How To Bench 225 With Pectus Excavatum

Now why am I singling out a 225lb bench? For one, it’s a major milestone for new trainees, hitting 2 plates on bench for the first time is a huge deal, it’s an achievement that starts to move you beyond the beginner stage. But even more importantly, if growing your chest is your primary goal, being able to bench 225 means you are strong enough that you can start maximizing the effectiveness of other pec-focused exercises.

What I mean by this is, if you are only benching 100lbs and you start trying to do a bunch of cable crossovers and dumbbell flyes, svend presses, and other advanced pec exercises, you simply don’t have enough strength to make any of those exercises worthwhile. That’s why, in the beginning, your first goal needs to be to get stronger. And once you are in 225lb bench territory, your quest for strength doesn’t stop, but your ability to benefit from other exercises begins to expand.

So how do you reach 225 for the first time?

Step 1: Eat More

You need to put on weight. You are going to hear this a lot in my videos, but you should be shooting for 1 pound of weight gain per week when trying to add muscle mass to your frame. Do this for 3-4 months at a time before settling into a maintenance phase and allow your body to lock in a new set point. This topic requires its own video, so I will leave it at that. Start eating more.

Step 2: Train Your Entire Body

Train your entire body, but especially your upper back. Anyone with a big bench press has a big back. Your back is literally the foundation that you press from, it’s what stays in contact with the bench and your lats play a major role in controlling the eccentric portion of the movement and your bar path. You want to be aiming for twice as many rows/pulls per week as presses as someone with a pectus. Or if you simply have poor posture you should stick to this recommendation as well.

Step 3: Know When To Add More Weight

Obviously if you are maxing out 135 today you can’t just go into the gym tomorrow, add another 90lbs and expect to be successful. What you need to do is follow a proper strength progression that will take you from 135 or wherever you find yourself to the magical 225 mark, and that’s exactly what I’m going to show you.

Before we get to the program itself, you must be careful when bench pressing. Always use a spotter, always give your body ample time to warm up, and never sacrifice good form for more weight on the bar, trust me. While you might be able to get away with bad technique in the short term, you will end up much better off if you learn properly in the beginning. With that said, let’s get to the good stuff.

The Program

One of my favorite training programs of all time is Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1. Wendler is a world-famous powerlifter and strength coach and has one of the simplest and most effective strategies for gaining strength (in my opinion). Now, what I’m going to show you is my adapted version of 5/3/1. The overall ideas are the same, but I’ve personalized it a bit.

So the first thing we need to know is your current Bench Press Max. 

If you have never bench pressed before, then the first thing you need to do is go to the gym with someone who knows what they are doing, have them show you how to bench, And work on hitting 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps with proper technique for the next 2-3 months, adding weight when you can.

This video assumes you’ve been benching for at least a few months and are fairly comfortable with the movement. Bench Pressing takes years to master, but you need to have your feet wet to worry about this progression. 

Now, if you have never maxed out before, you don’t need to run to the gym and hit one really quickly, you can simply calculate it by taking the most weight you’ve hit for 5 or less reps and inputting it into a 1 rep max calculator

The reason I say 5 or less is because the weights tend to skew far too high with higher rep ranges in these calculations.

Let’s say you’ve done 135 for 4 reps. This would give you an estimated max of 147.3. Because this falls in between weights we are going to round down to the nearest usable weight: 145. You always want to round down. This progression is way more effective if you start too light than if you start too heavy.

The progression is broken into 3 types of training days, 4 if you are a bit more advanced and require a deload. Your 5 rep day, your 3 rep day, and your 5/3/1 day.

On your 5 rep day, which is the first day of the cycle you will be performing 3 sets of 5 at various percentages of your calculated max. 

Week 1

Warm up with however many sets needed to comfortably reach the following working weights:

5 reps @ 55% Max (80lbs)

5 reps @ 65% Max (95lbs)

5 reps*(AMRAP) @ 75% Max (105lbs)

The first two sets will be pretty easy and serve more as a warmup to prepare you for the third set. Now, on the third set, we are going to do things a bit differently. Instead of just performing 5 reps, you will be performing an AMRAP or As many reps as possible, with 5 being the absolute minimum. Now, in your first week if you have your percentages right you should be able to do well over 10 reps at this weight, maybe even closer to 15 reps, but as you work your way through this cycle in the coming weeks and months that minimum number will become more relevant. 

So on this 3rd set, let’s say you are able to hit 105lbs for 12 reps. Record this number somewhere as we will be aiming to beat this in the future.

After those working sets are done you can do another couple sets if you wish to get more volume in or you can move to the next exercise, which compliments the bench press. Good examples of exercises that will help build your bench are close grip bench presses to help train your triceps and lockout, floor presses – to help train your triceps and lockout, DB bench to help build stability and strength in each arm, and Dips to help build your tricep strength. Notice how much emphasis on putting on building your triceps, as that is a key part to finishing off a heavy press.

And with that, your first week is done.

Week 2

Now, in week 2, we have the 3 rep day, which goes as follows:

Warm up with however many sets needed to comfortably reach the following working weights:

3 reps @ 60% Max (85lbs)

3 reps @ 70% Max (100lbs)

3 reps*(AMRAP) @ 80% Max (115lbs)

So you will see, the reps are lower (3 now instead of 5) and the weight at each set is 5% higher. Now you will be doing your first two sets of 3 reps at 85lbs and 100lbs respectively, while your AMRAP set is at 115lbs.

Let’s say you muster 10 reps at 115, record that and move on.

Week 3

Now week 3 is your 5/3/1 day and it looks like this:

Warm up with however many sets needed to comfortably reach the following working weights:

5 reps @ 65% Max (95lbs)

3 reps @ 75% Max (105lbs)

1 rep(s)*(AMRAP) @ 85% Max (120lbs)

We have our highest percentages at each tier yet and start with 5 reps, then 3 reps, then at least 1 rep, but hopefully many more in our AMRAP set. 

And let’s say you hit 9 reps this week. 

In the original version of 5/3/1 there is a 4th week, called a deload week, where weights are dropped significantly and it is basically a time for allowing your body to recover. This becomes much more important the stronger you get and the longer you’ve been training, but for someone benching less than 225 it’s likely okay to skip this week. 

How To Progress (And Increase Your Max)

So now that we are through the entire 5/3/1 rotation we actually return to the beginning in the next week (our 5 rep day) however, this time we are going to add weight to the calculated max of 145. To keep things really simple you can add 5lbs to your max if you hit 4-5 reps on the final AMRAP set of the 5/3/1 week, week 3, add 10lbs if you hit 6-10 reps, and add 15lbs if you hit 11 or more reps.

So in our example of hitting 9 reps at 120, using a max of 145 for our calculations, we would increase the max in the next round by 10lbs to 155lbs. Then you would go back through each week as we did before recalculating the weights to hit for each set.

Now you can never expect truly linear progress with strength training, but if you were able to maintain an increase of 10lbs per 3 week cycle, it would take you 8 cycles or 24 weeks to take your bench from 145 to 225 using this method. And you can apply this strength progression to squat, deadlift, and overhead press as well, which I would highly recommend. 

It is quite possible to make these types of strength gains early on in your training career, but don’t expect them to last forever. This is a realistic timeline for a new trainee that is very serious about increasing their bench, putting on size, and pushing themselves every week.

 

I have personally used a modified version of this progression to take my 10 rep squat max (yes 10) from 250lbs to 350lbs in under a year.

If you have any questions about how to implement this program yourself message me through the Contact page or reachout to me on any of the social media platforms. Good luck on your road to two plates.

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