Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a simple chart you could look at that would provide guidance as to how many reps you should train with and what kind of weight you should use for each competitive lift? You have probably seen Prilepin’s chart – which attempts to do that, but there are 4 big problems with Prilepin’s chart.
- That chart was set up to guide the training of Olympic Weight Lifters, not powerlifters, and those two sports are not the same.
- It gives a decent guideline of what to do in one specific workout, but it doesn’t say how often one should perform that workout.
- It is not specific to what lift it is referring to: Clean and Jerk or the Snatch, and those two lifts are quite similar. In powerlifting the 3 lifts themselves are quite different, you don’t train a deadlift the same way you train the bench.
- It doesn’t take into account your training age. Training will obviously vary if you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter.
It is my goal to solve those problems – to provide you – the lifter – with a clear and easy to read chart. This chart was made for powerlifting, this chart will provide a weekly guideline for total volume, and there is a specific chart for each lift (squat, bench, and deadlift). In addition there is a section on each part of the chart based on what your training age and experience are.
How to Read the Chart
You start by classifying where you are with the lift. Don’t let your ego get in the way and use the following guidelines:
- New to the lift (may not be new to lifting however)
- Have not trained the lift consistently for 6+ months
- Must completely learn new form on the lift
- Has not hit a plateau on the lift
- Has trained the lift consistently for at least 6+ months, often up to several years
- Has achieved at least a decent level of performance in the lift (note this can vary significantly)
- Has hit at least one plateau on the lift
- Has been training the lift consistently for 5+ years
- Performance is significantly above initial levels
- Has hit several plateaus on the lift and may be in one now
Once you have your correct classification, you will then find your total weekly volume suggested for the lift. A range is given, generally start at the minimal suggested volume or in the middle, I would not suggest starting with maximal volume as that should be something you work towards over time with your program.
You need to decide how often you want to train the lift each week. For the bench, 2 times a week is the most common recommendation and some prefer to go 3 times a week. It is tough to maximize strength development benching only once a week.
Once you have your total weekly volume and your overall frequency, now simply divide that up as you see fit. Of course if you are lifting just once a week, you will hit your suggested volume all in one workout. If you are doing two or more sessions per week for that lift, then divide it up. An even division of the workload works fine but it is not mandatory to do that.
Here are 2 sample workouts using the chart so you can see how this plays out. Our sample lifter is an intermediate level male lifter who can currently bench 295 and hopes to hit 315 in 10 weeks.
In each example he will bench two times a week, for example on Monday and Thursday
Program 1 – Change in Training Weight Occurs Every Week
Monday: Workout 1: 190×8 5 sets
Thursday: Workout 2: 190×12 3 sets
Note: 76 reps performed at 65% this week
Monday: Workout 3: 225×5 5 sets
Thursday: Workout 4: 225×8 3 sets
Note: 49 reps performed at 75% this week
Monday: Workout 5: 250×3 6 sets
Thursday: Workout 6: 250×5 4 sets
Note: 38 reps performed at 85% this week
Monday: Workout 7: 275×2 4 sets
Thursday: Workout 8: 275×3 3 sets
Note: 17 reps performed at 92.5% this week
Monday: Workout 9: 295-2 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 10: 295-3 2 sets
Note: 12 reps performed at 100% (negatives only)
After week 5 add 10 lbs to all sets and repeat
Program 2 – Change in Training Weight Occurs Every Workout
Monday: Workout 1: 190×8 5 sets
Thursday: Workout 2: 225×5 5 sets
Note: 40 reps at 65% and 25 reps at 75%
Monday: Workout 3: 250×3 6 sets
Thursday: Workout 4: 275×2 4 sets
Note: 18 reps at 85% and 8 reps at 92.5%
Monday: Workout 5: 295-2 3 sets
Workout 6-10: either add 5 lbs and repeat OR use the progression listed below
Thursday: Workout 6: 190×12 3 sets
Monday: Workout 7: 225×8 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 8: 250×5 4 sets
Note: 24 reps at 75% and 20 reps at 85%
Monday: Workout 9: 275×3 3 sets
Thursday: Workout 10: 295-3 2 sets
Note: 9 reps at 92.5% and 6 reps at 100% (negatives only)
In addition to the routine this lifter follows for the bench, they would likely want to include some assistance work. The more traditional bench work you do (the higher your volume is on the chart) the less assistance work you should do and vice versa.
For this lifter I would suggest they include two additional bench/chest related exercises each workout since they are training bench twice a week (if they were training it 3 times a week they would probably do 1 assistance exercise, and if they were only training the bench once a week they would likely do 3 assistance exercises).
One of the exercises would be more bench specific and a compound lift, such as:
Closegrip Bench; 2-3 Board Press; Barbell Incline; DB Incline; DB Press; Spoto Press; etc
How these are programmed are up to you, 3-5 sets of 4-8 reps would be pretty common
One of the exercises would be more muscle specific and it might be an isolation exercise, such as:
DB Fly; DB Incline Fly; Dips; Cable Fly; Cable Crossover
How these are programmed are up to you, 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps would be pretty common
To see that concept fleshed out, the bench part of the training program might look like this:
|DB Incline||4 x 8||Incline||4 x 6|
|DB Incline Fly||3 x 12||Cable Crossover||3 x 15|
If that was part of a larger workout routine this lifter might choose to do a push/pull routine as follows:
|DB Incline||Deadlift||Incline||Front Squat|
|DB Incline Fly||Lunge||Cable Xover||Leg Curl|
|Mil Press||Pull-ups||DB Mil Press||Barbell Row|
|DB Lat Raise||DB Row||DB Rear Delts||Hammer Strength Row|
|Pullover Skullcrusher||EZ Curl||Kneeling Tri Pushdown||DB Curl|
|Overhead Rope Tri||DB Hmr Curl||Bench Dips||Reverse Curl|
The goal in providing the above workout is to serve as a sample that you could follow if you wished to do so, it is not something set in stone by any means. In my opinion, one of the strengths of the Bench Chart is you can apply the guidelines it provides into a program of your own design.
Use the Bench Chart to help program lift. Classify your level of advancement, find your desired volume for the week, create your program, incorporate progressive overload as you see fit, and enjoy adding plates to the bar.
Can the chart be used for the other 2 big lifts – squat and deadlift?
Those charts will be coming shortly 🙂
Where are you getting these numbers from for the volume? I could’t imagine doing 20 reps with 96%+. Thanks
If you are just doing straight reps you are right, 20 reps at 96% would be an awful lot. However if you employ training strategies such as cluster reps, negative, board press, and partials then it is not so high. Most advanced athletes make great progress of my “Super Bench Program” which includes 10-20 reps in that training range. You do have to watch overtraining for sure, but at advanced levels you also have to push it pretty hard to force the body to adapt.
In program 2 (the undulating one), you use 40% of the prescribed reps for each weight, twice a week (i.e. week 2 – 85% intensity gives an advised volume of approx. 45 reps, so using 18 reps gives 40% volume and the same is done for 92.5% intensity). Is the shortfall in volume to allow for better recovery, or is this just a variable you’d also look to manipulate in the long term (over multiple training cycles)? Thanks!
Hi Darragh (cool name BTW),
If you are going to be lifting weights of a varying percentage (that first week is 65% and 75% which is two separate categories) then you want to cut the volume in about half for each one. If you do the suggested volume for the lower weight AND the higher weight than that would likely be too much. But some athletes don’t like lifting the same weight in each session so I wanted to include an option for them.
Love the charts, using them for this cycle. Quick question: when working the press as an additional lift on a separate day, would you lower the weekly reps for bench? Or keep the same?
Thank you for sharing your experience with the world!
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