2. Shoulder blades and sternum in correct position.
    3. Does she lower the bar with control. I see many people drop the bar the last inch robbing them of the lower end work.
    4. Does she push the bar up or push herself away from the bench?

    My point is that her technique may have been maximized and improvements in technique may allow the lift to progress further.

  7. #7
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    Thanks Diego, I'll keep an eye on her.

    When you mentioned "2-5% increase" per week, it was like the clouds parted! I know that tonnage is a training variable in the Grey Book, but I never really knew what to do with it. Also, i didn't really seem to need to worry about it too much, since Novice and early intermediate is pretty hard to mess up. Reading about the % increase per week made me want to expand on it...

    So for the 5 Week wave that you gave as a last resort if weekly programming wasn't moving along: - ( #'s are ish )

    Week 1- 5x5 w/ 100lbs - 2500lbs
    Week 2- 6x4 w/ 107lbs - 2575lbs (+3%)
    Week 3- 7x3 w/ 126lbs - 2653lbs (+3%)
    Week 4- 3x3 @ some deload weight
    Week 5- Test/ new pr

    For the test week i think my inclination would be a bigger jump ( like 1-1.5lb) for the first time or two, is that foolish?

    Also, you said a 2-5% increase in stress per week. Is that the number you use for masters females, or is that a pretty good range for lifters across the board? And then i assume as you delve deeper into this type of training, you need a bigger increase in stress, in general? or you just spread it out over a longer time to accumulate more stress?

    The more near-term weekly plan w/ the 3% increase in mind would be something like: - ( #'s are ish)

    Week 1- 2370lbs
    Workout 1- 105x5/ 94.5x5x2 = 1470lbs
    Workout 2- 100x3x3 = 900lbs

    Week 2- 2441lbs (+3%)
    Workout 1- 109.5 x 3/ 99x3x3 = 1215.5lbs
    Workout 2- 102x3x4 = 1224lbs

    Week 3- 2197lbs ( 90% of week 1)
    Workout 1- 117x1/ 111x1x2/ 95x5x1 = 814lbs
    Workout 2- 92.2x5x3 = 1383lbs

    Here, on week 3 I feel like a small decrease in tonnage would be OK, before starting week 1 again. Is that reasonable, or would you avoid that?

    Also, in keeping with the increased stress over time, I assume Week 1 becomes heavier tonnage on the second "wave', but is it starting from the full 3% jump ( assuming i picked 3%) or do you use something more conservative? ie. Week 4 = Week 1 + x%

    You also mentioned that it can be harder to use intensity as the main metric to watch the increase in training stress. Presuming that the lifter is getting enough practice at heavy weights is their exposure to RM weights something you would track here too?

    As we get more advanced, and there are more exercise selection going on, do you count them towards total tonnage ( do CGBP count) or is it parent lifts only, and supplemental only count for a fraction of the tonnage?

    - I'm sneaking a bunch of questions in here, and you have a gym to run, so no dramas if it's beyond the scope of the thread.

    Thanks again for the "Aha Moment"

    Adam

  8. #8
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    Adam,

    Glad you got something out of my replies. I'll do my best to give you some brief answers to your follow up below.


    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    Thanks Diego, I'll keep an eye on her.

    When you mentioned "2-5% increase" per week, it was like the clouds parted! I know that tonnage is a training variable in the Grey Book, but I never really knew what to do with it. Also, i didn't really seem to need to worry about it too much, since Novice and early intermediate is pretty hard to mess up. Reading about the % increase per week made me want to expand on it...

    So for the 5 Week wave that you gave as a last resort if weekly programming wasn't moving along: - ( #'s are ish )

    Week 1- 5x5 w/ 100lbs - 2500lbs
    Week 2- 6x4 w/ 107lbs - 2575lbs (+3%)
    Week 3- 7x3 w/ 126lbs - 2653lbs (+3%)
    Week 4- 3x3 @ some deload weight
    Week 5- Test/ new pr

    For the test week i think my inclination would be a bigger jump ( like 1-1.5lb) for the first time or two, is that foolish?
    You are on the right track. I would consider the stress on other bench days also as part of the calculation. That will allow you to increase stress weekly without having such drastic jumps in load like 107->126, which might be too much. Also, as the wave progresses, the sets might be closer to RM sets, which increases the stress. You may want to consider a better metric, such as exertion load, to capture the difference in stress, rather than just tonnage.


    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    Also, you said a 2-5% increase in stress per week. Is that the number you use for masters females, or is that a pretty good range for lifters across the board? And then i assume as you delve deeper into this type of training, you need a bigger increase in stress, in general? or you just spread it out over a longer time to accumulate more stress?
    That was just a general number. It will have to be tailored to the individual lifter. As the lifter gets more advanced, the accumulation period is longer. Also, the volume will be higher for a more advanced lifter. They will be benching a minimum of three days per week to get all the work in.

    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    The more near-term weekly plan w/ the 3% increase in mind would be something like: - ( #'s are ish)

    Week 1- 2370lbs
    Workout 1- 105x5/ 94.5x5x2 = 1470lbs
    Workout 2- 100x3x3 = 900lbs

    Week 2- 2441lbs (+3%)
    Workout 1- 109.5 x 3/ 99x3x3 = 1215.5lbs
    Workout 2- 102x3x4 = 1224lbs

    Week 3- 2197lbs ( 90% of week 1)
    Workout 1- 117x1/ 111x1x2/ 95x5x1 = 814lbs
    Workout 2- 92.2x5x3 = 1383lbs

    Here, on week 3 I feel like a small decrease in tonnage would be OK, before starting week 1 again. Is that reasonable, or would you avoid that?
    Give it a shot and see what happens. If i'm reading correctly, the overall volume still seems low. She's only benching 24 reps per week. I would have her do 20 reps in one of those workouts, and 15-20 more in the other. But I tend to favor more volume for the upper body lifts in general, especially for women.


    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    Also, in keeping with the increased stress over time, I assume Week 1 becomes heavier tonnage on the second "wave', but is it starting from the full 3% jump ( assuming i picked 3%) or do you use something more conservative? ie. Week 4 = Week 1 + x%
    It is perfectly reasonable to do three steps forward one step back.

    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    You also mentioned that it can be harder to use intensity as the main metric to watch the increase in training stress. Presuming that the lifter is getting enough practice at heavy weights is their exposure to RM weights something you would track here too?
    Intensity is an important metric (obviously), but in your case she's stuck, so we can't push that one up right now. Tonnage (at reasonably high intensity) will have to be a reasonable proxy for progress until her intensity starts moving again. Exposure to RM weights is more important for novices, and for lifters nearing competition. I don't think you have to hit absolute RM weights very often otherwise. On the other hand, RM weight in the bench (at her level) aren't going to wreck her...

    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    As we get more advanced, and there are more exercise selection going on, do you count them towards total tonnage ( do CGBP count) or is it parent lifts only, and supplemental only count for a fraction of the tonnage?
    As I said above, I would count tonnage overall. If you don't know how to combine them (I don't), you can count them separately and make sure the whole thing is moving up. Supplemental lifts that are really close can probably just be added to the parent lift. The farther away you get, the more you will have to use your judgement to decide whether the overall training stress is going up.

    Quote Originally Posted by murklurker View Post
    - I'm sneaking a bunch of questions in here, and you have a gym to run, so no dramas if it's beyond the scope of the thread.

    Thanks again for the "Aha Moment"

    Adam
    I think you got the gist of my suggestions. Now it's up to you to experiment until you find the right combination. Good luck.

    -- Diego

  9. #9
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    starting strength coach development program
    I shall cultivate great strength.

    Thanks again!

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